by Ruth Brandt

YOU’RE STUCK AT home on your slow laptop with the crud that gums up the N key, and you’ve been applying and applying and no one, and that means no one at all, comes back to you about any of your applications, other than the odd automated We’ve received your application and will review it shortly. It’s like yelling in the woods when there’s no one to hear you. Like standing on a hillside with the wind blasting regardless of whether you’re there or not, blasting and bashing and not giving a shit. Like that. So, you’re sitting against the pillows on your bed—why get up? why get dressed?—and it’s such a shame that your name is Frank Nelson, because that’s three clicking Ns you have to ease the key back up from every single time you write your name. Could have been the Q. No one gives a shit about the Q, other than some Quentin Quinn somewhere. Then one day Rose Shields from Shields & Co, gets back to you and asks more about your Economics A level (just the one N) and why you got an E and all that. So, fuck it, you tell her about the thing with your college bus pass being stopped because someone in the council decided you lived closer to some other college that wouldn’t admit you when you applied, but apparently you should have gone there instead and, as there was that closer option, they weren’t obliged to provide transport to the college you were studying at. But you didn’t tell your mum about the bus pass, because of all the stuff going on with her job and her repetitive strain. So, you walked to college, which wasn’t too bad as it was only six miles and then the winter came and it was a little chilly. Anyhow, you tell Rose about the problems with getting to college for a few months and Rose Shields from Shields & Co, who you’re now in love with because a) she acknowledges that you are human and b) no Ns, replies that she’d like to do a Zoom interview. After, she says you did well, and she says that it’s hard for youngsters, and she says she’s interviewing nineteen others for one position with a view to shortlisting next week, but hey, it was good to talk. So, the duvet seems quite nice and the bed seems quite nice, and your mum pretends to be all happy, and you’re still going to keep applying for at least one job every day. Then Rose Shields calls and says she wants you, when can you start, and you say, wow, and you say, tomorrow, and you laugh and she laughs and says, it’ll take longer than that to get everything sorted her end, but hey, next Monday? Next Monday’s good. And your mum can’t believe it and neither can you, and even when you mask up and go to the Shields & Co office on Monday, you’re half expecting to be turned away, but your name’s on a list and there are people there who don’t know that you’ve stayed in bed for the best part of six months and that you hate, absolutely hate people with Ns in their names, including yourself. And people talk to you like they would have noticed you on that wind-swept hillside and raised their hand in a hi. And day in and day out you go to your lovely job and you get money, real money, and pay Mum rent. And even though it’s a grind, and even though you have 49 years left of this day-in, day-out work stuff, everything is good.


Ruth Brandt’s short stories and flash fiction have been widely published, including in Fictive Dream. She won the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing Prize, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Write Well Award and Best Small Fictions Award. Her short story collection No One has any Intention of Building a Wall will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in Nov 2021. She lives in Surrey and tweets at @RuthABrandt.