James Holden: The Assessment

“So, please have a seat. We’ve called you in for a Stage Three review, you understand why?”
“Because I haven’t got a job…”
“Because you have failed to find employment for the past year.”
“Well, I did apply for disability living allowance.”
“But you were found fit for work weren’t you?”
“Eventually, yes.”
“I had to have three assessments. Because – you know?” she said, pointing at her head, the top of which was covered with a headscarf.
“We do try to meet religious sensitivities at all times.”
She laughed. “No, no. That wasn’t the problem.”
The assessor held his pen above the Stage Three Assessment Form he had to fill in. “And what was the problem?”
“Well, the medcial assessors turned to stone, didn’t they? Is that not in my file?”
He flicked through her file. “Erm – that does’t seem to be in here. But you say they turned to stone?”
“I see.” He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “And … sorry if I sound confused, what was it that turned them to stone?”
“It was the snakes”
“The snakes?”
“The snakes on top of my head – it really wasn’t my fault. But you’re not going to stop my benefits, are you? Because I try really, really hard to find work. I went for five interviews last month – data entry, Weatherspoons, working on a till, care assistant, a job in a loo roll factory.  I have a lot to offer – but people just can’t see past the snakes.”
“Mmm, the snakes,” he said writing furiously on the form.
“So, will you be recommending that they stop my benefits?”
“The thing is, Miss Medusa, is that the decision will be made by, ah, my supervisor, yes, supervisor, who will need to weigh up all the evidence that we have – not just today’s interview but also the, erm, paperwork relating to your job searches and feedback from prospective employers about how genuine your willingness to find gainful employment appears to be. I’m afraid I can’t give you an answer right now but we will be in touch in due course…”
“Do you want to see them?” she asked and he shrugged disinterestedly. She took the head scarf off, revealing a mass of snakes. The assessor leaned forward with a fascinated expression on his face and took a step forward to look more closely. As he did, his skin started to turn grey and his movements slowed down, a grinding noise sounded the final stage of his turning to stone.
Medusa looked down at what he had written on the form. “Likely fraudulant applicant indeed,” she said, tearing the form up and walking out of the room to look for someone more helpful.


About James Holden

Brought up in Yorkshire, James has washed up on the shores of London. He spends his days working as a political geek. His short stories have previously been read by the Liars League.
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