Last night’s WordPress prompt was “You receive a call from an unexpected person. Who is it, and what is the conversation about? Go!”…
It was mid-afternoon in Ireland when my mobile rang. “Hello?” I said.
“Good morning, Jim,” said an American voice.
“Er, I’m not Jim,” I said.
“Not Jim Phelps?” said the voice.
“No,” I said.
“Of course not, Jim, obviously you can’t reveal your identity over the phone,” said the voice. “Anyway, the man you are looking at is Doctor Vaclav Baros.”
“I’m actually looking in the hall mirror,” I said, “so the man that I’m looking at is me.”
“Are you not looking at the photograph in the file?”
“No,” I said patiently, “because you’re talking to the wrong person.”
“Ok,” he said, “let’s pretend that. Anyway, the man you are not looking at is Doctor Vaclav Baros. He is a micro-scientist who is currently working in a large factory in Czechoslovakia. We are afraid that he might be developing a nuclear programme there. Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to go to Czechoslovakia, kidnap Doctor Baros, and bring him to the US where he will work for us.”
“There’s no such country as Czechoslovakia anymore,” I said.
“You mean their nuclear programme has met with disaster?” said the voice.
“No, I mean they’ve split -”
“- the atom?”
“Shut up and listen,” I said. “They’ve split into two separate countries – the Czech Republic and Slovakia.”
“Well, that is good news,” said the voice. “It’s a real pain in the arse having to type “Czechoslovakia” over and over again in your reports. When did this happen?”
“After the Berlin Wall came down,” I said.
“The Berlin Wall is gone?” he said. “Did you blow it up?”
“No.” I said.
“Of course, you have to disavow any knowledge of your actions,” said the voice.
“How come you don’t know any of this?” I said. “Don’t you have a diplomatic department?”
“Chinese walls,” said the voice. “None of our departments talk to each other. That’s why it’s called secret intelligence.”
“Have you even Googled this guy?” I said. “Because I just have, while I‘ve been talking to you. His Facebook page says he’s a micro-brewer, which makes more sense. The Czechs don’t produce bombs, they produce beer.”
“And women javelin-throwers the size of pandas,” he said.
“Not any more,” I said.
“Oh.” He sounded oddly disappointed. “Well, we still want Doctor Baros to come here.”
“He’s not a nuclear scientist,” I said.
“No, but he’s a brewer,” said the voice, “and our beer is shite. So, your mission, Jim, should you -”
“You seriously still want to go ahead with this?” I said. “You want me to fly to Prague -”
“Why Prague?” said the voice.
“It’s the capital of the Czech Republic,” I said patiently.
“Not Helsinki?” said the voice.
“Finland,” I said. “Anyway, you want me to fly to Prague, take the train to the town of Narnia (mean, I know, but he was asking for it) where the factory is, drive past security wearing a mask that looks exactly like Baros’s face, walk through the car-park and have no-one notice that I’ve apprnetly shrunk by about six inches, climb the outside of a really tall building hanging on by my toes and kitchen gloves, cut a hole in a window with a laser that I’d have to hold in my nostril, cross a floor dangling from a contraption like a baby-bouncer, knock out a man bigger than me, carry him somehow back down the outside of the building, presumably by holding him by the collar between my teeth, put him into the passenger seat, drive back out past security hoping that they won’t notice that there are now two identical men in the car, then smuggle him onto a plane in a case the size of a handbag, since that’s the largest luggage Ryanair will let you bring on these days.”
“Well, it’s not called Mission Impossible for nothing,” said the voice, a touch defensively.
“Why don’t you just offer him a job?” I said.
There was silence for a few seconds.
“Or,” said the voice slowly, “we could do that. Thank you, Jim, that’s an excellent plan.”
“You’re welcome,” I said. I hung up and walked back towards the TV. Then the house-phone rang. Just as I picked it up I could hear the beginnings of a soft hissing sound.
“Sorry,” said the voice. “I forgot the part where I say that your mobile will self-destruct in five seconds.”
“It would really have helped,” I said, through gritted teeth, “if you’d told me that before I put the phone into the front pocket of my trousers.”