MONOLOGUE: Her Career Talk

by Natalie Smith

Setting:       An office in a university careers department, England.

Time:          Morning, present day

Character:   CYNTHIA, age 54, soon-to-be-redundant careers adviser.

CYNTHIA wears voluminous flared trousers and a tee-shirt bearing the words: “Loose Cannon.”  She sits on a chair talking to a student.

CYNTHIA

Don’t be formal. Call me “Cynth.” I’m here to guide. To advise. I will literally help you in any way I can. Relax. It’s only a short appointment. And I know all about those.  But you. Let’s find out about you. You are the most important person in my sphere.

(She waves her fingers in a circular motion starting over her head until her arms are at the side of her chair.)

Besides my husband, Joe, of course.

(Pause)

Did you have a good weekend? I did. Well, we did. The family. I suppose you don’t get the same warm experience living in halls of residence. Halls of decadence more like! I know what you get up to. I was young once. Mentally, I still am. They don’t appreciate that here. And look at my skin. Ding, dong, Avon calling!

(Spins slowly once on chair)

Anyway, me and mine were busy. First we went to my sister’s who’s literally almost a cordon bleu cook. Her husband, Roger, says, ‘her mashed potatoes are that watery you can squeeze them out.’ Doesn’t appreciate good food. What about a career in catering? We get lots of books here from the book man. Comes once a month. Dirt cheap. I’ve just bought Jamie Oliver’s. I love Jamie Oliver. His lips. So full. So generous. You say you’re doing psychology? Deary me.  I worked for a psychologist once. As his receptionist. He’d always ask me how I was when he arrived in the morning. That made me suspicious. 

(Pause)

So, our five minute stop-off with the rellys turned into an hour, ‘cause I was telling them about our holiday. Joe drank too many screwdrivers. He said, ‘the ones from B&Q didn’t have that effect.’ I said, ‘Joe, you’re so funny and such a great handyman!’ He’s an engineer you know. Started as an apprentice at Rolls Royce.  Shame you didn’t do engineering. I could have put a word in. Used to know the Technical Director. Dead now. Years ago. Massive stroke whilst spanking his PA against a Pegasus engine. Wore built up shoes. Smoked too much. Drank too much …

(Spins slowly once on chair)

Expect you indulge don’t you? Be careful. If you’re doing physiology, you’ll know the pitfalls.

(Pause)

Anyway, I told my sister, I said, you ought to try Playa del Ingles in Gran Canaria. It means “beach of the English”. Which is what you want isn’t it? Not some of these places with signs all in foreign lingo. And you literally have to get a phrase book out of your carrier to decipher what it says. Your name sounds a bit continental. Don’t tell me. You’re Spanish! I knew it. Thought you had a faint whiff of garlic. Why not go into translation? Teaching? Tourism? I was a rep once. For a week. Mislaid a pensioner on a coach trip to Penzance. Oh, I’m on fire today! They don’t appreciate that here.

(Waves her fingers in a circular motion starting over her head until her arms are at the side of her chair)

There’s a beach in Gran Canaria called Maspalomas. Expect you know it if you’re from Viva Espana? Full of Germans. And naked. Literally naked! Standing on dunes. Like Rommel’s soldiers on a weekend break. My sister couldn’t believe it. Till I got the second pack of photos out. But we had to leave. Pronto. Their dog jumped me and I’m allergic to dogs. Well, their teeth anyway. They carry rabies, don’t they? I’d sue, obviously. Have you thought about a Law conversion course? I think three years on pharmacology could get you a place. I’d have to check. Psychology you say? Sorry, sorry. There’s leaflets somewhere. Ask the man on reception. He’s a mature student. Thirty-six. For God’s sake. But he needs the money. I’m glad I didn’t do a degree. To be honest, and I like to be honest, I’d say jack it in now. Get a job. Not a debt! What’s the point of buying a decent frock for graduation if you end up stacking beans at Tesco?

(Pause)

After the sprint from my sister’s I was literally shaken. So I said, Joe, take me to the shops. I bought some fabulous underwear. Betty Boop matching knickers and bra. It has her face on each cup. Joe says, ‘get your Betty Boops out for the boys’ and I scream with laughter. The knickers have a red bow on the front. Give me some psychology feedback on that little purchase. I see you’ve worked in retail. Well you don’t need my advice do you! I mean, you could literally work your way up. If you pass your degree, of course. You’d be able to suss out the competition. Use your transferable skills. That’s the in phrase now. But what I mean is your womanly wiles. It worked for me.

(Waves her fingers in a circular motion starting over her head until her arms are at the side of her chair)

I was PA to the Technical Director at Rolls Royce. Dead now. Years ago.


copyright © 2010 Natalie Smith. All rights reserved.
_________________________________________________

Natalie Smith lives in Bristol, England. She has a diploma in creative writing and literature from the Open University. She is currently working on a short story anthology, as part of Exeter University’s South West Writers’ Mentoring Project. Natalie has had short stories and poetry published, most recently in the Iron Book of New Humorous Verse (Iron Press 2010).

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6 thoughts on “MONOLOGUE: Her Career Talk

  1. Great stuff Natalie.Love the idea of advisers talking about their lives paying no attention to student.Recognise lots of bits in it
    Call me Bri

  2. Great character! Despite the focus on the adviser, I was able to picture the student. The adviser engaged just enough with her perfunctory gestures of connection so that we didn’t forget the student was there. I knew a therapist who dominated like your adviser. I really enjoyed the piece!

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