A loud metallic crunching noise echoing in the distance causes my eyes to flutter open. I groggily look around the room, feeling a bit nervous. I hope no one saw that. I think quietly to myself, looking around. Guessing, more like hoping that I hadn’t dozed off for more than a split second. I better not have drooled either, I think. Taking my fingers feeling around the corners of my mouth for any residue. None found; phew, I am safe on that front.

Continuing to take in the room and its warm, calm, and serene atmosphere. It was no wonder why I fell asleep just closing my eyes for a millisecond. How could I not, adding in the trickling of a waterfall behind the plushy chair I find myself sitting in. The whole office sort of has this unexplainable tranquility to it.

Collecting myself, I see a woman slide out from behind a large all-white marble desk at the head of the room. She looks like an angel. A tall blonde, stunningly beautiful angel. Hair fluttering down past her shoulders as she strides over, rocking an all-white pants suit. Her heels clack against the marble floor.

Her lapis-colored eyes locked in on me as she sleekly approached. Panic rises, my body temperature flares, I shudder. Oh no, she saw me sleeping. I am in trouble now.

Stopping a few feet in front of me. “Mr. St. Pierre will see you now.” She says in a delicate soft voice. “Please follow me.” She adds, whipping around like a soldier doing an about-face.

I get up and follow her through a door and down a hallway to another door. The woman opens it and signals me to enter with a gesture of her hand. I obey, entering the office; she closes the door behind me. I hear the clacks of heels once more as she walks away. I turn just now, processing the office that I find myself in. It’s enormous, at least the size of a living room, if not a whole house. The ambiance of it also adds to the feeling of it being larger. Marble flooring wall to wall that just seemed to meld into the walls themselves as they are painted an unbelievable white shade. They must have to re-paint every other week to keep them that vibrant.

The furniture is also a sterling pristine white, from the Corinthian couch and chair to the desk. Just beyond the desk, the fourth wall is not actually a wall at all. It’s a massive single pane of glass stretching the room’s width, providing a remarkable view of the crystal blue sky on the other side of it.

I notice the man sitting behind the desk. He stands, waving me to approach, gently offering me to sit with a wave of his hand. He’s still on the phone but quickly hangs up as I near. 

“Mr. Willis, please take a seat.” He says, extending his hand.

I shake it firmly as I have been taught. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. St. Pierre,” I address him. He again motions toward the chair, and I sit down. But as I sit, I jump nearly back out of the seat. Another loud pop and bang followed by screaming voices as my head swivels around, searching for their origins.

“Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s just some construction on the floor below.” Mr. St. Pierre says, only slightly easing me. My heart still pounds, though, but I guess that could be the combination of the jump fright and just my general overall nervousness. “Thank you for taking the time to come in.” He continued.

“No, thank you, sir, for taking the time to consider me.” In my head, though, I know that I am not at all ready for this. I haven’t done nearly enough in my life to be qualified for this move.

“Well, as you know, I am Mr. Peter St. Pierre, Director of Human Resources. So, I guess we can start with the normal type of questions. And please do try to answer them as honestly as possible.” I nod. “So then, tell me a little about yourself?”

I pause to gather my thoughts briefly as I see that he opens a file. And of course, we have to start with the question I hate the most. How can you adequately sum up your life and existence in a few short sentences? It’s impossible, but I have to try anyway.

“Well,” I start. “I grew up in California; after graduating, I went to the Army and served three years, before getting out to pursue an education, so I could join the FBI. Sadly though, before I could, I sustained an injury that excluded me from passing their physical. So, I’ve had to readjust my goals from time to time. Just trying to find my calling now. I always wanted to help people, so that’s kind of what’s driving me now.”

“Ok, wow, so Army to FBI those are some adrenaline-filled jobs there. You’re not an adrenaline seeker by trade, are you?” He asks with a smirk.

“No, just wanted to help people—that’s why I wanted to be in the FBI. Serve justice for those who couldn’t. The Army was just till I figured that part out.” Again I hear the disturbing noises from outside. It sounds like they are smashing metal together and grinding it.

“Understood,” Mr. St. Pierre continues without skipping a beat at the noise. Like it’s not even there. “You’ve wanted to help people and be a good person, but looking at your previous experience, it doesn’t seem like this was your area of expertise that much. Did you do anything extra-curricular then? Like volunteer organizations, neighborhood outreach, or church organizations? Something a little more directly involved with helping others?”

I kind of half-expected a question like this to come my way. Nothing about what I’ve done so far in life would suggest I want to help others. I don’t really have a concrete answer. I am defiantly not ready for this, but I will give the best answer I can. That’s all I can do now. I am in it too deep.

Before I can answer, though, more shouts and yells coming from the floor below, throwing me off again. I can hear the work crew screaming and shouting, then a faint noise like a saw cutting through metal. What in the world could they be working on down there, I think. This whole situation is a little weird. To be doing an interview with a full-on construction crew just a floor below. Hopefully, the bottom doesn’t come crashing down, kind of like my interview feels that it is. I start to answer after recollecting myself.

“Well, after having bounced around a little kind of trying to find my path and taking some small detours along the way, admittedly. I just got to thinking about it, and recently I’ve tried to become a better person working towards helping others in my own way, I guess,” I say. I could see that he was not convinced by my answer in the slightest. I blew it, is all I can think, but it looks like he’s going to continue.

“Alright, Mr. Willis, we are a non-profit organization here at Hope’s Angels. We take such matters very seriously and are very big on ethics and morals. So with that in mind, if someone in your workgroup took credit for something you did. What would you do about it?”

“I would think about it for a bit, but if it helped the team, then I would turn the other cheek, so to speak, maybe talk to them separately. As long as the work is done, you know, does it matter who did or thought of it.” He nodded and grinned and pressed with another question.

“Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to help someone.”

“Well, I try to help anyone I can as often as I can. I give to the charity causes, at the store and all, but someone specific.” Again I am caught with an unclear answer. What have I really done that meant going out of my way? I finally think of one. “Well, there was a time that a friend wanted to try out for the local football team and needed someone to practice with him. I agreed to help him, basically forfeiting my weekends for about a month.”

Man, what another stupid vague answer that was. I sense that he’s about to end the interview here. I feel my body temperature rising again, I am blowing this opportunity, but he asks another question.

“What would you say are your best and worst qualities?”

“I would say my best qualities are that I am honest, loyal, supportive at times, and always willing to improve. My worst qualities are laziness; I can be arrogant at times. I am dismissive of other people when it doesn’t affect me, and sometimes I say things that I am not sure I believe. Still, I say them anyway just to fit in.”

Mr. St. Pierre sits upright and closes the non-descript manilla folder, and for a brief moment, I think at least that’s the last of the questions. Until I remember, it’s judgment time now. Did I pass the test?

He doesn’t move, just sits quietly staring at me for what feels like an eternity before leaning back in his chair. He brings his hands up to his face forming a triangle with his fingers as if he is pondering some deep thought. His lips finally crack open to speak. My heart thumps and races; I can feel sweat collecting and beading my forehead; my palms are almost like waterfalls shedding sheets of moisture. If I were him, I wouldn’t choose me. I cringe at what’s about to come. The crew’s noise downstairs tapers off dramatically at the perfect time for him to render his verdict.

“Do you have any questions for me?” He finally asks. Why is he delaying the inevitable? I think it’s torturing me at this point. Get it over with.

I sit pondering for a few seconds. Is there anything I can even ask at this point that will save me here? I know I blew this every which way a person could. I am just not a good enough person for this. Indeed there are better, more qualified people. I begin to feel immense pressure in my chest as if someone is repeatedly pushing down on me with all their weight. Like an elephant walking over me, circling back around for rounds two, three, four, again and again.

Trying to not show my discomfort and disappointment doing all I could to not hyperventilate. Mr. St. Pierre leans forward, “Well, Mr. Willis, to be honest with you,” He starts.

“I know what’s coming—rejection from the highest order.”

“I don’t feel that you are ready for this next stage at this particular moment.” He continued. “I think you are just missing some experience. You’re on the right track, though. I like you; I think you have some potential going forward to be better suited for your next step. So this is what I am going to do. I’m going to keep your name here on file, and when another spot opens, we’ll give you a call, and hopefully, you have gained that experience by then. You know, helping others and becoming that better person you want to be. No time like the present. You never know when you’re going to get that call,” he says, winking.

He stands up and begins towards the door; I get up and follow him instinctively. He opens it and motions for me to walk through. As I pass him, he again holds his hand out, and I shake it just as before. He pulls me in, catching me off guard. I stumble into his chest. He presses his mouth close to my ear and whispers. “It’s not your time yet. You have so much more to do in life before coming back here. Do better with your second chance, son.”

He releases me; I pull back, stunned and confused. He places his hand on my chest, and a sudden wave of calmness overtakes my body. There’s no fear, nothing but peace and joy. I look behind me, and outside it’s an endless pit below. He shoves me out.

I begin to free fall, descending down and down. As I fall, pain begins to seep into my body. A wave of coldness rushes in, attacking my senses. That immense pressure begins to reassail my chest. I hear noises again; they start off very faint, slowly building into a cacophony blaring in my ears. My heart beats almost in rhythm with them. Finally, after a few seconds, the clatter of non-descript sounds becomes clearer.

It’s voices. At first, I can’t make them out, a few more seconds go by, and I hear. “Stop, stop, he’s back. I have a rhythm.”

I slowly start to open my eyes and lookup. The world is blurry but quickly comes back into focus. I see a man sitting and staring at me with a broad smile. I can make out that he is wearing a paramedic uniform. 

“Hey there, buddy, welcome back; we lost you there for a few seconds.” 

I can barely move, but I feel like my whole body is being jerked around; as I pick up my head a little, I notice that I am in the back of an ambulance. “What, where, how.” I try to speak but can’t seem to get whole sentences out. 

The man answers, “Well, Mr. Willis, you were in a car accident, and we lost you for a few moments as the fire department was cutting you out of the car. We’re almost to the hospital now, though, they’re going to check you out there and keep you for observation, but I think you should be ok.” 

I am dumbfounded by what I’ve just heard. How can that be? “So…so I died then,” I ask. 

“Your heart did stop shortly, but we got you back pretty quickly. There shouldn’t be any permanent damage.” The paramedic responds.  I lay my head back down and look up at the light. I think about what just happened, how close to death I came, and what will come next for me, and what possibly awaits me on the other side. It is clear there is still work for me to do, and now I have just been given a second chance to, as Mr. Peter St. Pierre put it. To do better before my final judgment. After all, who can refuse a suggestion from a higher authority? So, the question I am left with is…how can I be a better person today?

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