Act V, Scene I
Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. ~ Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene V
Puffing out his chest with a deep breath, Bob entered Mr. Burns' office with his head held high. He was dressed to impress in his best suit and tie, having traded in the last of his Armani suits for a far cozier English brand that he'd grown up with. It was the type of suit he would have worn as mayor, had Francesca not been such an overbearing fashion tyrant. If it wasn't made in Italy, it was inferior in her eyes. Which would explain her constant attempts to "correct" his inherent British-American mannerisms. The woman had been so obsessed with maintaining a perfect image that she'd had to make everyone around her as fake as she was.
Looking around Mr. Burns' lavish office, Bob got the impression of a man hellbent on projecting a similarly intimidating image. It reminded him of his own office back in Salsiccia: it boasted of a big, powerful man, yet it was far too grandiloquent for any mortal to claim convincingly. Like Gino attempting to strut around in "Papa's" giant shoes. It just didn't fit.
On one wall hung a larger-than-life oil portrait of a bald, vulture-like man, dressed for the cold, standing proudly with a rifle atop a dead polar bear in the midst of an Arctic wasteland. Below this painting stood the actual bear, stuffed and mounted on an oak platform, teeth bared and poised to attack. On another wall hung an equally immense portrait of the same man, armed with a musket, charging alone against an entire army of Red Coats and impaling the nearest one on his bayonet.
Bob smirked. He wasn't sure whether to be amused or offended. He approached the spacious desk. If he'd thought his own desk was big, it was nothing compared to this one. The subject of the gruesome portraits sat behind it, reading a newspaper and looking not at all intimidating like the paintings would suggest. He seemed unaware that he had a visitor, even though it was now two-thirty - time for the scheduled interview.
Bob cleared his throat. Nothing. Only a faint rustling as Mr. Burns turned the page of his newspaper. Bob stepped closer and cleared his throat again, louder this time. Mr. Burns glanced over the top of his paper, then set it down. Bob was about to introduce himself when the old man pushed a button on the intercom device on his desk.
"Smithers! Get in here and water that potted palm. It sounds drier than a jolly caucus race!"*
There was a garbled reply coupled with the hiss of static, then silence. Mr. Burns stared so intensely at Bob that the normally eloquent younger man suddenly found himself tongue-tied.
The door opened, and in stepped a bespectacled man holding a watering can. He paused when he saw Bob. "Sir?"
"You're too late, Smithers," said Mr. Burns. "The red leaves, the yellow bark... this palm tree is obviously dead. Get rid of it!" He fluttered a hand in a shooing gesture at Bob.
"I'm here for my interview," Bob said quickly, fearing dismissal.
Mr. Burns stared at him again. He seemed to shrink in his plush leather chair. "Smithers, it's talking to me," he murmured to his assistant.
"That's not a palm tree, sir. That's your two-thirty appointment," Smithers explained.
Bob nodded and smiled. "Robert Terwilliger," he introduced himself, extending a hand across the desk. Mr. Burns glanced at the hand but did not move to shake it.
"And what makes you think you can just waltz into my office and demand a job interview?" he asked flatly.
Bob withdrew his hand as well as his smile. "The fact that I submitted a job application and was called the following day to schedule an interview for this very date and time," he answered smartly.
"Have you any experience working at a nuclear plant?"
Bob hesitated. "To be perfectly frank: no. My skills and interests revolve more around the arts - theater, opera and the like. I graduated from Yale with a bachelor's degree in classical studies and was once an active member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Most recently I finished serving a term as mayor of a quaint but industrious little village in Italy."
Mr. Burns snorted. "Is that supposed to impress me?"
"Sir," Smithers interrupted. "I ran a background check, and this man has an extensive criminal record." He pulled a file from a drawer and set it on the desk. Bob glared at him but kept silent. Mr. Burns scanned the file, his furrowed brow rising higher and higher the further he read.
"Ah! Now that IS impressive! Perjury, grand larceny, terrorism... you're just the man this corporation needs!" He stood up with a grin.
"Sir! You wouldn't hire an individual with THAT kind of record?" Smithers protested. "That's completely unethical!"
"Oh, pish posh! Why, in this post-Eisenhower era, I wouldn't trust an applicant WITHOUT a criminal record!" Mr. Burns walked around his desk and laid a hand on Bob's shoulder. "Smithers, I want you to set this felonious fellow up in some sort of supervisory position, posthaste! And slap a nice title on it. A little razzle to dazzle the other employees."
Smithers smirked. "Super-duper-visor it is, then."
Bob grinned. This was even easier than he'd thought. "Mr. Burns, I cannot even begin to express my gratitude in a proper fashion, short of kissing your feet."
"And you'll do no such thing, so long as you're the senior executive supervisor of Sector Seven! With that lofty position you'll enjoy the perks of having subordinates bestow kisses on YOUR colossal feet!"
Smithers raised a brow. "How much morphine have you had today, sir?"
Mr. Burns smiled and shrugged. "Oh, not much. Just enough to turn a charging rhino into a prancing poodle." He turned to Bob again. "Say, do you know another way to stop a rhinoceros from charging?"
"Take away his credit cards?" Smithers grumbled, but Mr. Burns ignored him.
Bob thought for a moment. "Bribery? Blackmail? Extortion?"
Mr. Burns nodded. "I like the way you think, Mr. Terwilliger. Welcome aboard!"
Bob mirrored his evil grin and steepled fingers. "Excellent," both men said in unison.
ACT VI: [link]
*Reference to a line from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll