3. When A is ordered, B shouldn't be served

In a country where the Party had served for a hundred years, the smallest child knew where to find cheap minced pork or where to obtain two French loaves for small change. The central, organizing messages reached the addressees. This, if anything, signified modernity, was the hallmark of a nation in the front rank.
And there was more to it than that: promises were carried out to the letter, and at the place appointed. French loaves had poppy seed on top of their crust, minced meat contained no rind. Messages could not be misunderstood, they were clear and unadulterated.
To the scattered tribes of the planet - camping everywhere, far and near - this was the number one evidence of prosperity and development, yes, of an unlikely, almost utopian perfection: here was someone, whose word could be trusted. They wanted the world to be like that. In his own world no one could be sure that eight hours of queueing would yield more than second-rate meat and inferior potatoes. A rice delivery from an aid organisation could be lifted by thieves, end up on the black market or stop underway for lack of transportation; anyone who put faith in rumours and ventured on the necessary two-day tour had to take into account the possibility that his coffin waited at the end of the road.
Here lay the reason why eyes turned to Harry's tax collection district. In this ideal spot, people told themselves, the word 'A' was pronounced - and right away the thing A stood on the table; words were covered by true cargo. You snapped your fingers, called for 'B'! - and before you had time to turn around the waiter produced B. Of course visions didn't halt at solid things but could be applied to other forms of ready matter as well. When the time came for a pension you spoke the word, and the pension was paid according to the norm and at the intervals specified in a contract between citizen and state. If the citizen nevertheless felt a need to organise in order to back up his pronounced desire, he uttered the word 'organization', and next he had at his command the finest organization, capable of tackling not just employers but landlords and other rascals as well. This favourable state could be stretched and expanded at will, at least in theory; maybe it was enough to pronounce the words 'I love you' in this environment - and you were rewarded with the most unselfish and self-sacrificing devotion for a lifetime?
Stop there! There is no telling that expectations ran like that. The others lived some sort of life as well, maybe the opposite of your own, but there is no saying that it was that much different, at least they knew all the options. Somewhere in the world a man ordered 'A' - and next object B stood on the table. Thus encouraged he snapped his fingers, called 'B'! - and before you knew it the waiter produced A. Things went on much the same way in this reflection along the half-way line: when the time was ripe for pensioning-off he spoke the word, pension was not paid according to the norm, nor did it turn up at prescribed intervals. Next the citizen had a try with 'organization', in order to back up his desires - and detected that there was plenty of organization, although in favour of the rascals, to his own disadvantage.
All in all there was a limited source to scoop from, A's and B's that made up the basic human directory. Changing from place to place were the combinatorials and the fragile balance of power between letters of the alphabet. Among humans this resulted in some imprinted reaction or other: in one place you pronounced the word 'organization' and crouched down in order to avoid a smack in the eye, in some other you did the same thing and had more organization than you could ever want to desire. To humans, adaptable beings, but also beings capable of empathy and anticipation, it was natural to be curious about these possible variations and to wish to try them, and possibly: to choose the best alternative. There might be some benefit from saying 'organization' without crouching, and it might not be bad to shout 'A' in the woods for once and have nothing but A for an answer.
One thing was certain: in Harry's municipality the inhabitants were convinced that there was some kind of necessary connection between 'A' and A, the same way the star over Bethlehem announced the Jesus Child and nothing else. When they pronounced 'A' they wanted the outcome A and that was that. They found it hard to imagine an existence, where 'peace' was not peace, but half or all-out war, fenced around by pacifying forces, and a language that paid tribute to its freedom, while at the same time adorning its fetters with flowers, was dismissed as simply mendacious.
Furthermore, the inhabitants of the same municipality were convinced that they themselves had attained an agreement between explicit intentions and achieved goals, that surpassed everything that had been achieved elsewhere: you pronounced the word 'minced pork' and got minced pork at nineteen and ninety per kilo (even if it was advisable to guard oneself against the bacterial content in some shops). You pronounced the word organization and had organization at your fingertips, until membership fees felt heavy as lead and you started to stretch the last date of payment towards infinity. Peace was thought of and 'peace' was spoken, and some sort of peace prevailed. On some level you could even think that minced pork and organization and peace pronounced their own names and watched that there were no errors in translation; humans were simply relay stations in the current of messages. Still the unequivocal step from 'A' to A didn't mean that wishes ran short and history breathed its last. Next you could wish for minced beef instead of minced ham, even if you couldn't afford it, and you could reach for another kind of organization, flat as a flounder, difficult to grasp.
As a consequence of all this there was a tiny but crucial difference between Harry's country or Harry's municipality or just Harry himself and the rest of the world. Not a difference of the kind leading to discord or open hostility, but a difference of the quiet, expectant kind. You could call it a friendly difference, a difference where you peacefully awaited the day when the surrounding world would catch up and it would be possible to socialise on an equal footing. As far as they were concerned, Harry and his followers had pronounced 'A', and all-round A it would be, sooner or later. On the other hand the ongoings of the surrounding world were still somewhat obscure: it was not always evident who presided, far less what was actually uttered and intended, and certainly the results couldn't be at all desired.
To sum up: it was a self-esteem with solid philosophical anchorage, that kept Harry from using minced pork for meatballs, and the area of encounter between language and world was situated at the natural place: in the palate. The task was to insist on yourself, to defend what had been achieved, your own near-ideal position. When meatballs were ordered, porkballs shouldn't be served. The practice of the Jönsson family spoke in favour of this stance, and if Harry had called for support, the gastronomers of the world would have rallied to his defence, as one man. On the other hand there were days (or just moments) when even Harry Jönsson felt that the waiter dragged his feet: the menu ordered wasn't served, not even when Harry himself had spoken the words. Maybe the road from word to execution wasn't that straight, maybe he himself wasn't the chairman of the board, maybe things emerged from some other cause, along winding, inscrutable roads? (or failed to come altogether, a silent thought, put in brackets). At any rate it was advisable to keep up appearances, until things had been finally investigated and clarified.

No, that does not exhaust the topic, it needs a footnote, a clarification. There was an ambiguity or some possible ambiguity in the relationship between A and 'A', you couldn't shut your eyes to that. At intervals the citizens were also hit by such doubts; without warning they would find themselves suddenly stuck in a quagmire of insecurity in the very middle of their stable daily round. They measured some solemnly announced intention against some actual state of things and were struck by the lack of agreement, found it hard to accept. Suddenly existence assumed threatening, uncanny features. In such cases there was no other way out than to ask Harry Jönsson: 'Was this really intended, Harry?' Or: 'There must be something wrong when things turn out like this, don't you agree, Harry?' (Didn't you say 'A' - and isn't this B?)
And Harry answered the way a true soul-guardian and exemplar should answer: 'No, this isn't what we were after, and the matter will be brought up at the next Party congress.' Or: 'Yes, it's wrong when things turn out that way, but the Minister of Justice is preparing a legal amendment.'
From these recurring epidemics it could be inferred that - competing with a justified self-esteem - some diffuse unrest was troubling the depths of the people, a fear that alien tribes with unintelligible language were preparing a hostile takeover by means of double messages, double standards. Confronted with such an assault, the honest gaze, the firm handshake, the rugged and straightforward speech, contentedness, honesty, deference to king and authority, not forgetting mum's meatballs, all these and many other things that were the priceless heritage of the nation, would collapse and the citizens would be hurled into some violent and insecure existence, that they were not ready to tackle. They would stand like big, ungainly bears, lurching around, boxing with their paws, one after the other succumbing to the ambush of double feints. In the end Harry would remain, The Last Bear, a shaman mourning his lost people, continuing to preach their virtues to deaf ears.
Once in a while Harry made a fuss and revolted, on such occasions he answered instead: 'Well, considering the frequency of tax evasion, speeding offences and general double-dealing you are no saints either, I'd say there is a hair of Old Nick in each and every one of you, it's a small world.'
That said, the voters peered furtively at him, trying to establish whether the councillor was serious or whether he was pulling their legs. (Was this 'A' an A or a B?). Harry could not stand this gaze, that had something saintly about it, for long, in the end he used to wave his words away with new words like: 'Of course there is a small difference, it cannot be denied.'
Cheers for the small difference.

Jenny raised her glass: 'My sincere thanks for this meatball repast to the utterer of correct names, he who was so maltreated by his mirror-image. As from today I submit to the decree about minced ham.'
Harry touched his chin furtively, responding to the toast in silence; there were no points to be gained from answering his sister back when she put on her sibylline mask.

12 kB, first translation 7.4.04, latest corrections 19.1.07, 27.11.08.

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