Vignette:A new holiday

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A new holiday

Svogje, Mursland
November 17th, 1964
T

here Rym sat at her desk. She finally could catch up some breath from today's commute to the town hall. These past few weeks had seen many people in the town protesting. Usually, they would gather here, and move collectively to Brixivo. The news had reported that the central train station has seen some stern monitoring and has gotten quite crowded, occasionally violent when dissidents became too loud. So they anticipated and get out early. This has been happening regularly; a special route has been designated so the protestors don't interfere with the local traffic too much. Or that is the intent.

Her colleague Jaan entered the office. His clothes are really roughed up, he has a smear of some sort of dirt across his cheek, his gray hair is dusty, and he wears a worn look on his face. Without greeting he plumps down at his desk across hers. He lays his arms across on the desk and rests his head face down on them. The office is silent beside the ceiling fan and his heavy breathing.

"So, how was your commute?" she asks. Jaan exhales sharply.

"Seen something... interesting?" she continues nonchalantly. Jaan now slowly rises his head and his tired eyes makes contact with Rym's.

Rym leans forward over her desk, elbows resting on an empty paper tray. She twists a lock of her tousled hair. "I have... heard... there is a parade in town" she whispers to him.

She could tell by his eyes that he started to smile. She leans back, hands tied behind her head. With a motherly voice, she tells the old man: "So, tell me all about your morning."

He raises himself, revealing the torn shoulder of his jacket. He runs his hands through his hair, stirring up the dust. He loosens his necktie. In a serious tone, he responds: "well mother, I will have you know that the circus is in town. Not only have I visited their performance, afterwards I was allowed to take the tiger for a dance." They both start to chuckle.

With the tension loosened, she regarded him with care. While she had managed to avoid crowd, he seems to have been caught in the middle of the brawl. He noticed her analysing eyes. "I was running late, so I hasted through Church Street. I had not paid attention, as I turned the corner, I stood in front of a very large crowd. As you know, that shouldn't be a problem. But they seemed more tense than usual, angrier if you will. The reason for that was behind me. The police had lined up all across the Republic Boulevard, marching towards the protestors. They cut me off from the alley I came out of. I... I had nowhere to go."

He fell silent for a bit. Rym looked concerned. She stood up, and sat down on his desk. She inspected the scratch on his face, as he continues with a subdued voice: "I don't really recall what exactly happened, but the protestors got louder and louder. The officers, looked like those in Brix', they... I don't know. People threw some stuff. I heard shouting, and the rumbling of feet. Something hit me. Hit me real hard. Must've been a bottle or brick, or perhaps they started making the batons of harder materials. I - I can't recall exactly. It was madness ov - " The telephone on Rym's desk rings.

She looks at the clock. It is already 10:12, no post has arrived yet, and beside them the office has not yet seen any other colleague arrive. Everyone has been arriving late these past few weeks as work had really wound down. However, this is a new level of belatedness. Rym and Jaan briefly make eye contact, after which he nods to the phone. She picks it up.

"Hello, you are calling the Svogje census desk, you are speaking with Rym Owotsag, how can I assist you?" Her boss responds: "Finally! I had been calling your pager, but you didn't seem to respond."

"Oh huh?" she responds. She checks her pockets, and finds she must have lost her pager for the umpteenth time. "Eh, it was out of charge."

"Does not matter now. I have been calling all of the department, everyone is off work today. The post service has gone on strike. Head office is chaos right now. It is no use to be there."

"Oh uh, thank you. See you tomorrow then, maybe."

Her boss laughs, "we will see. Keep that pager of yours charged!"

"Ah yeah! Uh, will do!" And she hangs up. Jaan looks puzzled at her, and gestures an inquiry on the call.

She smirks, and quips "Wanna go watch the tigers?"

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FOURTH FLOOR, LOOKING NORTH IN ROOM 406 - Grand Central Post Office Annex, Forty-fifth Street and Lexington Avenue, Southwest corner, New York, New York County, NY HABS NY,31-NEYO,169-37.tif