Superhero Brilliant Becky stood in the kitchen of her small flat, preparing a herbed tomato sauce to serve with a soya-based, breadcrumb coated burger. Earlier, she had ignored the pile of dirty dishes, bowls, mugs and cutlery climbing higher and expanding outwards across all available surfaces. She rested her hand on the surface of the fake marble worktop, allowing the chopping knife to roll out from her grip as she sighed deeply.
Gazing through the kitchen window looking out onto communal back garden mostly laid to lawn, she considered her future. Since the pandemic lockdown, her work had entirely dried up. How could it not? Not officially recognised as a “key-worker” and being a law-abiding citizen, how could she justify defying the imposed restrictions and leave the flat – even if it was to bring about the downfall of evil syndicates and defeat crime?
Without accounts to demonstrate otherwise, the welfare office had refused Becky status as self-employed, which meant she’d had to sign-on for unemployment benefit and make herself available for other work. Yesterday’s telephone interview with the job coach hadn’t gone well, not after she’d insisted she could not, under any circumstances abandon her mask and costume while undertaking a new role. Initially, this assertion had been met with a stony silence.
“Becky,” the job coach had said, finally.
“Brilliant Becky, if you don’t mind.” Upon this request, Becky could hear a throat being cleared noisily.
“Brilliant, Becky. You’ve got to try and look at it from an employer’s viewpoint. Imagine yourself in a showroom trying to sell a luxury electric car to a successful business person. What do you think they are going to think when you waltz in, dressed in full superhero costume, complete with mask, tights and a cape?”
“I wouldn’t waltz in.” Becky imagined the scene, billowing dry-ice all around her as she swings in on the rope of a grapple hook, landing in a squat position on all fours. Crouched low on the white tiled showroom floor, she swivels her head sideways, drilling the customer with one of her customary, piercing stares.
“Beck – “, the job coach stalled, “Brilliant Becky, I’ve pulled out the details on several jobs and I just can’t see you’ll have much chance with any of them, not if you insist on attending interview in full superhero costume. I just can’t.”
“I’ll be the judge of that! What have you got, exactly?”
Becky listened, as the job coach reeled off the titles: a courier van driver for a distribution company, a receptionist at a centre for psychotherapy, a care assistant making home visits and a sessional worker at a hostel for the homeless.
“Can you really see any one of these employers taking on a superhero?” The job coach asked.
“I don’t know why not,” Becky replied, “they all sound entirely feasible to me.”