Quantum Imagination: The Clerk

Pavel Benda’s eyes glazed over slightly as he stared at the stack of papers on his desk. He shook himself awake and glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was after four o’clock. He could leave if he wanted to.

He considered that thought for a moment before an image of his wife came unbidden into his mind. His enormous, miserable, hateful wife, and her shrieking voice, and her terrible cooking. He turned back to the pile of documents.

“Just one more application,” said the voice of Kristyna from atop his shoulder. “It’ll make you feel better.”

He nodded without looking at the red-clad fairy. He had memorized her face, her wings, her tight-fitting sequined bikini. A shame she was no bigger than his hand. At times, her presence there, perched on his right shoulder, could be a torment all its own. It seemed he spent his entire life bouncing from one frustration to another.

At least there were the applications to cheer him up. Arrogant foreigners who thought they somehow deserved to live in the Czech Republic just because they spoke English. The Vietnamese and Ukrainian ones were easy to reject, always some mistake or other in the paperwork, but the Americans… They made him work a little harder for an excuse to use his Denied stamp.

This one was an English teacher. Another one. As though there weren’t enough of these parasites infesting his city. He didn’t speak a word of English himself, and proudly so. He was Czech. A Czech should speak Czech, and nothing else.

It was bad enough that the communists had forced him to learn Russian as a child. At least the Russians had had the decency to make a military takeover of the entire government before they forced the changes to the educational system. These Americans thought they could just stroll on in and take over quietly, without anyone noticing.

Pavel Benda noticed. And so did Kristyna. She had been an enormous help since she first appeared, spotting details he otherwise might have missed.

The proof of accommodation checked out. So did the business license. He glanced at the photo. A young woman. What could she have possibly done in her short life to earn the right to live in Prague?

Kristyna jumped lightly off of his shoulder and flitted over to the file, which bulged with legal documents. She grabbed a corner of one of the papers and pulled with all her might. As usual, she couldn’t budge it. In fact, she didn’t seem to be able to affect the world in any way, and her attempts to do so were starting to grate on Pavel’s nerves. He brushed her away and pulled out the sheet of paper she had been pulling on.

He stopped grinding his teeth long enough to let out a chuckle. The proof of finances was a bank statement showing large deposits on a monthly basis, clearly payments from a regular job which were more than sufficient to cover her calculated expenses.

“Well, well, well,” muttered Pavel. “A bank statement as proof of finances? Well, now, what proof do I have that she actually earned this money? What proof do we have that she didn’t just have a friend deposit this money, then gave it right back to him afterward?” Kristynka cackled as he reached for his favorite stamp. “It’s a shame, Kiki,” he muttered. “If only she had given us the proper documentation, we might have been able to approve her visa.”

He savored the satisfying ka-chunk of the stamp once, twice, three times. He chucked the rejected application in his out box and resigned himself to going home to his hideous wife.


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