Woken by the phone’s insistent ring, he rolled to the right to swing his feet to the floor, but his knee hit the hard wall making his pictures rattle. Someone had somehow contrived to move his bed 180 degrees in the night. The phone continued its urgent shriek every four seconds. Georgi A. cursed its mother and especially the mother of whoever was hanging on relentlessly at the other end. Hadn’t he installed a gentle bluesy ring tone, a soothing coaxing musical phrase? This hectoring shriek was becoming shriller. He reached out a hand, knocking over a vase of dead flowers he was sure had not been there the night before.
The recorded voice was an icy monotone: "This is an urgent message for Georgi A. Do not hang up till this message is complete and you hear the beep. As part of an ongoing investigation by the Bulgarian NKRSDEWOOJTYDEG, we have to inform you, Georgi A., that you have been identified as an agent of the former State Security system. You were recruited in 1988 and given the working code name Boyko. This information is irrefutable and now available to all domestic and foreign media. Good morning."
Georgi A. replaced the receiver and blinked. Perhaps if he lay back on his pillow, closed his eyes and tried to sleep, he would wake up from this silly nightmare. But the phone had other ideas. A cacophony of gypsy trumpets filled the room and Georgi A. reached out a trembling hand.
"Georgi! Georgi-i-i! Geo-orgi-i-i! It can’t be…"
Georgi A. slammed down the receiver on the choking unknown female voice. But he had barely time to notice that the wardrobe had been moved before the phone broke into a raucous song insisting that he punch tickets just like his Daddy. This was intolerable but there was only one way of stopping it. He picked up the receiver.
A shiver ran down Georgi A.'s spine as he heard an all too familiar chuckle. "Hello-o there Boyko! This is Buddha speaking." He wanted to slam the receiver down but his hand was frozen. "This is your namesake – just hang on a minute while I zip up my trousers and pull the chain. My good friend Tsvetyo wanted to check on my prostate."
Georgi A. bit his lip so hard he tasted blood as he heard the long rasp of a substantial zip, a satisfied sigh and the toilet flush. The well known voice continued: "Now you know how it feels to be outed! Didn’t I say at the time that I could make up a dossier in 15 minutes?!"
Georgi A. felt his head hammer. "You mean?"
"Good lord, no! Just that these things happen. Take care!"
And to Georgi A.’s intense chagrin it was his hated caller who put the phone down first. He paddled through the puddle of stale flower water heading for the toilet and found himself on the balcony. Everything but everything was back to front including his name.
It was that fucking phone again. This time it was the Soviet Army choir singing a rousing chorus of Polyushka. Warily he picked up the receiver and heard a nasal female voice. "Georgi A.?... Oh Good. This is TAKS TV here. I’m ringing on behalf of Mr Elizar Venchev. I know you and he haven’t seen eye to eye in the past but he’s so pleased to learn that you have actually been fighting on the same side for so…"
Georgi A. had pulled the phone wire from the wall and the only sound was his heavy breathing and beating heart. How could anyone accuse him of being an "agent" for what he had fought against all his life? He struggled to remember the facts from 25 years ago. He had always been independent minded. He had seen through Communism from an early age and only gone through the necessary motions at school and university to ensure that he was not expelled for anti-Socialist sentiments. And how could someone sacked in 1988 for "political unreliability" possibly have been recruited as a state informer? The very next year he’d gone into exile and began to wage war on all the undemocratic regimes that terrorised their citizens through secret police and their stooges. This was a war he had waged from Western Europe. It was a war he continued to fight in his now pseudo-democratic homeland.
Dressing was a difficult task. His clothes came out of the wrong drawers in the wrong order. He had time to notice only that the scar that had always been on his right knee was now on his left. Outside the flat he was nearly run over by a bus. Sofia traffic was now moving on the left, British style.
On the wrong bus, trying to ignore the sniggers and nudges of Sofia bagwomen, he reminded himself of the laws relating to the identification of former agents. He remembered friends who had faced similar accusations in the recent past. How he’d sympathised, never imagining that he would find himself in the same plight – guilty until proved innocent.
The NKRSDEWOOJTYDEG headquarters turned out to be a disused cinema which doubled as a bingo hall. Georgi A. pushed through the swing doors and found a dossier bingo game in progress.
"You're late! Take a seat!" The caller was a bald stooping cadaverous man in a crumpled suit. Georgi A. sat down and looking about him found that he was the only player. On the balcony above his head milled a crowd of people who were all craning their necks to see him. In front of him lay a single bingo card with just one figure on it – 88.
With a hum and a rattle the bingo blowing machine burst into life and the caller picked the ball. "Agent Boyko-88!" There were shouts from the balcony. People were pointing at Georgi A.
Unsteadily he rose to his feet. "I demand!" he shouted to peals of laughter. "I demand to know what evidence you have for declaring me an informer."
"All evidence was destroyed years ago." This was met with a roar of laughter.
"If all evidence was destroyed, how can you declare me an informer?"
"Look at the back of your card, comrade!"
Georgi A. turned over the card to find a note scribbled in fading red biro ink. Someone had written his name and profession. This was followed by "Agent Boyko-88".
Georgi A. was overcome with fury. "What kind of evidence is this? It isn’t signed or stamped?" The open laughter subsided into hoarse whispering and sniggers.
"It is the rules, Georgi A.! You haven’t understood the rules."
Georgi A. got up to leave. He knew how this story ended. Next there would be a fat lawyer and in the end a mysterious priest. No, he wasn’t going to play this ridiculous game.
As he left the NKRSDEWOOJTYDEG and its roaring idiots he took a deep breath. The Sofia traffic was starting to move to the right. He saw a friend and they repaired to a bar. This was not the end of the world, just a continuation of the farce.