Here’s the fifth (of seven) installments in my Ministry Series:
My unending search for Truth, the Great Secret, at one point seemed pointless. I was in despair. The Ministry of Mystery wasn’t listed in the Directory of Directorates, Bureaus, Ministries and Secretariats, and I’d given up looking for it after uncounted days of asking around. Whomever I’d asked would tell me the same thing: “It’s a mystery.”
One day amid the long rows of giant government edifices, teeming bureaucratic beehives, I thought for a split second that I’d found it. But the sign, in fact, read “Ministry of Misery, Third Floor.” The thought came that perhaps they might help to unburden me.
My depression seemed to get worse with every step I climbed, and by the time I reached the third floor I was half-blind with tears. I stood at the threshold of the first office I came to and paused to compose myself before I entered.
The man behind the counter put down his rubber stamp when I approached, looking up at me quizzically.
“Hello,” I said with forced cheerfulness. “I need some information.”
The man forced a smile and said, “Hello, I need some information.”
My smile faded. “Um, what kind of information?” I asked, puzzled.
“Um, what kind of information?” he queried in an equally puzzled tone.
A wave of despair washed over me and tears ran afresh. “You see, I’ve lost my Meaning and I’m trying to get it back. I’m miserable. I thought maybe you . . .”
The man behind the counter wept silently. “You see,” he said, “I don’t know why you’re here and I’m trying to understand. I’m despondent. I hope maybe you . . .”
“Look here!” I barked, hands on hips, suddenly angry. “I’m a tax-paying citizen, and when I come to a government office for help I do not expect to be mocked!”
He put his hands on his hips and barked back, “Look here! I’m a government employee, just doing my job; and when I’m doing my job properly, I do not expect to be criticized!”
“But this isn’t the kind of treatment I would expect at the Ministry of Misery!” I expostulated.
“But this is precisely the kind of treatment you’d expect at the Ministry of Mimicry!”
I stepped back and looked at the sign above the counter. “Sorry,” I mumbled, chagrined. “Good day.”
“Sorry. Good day,” he mumbled back.
The Ministry of Misery was in the office next door. I went in, but apparently one of the secretaries had just hanged herself in the copying room, and all the staff members were weeping inconsolably. So I left to meander moodily in the metropolitan maze.