The candidate stands, basking in the light of the cameras. She preens herself, drawing her fingers through her hair, drawing attention to the hair on her fingers. She pulls her lips into a smile, and says “I’m half machine”.
“Would you care to elaborate?” the cameraman asks. This is his fourth series of The Apprentice, and he knows that he needs to get footage of the delusional hopefuls swearing that they are going to push the boundaries of the envelope, know everything there is to know about businessmanshipment, and see themselves as the Genghis Khan of moist towelette distribution in the Ashford area.
“Sure” the candidate replies. “Press me here”. She points to a spot just below her ribs. The cameraman doesn’t move. She asks him a second time. “Just here”. She places his hand on her genuine polyester-blend jacket.
She begins to cough.
It is not a delicate cough, but the frenzied, desperate cough of the terminally ill. It is the sort of cough that is usually accompanied by blood, and by chunks of lung dropping wetly to the floor. She bends in half, clutching her stomach. Her knees buckle and she leans forwards, dropping to her hands and knees. The guttural noise becomes lower, more intense. The cameraman swears he hears something click. Her face is turning red. The cameraman wonders if he should stop filming. She arches her back, her face is crimson. The cameraman turns to the director for advice, but he is watching the scene unfold through the cracks in his fingers. There are tears in her eyes.
Her mouth opens.
A can of coke, sealed, edges its way out from between her lips.
The coughing stops. The can falls to the ground, and in the silence its rolling is audible. The candidate stands, brushing the dust from her knees. She stoops to pick up the can, and offers it to the cameraman. She is still panting, but starts to speak:
“My father was a vending machine”.