#FlashFiction – Mary Sue: The Story

Burnham finished the last paragraph, shook his head in disbelief and turned back to the beginning. Perhaps a third reading would make more sense, make the transcript of the interview more palatable.

Subject: Interview with Miss Mary Susan Broom, ATS

Interviewer: Thank you for coming today Miss Broom –

Broom (interrupts): Please call me Mary Sue, everyone does.

I: Indeed. Well Miss Broom, as I say, thank you for coming today. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

B: Oh, there’s not much to tell really. My mother joined the Women’s Volunteer Service as soon as it started and between helping out with air raid precautions, running the local evacuation effort and so on, she didn’t really have enough time to knit things for soldiers, so she got me started on that. But after knitting a hundred pairs of socks in two days, I felt there must be more that I could do, so as soon as I’d had my eighteenth birthday, I volunteered for the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

I: I see. And it looks like you passed the ATS training course with flying colours – (copy of training record attached).

B (interrupts): Oh yes! Such fun, and I really enjoyed helping the other girls when they found things a bit of a struggle.

I: Now, tell me a little bit about this reprimand on your record.

B: It was so silly. I still can’t believe that I was reprimanded for that. I was waiting to pick [REDACTED] up from [REDACTED]. I’d just finished the Times crossword – jolly nearly a personal best too, I think it took me three minutes that day – when I spotted this cove looking terribly suspicious and thought that he must be up to no good.

Burnham decided he couldn’t face dealing with the ‘tailing’ of the spiv again, especially the lengths Miss Broom had gone to to disguise her ATS uniform, so he skipped to the end.

B: And so they docked me a days wages and gave me an official reprimand, even though I’d caught this spiv and handed him over to the police. I thought that was jolly unfair.

I: Hmmm. Well now, could you tell me about this letter you sent to [REDACTED]? (copy of letter attached).

B: Well, I would have thought it rather obvious. There was a puzzle in the Times – jolly hard, too, took me nearly ten minutes to solve it – and it said if you could solve it to send your proof to an address and there would be a small prize. So I thought I would send in my proof.

I: Yes? And then what?

B: It turned out my prize was an invitation to sit some sort of exam! Cheek! Well, I swapped my day off and went and sat the exam, just for something to do really. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, because it was quite easy really, easier than the puzzle in the Times, although maybe I’d just got into the right frame of mind by then. Anyway, the whole thing took me about half an hour. On my way out, I pointed out that there was a mistake in one of the questions. The examiner was a bit rude about it actually. Anyway, I didn’t hear anything more about it, except that someone in my section was saying that her boyfriend had also answered one of these ads and was now working on something hush-hush somewhere. So I thought I’d write to [REDACTED] and see if there was any possibilities for me there. I do enjoy my ATS work, but this sounded like such a lark.

Burnham took a sip of his tea, and realised that it had gone stone-cold. He’d wasted enough time on this. He flipped to the last page of the interview.

Conclusion: Subject considered unsuitable for SOE work. Promote within ATS and move to non-critical sector. Surveil. Possible Security Risk.

Burnham picked up a rubber stamp, inked it, and brought it down firmly on the paper underneath the conclusion:

RECOMMENDATION APPROVED stared back at him in big red letters. He gave the stamp a moment to dry, closed the file and repeated the process with another stamp. When he was finished, REJECTED crossed over the legend ‘Special Operations Executive Recruitment Interview’. He sighed, rubbed his eyes and picked up the next folder.

© David Jesson, 2021

Author’s note – in answer to a comment made when we posted the prompt, the character is definitely not a reflection of an idealised form of the author! Also, regular readers of the blog may recognise the name Burnham. Yes, it’s the same chap, although until I’ve had a chat with Debs, this is very much non-canon…

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