Willow Lake Press
by G. David Schwartz © 2006

The Assistant The assistant sub-deputy director asked agent Felix Cromwell into his office. His wife, a vile sort of woman, referred to his office as an assistant sub-office and warned the sub-deputy director that one day there would be a fair and constitutional election which would change the regime and put him out of a job. He just smiled. Her politics may have been different, but she had no understanding about how the government was run. Section chief's get the boot. Assistant sub-deputy directors last forever. This was the reason he was relative happy in his job: because it was secure.

The assistant sub-deputy director told agent Cromwell, "This is your de-briefing. I need your badge. Sign this allegiance of silence."

"Sir? I'm sorry, sir. I do not understand."

"Agent Cromwell, since you are a civilian now, let me put it into civilian terms. You're fired."


"Precisely. You no longer work for the agency. I need your badge. Clean out your desk. Be sure to leave any paraphernalia which belongs to the government."

"Sir, I do not understand, sir."

The assistant sub-deputy director leaned back in his chair. His arms fell listlessly to his side. He sighed and, for the first time, looked Cromwell in the eye.

"Agent Cromwell ... Felix. Look, son. I personally like you. I think you've done fine work."

"Then what is the problem, sir?"

"The problem?" the assistant sub-deputy director repeated distractedly.

"Why am I fired?"

"Oh, yes; fired. That's true. I'm sorry, Felix."

"But why, sir? Why am I fired?"

The assistant sub-deputy director pulled himself up to the full height of his position and, dropping his head toward his desk, said meekly, "Took a position."

"Pardon me, sir?"

"You took a position, agent Cromwell."

"A position, sir?"

"You took a stand on an issue. You voiced an opinion on a political topic.

You expressed partisan feelings."

"Sir, I..."

"That's enough, Cromwell. Leave now."

"But, sir, I cannot leave without understanding."

"All right," the assistant sub-deputy director said after a silent resignation, "I'll be more clear although, as you know, clarity is not a substantial aspect of our charter. Cromwell, you did, on or about June third, tell your wife that you thought the President was doing a fine job."

Cromwell cocked his head, anticipating a better explanation.

"Well, Cromwell," the assistant sub-deputy director was astonished, "You can't do that!"

"Cannot do what, sir? Have an opinion?"

"Of course you can have an opinion. It's impossible to stop you from having an opinion. But as an agent of the United States government, you cannot express that opinion."

"I cannot, sir?"

"Absolutely not."

"Sir, you will pardon me for saying so, but that is incredibly stupid."


"Stupid, sir."

"Why do you think it's stupid?"

"I'm sorry, sir. You've got your mind made up, so I might as well go now."

"Just a minute, now, Cromwell. I can't have you leaving the agency thinking we are stupid."

"Oh, no, sir?" Cromwell explained, "I do not think the agency is stupid. I think you are."

"Oh, well, that's fine, then. I just don't want to have a disaffected agent out there thinking the agency is bad. You can't trust a disaffected agent.

The Assistant You can't trust him to be faithful to his oath of silence. He might turn into a blabber-mouth, which is strictly contrary to agency policy manuals, as you well know."

"But you cannot guarantee an agent, once he is no longer an agent, will adhere to agency policy."

"What is one to do, then, Cromwell?" the assistant sub-deputy director asked with good-humor.

"Kill him."

"What? Oh, kill him. I get it. One of your famous dry humors. Yes, well... So then we're set, aren't we?"

"Yes, we are set, sir. In order for me to protect the constitution of the United States, I must not express an opinion on the working of the citizenry or their representatives, is that it, sir?"

"Well, you make it sound so..."

"Cold? Clinical? Shallow? Pick any word you think suitable."

"Cromwell, Cromwell, Cromwell."

"Please, call me 'Mr. Cromwell,' if you do not mind. I am, after all, a citizen now."

"Well, yes, that's right, isn't it?"

"And as a private citizen, my being in these offices is a breach of security, is it not?"

"Well, that's not the way we look at it here, Cromwell. It is certainly true that once you leave here you will not be permitted re-entry. But until then, you'll just be watched closely so we can make sure you don't take or damage any government property."

"But while I am here, I am still government property, am I not?"

"Well, yes, I suppose that is true. We are still responsible for you."

"And as government property, you have the obligation to protect me, do you not?"

"Protect you?"

"Yes. And surely it would not be protective behavior if, given the economy and the conditions of state, you threw me out onto the streets without a means of income, would it?"

"Cromwell, I think you are confusing two issues. You are government property only as long as you are employed by the agency. Once your employment is terminated, you are a mere citizen. Further, as a citizen, you would be denied entry to the building that is true. But if you were in the building and then became a citizen, you would be permitted to leave the building. This is simple common sense. What your position and circumstances are as a citizen are, quite frankly, none of our concern."

"So, I think I understand," Cromwell said, "I am better off as a piece of governmental furniture than I am as a citizen, yet as a citizen I am allowed to have thoughts. Thoughts of a political nature are not permitted for government employees and, therefore, not permitted inside the government building.

The Assistant This being so, when you expressed the opinion that... The assistant sub-deputy director pulled put an agency authorized revolver and shot Cromwell in the left temple. Terminations are so much easier with this method, and one did not have to be so concerned about unnecessarily adding to the ranks of noisy, nosy, citizens.

Photos courtesy of
Desk Ronnie Bergeron
Television Dave Sackville
Revolver - Maarten Oerbekke, Albergen, Netherlands
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