Mrs Pembrose's Talent

"Oh dear," she tutted, shaking her head from side to side. "Oh dear oh dear oh dear."

Everyone has a Talent. Some are more obvious than others, some find years to find, and some die without ever having discovered their Talent at all. Mrs Pembrose had been 45 and a half before learning hers - she'd expected that she never would.

It had been a happy life, even Talentless. She'd gotten married, had two children (quite young, as was the trend) and seen them off to college and to start families of their own.

But alone at home one day she'd accidentally dropped her address book, tutted, and exclaimed "Oh dear."

It was crystal clear, the second the words escaped her mouth. It was odd, really, that she'd never uttered that simple phrase, those two words one after the other before, but as soon as she did, she knew:

She'd found her Talent.

Her husband had found her in that same position when he returned home several hours later. She was just sitting there, and it appeared at first glance that she'd gone mad, sitting on the floor and muttering to herself...especially when she looked up, with that gleam of excitement in her eyes.

But then she had simply said "Oh dear", and he understood. She'd found her Talent.

Mr Pembrose had discovered his talent quite young. It wasn't one of the Talents that everyone hoped for - acting, dancing, stockbroking - but he'd always liked it. He had a Talent for middle-management, and armed with this knowledge, he'd soon found himself a lovely middle-management position, where he cheerfully worked, no ambition for advancement, no fear of demotion.

His bosses appreciated his skills, his employees were glad to be working under someone who was perfectly suited to their position, and he didn't have to worry about promotions or playing the politics game - all he had to do was go to work each day and be one of the best middle-managers in the country.

The usefulness of Mrs Pembrose's Talent wasn't immediately obvious. In those first few days, she was so excited about having found it that she just sat at home and repeated it to herself over and over.

"Oh dear," she said, unable to stop smiling. "Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear."

She organised a Talent party, as was the custom, and her family and friends all brought her small presents. Mrs Pembrose's father, known for his sense of humour, bought her a small figurine of a deer. Her children bought her a set of business cards with her name, number, and catch-phrase on it.

And at the end of that first week, after the initial excitement had faded, Mrs Pembrose set out to see how she could use her Talent professionally. She'd worked most of her life as a secretary - work that she enjoyed, but had never completely fulfilled her. Knowing, as everyone did, that she had a hidden Talent meant that a part of her always yearned for the career that she was perfectly suited for.

It was out there, waiting for her, and so her stint as a secretary felt like a way of killing time until her Talent came along.

Now she knew what she was capable of, what she could do best. But how to implement it?

Mrs Pembrose tried finding voiceover or acting work - anything that required the line "Oh dear" delivered, she excelled at. She could say it happily, sadly, disapprovingly, orgasmically - name the adjective, and she could say "Oh dear" perfectly.

But "Oh dear" situations are few and far between - interested in making use of her unique Talent, a few advertising agencies specifically wrote campaigns to utilise it, but it didn't take long for work to dry up. After a month or two "Oh dear" ads were done with, and the cyclical nature of advertisements meant that they wouldn't become fresh again for another decade or two.

She managed to get a few interviews - the news was always interested in unusual Talents and there were a few shows specifically dedicated to showcasing the particularly weird ones, but it didn't take her long to work through them all.

And then it occurred to her - there was no job out there waiting to take advantage of her strange Talent, because it wasn't a skill that people were expected to had. Jobs grew out of not only necessities, but also Talents - if someone could do something well, they would typically try to work out how to use their talent to better society, and more importantly, earn them money.

And so it was that Mrs Pembrose got a job as a professional Disapprover.

Corporations would call her in to disapprove of ideas. They'd present her as a neutral observer, or an expert in a particular field, and once an idea was explained to her, she'd pause, tilt her head to the side, and say those two words:

"Oh dear."

Mrs Pembrose never got sick of seeing how people reacted. Some of them were indignant, some of them were disappointed, some of them seemed to be expecting it, sighed, and packed up their presentation without another word. A few, when she was just starting out, were skeptical, but after a few weeks on the job she worked out the exact tone of "Oh dear" to give out, the tone that conveyed a lack of interest in the idea, no room for argument, a hint of disappointment, and an unwavering sense of authority.

She was a huge hit - companies were hiring her to disapprove of anything and everything: plans for expansion, new stationery suggestions, annual performance reviews. Individuals starting hiring her, for jobs that varied from fortune-teller to divorce lawyer.

One job consisted of setting her up as a fashion guru, approving of one company's designs but not the other. She was surprised, six months later, to see some of the garments she'd nodded at (or, on a few occasions, given an enthusiastic-and-impressed "Oh dear" to) selling for many hundreds of dollars at her local clothing store.

The work started sporadically, but became more and more consistent as word spread. Of course, as word spread, she had to be careful not to be recognised - she had awkwardly turned up as a "bee-keeping expert" to one job, only to discover that the target of her "we're-interested-but-you'll-have-to-lower-the-price oh dear" was a previous client. At one job shortly afterwards, she'd felt suspicion coming from her target, but she had (rather impressively, she thought to herself at the time) quelled it with an "Oh dear" of "Your suspicion is absurd".

As part of her job, she'd had to start putting on disguises, voices; she'd even attended one or two sessions pretending to be a rather heavily-bearded man. It added a bit of variety to what otherwise risked being an overly negative job - disapproving of things all day every day ran the risk of getting her down, but the costuming element ensured that she was never bored.

And it didn't always work, of course - the best-delivered "Oh dear" can't always change someone's mind, but delivered in the right way to someone who already has some doubt, especially when the messenger is imbued with implied status, knowledge and power...well, an "Oh dear" can go a hell of a long way.

After a year, Mrs Pembrose was making a reliable, if not exhorbidant income. She enjoyed her job - there was something about knowing your Talent, knowing that you were one of the best at what you did (and with her extremely specific Talent, probably THE best that ever was and ever would be) and having other people appreciate it.

She understood now why Talented people were always the happiest ones at Talent parties; they knew what the newly-Talented person had ahead.