Home Short Stories Fall From Grace
Fall From Grace PDF Print E-mail
Written by Earl   
Sunday, 01 April 2007 00:00

I was terrified, but there was no going back, there simply wasn’t time.

I looked at the piece of paper in my hand and had second thoughts. No,

the die was cast and whichever way it landed was going to cost me my

job, possibly accompanied by some big public show of humiliation. My

boss, the wonderful Right Honourable Martin Jennings, Minister for

European Co-operation and possibly the most bloody minded man on the

face of the earth, has been gunning for me from the moment we embarked

on the trade mission to Prague. His ire had worked up to a peak five

minutes ago.

 

“I don’t care what I said two days ago, I want to do grace in Czech, and

if you don’t know any, they you ain’t much good on a trade mission to

Prague, are you”, he bellowed. I felt myself starting to sweat

profusely. “I’m just about sick of you, Smith,” he continued, “get me

grace in Czech in five minutes before I have to get on my feet or

you’re out, understand.”

 

On that, he turned on his heels and started towards the function room

where assorted Czech heads of industry were waiting for their guest of

honour.

 

“That’s four minutes and fifty seconds, Smith, get moving,” he added.

 

The assembled throng turned to greet him as he entered the room and

adopted his best smarmy diplomatic smile. I heard him continue, “Mr

Blodek, delighted to meet you again.. About your next trip to

London.....my wife and I would be thrilled to see you .........”

 

How could anyone be so chameleon like?

 

“Yes of course, the restaurant in Godalming is keen to greet one of

their countrymen, Czech cuisine is really taking off in the UK......”

 

Give him a good audience and the Minister was in his element, pressing

the flesh, being the centre of attention in a field of admiring faces,

turning on the charm.

 

On the previous night in the hotel bar he had entertained a fair

proportion of the British business community with tales of previous

visits to Eastern Europe, and how this had endowed him with the ability

to pronounce most Slavonic alphabets to a reasonable extent. He freely

admitted that although he fully understood the modifying actions on

individual letters of the various accents and knew how to make a

reasonable shot at pronouncing them, he didn’t understand a word of any

of it beyond the usual “Thank You”, “Yes”, “No” and “Beer please”.

Typical of his arrogance!

 

The Minister was not an easy man to work for, very few of his personal

aides ever lasted beyond a few months before either resigning or

getting sacked. Not that he cared at all, he had all of the pressures

of state to worry about. It was said that being the world’s most

belligerent person was something he had enjoyed ever since the senior

school at Eton. “You’ve got to keep the lower classes on their toes, a

good flogging always reminds them of their place in life,” his father,

Major General Hubert Jennings, was once heard to say.

 

I knew that whether or not I made the deadline would make little

difference. To get the push in some public show of disgrace would

really make the Minister’s day, and put a bullet over the heads of

everyone else on his staff.

 

The five minutes expired some ten seconds before I managed to press the

bit of paper into the Minister’s hand.

 

“èampon s provitamínem, normální vlasy pro kazdodenní pouzití,” it said.

 

 

“ Just about made it, sir, I think.....”

 

“Too late, Smith, you’re fired. Get the first flight back to the UK

tomorrow morning, and clear your desk before I return to London,” he

snapped.

 

I opened my mouth in a vain effort to remonstrate, but was cut short.

“Don’t argue, just go! Vamoose! Scram! My mind is made up and I don’t

believe in U-turns.” spat out the Minister through clenched teeth,

“Damn upstart, who the hell do you think you are??”. His voice was

shaking with venomous emotion. I said nothing, there was no point, as

my career in the Civil Service evaporated in front of me.

 

I left the room and went to collect my overcoat from the cloakroom as

protection to the biting cold on the short walk back to our hotel. As I

returned to the foyer outside of the function room where the dinner was

taking place, the proceedings were just about to start. I watched

through the glass panel in the door.

 

“My Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, ....” started the toastmaster, first in

English and then Czech, and the guests started to take their places.

The Minister moved up to the top table and stood to attention behind

his chair.

 

“I would like to call upon the Right Honourable Martin Jennings,

Minister for European Co-operation to read grace,” said the toast

master. The Minister cleared his throat.

 

“èampon s provitamínem, normální vlasy pro kazdodenní pouzití,” he said,

and smiled at the assembled throng, clearly very pleased with himself.

 

I could see that he was somewhat surprised at the reaction that greeted

him as his hosts stood silent and motionless, their mouths open in

almost surreal bewilderment. He looked rather uncomfortable as a barely

suppressed giggle could be heard from somewhere in the room.

 

“Ahhhrm, thank you Minister for a very original grace” said the Chairman

of the Prague Chamber of Commerce and broke the spell in an instant.

The throng sat down and within ten seconds the room was filled with

chatter and waiters serving the first course.

 

Time to go, I thought, and started back to our hotel, two blocks away.

 

I went back to my room and started to pack. A phone call to the airport

confirmed that my ticket could be transferred to the following mornings

flight back to London and, as usual in times of stress, I decided that

a deep hot bath would soak away the days pressures and give me time to

think. I poured the bath, slipped into the soothing water and soon it

didn’t all seem bad. I reached for the shampoo bottle and idly scanned

the label, written in several languages.

 

“Shampoo with vitamins, for daily use on normal hair;” it said, followed

by the same sentence in Czech.

 

“èampon s provitamínem, normální vlasy pro kazdodenní pouzití.”

 
 

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