How To Ruin An Interview Continued (Flash Fiction)

This is the second half of the story. The first half is here.

Lulan contacts the family whose boy got into Lawrenceville the year before and asks for tips. She is told to go on a social network group where Asian parents of Lawrenceville students or would-be-students exchange information. There, Lulan asks questions and receives many answers, which she relays to Jan.

“Jan, it is said conservative formal outfits are very important.” “Jan, it is said family environment is very important too.” “Jan, it is said good parental relationship and outspoken mothers are preferred.” “Jan, some parents can be very nervous and are afraid that they are looked down upon.”

Jan reads the series of messages and has no clue what to do. “Lulan, please send me information that I can act upon.” She types into her cell phone.

The next morning, when they are about to get in the car to drive to Lawrenceville, Jan says, “you know it is said that the interview can be intense and some parents are looked down upon.”

“Really? Do you think?” Her husband says nervously.

However all his nervousness disappears when a blonde girl welcomes them at the entrance. She is so sweet and friendly that Tungus’ confidence and self esteem are immediately restored. Jan’s heart sinks.

“They are so sweet to us. I bet they really want Cindy to get in.” Tungus says to his wife, who smiles back as if she agrees with him, but she really doesn’t. She has the increasing dread that the parent interview will go smoothly, Cindy will be accepted. What’s next? All the money in their retirement accounts will be exhausted to pay for Cindy’s tuition. If that’s not enough, they also have to sell the house, sell their cars. The prospect is too painful for her to imagine, but her mind seems to be fixated on it. What to do?

And that’s what Jan is think during the interview. She’s so distressed that she can’t even concentrate on the conversation that’s going on between Tungus and the three members of the school panel who are conducting the interview. She can only vaguely hear questions like, “what make you think of applying to Lawrenceville? What are your occupations? What’s Cindy’s strength and weaknesses in your opinion?” However she just can’t bring her mind back to the room since she’s too occupied in the fact that she and her husband will probably end up in a homeless shelter, being fed hot dogs and french fries. She begs for vegetables and fruits and is told “vegetables and fruits are too expensive.”

Suddenly her husband pokes her, “Jan, answer the question,” which brings her back to reality. “Mrs. Potter here is asking you a question. It’s for you to answer since you have been so silent.” Tungus says to his wife.

Jan is a little embarrassed, “what’s the question again?”

Mrs. Potter repeats, “I was saying that mothers are the first and most important model for their daughters. Their view of the world, the family, the human relationship, the human conflict is the first view the daughters will encounter. What kind of girl do you think Cindy should grow up to be?”

Jan suddenly realizes what she can say,”I totally agree with my husband. Whatever he just said is exactly what I wish for my girl.”

And witnessing Jan’s reply, Mrs. Smith, who sits next to Mrs. Potter, wants to explain the question further, “Lawrenceville wants our girls to explore, to think, to take action, to be independent. We’ve heard your husband’s answer, but we are keen to know what you think.”

Jan says with a smile that says she knows what she’s doing, “my husband and I have always been in agreement on almost everything. Isn’t that true, my dear?” She pokes her husband.

Tungus is so happy. He’s so intoxicated by the quiet sweet voice from the women in the panel and the smile from his wife that he fails to notice the real purpose of the question and the intention of the people who ask it.

“Yes,” Tungus asserts, “my wife and I have such a wonderful relationship. Harmony. That’s what I want to say.”

“Yes, we adore harmony.” Jan raises her voice as if she is chanting, “nothing is more beautiful than harmony and agreement.”

The members of the panel exchange wistful looks and one of them says, “what an interesting interpretation of some of the fundamental notions of our school.”

“Yes, I would say it is very interesting. The world is an interesting place, isn’t it?” Jan says louder than necessary, with an excitement that’s a little too exaggerated. However Tungus likes it. The interview has been a little too long, too polite, and too subdued. He enjoys his wife’s outburst.

The members of the panel are a little puzzled and a little uneasy, but their expression is very subtle. Jan observes their dismay. Somehow she knows that their subtle expression of disapproval is going to escape her husband’s notice. And she’s right.

On the way home, Tungus says to his wife, “I really enjoy the interview. And you really proclaim your respect for me so publicly. I just love it. I have to say you haven’t agreed with me very much recently and I have been a little hurt. However you’ve performed beautifully today.”

“Oh, sweetheart, I totally agree with you. And I am sure my proclamation will have a big effect on their final decision.” Jan says triumphantly.

14 thoughts on “How To Ruin An Interview Continued (Flash Fiction)

  1. I can really relate. My oldest son graduated from a gifted public school program after sixth grade but the local middle school would be a backward step. Others thought he should go to Lakeside, a prominent private school (where Bill Gates went) for two years and then transfer to the good but cheaper high school we had planned on. Back in the 1980’s, the $7000 annual tuition seemed obscene to me. My wife arranged for the mother of a current student to write a letter of recommendation. I had a good friend who did not go to college write the other one! All I could think about was $14,000 going down the drain. Luckily my son naively blew the interview by telling the interviewers that he was only planning to enroll for two years and then transfer to another high school. None of our plans for middle school or high school worked out (we moved out of state at one point) but everything turned out fine. I still thank him for the 14k we saved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that is so true. Private schools are very expensive and most families will not be able to pay for it. I heard that in the 1980s, one can buy a house in Edison with less than $10,000, which in today’s market costs beyond $250,000. It’s unbelievable how the price increases. And I think it is ether fate or probably your son’s subconscious sense of economy that prompted the revelation of this intention. Well, I really don’t see too big an advantage of the private schools. My idea of schools is filled with boring courses and useless competitions–probably biased. It really doesn’t matter if it’s private or public.


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