Library of Records
Bureaucracies produce paper, lots of it—forms and letters, petitions and affidavits—all of which must be held on record before they can be successfully processed. So files and file cabinetry, and with these overwhelmed, box upon box are what we use to house all that comes to us here at the Library of Records—a branch of the BGA (Bureau of Governmental Affairs)—which is overseen by me, the name-tagged: Señor Bernal.
It is hard to say where the Library of Records exists. Somewhere within the buildings along Plaza Mayor is all I can say for certain; for to enter it one must walk through a long stretch of hallways, up a series of stairwells, down several others, and then descend in a button-less elevator for what seems forever. When I was first assigned a position here it took me a full week to successfully report for duty—I was not missed, for I was not expected. Had I never shown up, I would still have been paid—such is the state of our departmental obscurity—we are simply paid to disappear.
The Library of Records has no windows, and is delivered with no electricity; kerosene lamps provide all available light to the cavernous depths of it. The stacks are thousands upon thousands of labyrinthine shelves deep, home to just as many rats, and suffer from a mildew problem. The front office, which the elevator opens upon, is not so much an office but a wall of pneumatic chutes wherefrom endless reams of paper are delivered, and three desks that are semi-circularly positioned, one for each of us.
Señor Obregon, the elder statesman of the group, whose skin has taken on the color of paper, so long has he toiled in this department, was sent down after some promising years spent as a legislative aide…you see bureaucracies cannot be effectively run (which is to say bungled) with promising young players pushing things along, and so he was buried, as all of us here have been: under paper, surrounded by cold concrete. To give you the look of the man: Señor Obregon wears horn-rimmed glasses, a bowtie and a bowler, and sometimes, when a chill gets in the air, a tattered comforter wrapped round his shoulders—like an aged Bob Cratchit. He is my colleague, but a generation my elder and predecessor in this place, a factor which has been instrumental to our success; his memory is first-rate, and anything that he has ever filed he can cause to resurface within a matter of hours, according to a rudimentary cataloging system he has been developing over the past several decades.
Señor Parra is the other, and younger than I, he found his way down here after a short time spent in the Civil Guard; he was removed from duty when it was discovered that he was not bribable, and that he could be counted on to make decisions based on moral foundations. He is a thick plug of a man, who never seems to tire but always seems to sweat and so works in his shirtsleeves. He is a quick study, and has been largely deployed as an “incoming documents” organizer, running from chute to chute and back again like a man bailing out a ship that is fated for the bottom of the sea.
I am thus left with the task of assembling for delivery the files requested of us, that and keeping higher-ups from interfering too much with our processes.
The problem we are faced with is simply this: to get anything done in this country one must produce documentation of some variety; some form must be run-round, stamped and signed, some petition must be filed, some court document must be notarized, etc. And each and every governmental organization has its own form to fill and procedure to follow, making this process all the more tedious. Every scratch of paper that goes through their offices gets sent to us, and all of this, these documents we receive, are proof of the exhaustive struggle so many endure in hopes of being dealt with justly by the system. It is our duty to see that these efforts are not pursued in vain.
However, as everyone should know, bureaucracy breeds fraudulence, and in hopes of never seeing this paperwork again, departmental officers often purposefully mislabel files, or shuffle the contents of eighty different files together before sending them on to us. Precisely so that, in a matter of months or years, when a case is eventually called up, there is a good chance the paperwork will have been disappeared via some filing mishap, and those affected will have little recourse; only to begin the process again in hopes of a different outcome. Eventually it is thought that they will just give up out of frustration.
Thus, in a world crippled by corruption we are the last line of defense, the final hope for justice. But we cannot produce every document that is requested of us. Even if it was humanly possible, we could not; for oftentimes we must play by the rules of the establishment and give the higher-ups what they are looking for: holes in a case big enough to require a judge to dismiss it. If we were to produce all the documents that were asked of us, we would, because of our competence, be replaced with those willing to be incompetent for the sake of the status quo. Therefore, to avoid suspicion we must only successfully produce the required documentation on occasion, and so to us falls the task of prioritizing cases. It is an imperfect system by design, and so we must produce an imperfect response to effectively counter it. Such is the way of things in this place, at this time.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
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