The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2003

Ambassador seemed to rumble herself as she strode toward the epicenter of the noise. Then, she turned around and came back to us. “Not a single one of our ... guests leaves this place until I say so, understand?” she said. “Anyone disobey- ing me will be looking for a new job.” The guards locked the gates as Mrs. Ambassador strode off into the darkness along the side of the house, and let herself in the back door. A moment later, the music burped to a stop, followed a moment later by thin and anguished shrieks. A phalanx of expatriate youth ran toward us, only to find an embarrassed yet determined guard force blocking their departure. Mrs. Williamson came and announced Mrs. Ambassador’s intention to call the parents of all in attendance. One pale and sullen boy, whom I recognized as Fawn’s ama- teur chemist, pulled several similar-looking creatures into a tight conspiratorial circle. Then they ambled off with studied casualness. Mrs. Ambassador stalked out of the front door in a towering rage. She glared for quite some time. Y oung people sometimes have a gift for low cunning. It seems that the mild mood-altering effect of Valeriana officinalis on humans is achieved only by chemical alteration, whereas the plant has a much stronger effect on cats even before being artificially intensified. So, while Mrs. Ambassador seethed, the son of the embassy’s engineering security officer — the best friend of the young chemist — silently picked the flimsy lock on the Chinese truck. The chemist then dosed the caged cats with modified Valeriana officinalis and released them. “You people are in big trouble! Big trouble! You’ll be collecting social security by the time your parents are done punishing you. ... ” Mrs. Ambassador began. Her speech was interrupted by the howl of a single cat, drunken and wild, followed by a second, then two more in duet, and finally by dozens more. A gray tabby shot past a crowd of girls and mounted Mrs. Williamson’s trouser leg as if it were a teak tree. Mrs. Williamson shrieked and batted the cat away. It fell limply to the ground and lay there, serenely content. F O C U S 46 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 0 3