Tie Noose Noose Tie
He jumped out of bed, still dressed in his wrinkled, black blazer. No time to change before sleep. Quickly, he rushed to the bathroom and examined his moustache in the mirror. It got slightly bent in the night, and bristles were sharply pointing out here and there, but that was OK. Nothing a little moustache wax couldn’t fix. He lightly wet his hands, and then spread his fingers through his jet black hair.
Stern stood still in front of the foggy, fractured mirror, examining himself. Wonderful – that will do. Looking like a prince.
Everyday before work, Stern sat down at his coffee table and read the newspaper. Today there was something in the paper about a nun who rushed into a burning church to save a child. Stern nodded his head in approval. It was a pleasant story, and made his heart feel warm, like a bowl of tomato soup. There was something else, too, some propaganda piece about the inefficacy of the Minister. Not worth Stern’s time, not worth looking at. Furrowing his brows, Stern took a long, consternated sip of his morning orange juice.
“Heya Stern,” said Brunu, taking a seat next to his friend and stretching in the morning light. “You’re up bright and early this morning!”
Stern gave a curt jerk of his head. “Yes. Of course, Brunu. I am up early every morning. I need to be up early to do my job. The Minister is disappointed when I am late.”
Brunu smiled warmly, nodding his head. “Yes, you’re right. It’s good that you’re always up so early.” Brunu got up and started to make some breakfast toast. “What’s up in the paper today?”
Stern grunted. “Lots of news, Brunu. First, a nun has saved a child from fire at church. Fantastic. All else is mere propaganda garbage. I hate the news, Brunu.”
Plopping two slices of slick bread into the silver toaster, Brunu nodded sympathetically. “You don’t need to read all those negative articles. If people knew the Minister like you knew him, they wouldn’t be saying such mean things.”
Stern snorted. “You’re telling me. Brunu.” He shrugged his shoulders and continued to read.
As Brunu was starting to spread jam across his now toasted bread, he suddenly turned his wide, wet eyes to look at his friend. “Oh! I almost forgot. I need to do some grocery shopping this morning. I’m preparing something special for dinner. Do you mind if I borrow the car for a second? I’ll bring it back in a minute.”
Stern cast a curious look at Brunu from the corner of his dark eyes. “Something special. Brunu, what are you planning.”
Brunu sat down at his seat, placing a white plate with two slices of bread down in front of him. He turned his head and smiled mischievously. “That’s a secret, Stern. So what about me borrowing the car? Huh?”
“I have work today. You know that.”
Brunu let out a deep, discontented sigh. “I know that, but I really need to go a long distance today into the city! Come on, Stern. Please?” He leaned his head in closer to Stern, opening a gaping grin, white like a keyboard. “Please?”
Sighing, Stern plopped the paper down on the dinning room table. “OK. OK. You may take the car. Looks like I’ll just have to crack out the old bicycle.”
A bright, beaming smile broke out across Brunu’s face, and he leaned in to gave Stern a big hug. “Oh, thank you so much! Thank you, thank you!”
“It is no problem at all,” said Stern, pushing his friend away. “The hug is, after all, unnecessary. You are buying something special for dinner, no?”
“Yes, Stern,” said Brunu, a rapturous twinkle dancing around the centre of his dilated, black pupil. “Yes I am.”
Stern rose from the table, brushing a few drops of orange juice from his well-waxed moustache.
“Well, I can’t keep the Minister waiting,” said Stern. He gave a polite nod of the head to his friend. “I’ll see you this evening. Here are the car keys.”
At that, Stern threw the car keys in Brunu’s direction, and went to exit straight through the front door of the house to go find his old bicycle.
The bicycle ride was pleasant enough. Stern hadn’t ridden this kind of device in years, so getting the bike working in the first place took a few clumsy stumbles and scratches, but eventually he got it going. It felt wonderful to feel the wind in his face again, an experience you don’t quite get when driving the car, or at least not in the same way. Stern felt so free, and he even took the liberty to ring his joyful bicycle bell a few times when passing by tardy pedestrians.
“Beep beep, Stern coming through,” he said as he rang the bicycle bell. “Beep beep.”
Finally, after a half hour’s leisurely ride through suburban greens and sunny parks, Stern arrived at the city’s marvellous parliament building. He left his bicycle by the side of the front steps, and proudly ascended toward that profound edifice. The parliament building was massive, and always filled Stern with a sense of awe, like he was staring into the face of some great, ultimately incomprehensible mythological monster.
The Minister was standing in the middle of the courtyard, holding his hands formally before his groin. He had a profoundly grim expression on his face, which contrasted with his colourful makeup and round bowler hat which made him look like a polite Pierrot. When the Minister caught sight of Stern, he raised his hand in courteous acknowledgement.
“Ah, Stern. I was waiting for you,” said the Minister. “You’re late.”
“Yes,” said Stern, bowing gracefully. “Forgive me, Minister. For I was late today. I know you were waiting for me.”
“That’s OK,” said the Minister, waving his black glove. “You’re a good man and a good employee. I just want you to arrive on time.”
“I’m sorry sir, it won’t happen again.”
The Minister raised one of his gloved hands, revealing that he was clasping a golden tie, not yet knotted. “So. I have a job for you.”
Stern nodded his head, and then approached the Minister. He raised both his expert hands, retrieving the tie from the Minister, and with great focus wrapped it around his subject’s neck. With his eyes narrowing like a master bowman, Stern honed in on the fine details of the knot and its relation to the delicate skin of the Minister. Employing every element of his expertise, Stern’s nimble hands worked delicately, and fast, and finally managed to fasten a perfect, proud, bulbous knot around the Minister’s thick, regal neck.
Stern stepped back to assess his job. He stroked his pointed beard and narrowed his expert eyes.
The Minister also looked down, and caressed the new knot in his hand. “As expected, absolutely perfect. That’s great.”
Stern nodded. “Well, that’s what I do best. I tie nooses around the criminals, and I tie ties around the -”
Stern paused for a moment, as though her forgot what he was going to say. He held an unsteady hand to his forehead. Then, just like he had been hurled back into reality, Stern came back to his senses and managed to finish his sentence – “around the Minister.”
“Excellent,” said the Minister, clasping his gloved hands together, producing a dull patting sound. “Coming along very nicely. So, I have another job for you.”
Stern let out a deep chuckle. “So. How many criminals do we have today?”
“Well, I’ve counted around 600 criminals out there in the warehouse, just waiting for you to tie some nooses.”
“Well, I better get to work,” said Stern, furrowing his serious brows sternly.
The Minister smiled, and gave Stern an encouraging pat on the back, as he sent him off toward the Criminal Warehouse to take care of the second phase of his job. The Minister’s touch was strong and confident, and reassured Stern, as it always did, that things were all taken care of. There was nothing to worry about, so long as Stern did his job, and he did it well.
“I’m here to tie the nooses,” said Stern as he approached the guard at the front of the warehouse.
The guard, a young woman with dark glasses, was chewing bubble gum brashly. Sceptically, she looked the suspicious man over. There was something about this excessively formal man and his unplaceable foreign accent that she just couldn’t trust. She went through these motions every work day with him.
“Name?” she asked, leering at his from under her thick eyelids.
“Stern,” said Stern. He shrugged his shoulders. “What more do you want.”
The woman also shrugged her shoulders. “You can go in. I guess.” She pressed a big, blue button on the board in front of her, causing a great wall to open up, giving Stern access to the Criminal Warehouse.
“Thanks,” said Stern, nodding to the woman. She just continued to glare at him, popping pink bubble gum, as he entered the warehouse.
Inside, Stern took in a breath of that familiar scent. It was the smell of justice, and organization. Like the smell of a well curated legal library. He saw 600 young men lined up in a single file, each one chained to the other, starting at one end of the warehouse and ending at the other. Each of them had a look on their face of almost comical misery, like someone had just shot their dog and was forcing them to smell its dead body. Stern chuckled to himself. It was a lot of people to get through in a single day, but, after all, it was what Stern did best. He tied nooses around the criminals.
Stern clapped his hands together. He would start from the very beginning. Grabbing a handful of dry rope from a nearby crate, Stern approached the first criminal.
“Hello, fellow,” said Stern, looking up at the first criminal, a tall, muscular man with intensely despondent eyes. “I am the noose tier. I will tie your noose. Are there any questions?”
“Yes,” said the tall man in shrill, nervous tone. “Why are you doing this? I haven’t done anything. Let me speak with my dad, he’ll be able to tell you what happened! He’ll defend me!”
Stern laughed. “Everyone is nervous when they go to the gallows for the first time! Relax. Piece of cake, fellow!”
The criminal looked around nervously. Like all the criminals, he appeared uncomfortable, his face dripping with acidic sweat. Both his legs and hands were already tightly chained, restricting movement, and the criminal itched all over. “Why am I first? Out of all the hundreds behind me? Why are they making me do it first?”
As Stern skillfully threw the noose around the criminal’s neck, he just shook his head. “Someone must be first, always. Every day it is the same. One man is first. He always asks ‘why am I first’? Same thing, no change. You are today’s man. Life continues on.” Stern let out an ironic snort. “Maybe not for you!”
Just like with the tie knotted around the Minister’s neck, Stern expert touch transformed the formation of a noose formed from rough rope into a work of technical art. No one could loop rope so skillfully as Stern, and anyone watching his current work would gasp at the intricacies of his movements, the thousands of little loops he made which culminated in the final, grand, graceful, foreboding noose. A perfectly tight, inextricable sphere.
The criminal grimaced in pain as Stern tightened the firm rope.
“No need to overreact,” said Stern. “This is not the big moment. I am just testing the rope’s durability. It is durable. You are ready for next step.”
Stern gave the criminal a hardy slap on the back, and making a brisk snap with his fingers, called out to a guard standing nearby. “OK,” Stern yelled. “Let’s get this show on the road!”
Just like that, Stern worked through each of the criminals one by one, repeating his same artful process with each of the accused, and then sending them with the stand-by guard to seal their fate at the outside gallows. Sometimes spectators gathered watched these performances, but usually the parliamentary court in which they took place was entirely empty, save for a few wandering butterflies seeking after voluptuous flowers. Stern of course never got to experience the pleasure of a midsummer’s execution. He was always the one behind the scenes, breaking a sweat, sacrificing his own pleasure so that the wheel of society might continue turning in an organized manner. So that those dangerous criminals could be eradicated from the city’s encompassing mind quickly, elegantly, and permanently.
At lunch Stern took a brief break to eat a hot dog, and then carried on tying nooses around the necks of the remaining criminals .
At the end of the day, 600 criminals later, Stern brushed his hands off each other, and faint trace of rope dust puffing off of them into the stuffy warehouse atmosphere.
“Job well done. Another day done. After all, I am a professional.”
Now it was time to return home, like always. And this time, Brunu would surely have a special treat waiting for him. Remembering Brunu’s promise that he would be cooking a special dinner, Stern hopped on his bicycle and sped home as fast as he could.
When Stern arrived, Brunu wasn’t even there. What’s more, Brunu never showed up at the house at all that night. When Stern arrived back home on his old bicycle, he noticed with a puzzled look that the car was still missing from their driveway. As a result, Stern spent much of the evening sitting at his dinning table, newspaper in hand, waiting for his friend to return. Stern believed that at any moment, Brunu would surely come bursting through the front door, holding a plate full of lobster, or borscht, or salmon, or whatever kind of delicacy he was planning, and enthusiastically place it on the table in front of him. But as the sun began to set beneath the dark city skyline, Stern started to doubt whether his friend would ever return.
“It looks like Brunu will not be showing up tonight,” said Stern, looking over to his wife. There was no response.
Stern sat alone in the dark kitchen, growing frustrated as the sun dimmed and he struggled to read the print in the paper. “My God. Will someone please turn on those damn lights?” Stern’s request was met with an eery silence, like the silence one hears in a graveyard. “Honey? Will you turn on those stupid lights?” Silence, silence again. Stern shrugged his shoulders. It looked like like everyone was abandoning him that night.
Later, Stern took his newspaper into the living room, where he was able to capture some orange light shining from a streetlamp outside the window. Straining his eyes just enough, Stern was able to make out a very interesting article about a nun who saved a child from a burning church. Stern nodded his head in approval. “Very good.”
Eventually, Stern thought he heard his wife call out to him in the darkness of the house. “What’s that, honey? Did you ask me to play with the kids? Sorry, I’m busy. I’m busy reading the paper. I’ll play with the kids later.” Under the buzzing electrical light, Stern continued reading in silence, though secretly hoping he would catch a wisp of his wife asking another impossible request, if only so he wouldn’t feel so strangely lonely. But that strange silence persisted, and Stern got that lonely feeling of being haunted by ghosts.
Eventually it came time for Stern to go to bed. He could tell by the way his eyes began to water, and force themselves to fall shut. Brunu still hadn’t returned home, and this greatly upset Stern, as he was used to Brunu making him some sleepy time tea before he headed to bed. It was very difficult for Stern to get to sleep properly without the aid of his sleepy time tea. In great frustration, he laid himself back down on his bed, still fully dressed in his tattered blazer, which was full of all kinds of rips and rents. Stern turned over in bed one last time to lay his eyes on his beautiful wife. Unfortunately, because no one in the damned house had bothered to turn the lights on, he was unable to see her, and could only feel the vague presence of her body beside him in bed.
“Goodnight honey,” said Stern languidly. She must have been upset with him, since she still didn’t respond. There was still only that haunting silence.
Stern tried his best to get to sleep. But no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t. Suddenly, now in bed, he didn’t feel tired at all. His eyes wouldn’t even close properly. Stern kept rolling around in bed, with images of the Minister’s gloves and the sunken, forlorn faces of criminals looping around in his head. He thought about Brunu, and how he wanted to borrow the car, and how he had so gently spread jam on his toast that morning. Stern was filled with admiration for how efficient Brunu usually was when it came to spreading jam, and how he rarely spilled any on the kitchen counter. Where had the damned fool gone? Where was Stern’s sweet Brunu with his sleepy time tea?
“Stern,” came a whispering voice in the darkness of the night.
Stern tried to ignore it, turning back around in bed.
“Stern,” came the voice again. It was long, drawn out. Ghostly. Stern sighed, placing a frustrated hand over his exposed ear to block out the sound.
Stern got up straight in bed, and looked angrily around the dark room. “OK. Who is there. Can’t you see that my honey is trying to get some rest?”
Then, out of the corner of his eye, Stern saw a pale, round, face poking up from behind the glass in his window. The face had a wide smile, with white teeth like an angel’s wings, and was staring intensely at Stern with bright, glowing eyes.
It was Brunu!
“Stern,” started the voice again, “It is I, the ghost of Brunu.”
“Brunu! Can’t you see my wife is trying to get some rest?” Stern fell back down into bed, shutting his eyes tightly, hoping the distraction would go away.
But it didn’t.
Brunu persisted. “I got into a car accident earlier today. That’s why I never came home from shopping with our special meal. I was about to leave this mortal world forever, but then I realized that I wanted to say goodbye to you. So here I am, Stern. My final words to you.”
Stern pretended to be asleep and exaggerated the sound of snoring, blowing gusts of hot air through his flapping moustache.
“I know you’re still awake,” said Brunu. “I can tell when you’re fake sleeping. You still haven’t had your sleepy time tea, have you?”
Stern grunted. “I am sleeping, Brunu. Please. Goodnight.”
“Stern, I have something I wanted to say to you.”
Stern said nothing, and continued to pretend to snore.
Brunu cast his eyes down, sheepishly. “The truth is, I’m not actually a ghost. I just said that because – well, to be honest, I just wanted to see if you would miss me. It’s selfish, I know, and I’m beginning to regret it. But I wanted to know, for a fact, if you appreciated all the things that I do for you.”
Stern groaned, then rolled over onto his stomach, and held his white pillow over his head.
“I missed you. I really missed you, Stern,” said Brunu. “That’s why I had to come back. I realized something. You’re my best friend in the whole world, you know that, Stern?”
Stern got back up out of bed, and turned his head sharply to look at the spectral, hovering digital letters on a nearby clock. It was almost three in the morning.
“Brunu. Look what time it is. Please, leave me alone. I work in an hour.”
Utterly exhausted, Stern was not feeling himself that morning. Looking at himself in the mirror during his daily ritual, he could tell that much. His had immense dark circles under his eyes, his hair was a mess, and his moustache was sticking out in all sorts of unexpected directions. He looked like a corpse resurrected from the dead. Stern wet his fingers and stroked his hands through his jet black hair. Despite this, his hair still resembled a dusty tumbleweed, and he decided it was time to move on. After all, he still had a job to do.
In the kitchen, Stern picked up the paper. He opened up the first page, saw something about a nun saving a child from a burning church, but he couldn’t be sure. Stern was finding it to be incredibly difficult to concentrate, and the words kept jumbling themselves up in his brain. He didn’t sleep at all last night, and it felt like his brain was on fire.
Stern quickly put the newspaper down, and tested his orange juice. He smacked his lips together. There was something strange about it. Stern looked in the mug to see a sickly, black molasses-like substance.
“Disgusting!” said Stern, knocking the cup over, onto the floor. In his tired stupor, Stern had accidentally brewed a cup of coffee, instead of pouring his regular orange juice. He started rubbing his tongue with his hand, trying to get rid of the unpleasant, coffee bean taste.
“Looks like you’re having a rough morning,” said Brunu, who sat down next Stern with a smile on his face. “What’s up in the paper today?”
Stern just glared at Brunu. “I must get to work. I don’t want to be late and disappoint the Minister.”
Stern got up walked straight for the front door, not bothering about the cup of coffee he just knocked over.
“Wait, Stern!” called out Brunu. “You forgot the keys to the car!”
But it was too late. Stern had already grabbed hold of the sturdy frame of his old bicycle, and hopped on, ringing the bell all the way down the neighbourhood road.
This time, the bicycle ride was incredibly unpleasant. Hardly remembering how he managed to operate the thing the day before, Stern kept felling over as he rode his bike, and even crashed into a child who was walking his dog. Across some of the rougher terrain, Stern had to dismount his bike and roll it along beside him, cursing all the way. Stern felt trapped and frustrated by his inability to operate the bicycle, and furrowed his eyebrows in consternation for the entirety of the trip, ringing the bike bell aggressively at passive passerby.
“Beep beep,” said Stern, a scowl on his face. “Beep beep. It’s the noose tier coming through. Get out of my way!”
Seeing the wild look in his eye, no one dared to get anywhere near Stern.
Finally, after an hour of bumping along the paved suburban roads, Stern finally arrived back at the parliamentary building. He dropped his bicycle, kicking it onto the grass, and stomped his way forward, toward the lusty, looming structure. Today, as Stern walked into the parliament building, he had a distinct impression of behind swallowed up by a great, ominous mouth.
Like usual, the Minister was standing in the middle of the courtyard. This time, Stern’s both seemed somewhat disturbed. He kept impatiently tapping a large brown shoe against the courtyard grass. He raised a gloved hand to check his watch. When the Minister caught sight of Stern, hobbling down the stone stairway into the courtyard, he set his arms akimbo and shook his head.
“Stern,” said the Minister. “You’re late.”
Stern froze. He wasn’t entirely sure what to do next. For some reason, he had forgotten the order in which he usually did his job. Did he tie ties around the criminals, or ties around the Minister? What’s more, did he tie nooses around the Minister, or nooses around the criminals? How could he forget? This was his expertise, something he did every day, day in and day out. But now, for some inexplicable reason, after a rough night’s rest, Stern was finding it very difficult to concentrate.
But he needed to make a decision, fast. He couldn’t just leave the Minister waiting.
After failing to receive a response, the Minister just shook his head again, and glared disapprovingly at Stern. “It’s alright. You don’t need to say a thing. You’re a good man and a good employee. I just want you to arrive on time.”
What was he supposed to tie around the Minister’s neck? A noose or a tie? The answer was on the tip of his tongue.
“I’m sorry sir. It will not happen again.”
“So, I have a job for you,” said the Minister, now raising a gloved hand. In it he revealed a golden tie, not yet knotted.
Stern took a deep breath. Not wanting to embarrass himself in front of his employer, he decided to trust his intuition and do what felt right. Stern took the Minister’s golden tie in his hand, and began wrapping it around the Minister’s thick neck.
Although Stern was usually known for his intense focus and technical precision when it came to tying knots, this time he was finding it difficult to focus. Stern’s eyes were heavy, and his brain felt like it was spinning around in his head, trying to find a solid place to rest. With his eyes narrowing like a drunk trying to convince everyone of his sobriety, Stern began to tie a tight noose knot around the Minister’s neck. His hands, however, felt clumsy, like they were recovering from being immobilized by the freezing cold. Nevertheless, Stern tried his best, and after a minute had managed to tie a reasonably sturdy noose knot.
Stern pulled the noose tight, and then took a step back to appraise his work.
The Minister began to cough, and pulled at the asphyxiating tie with his black gloves. “Ack – Stern! That’s a little too tight for this guy!”
Stern nodded. “Well, that’s what I do best. I tie ties around the criminals, and I tie nooses around the Minister.”
The Minister winced in suffocating pain and shook his head. “No! Stern, come back here. That’s not right!”
Stern let out a deep chuckle. “That is how it is here. We tie nooses around the Minister. Some say it is not right. I say, ‘it is just a job’. Please, do not think too hard about it. Just enjoy the show and feel happy.”
The Minister could no longer project his voice beyond a thin hiss of air, and each time he tried to extricate himself, the knot became tighter and tighter. Finally, Minister collapsed to the ground, his face quickly turning a bloated purple.
Stern wiped his hands together, proudly. “Job well done. After all, I am a professional.” Stern adjusted his tie, feeling like he was getting back into the swing of things. “Next, time to find some criminals to tie some ties around.”
Stern left the courtyard and headed toward where he remembered the Criminal Warehouse was located. He stopped for a minute, and then reversed his path, realizing the warehouse was actually in the completely opposite direction. How could he keep making mistakes like that? As he made his was back, Stern walked by the Minister, who was spasming around on the ground, for a second time. Stern smiled as he passed by his employer, who was wheezing, his eyes bulging out like white eggs. The Minister clawed helplessly with his black gloves toward Stern.
Stern just laughed, knitting his heavy eyebrows. “OK! Let’s get this show on the road!”
“I’m here to tie the ties,” said Stern as he approached the guard at the front of the warehouse.
The guard was the same bubble gum gnashing girl in dark glasses as before. This time she was reading a comic book, and barely even looked up at Stern.
“Name?” she asked as she popped a bothersome bubble.
“Stern,” said Stern. He shrugged his shoulders. “What more do you want.”
The woman also shrugged her shoulders, and flipped a page in her book. “You can go in. I suppose.” She pressed a big, blue button on the board in front of her, causing a great wall to open up. Looking into the opened warehouse, Stern could see what looked to be around 800 criminals standing around, stretching from one end of the warehouse to the other.
“Thanks,” said Stern, giving the woman a formal nod, although she couldn’t see it. She just continued to peruse her comic book and chew bubble gum.
Inside, Stern tried to take in the familiar scent of justice, but instead he was just met with the putrid stench of concentrated, unwashed male bodies. There was no doubt about it. It was the smell of a Criminal Warehouse. He saw what looked to be 800 young men lined up in a single file. It was quite a larger number from what he had handled the day before, but Stern was ready for anything, even if he was forced to work overtime. After all, that’s what he did best. He tied ties around the criminals. Right? Wasn’t that what he tied around the criminals?
Stern clapped his hands together. He would start from the very beginning. Grabbing a handful of rope from a nearby crate, Stern approached the first criminal.
“Hello, fellow,” said Stern, looking up at the first criminal of the day, a thin man with a big mouth. “I am the tie tier. I will tie your tie, and make you look beautiful. Perfect for your big date, huh?”
The young man stared at Stern, hatred burning in his dark, damaged eyes. “You people are scum. Everyone knows it. You have the nerve to condemn innocent people without trial, and then go around making jokes about their death. I swear on my dear mother’s grave, I have done absolutely nothing to deserve any of this. Someday you’ll all pay, mark my words.”
Stern laughed, and patted the criminal on the back. “Don’t be so modest, fellow! You have done plenty to deserve your big moment. Don’t worry, my friend. I will make you look beautiful for your first date. You know, that’s how I met my wife.”
The criminal began to breath heavily, like a wounded animal. He gushed out stinging sweat under the tension of his bound legs and hands. “I just want you to know, I’m not afraid of death. I’m afraid of what you and the Minister will end up doing to this city if things don’t change. I’m afraid for the suffering that you are going to cause thousands upon thousands of innocent people.” The young man paused, looking over Stern’s slumped, haggard body. “How can you even sleep at night?”
Stern laughed, and then wrapped the rough rope around the criminal’s head. “We do what we can. We are all a valuable part of society. The Minister makes the laws, the guards catch the criminals, and I tie the ties around the criminal’s necks and make them look beautiful. Trust me, my friend. I am a professional. I know what I am doing. You will be looking like a prince out there.”
Just like with the noose he had tied around the Minister earlier, Stern was finding it difficult to concentrate. It’s a funny thing, being tired. You can perform the exact same actions day in and day out, but as soon as you have one rough night, everything seems like it gets thrown out of order. Still, Stern was starting to feel a bit more confident in himself, and when he had finished tying the tie, he took a step back to assess it. Not Stern’s best work by any means, but certainly still of a highly professional quality.
The criminal breathed a sigh of relief as Stern released his hands and stepped away.
“That’s it? This noose doesn’t feel too tight at all!”
Stern simply raised a hand. “No, no. An ideal tie should not be too tight, nor too loose. A perfect tie knot balances on threshold between two discomforts. It transcends both. A perfect tie knot exists in a realm of perfect equanimity. Perfect balance. This, I do for you. After all, am I not a professional.”
The criminal let out a brief chuckle. Then a louder laugh. Then he burst out in an explosive uproar. “Fantastic! Yes, you truly are a professional! I’ve never been so happy with a noose tied around my neck in my life! You are certainly representative of the profound competence of the Minister’s regime! With nooses tied this well, how could the empire ever fall?”
Stern held his hands together, humbled, and gave the criminal a warm smile. “That is very kind of you to say. I do my best.”
Stern then patted the grinning criminal on the back, who was gladly led by the guard toward the entrance to the gallows. Already, the other 799 criminals behind him were growing increasingly excited, and a hushed murmur started to spread amongst them, like the sound of rats scuttling across the floor. If this noose tier tied each of their ties as loosely as that first one, then there was a chance they could all escape execution, and rush back into the city to see their friends and families. Of course, Stern was oblivious to their plotting, and simply carried on with work as usual.
Cooped up in the Criminal Warehouse, Stern was unable to witness the mass panic that was unfolding outside, as criminals slipped out of their nooses, broke their leg bindings, and ran free into the open courtyard. All the parliamentary guards were called to rush around and try and catch the criminals. Unfortunately, because security breaches were unheard of in the parliament building, none of the building’s guards were actually armed. As a result, almost all of the criminals managed to escape back into the city’s maze of alleys, parks, and forests. Almost all 800 of them.
At lunch Stern took a brief break to eat a hot dog bun, and then carried forward with the second half of the warehouse. The criminals could hardly contain their enthusiasm when Stern would walk up to the, and began wrapping the dry rope around their neck.
At the end of the day, and 800 criminals later, Stern brushed his hands off each other.
“Job well done. Another day done. After all, I am a professional.”
Now it was time to return home, like always. Stern was pleased with himself, since, even though he felt exhausted and could hardly think straight, he had proved that a determined work ethic and a sense of professional responsibility can carry you through even the most difficult of times. Surely, the Minister would be very pleased with him.
When Stern returned home that evening, he felt a deep delight upon seeing Brunu sitting at the kitchen table, sucking on a spoonful of tomato soup. After the panic of the night before, Stern felt immensely touched by the familiar face of his friend. Besides that, he could rest assured that tonight he would sleep soundly after a warm cup of sleepy time tea, prepared by the eternally protective Brunu.
Brunu looked up from the table when he saw Stern enter. Surrounding Brunu, Stern could see plates of all kinds of hot, delicious foods, from salmon to shrimp to potato salads. Stern’s mouth began to water, and so did his eyes as he thought about how thankful he was to have a full, hardy meal after such a long day.
“Ah, Stern! You’re back!Welcome back home!”
Stern nodded sternly, and sat down at the table, stretching out his weary limbs. “Good to be back, Brunu.” Stern then yelled out into the empty house, “hi honey! I’m home!”
Brunu spread his hands to present the warm plates surrounding him. “I cooked you dinner.”
Stern was silent for a moment. He couldn’t help but break a smile. “Oh,” he said.
“Did you read about the criminal leak at the parliament building?” asked Brunu. “Lots of trouble brewing in the city it looks like.”
Stern shook his head, his heavy features now overcome by a sudden air of frustration. “I always tell you Brunu, do not pay attention to that negative propaganda. Those people do not know the Minister like I do. He is a good man. An honest man..”
Brunu nodded his head, and cast his eyes down. “Yes, a very good man,” he said, his voice trailing off, and though the sentence had no real meaning.
Soon after, Stern and Brunu began to dig into their meals, enjoying every second of this rare treat. After a regular diet consisting mostly of tea and hot dogs, the taste of sumptuous salmon and puffy potato salad brought a tears to Stern’s eyes. Brunu too seemed to be enjoying himself, and hardly spoke a word throughout the entire meal.
As the sun began to set, the kitchen grew dark.
“Damn,” said Stern. “It’s getting dark. Soon I will no longer be able to see my fork.”
Brunu got up from the kitchen table, a knowing smile lighting his round features. “No problem at all, Stern.” Brunu walked to the wall, stuck out a confident finger, and flipped on the light switch. Suddenly, the room was filled with the warm glow of electricity, and the meal could be viewed in its entire beauty once again.
Stern breathed a sigh of relief. “Wonderful. Wonderful. You know, not even my wife can do this thing!”
Brunu smiled, looking amicably at his splendid being, this eternal presence in his everyday life. “Well, after all, what are friends for?”
Still smiling, Brunu sat back down at his chair, and continued to enjoy the warm meal.