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art by Seth Alan Bareiss


Ephiny works as a theatre maker, writer, and arts manager in Melbourne, Australia. Her fiction has appeared in Silver Blade, Fried Fiction and Silver & Green Magazine, and is forthcoming in Postscripts to Darkness. More info at ephinygale.com.

I examine the girl across the table. Well dressed, in that way that seems to afflict young people, where the sleeves of the suit jacket have been properly tailored but still give the vague impression of playing dress-up. Glasses. I wonder if they're cosmetic, to try and blend into the industry. Polite smile. She fiddles subtly with a ring on her middle finger.
I realize I've been silent too long, and perhaps that's getting a bit mean.
"When I took this job," I say, "we had a seven-day handover."
The girl nods. "That must have been nice. It must have been nice to get to know each other, you know, as people."
I'm thankful I only have to spend fifteen minutes with her. At most, she is a third of my age. She has only seen four shows in this theatre.
"You got excellent test scores," I say.
She looks bashful. "Best in the country, I'm told."
With particularly high scores on "vision," which is laughable.
I slide the saucer with the pill across the desk. It sits beside her glass of water. "Well, when you're ready."
She stares at me for a moment. Takes a swig of the water and drops the pill deliberately into her mouth. It's too big to swallow comfortably. She grips the arms of the chair, her eyes snap closed and her head slumps forward, shaking slightly.
I've seen two of these before and they still worry me.
I had the pill made yesterday, with the help of the technicians from NextGen Human Resources. I'm assured it only contains my professional memories. The nooks and crannies of each theatre, the first show I directed when I started here fourteen years ago. The latest statistics on what draws thirty- to sixty-five-year-olds (our key demographic) through the gilded doors. More than forty-five years' experience condensed in a single capsule.
I worry it also contains the memories of Leo and me making out in the wings, after-hours on the opening night of The Merchant of Venice. The gorgeous prop that probably would've been thrown out if I hadn't rescued it and brought it home, even though I really shouldn't have. The bottles of liquor I hid in my office for a couple of years, back when I was courting a not-quite-depression. Other transgressions I have forgotten even happened, but might be in the pill regardless.
I remind myself I am retiring, and even if the girl knows and tells, very little will happen to me.
After a minute or so, she opens her eyes. There is something older and sadder in them. She clasps her hands on her lap and furrows her brow. "I'm sorry," she declares, "I didn't know."
"About what?"
"Everything you did to get here."
I feel it catch in my throat, then--the exhaustion, the bleeding fingers, the rejected social events, the men who left me because I was never home, the child I put off until it was too late--and take a long swig of my own drink. I tell myself the girl doesn't know all of this.
"Oh. Well. Not your fault," I say. "You got the best test scores. You'll do the best job."
We stand and shake hands. She says she'll take good care of the theatre. I take my box of possessions and leave my office for the last time.
I think of all the times I've been rejected for lack of experience. And I laugh.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 28th, 2013
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