The Candidate entered the barn and made his way past the fishing nets and dinghies to the very back. Then he pulled on the rusty sickle, just as he was instructed. The secret door creaked open, and he followed the steps down, kicking up the sand and hay that had accumulated in the corners of the steps. At the bottom, the Candidate crouched under a heavy beam and came into the light. It was a bare room, with walls cut from salt-air-dried logs and sandy ground for a floor. In the center of the room, he saw a small wooden table. There was a man seated at it.
“Good afternoon, Minister,” said the Candidate to the man.
The Minister said nothing. He was reading through some paperwork. When he was done, he looked up at the Candidate through his glasses and gestured for him to sit. The Candidate took his chair opposite the Minister. Then the Minister folded the papers up in a folder and tossed the folder across the table.
The Candidate took it in his hands. He felt its weight. Then he scanned the text on its cover. It read, in Estonian, “Government’s Top Secret Plan to Remove Anti-Ruling Party Elements Who Write for State-Sponsored Publications.”
The Candidate glanced up at the Minister. The Minister nodded but said nothing. Then the Candidate opened the folder. On the first page, he saw there was a list of names. It was written in black. Some of the names were very well known. When he read the names, he winced, because they belonged to famous people. In fact, the Candidate suspected that some of the persons named on the list might have even been to the secret Hiiumaa barn cellar before.
Then the Candidate turned the page over and saw an image of a white stone building overlooking a beach. There were palm trees around it, and there was a young brown-haired woman in a polka dot bikini sitting on its veranda. The Candidate studied the lady. She held an umbrella drink in one hand and was smiling. The Candidate smiled too, because the woman in the photo had very nicely tanned legs. Beneath the image was a single line of text. It said, in Estonian, “Your Future Timeshare in Maspalomas.”
The Minister chuckled a bit when he noticed that the Candidate was smiling. Then he snorted and pretended that he was clearing his throat and resumed his stone-like pose. The Candidate shut the folder, but the images of the white house and the tan legs were still hot in his mind.
There was a pause.
The Minister looked up at the Candidate again through his glasses, as if he was awaiting a response. The Candidate bit his lip. He looked around the room, at the sandy floor, the wooden boards, the gray-haired man seated at the table. He thought of the names on the list, the white house, the smiling dish with the umbrella drink. Then he shrugged his shoulders and dipped his head as a sign of assent.