“Let’s have a deal”, said Andrew while tucking a hammer, some long nails, a wrench and a pair of pliers into his knapsack. He was getting ready for the errand at the nuns’ down in the valley.
“A deal?”, Peter enquired his eyebrows raised, a tentative smile on his thin lips just in case it was one more of Andrew’s unexpected jokes.
“Yeah, a deal.” Andrew tucked the last bunch of tools into the knapsack and looked up to Peter, suddenly motionless. “I do the talking today, but you do it tomorrow.”
Peter frowned slightly in confusion.
“That is, you’ll hear my story today. I’ll tell you everything you want to know about me and these places, and if you’re a good listener – a whole lot more. But tomorrow I will be quiet for most of the time. I may just choose to prompt you with a cautious question, although I’m not the querying guy. As for you – you’ll either give me your story, or we just keep quiet, both of us. No talking. So that it’s clear – you have the choice between the main character and the speechless hermit. What do you think?”
Peter stared flabbergasted.
“But it’s my job to do the interviewing. It’s the others that do the talking. Always.”
“Well that’s the point, you see. No interviewing here. Let’s just use our tongues to toss some truths in the air, or else lock them shut in our mouths. Go back to where the Word comes from, or withhold from it. You might be astonished to learn that there’s a whole world out here beyond your interviewing.”
Peter felt the brimming urge to shout the many splinters of facts that were crossing his mind and rendering Andrew’s deal completely absurd: that he was there as a professional and his profession meant interviewing, that there were lots of other things beyond his job all right, such as clashes of celestial bodies and civil wars and abuse and wild-life getting extinct, and also beautiful paintings or music or what not, but they hardly mattered to this specific situation, he was here as Peter Schild the British journalist who was expected to deliver stuff on his return to London, and that tossing truths in the air as an alternative to a speech ban was simply just not part of this whole picture. But the words got somehow jammed in a region between his guts and his palate, at the back of his tongue, his tongue which seemed to rebel against such common-sense as if it was secretly thrilled at the prospect of tossing truths in the air.
“You might of course just check out tomorrow morning, before honouring your part of the deal,” Andrew added while pulling the strings of the knapsack and tying them tight together. “No one’s keeping you here. Should you decide to act that way, it will be fine with me. I don’t keep records of my dues.”
Peter sniffed in disbelief.
“That is the weirdest deal I’ve ever heard”, he tried to sound scornful but in his ears resounded the squealing protest of a boy who was piqued by a too uncompromising rule.
“My country, my rules”, Andrew smiled.
“Does the other Andrew, MY Andrew in Bucharest, know about your deals?” Peter attempted a breezy manner.
“This Andrew, that Andrew”, the other man left the sentence hanging in the air as a sign of futility. “Come on, the deal’s not that bad actually! You get all the details you want to put in your report on the plane back to London or wherever you are coming from. And in exchange for this you just talk about yourself for a change. That doesn’t sound unfair, nor like tough job, to me. It’s called reciprocity.”