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Please not the diploma, oh, please not the diploma...
Madeline Cartwright froze in her seat as she surreptitiously watched the framed diploma on the wall behind her interviewer, Doctor Oâ€™Bannon, become unhinged from the hook. It hovered three foot above him. And the culprits-a pair of poltergeists-leered at her, apparently ready to drop it on Dr Oâ€™Bannonâ€™s head.
Maddie clawed the edge of her seat, feeling cold all over.
The poltergeists, volatile spirits that love wreaking havoc, swarmed around the office like renegade bullets. She was the only one who could see them. And Dr Oâ€™Bannon, a dermatologist who was looking for a new receptionist, remained oblivious. Heâ€™d been oblivious when theyâ€™d moved a framed picture of him and his family from his desk and defaced it by scribbling moustaches on each person with a Sharpie pen. And he was still oblivious when the spirits dropped paperclips and an eraser into his coffee mug. Maddie sincerely hoped Dr Oâ€™Bannon wouldnâ€™t notice any of that until the interview had finished and she was long gone from the office.
But if those nasty spirits decided to drop the diploma on Dr Oâ€™Bannonâ€™s head...
Maddie shifted her gaze to her interviewer, schooling her best poker face. Dr Oâ€™Bannon had noticed sheâ€™d been nervous earlier. The good doctor had joked he wouldnâ€™t bite her, and Maddie had forced herself to make a polite, girlish giggle. She liked Dr Oâ€™Bannon. The middle-aged man with a receding hairline and cheery disposition seemed like he would be a good boss to work for.
And besides, she really needed this job.
She was tired of scraping here and there just to get by, and facing eviction every month because she couldnâ€™t hold down a steady job. Maddie wasnâ€™t lazy or anything. She was just a magnet for spirits, ghosts, and all things unseen, to the point that she had trouble functioning in real life. Ghosts loved pestering her to help them with their worldly unfinished business, and other kind of spirits-wraiths, spectres, and their whole gangs-loved messing around with her. Maybe because they didnâ€™t encounter many humans that could see them, or maybe she was catnip for the spirits, but her gift had become a curse.
Dr Oâ€™Bannon cleared his throat as he finished reading her rÃ©sumÃ©. "You worked as a front desk clerk at your last job?"
Maddie stiffened in her seat. "Actually"-she decided to be honest-"I was working as a cashier in 7-Eleven after the hotel job. I didnâ€™t put the cashier on my rÃ©sumÃ© because I didnâ€™t think it was relative to the position Iâ€™m applying for."
"I see." Dr Oâ€™Bannon went back to scrutinising her rÃ©sumÃ©. "You only worked for three months at the Red Inn?"
"Yes, sir." Maddie swallowed hard. "The hotel management wanted me to work the graveyard shift and I couldnâ€™t. Iâ€™m the primary caretaker of my mother." The truth was, she was afraid of working nights. The spirits particularly loved to prowl after sunset. She preferred to be at home, in her own apartment, where she could put some wards against them. Sometimes, the wards worked. Many times, they were useless. Either way, she felt much better fending them off on her own turf.
"And how long did you work in 7-Eleven?" he asked.
Maddie shifted uncomfortably, wondering whether she should lie or not. Sheâ€™d lasted only one day in the 7-Eleven. A customer ran away from the store after claiming she was handing him a snake. It wasnâ€™t a snake. It was his change. She didnâ€™t know why, or what kind of spirit had the power of illusions, but to the eyes of that customer, heâ€™d thought Maddie had handed him a three-foot long hissing cobra.
But that wasnâ€™t all.
With his demented screaming, other customers were also running from the store, thinking the place was being robbed. Within minutes, the store was surrounded by police officers and she had gone through some embarrassing interrogations, and before lunch time, she was out of her job.
Of course, when she argued to the owner he should check the security camera to show that she hadnâ€™t played any hanky-panky like the customer had claimed, the owner wouldnâ€™t hear her reasons and ousted her anyway. It was so unfair.
Maddie halted her breath, decided to skitter along the truth. "Only a day, sir. The place was robbed, and I was too scared to go back the next day."
Dr Oâ€™Bannon let out a sympathetic sound. "That was unfortunate."