Hurley was not expecting to be greeted by the sight of a giant Kangaroo in a tailored three-piece suit when he opened the door to the roof of his newspaper’s headquarters, but here he was. The Raccoon had rushed back from lunch when he first felt the tremors rocking the street, and by the time he had gotten back to the office and checked to make sure everyone was OK he knew something really strange had to be going on. The building was fine, if slightly messy, and his receptionist had the stare of someone who had seen far too much in a very short amount of time.
“Your two o’clock is here,” was all she said, and directed him to the roof with his interview packet.
Now, even with the final piece of the puzzle looming over him, he found he had significant trouble making sense of the situation. This…giant…should have been impossible for a number of reasons. Besides the usual laws of physics, he was positive he would have heard about an Animal like this existing well before now. There’s no way you could keep something like this hidden, not from people like him — it was his business to uncover anything that would be of interest to his readers, the larger than life, the better.
And if this didn’t fit the description, nothing would.
“Good afternoon,” the Kangaroo said as he bent down. The sky above Hurley was replaced by an overwhelmingly large, smiling muzzle with sharp but friendly brown eyes staring right down at him. “You are Mr. Coor, yes? It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
A hand big enough to flatten a car lowered down, one finger extended. The digit alone was roughly as thick as his chest, capped with a claw as long as his leg.
“I…uh….” Hurley said, clutching the interview packet a little tighter. He took a step or two back away from the finger, unsure what he was meant to do with it. “I’m sorry, who are you?”
A shadow passed over those immense brown eyes. The Kangaroo lifted his hand and laced it with his other one, crossing them over his buttoned-down vest. “I’m sorry; your receptionist told me that you’d be expecting me. I am Roovumbidgee, here to apply for the advice columnist position. We’ve been corresponding.”
Hurley’s mental filing system plucked the name from memory in moments. Roovumbidgee was not a name you forgot in a hurry. He felt a flush rise in his cheeks when he realized he was holding the giant’s resume in his hands, along with printed copies of the emails they’d exchanged and several sample columns the Kangaroo had written. Even then, his brain refused to accept it. There was no way the curious, enthusiastic, endearingly eccentric Animal he had been talking to for the past three weeks was this…monster.
Giants were supposed to be dim, selfish brutes, weren’t they? All muscle and no brains, dressed in nothing but a filthy loincloth and sandals, carrying a tree for a club, chasing little people who had stolen their riches. Hurley didn’t consider himself an expert in the matter at all, but he was fairly certain all the giants he had met in fairy tales were primitive, barely sapient beings — not learned Animals who looked like they were dressing up for an Agatha Christie murder mystery party.
“Oh! Uh…yes, of course!” Hurley realized he had been staring dumbly for far too long to have possibly been considered polite. “I’m sorry, it’s just…when you told me you were a taller gentlebeing, I hadn’t realized you were, uh, making an understatement.”
Roovumbidgee’s chuckle rumbled the building. “I apologize for not being forthright with you. It’s been my experience that most prospective employers assume I’m lying or delusional when I tell them the truth.”
“But they figure it out pretty quickly during the on-site interview, right?”
“I wouldn’t know. This is the first one I’ve been invited to.”
Hurley had too many questions racing through his head and no idea which one would be the least offensive, so he pressed on. “Well, let’s make sure it’s a good one.”
He managed to take his eyes off the Kangaroo for long enough to put on his glasses and open the interview packet. “Now, Mister…uhm….is Roovumbidgee your first name or your last name?”
“It’s my only name, Mr. Coor. Like Prince. Or Madonna.”
“I, uh, see. So would you prefer Mr. Roovum?”
Roovumbidgee lifted a brow. “Is that what you prefer?”
“Just whatever would make you most comfortable.” Hurley felt himself flush again, though he wasn’t entirely sure why.
“Roovum is just fine, then.” There was a localized earthquake as the Kangaroo shifted his weight, leaning back on a tail that must have been as long as a couple of city busses.
“All right then. Roovum.” Hurley stared up at the giant, measuring his back against the taller office building across the street. He had to be over 100 feet tall. How in the world could he fit on a city street like that? Where was he going to put him if he hired him? How could he even pay him? “I have to say, I’m quite impressed with your writing.”
“Thank you.” The Kangaroo was obviously pleased.
“I’m just not sure about your idea for a column. Mighty Manners has a nice ring to it, but I don’t think we have a large-enough audience for the subject. Er…if you’ll forgive the choice of words.” Hurley’s tail lashed behind him as he leaned back against the door. He was starting to get a stitch in his neck.
“There is nothing to forgive. It’s a quite clever turn of phrase.” Roovum smiled, his tree-thick fingers drumming along the fabric of his jacket. “And I believe you shall find that I already have an established audience.”
The giant shrugged. “I have a fairly large readership already, Mr. Coor. My column is syndicated across several thousand different outlets on hundreds of worlds in…eight realms, by my last count. Or rather, it was until my relationship with my former editor ended rather suddenly.”
Hurley swallowed hard to keep down the question he wanted to ask. “And you’re looking for a new home newspaper for your syndicated column.”
“So in a way you’re interviewing me.” Hurley’s tail thumped against the brickwork.
Roovumbidgee smiled. “I suppose that’s true, yes.”
Hurley chuckled. “Well, how am I doing so far?”
“Quite well. I think we could have a long and fruitful partnership.”
“Mmm, I think so.” Hurley snapped his interview packet closed and held out a hand. Roovumbidgee lowered his finger, and they shook.
“I…won’t be able to pay you much.” The Raccoon said sheepishly.
“I understand. I won’t ask for much. Just access to your newsroom and reporters for their perspective.”
“I think I can do that. Will you need an office?” Hurley wasn’t sure he wanted the answer to that.
“That is very kind of you to offer, but no, that won’t be necessary. A coffee shop nearby has graciously offered their roof for my typewriter.” Roovumbidgee’s nose twitched, and Hurley had him immediately pegged as a caffeine addict. Gods help that coffee shop.
“Oh, well, let us know what your office hours are and I’ll send my guys down there for coffee or something. They’ll, uh, they’ll certainly want to meet you.” Hurley’s ears flicked as he rubbed the back of his head. He was already planning the staff meeting he’d need to have about this.
“And I look forward to meeting them. I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity, Mr. Coor. I’ll do my best to make sure it’s of benefit to you.”
Hurley looked up at the towering marsupial in his stuffy three-piece suit, wedged in a two-lane side street between buildings he could effortlessly bring down. He was sure this would be the strangest hire he’d ever make.
“Oh, I assure you, you already have.”