The interview was just checking a box. He instructed Alex to keep a copy for his personal files. Maybe they were right not to trust him, Alex reasoned. Closing his eyes, he could see Janjaweed militia on horseback riding at full tilt through the crowded refugee camp, automatic rifles slung over their backs and polished black lances in their hands. He could hear the wet smack of a spearhead being driven clean through a human body, the incessant buzzing of flies, and, above all, the rhythmic cadence of helicopter blades beating the dry desert air. Centrex is about maximizing shareholder profit.
Under his somewhat more cynical exterior, the son and grandson of American ambassadors believed the same thing. She can hardly wait. Many families tried to compensate for this with regular visits to someplace in America that the kids could think of as theirs. Alex could get only a few weeks off from work, but Anah typically stayed in Maine for the entire summer.
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She loved the beach and the tide pools and the dark pine forests. Most of all, however, she loved that there was so much family. Alex suspected that it reminded her on some level of the big, sprawling tribal family she had come from. Anah had a score of cousins in and around Brunswick who were her constant companions for the summer months. His brother had done a year at the University of Maine in Orono in forestry before dropping out and going to work for the paper company.
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Their father had been a mechanic at the naval air station where he had worked on the P-3 Orions that patrolled the Atlantic coast looking for Soviet submarines. A longtime smoker, he had died of throat cancer when Alex was twelve. Reluctantly, Alex and Ham turned back to the stacks of passports in front of them.
His uncle, he explained, spoke neither English nor French, only the tribal Soussou language. Alex sat on a bar stool behind two inches of bulletproof glass. The glass wall established a psychological as well as a physical barrier between the consular officer and the applicant that was utterly intentional. It made it easier for the officers to say no. Alex appraised Mr. Gushein while he flipped quickly through the passport.
The applicant looked considerably older than his sixty-four years with his snow white hair and deeply lined face, but he stood tall and straight in the booth, and looked Alex right in the eye with an easy confidence. Alex pegged him for a village elder or headman. Someone used to automatic respect. The passport was old and worn, but unused. A series of stamped dates on the back page indicated that Mr.
Gushein had applied for a U. Scribbled notes from previous generations of consular officers explained the reason for the refusal. He broke my rules often enough. His dream was to go to America.
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I know that is hard to do for poor people like my son. He would do what was necessary to make this dream real. Gushein, how long do you intend to spend in the United States? And how can I be certain that you will come home to Guinea? I must come home before it is time to shear the sheep. Immigration law gave consuls considerable discretion. In this case, Alex could decide to issue or not issue the visa as he saw fit. There was no appeal.
Ham would certainly have said no without a second thought. Hell, he might have been one of the interviewing officers who had turned down the earlier applications. It was the right time of year. When the nephew translated this request, Gushein nodded slowly, but Alex could see tears forming at the corners of his eyes. He had come in expecting to be rejected and had not allowed himself the luxury of hope. The Soussou elder put one hand against the wall to steady himself while his nephew gripped him by the other elbow.
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Ronald R. R Cubed had once been a rising star in the Foreign Service. Somewhere along the way, however, he had fallen from grace—alcohol, it was widely assumed—and found himself at fifty commanding a small consulate in a West African shithole. He was angry about his fate and took it out on his subordinates through the infliction of petty indignities. Right now. The real problem should be the overstay rate.
There my numbers are pretty good. Less than two percent, actually. You can start with this gentleman.
Ham is in a different class. Get used to it. Better than us. Alex had no reply. That afternoon, Mr. Gushein and his nephew came back for the visa Alex had promised them. Gushein will come back to Guinea after visiting his son. Do you think he can do that? Make text bigger Make text smaller. Women, are you in an unequally-yoked marriage?
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