About ten years ago I put down my name on a list. I wanted to be received in an audience to ask for some favor and I was told that for this purpose I had to enter my name on a list, leave my telephone number and wait. One day, the telephone rang and a nasal voice informed me:"The Almighty will see you tomorrow at ten a.m." "Who?""Didn't you ask for an audience?" "So I did, but that was ten years ago." "You will be granted an audience at ten a.m. tomorrow." At about half past nine the next morning I was at the gate. The janitor started filling the entrance form for me. He was quite a decent and benevolent chap. But writing was not his forte. He had probably played truant at the evening classes for the eradication of illiteracy. It took him minutes to draw each letter "Wouldn't you like me to help you?" I offered my services "No, for they'd see the handwriting is different," he answered me. At five minutes past ten, the entrance form was completed. I rushed upstairs, out of breath. The principal secretary was knitting. It's extraordinary how swiftly she worked with the needles. It is only with a lift girl that I had seen such deftness."May I go in?" I asked the secretary."No," was her answer. "The boss is busy. He's having his coffee right now.""All right. Then I won't disturb him.""In the meantime you may fill this form.""Is it compulsory?" "It is, but you fill it voluntarily." The form included twenty-five pages and 85 squares or columns such as: "Name, Surname, and renown," "Favorite color," "Have your parents ever skated? Up to what age? Why?" "What vice does the applicant confess: before and after?" Etc. The form appeared to be increasingly thrilling and I filled it with pleasure. In fact it did not take me very long either; I was ready in about six months."May I go in now?" I asked the principal secretary who had never taken her eyes of me in the meantime."You mustn't now. He's smoking," she answered.I'm a smoking man myself and I do know the pleasure of having a quiet pipe or cigarette. So I waited for about a month: the boss favored cigars. "May I go in now?"The secretary drew close to the door and peeped at the keyhole."Now it's impossible: he's drowsing." "If he's drowsing, I won't disturb him. After all doesn't it happen to me too, and often enough, to get forty winks at my office, when sweet sleepiness comes over me?" So I started waiting. And I did wait. Days, months, years would pass in succession. Suddenly however, I began getting bored.At a certain moment I put in:"As a child I was extremely deft at handicraft. Wouldn't you like me to help you?""Of course, I would!" she accepted. And she showed me a wonderful piece of embroidery: "This one was also made by an applicant."Within a week I have learnt the job and I applied all my energies to it. Having finished about ten pieces, I asked her:"Might I go in now?" The secretary peeped at the keyhole and answered me: "You can't now: he's yawning." So I told myself it meant he had not slept off his drowsiness and consequently he must have his dander up. So I prefer to wait. When I had finished another piece of knitwear, the secretary again peeped at the keyhole. "You can't go in," she said. "The Almighty is picking his teeth." That is how another five years or so elapsed. In the meantime I had grown rather fond of the secretary, in spite of a few shortcomings of her character and of a few attitudes towards work that were rather backward to my mind. We got married. We celebrated our wedding in the waiting room with Pepsi-Cola and coffee. After our honeymoon, one morning I pretended to be angry and gave her three slaps on the cheeks (forgive me for such terms) the way some men used to do under the former regime. I summoned her:"Tell me whether you allow me to see your boss or not, or else I'll kill you! You're my wife now and so I've got this right - if not duty, for that matter!"She burst into tears, among which she delivered the following epic-romantic text for my benefit:"My darling, forgive me, I'll tell you the truth: my boss no longer exists. He died a long time ago. His family came up, took him away and buried him. But I felt so attached to this job that I didn't feel like leaving it. So I didn't tell anybody he had died. The salary is not much, but the job is agreeable and then it's so near to my home. You may stay with me here and we can live quietly into venerable old age." No sooner said than done. I remained with her in the antechamber, where we set up a lasting home. Nobody disturbed us. Now and then the telephone rang. She answered:"At the moment the boss is busy. Please call again or leave your number and we'll sure call you." At other times, somebody would come up with some paper. I signed for its receipt, issued a registration number and assured the respective person he or she would hear from us. Then it also happened for somebody to come up and demand an audience. So I said: "At the moment, the boss is engaged. Please leave us your telephone number and we'll certainly ring you up." If the stranger grew insistent, I would submit him to the fire-test of the form with 85 squares and columns. As a rule, they died of a heart-attack by the 67th answer. I had been an exception. The years go by. The salary keeps coming in. For some time now we have no longer been disturbed by anybody, nobody has rung us up, nobody had brought papers or demanded an audience. In the tumultuous torrents of life's stream, people have forgotten us. We shall soon be pensioned off. And we'll enjoy quiet old age.Sometimes, on a sleepless night, I keep asking myself: What reason did I have to being granted an audience by the Almighty?

by Ion Băieşu (1933-1992)