Thursday, April 9, 2009

22 The Report


Enkhbold gripped the second page of the report then slammed it down on the desk. The burning cigar tumbled off the glass ashtray and rolled onto the paper where it left a small yellow scorch mark. He picked up the cigar placed it between his lips, took a long puff, then placed it back on the edge of the ashtray. He brushed the ash off the page and handed it to Batbold. Enkhbold stared angrily at Tom and muttered something before picking up the final page.

When they’d finished reading, Enkhbold and Batbold started arguing. Every now and then, they both looked at Tom.

The side door opened and Olga entered the room followed by a tall, middle-aged man in a white cotton jacket, carrying a tray with cups of steaming hot tea on it. Tom took one of the small round cups between his fingers and sipped the sweet black tea.

Olga sat down next to Enkhbold, who was still shouting, and put her notepad on her lap. She glanced down and adjusted her grey skirt, before looking nervously across at Tom. Enkhbold and Batbold lowered their voices as they turned and spoke to Olga for several minutes. Tom saw her play with the top button of her white blouse and could just smell the merest suggestion of her perfume through the cigar smoke. He gulped but found it hard to swallow. His throat felt constricted.

The room fell silent for a moment and they all turned their attention to Tom. Olga took a deep breath. “I don’t know how to say this. Your report was not what Mr Enkhbold expected. He says that you could be put in prison for what you have suggested.”

When Enkhbold heard his name, he nodded as if he understood what she had said. A slick of his oily grey hair stuck to his wrinkled forehead, beneath which his narrow eyes blazed with hatred for the tall arrogant foreigner.

“He wants you to clarify some points. She picked up the report. The changes at the highest level you advocate….” She put her right hand to her mouth and coughed. “Do you mean the politburo and do you mean the president?”

Tom rubbed the top of his head with his left hand and glanced once more at the big framed photograph of Enkhbold shaking hands with President Batmunkh. “Look Olga I am just a PR man; I am not a politician, and to be perfectly honest I don't know why I've ended up in the middle of all this, but it’s obvious to everyone that even a liberal president like Gorbachev will struggle to hold onto power now. All of the communist regimes are crumbling. There has to be a change at the top. It's inevitable.”

He looked at Enkhbold and Batbold and said, “If they want to stay in power, they’ll have to distance themselves from the president and the old regime. Then they might just be able to convince people that they are the ones who’ve ended communism.”

Enkhbold bit his cigar and puffed furiously, but Batbold was listening intently and his expression seemed to show that he understood and perhaps even agreed.

Olga turned to Enkhbold and interpreted most of what Tom had said. He snapped something back at her. Batbold stroked his chin reflectively. He seemed to be deeply lost in thought.

Tom jumped in his seat at the sound of a thud from the ceiling above. Would they bug their own buildings?

Olga looked up at the ceiling then at Tom. “The change of the party’s name to something more democratic that you recommend… What exactly do you have in mind?”

Tom moved his seat slightly forward on the red-carpeted floor. “I’ve heard that the opposition are calling themselves the Mongolian Democratic Party, so that has already been taken, but I’ve got this idea that might just work.” As he spoke, he thought, do I really want to help these people? There was another thud from the room above.



  1. oh my gosh - you KNOW that betty botter thing? so do i - memorized it years ago- where does it come from?

  2. or rather, from where does it come?

  3. er...originate?

  4. i'm going back to bed

  5. I don't know. Like you, I memorized it years ago. Let's google it.

  6. my version's slightly different -

    Betty Botter bought some butter,
    But, she said, "this butter' bitter!"
    If I put it in my batter,
    It will make my batter bitter."
    So she bought a bit of better butter,
    Better than her bitter butter,
    And she put it in her batter,
    And her batter was not bitter.
    So 'twas better Betty Botter
    Bought a bit of better butter.

  7. great writing, ian


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