I should have ended it there, I thought, as I climbed into the front of his pick-up. Three hundred pounds, stupid, and a bitch? Who says something like that? Some nut bucket, that’s who. And there I was, riding to his home to meet his wife in the biggest extended cab pick-up truck you’ve ever seen. A blaring red with four rear tires, dual exhaust, running boards, and a large bed with four-wheel-drive suited to drive me out to the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere…a perfect place for a murder.
“We’re heading to my house. I want you to meet my wife. I also want you to see my barn and meet my horses.” Ah yes, Max Shaffer was a breeder of Arab horses. My knowledge about horses was and still is limited to what I learned in veterinary school. I had taken my boards and completed my large animal rotations and had long drained my brain of unnecessary equine fluff. They are flouncy prey animals destined for a broken leg, laceration, or colic.
We rolled up a long drive and passed two gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous, barns. The idyllic setting disarmed me a bit from our earlier debacle to the point my eyes sunk into the lush green scenery. I was jarred to reality when I realized the truck had stopped in front of one of the barns. I hopped from the truck and tailed after Max toward the entrance of the building. I entered the barn and the familiar smell of hay, alfalfa, and horses tickled my nose. The barn was immaculately clean, I noted, and found a morsel of respect for the way Shaffer kept shop.
That morsel withered away when he called me into his tack room. He furrowed his brow behind his large round glasses as he reached up onto a shelf and pulled down a wooden box.
“These are the ashes of my favorite foal, Bennie. Bennie spent forty-five days in the NICU at Teaching Referral Hospital. I had to euthanize him.” Dr. Shaffer had a noticeable quiver in his voice. “He was the best little foal. Beautiful.” Was he really crying during my job interview? In the tack room? “It just chokes me up.” Yes. Yes he was. Awkward.
I slipped out the door of the tack room and into the aisle way as Dr. Shaffer replaced the ashes on the shelf. I heard him behind me. “Ok, let’s head up to the house.”
Should it have been odd to me that Dr. Shaffer was taking me to his home during my job interview? I admit, I would have been a lot more nervous about it had he just not shed tears over the ashes of his prized foal. And I really needed to meet his wife; She was either just as nuts as him or she was a saint.
Turns out she was a saint or really good at putting on the act of normalcy. She was clearly the most normal aspect of his life. The meeting went smoothly with nary a profanity uttered. I sat in the living room and listened to her talk about their child, their horses, her career, and the annual Christmas party at their house. Yet this family was nothing akin to the Norman Rockwell picture she was trying to paint.
Back in the truck, Dr. Shaffer decided to take me for a cruise around the neighborhood to get a feel for the area. I just wanted to get back to the hospital, then into my car, then fly down the turnpike without looking back. Away we drove.
“So, let me tell you about the benefits. All of your pet care is free. I will give you my credit card if you have to take them to a referral hospital. You will get health insurance. Oh, and all my employees get a gym membership.”
A gym membership! What a nice perk.
“I think it’s really important you be in shape. It’s good for your brain, too. My previous associate had a smokin’ hot body!”
The pervert emerged and his creepiness factor just blew through the roof. He clearly put stock in his employees appearances, given his multiple comments about weight and physique. I certainly did not want him noticing my “smokin’ hot” body. I suddenly wished for a burka.
We cruised down side roads while Dr. Shaffer pointed out homes owned by his clients. “That one there is loaded. She’ll spend tons of money on her pets. She’ll do anything you say.” As he droned on about his wealthy clientele, I was lost in thought. The scenery was green, lush, and beautiful so I used it as an excuse to look out the window and not across the bench seat of his truck. I already disliked this guy.
We slowed near a sizable estate and Dr. Shaffer started, “See that bush there? That big one on the corner of the lot?”
“Yes, right there,” I pointed to the obvious bush on the corner lot near a very large and ornate traditional home.
“Yep. I picked Tiffany, one of the techs, up there once when she was at a party.” So benevolent of him, I thought, avoiding rolling my eyes at yet another story he used to convince me he was a good guy.
“She was bare-assed naked hiding behind that bush. She was drunk and, of course, with some guy and wanted to go home. She called me to come pick her up. All of my employees know they can call me at any time for help.”
Head. Explode. What does one say to that? Just smile and nod and I might get out alive.
We came to an intersection and he stayed stopped. He turned toward me and asked, “So what are you thinking? Are you interested in this position? I like you.”
Serving up a big dose of diplomacy I gently began, “Well, I am on the fence. I am not sure we would work well together.” Understatement. Of. The. Century.
“What’s the problem? Tell me what you don’t like!”
I continued to tactfully let him down, “I just don’t think we’d work well together. I think we have very different styles.”
“I am not very interested at this point.” If he thought I had balls before, his pestering was about to give him a good look at how big they were.
“What do you mean? Is it something about me?” Um, yes it is you crazy nut bag. I was telling him we won’t work well together and I was not that interested. Apparently subtleties were beyond him.
“I think you are annoying,” I stated flatly figuring I’d lay it out there in a manner of directness that I wasn’t prepared to deliver.
After a moment of awkward silence I was sure he’d offer to take me back to my car and end the interview. He shifted the truck in gear.
“Let me tell you why you want to work for me.” The tour continued.