The Foreign Service Journal, November 2011

landing in a thunderstorm. In the comparative quiet that followed, the noise of the All-Night Full Moon Residence Rave was painfully clear. “What on earth is that?” said Mrs. Ambassador. As successive expressions of be- wilderment, comprehension, and rage crossed her face, Soh opened the gates. The vehicles rumbled onto the grounds. Mrs. Ambassador seemed to rumble herself as she strode toward the epi- center 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 disobeying 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 amateur chemist, pulled several similar-looking creatures into a tight conspirator- ial 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 Vale- riana 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 engi- neering 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 mod- ified 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. Other cats appeared running, walking, wad- dling, howling, alternating between placid happiness and manic agita- tion. “My God,” Mrs. Williamson said. “My cats, they’re out! They ... ” Cassidy came running from the house. “Mom, Mom, Mom!” he said. “Not now, Cassidy,” Mrs. Ambassador said. “But Mom, Dad’s on the phone from the U.S.,” Cas- sidy said. Cassidy suddenly had Mrs. Ambassador’s attention. “And Fawn’s talking to him!” Cassidy said. “She says to tell you to let her friends go right now or she’ll tell him all about Mrs. Williamson and the cats. She says if I’m not back in 60 seconds she’s gonna tell him anyway!” At this moment, many emotions ranged over Mrs. Am- bassador’s face. I even thought I saw, for a brief moment, as she sighed and turned toward the house to take Mr. Ambassador’s call, a comprehension of the importance of Right Speech. I am happy to report that a suitable shaman was found to cast out the spirit of the dead man from the truck (later invoiced to the embassy as “consultant fees”). The cats, mostly in a drowsy, drugged stupor in the upper limbs of various trees on the residence grounds, were re- covered and recaged. Mrs. Ambassador and Mrs. Williamson followed the truck to the eco-tourism site a few days later. Unfortunately, news of the arrival of the cats had spread, and too many people showed up for their distri- bution. Discord followed. Residents of the south side of the village accused residents of the north side of taking all the cats for themselves. In the resulting riot, the en- tire village, including the eco-tourism site, was consumed in a bamboo conflagration, which also eliminated most of the rats. However, the eco-tourism site was insured separately for 800 percent of its actual value by both the World Bank and the Regional International Bank development au- thorities, so the village is being rebuilt. In concrete. F S F I C T I O N N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 57 Her speech was interrupted by the howl of a single cat, drunken and wild, followed by dozens more.