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Middle Finger Agency

February 3, 2012 by · 2 comments

Stefan Bonev

Translated by Jasmina Tacheva
Edited by AnnMarie Rudin

Middle Finger
Photo: carderel

And so, I was appointed Minister of middle affairs. Since there had been ministries of the foreign and domestic affairs for such a long time, the government met in a special session and decided that something had to be done for the middle. For the golden mean, the middle class and that majority of citizens who were continually pointing a finger at us.

Over time, it turned out that the new ministry had more work than originally thought. We expanded the structure of the existing departments of the golden mean and the middle class. Keeping public welfare in mind, we also created the “Middle Finger” Agency. It had branches in the major cities, so that more people could have access to its services.

The studios of the agency were like those little rooms in Japanese firms we had heard so much about, where everyone could spit and throw eggs at the owner’s portrait. But because these matters were of a greater scope here, we turned them into a state policy.

Due to the great interest of people, such rooms were furnished in smaller towns as well and then in every neighborhood, village or hamlet. Finally, the so-called reception rooms of the “Middle Finger” Agency appeared in malls and supermarkets, railway and bus stations, public toilets, next to the stops of the mass transportation and even in the subway trains in the capital.

In each room there was a large portrait of the Minister of secondary works (i.e. my own) in full size. The experts from the PR department of the Agency had really done their best. As a result of their efforts my face seemed pushy, bland and provocative. My clerk’s suit was quite narrow and accentuated a solid belly behind my stretched-to-the-limit blazer buttons.

They had even taken pains to increase my crown hair loss, while the huge glasses against the red and sweaty cheeky-faced person gave me a very idiotic and infuriating look. How not to bespatter such a man!

The caricature portrait which took up an entire wall of each room was covered with transparent film that was easy to clean. The modest furniture of the studio was supplemented by crates of tomatoes, rotten oranges and lemons, shells of eggs already gone bad, and a comfortable armchair in which the citizen could relax after working off all the anger and resentment that had accumulated on me. Every visitor was also entitled to 200 grams of vodka and five cigarettes, in the case of a smoker, in order to be able to acquire the necessary courage.

It was blazed abroad that the anonymity of citizens using the reception rooms was guaranteed, and that the words they were saying while they were inside were not going to be recorded. This, of course, was not true. Behind my comic portraits, multiple cameras and hypersensitive microphones that perpetuated in secret archives everything said against the government were hidden.

Hundreds of trusted dispatchers in a special department of the Agency were viewing and listening to thousands of records non-stop. Seemingly, there were no consequences for anyone. Except that some people would become victims of car accidents, food poisoning and what not. Especially those who, in the room, under the influence of the alcohol, would reveal initial plans for specific actions against the government.

As for myself – I got used to it. I had assumed the role of a scarecrow beforehand, so I wasn’t surprised by the hysteria regarding my personality. Shortly after the start of the project, I assumed a disguise – I grew a solid beard, dyed my hair and wore lenses instead of glasses. I would present myself as a writer.

I changed my name and moved to another neighborhood of the capital. No one could recognize in me the fat pink pig from the portraits and TV news which broadcasted footage taken in advance that was cleverly intertwined in contemporary reports about the government.

I was living quite well under my new identity. I even wrote several anti-government books that enjoyed public recognition and created positive popularity for my second self. Meanwhile, my first identity would receive a steady income from the ministerial salary and the participation in several executive boards. I could not complain.

I hadn’t gone back to my native village for years. I couldn’t venture going back because even the dogs knew me there. Not even my super disguise would save me from the people’s love of my fellow villagers. I was sure they would recognize me, even if I were to undergo a plastic surgery.

The only person I truly missed there, however, was my mother. I would send her money regularly, and I would call her on the phone. But that was about it. She, poor thing, wouldn’t want to accept my role of a fool in government. As I was later told, she had publicly disowned me at an all-village meeting. I couldn’t blame her – had she not done it, she would have been lynched. She didn’t tell me a word about it, poor thing. And I was pretending I didn’t know a thing.

All this continued until the day that the boss of the dispatch department called to tell me about an unusual record, which they had come across. It came from the studio of a rural community center. The odd thing about it was that the old lady that had entered the confessional would neither throw tomatoes and eggs at my portrait, nor threaten or curse. She would just sit there quietly weeping and praying in a whisper. I ordered the record be sent to me over the Internet. And then I saw her for the first time in so many years – her, my mother…

I turned in my resignation letter by the prime minister the following day.

The text won the honorary prize of the literary contest “Writing is Madness” in the category for Prose.

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