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Authors: Jennifer van der Kwast

Pounding the Pavement

. Copyright © 2005 by Jennifer van der Kwast. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information, address Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Van der Kwast, Jennifer.
Pounding the pavement : a novel / Jennifer van der Kwast.— 1st ed.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-7679-2163-3
1. Young women—Fiction. 2. Job hunting—Fiction. 3. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction. 4. Unemployed women workers—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3622.A5854P68 2005


For Doc,
with all my love


Oftentimes I wonder what audacity possessed me to think I could ever dare write a novel. I have since decided that the blame falls squarely on my family, whose unconditional love and support made me feel as though I could accomplish anything. So thank you to my mother, Patty, my father, Henry, and my grandmother, Mimi, for always being so proud of me, even before I’ve given you any good reason to be.

I would also like to thank Jenny Raucher for being a champion from the very beginning; Pilar Queen, whose kind, encouraging e-mails have now been saved in a special folder just for her; and Erin Hennicke, whose invaluable advice, insight, and friendship made the whole process seem a little less terrifying.

Special thanks also go to my agent, Joe Veltre, for his endless patience and guidance; my editor, Stacy Creamer, in whose expert hands I’ve never felt safer; and her assistant, Tracy Zupancis, for quelling my unnecessary panic attacks.

And finally, I’d like to thank Keith Goldberg, my harshest critic
my biggest fan, and the only person in the world who could possibly make “your dialogue needs work” sound like “I love you.”


chapter one

    A certain nostalgia comes with having to revisit a résumé. I long for the days when I was straight out of college, when padding a résumé was the sort of challenge that fostered a liberating sense of artistic expression. In a field I once dubbed “Related Experience” (as opposed to my now dreaded “Work Experience”) I could haughtily appoint myself such glamorous distinctions as the
of student films, an
of the school newspaper, a
for the campus literary magazine.

My résumé, as it stands now, is nothing but a testament to dashed dreams and aspirations. And sadly, to make room for one disappointing failure after another, I’ve had to remove the silly tributes to my former glories as a director, an editor, and a writer.

The latest version of this curriculum vitae of mine currently lies faceup on the gray Formica desk in front of me, yet I cannot bring myself to meet its eye. It embarrasses me how my name leaps off the page, so cocky and bold. Yet despite my résumé’s seemingly desperate pleas for attention, Mark Shapiro, the stocky, bald-headed man who sits across the desk from me, pays no heed to it at all. Instead he fixes me with a steady, penetrating stare and an eager smile I find rather unnerving.

Mark Shapiro is my last hope. He’s a headhunter.

Now, I don’t really put much faith in recruiters, staffing agents, or any other slick hustler looking to pimp me out as a two-bit work whore, when really I’d much prefer to think of myself as a classy, full-service, employment escort. But my steady stream of interviews has recently dwindled to a minor trickle, and the tedium of having spent the last six months of my life as a recluse has begun to overwhelm me. So I’ve scheduled my appointment with Mark Shapiro. If anything, it’s just another excuse to get out of the house.

Mark Shapiro is exactly what I expected. Wearing a shirt halfway unbuttoned to display his copious chest hair, he is more desperate amateur comedian than polished professional. He beseeches me like he would an unreceptive audience, hoping I’ll find him somewhat likeable and warm up to him eventually. Fat chance.

“So! Sarah Pell-tee-ay!” he says, clapping his fleshy hands together. I cringe. Like most people, he has mispronounced my name. I am too ashamed to correct him, to tell him the name—pronounced “Pell-eh-teer”—is an apathetic nod to my long-abandoned French heritage.

“What are you looking for?” he asks.

“Umm, well, most of my experience has been in the film industry.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Uh-oh.”

“But I don’t
to work in film. I was thinking about moving into publishing. Preferably magazine publishing.”

“Uh-huh.” He nods. “And?”

“And maybe books? Or even television? I’d like to find something media-related.”

“Sure you do. So does everyone else in this town. Anything else?”

“And,” I am rapidly running out of options, “PR? Advertising?”

“Oooh, that sounds good!” Beaming, Mark finally picks up my résumé. He winks at me. “Let’s see what we got.” He takes one glance at my résumé and his clown-like grin vanishes. I’m not surprised.

It is torturous to watch his labored reading, his obvious distaste for the document in his hands. His bushy brow is knotted, and his thick lips move as he scans the page. To prove his displeasure even further, when he is done he flips over the page to study the back of it. When has anyone ever included valuable information on the
of a résumé?

“Content development assistant, huh?” he asks.

“That’s right.”

“Did you answer phones?”

“Of course.”

“Did you file, catalog, and enter data?”

“All the time.”

“You handled faxes and all written correspondence?”


“Then you’re an administrative assistant.” He tosses me back my résumé as if it were tainted, made tacky with flowery language and an overinflated sense of ego. “Change it. Nobody is looking for a content development assistant.”

I blink at the résumé in front of me because I can’t imagine how I’d go about changing it again. By now the words no longer make sense to me. I’ve copied, pasted, edited down, searched for synonyms. The page is only a list of phrases and expressions I think I might have overheard from a distant conversation. They mean nothing to me anymore.

“Okay, look at me,” Mark Shapiro commands. I look. He chews on a fingernail. “You see this? Don’t do this.”

I realize he’s mimicking me. I’m the one chewing on a fingernail. But it’s not chewing, exactly. It’s my pensive, meditative pose.
It’s a variation on the pose Rodin used for his
. It’s the gesture I assume when I pretend I am seriously considering the nonsense little shits like Mark Shapiro spew at me.

I remove my finger from my mouth.

“Good. Now, when you go on interviews, I want your hands in your lap, like a little lady …”

I shoot Mark Shapiro a deadly look and he reads it perfectly. Chagrined, he clamps his mouth shut and rubs a nervous hand over the two o’clock shadow on his chin. “You know what you could do?” he muses. “Maybe you could include your computer skills on your résumé. You good with computers?”

I sigh. It’s degrading to think someone like me, someone who has, in fact, been a valuable contributor to the workplace at one point or another, would have to list something as obvious as computer skills.

“Oh, I’m excellent with computers,” I assure him.

“Really? You know Word? Excel? Powerpoint?”

“Sure,” I lie. Powerpoint? Never heard of it.

“Terrific!” He claps his beefy hands together again. “Then we’re going to run a couple of tests.”


He sets up the exams for me in a dark, neglected computer room at the end of the hall. The machine he has selected for me, like the others, is a stained relic of a computer with a grainy screen and indecipherable graphics. It’s a computer better suited for a contemporary art gallery than a contemporary workplace.

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