Across the whole world dark clouds gathered. Rains began to fall and everywhere the young animals were threatened. In Brussels, God was awoken by their cries and put on his raincoat.
Let the young sink or swim, he cried, but the old who have laboured all their lives, let them have shelter from the storm.
Let every country build themselves an ark after their own fashion that every elderly animal can ride out the storm.
And in Bulgaria, that magical land beyond seven mountains, forests, lakes and rivers, God said let there be NOI and NOI came to be.
And NOI built smart arks in every city with gates to prevent disabled animals from parking their cars and ordained that in every ark there should be a dozen windows with confusing signs and behind every window there should be one of his daughters engaged in an important telephone conversation. Animals could queue for hours and then be told that they should have queued elsewhere. And at every window there were a hundred different forms for the animals to fill in.
For only animals who had worked hard all their lives could enter the ark and get out of the rain.
But NOI wanted documentary proof of this work. Surely the animals cried NOI must know of our hard labour. NOI is God’s servant and God knows everything.
God may know everything in Brussels where he lives, but Bulgaria is a magic land. You animals must provide proof of your service.
And the animals scurried back through the rising flood to search through their nests and holes and dens for their magic work-books, which once recorded all their labours.
Back at NOI, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver brought their books stamped by the Forestry Commission, recording forty years work of industrious logging. In the long queue that stretched to the only relevant window, they chatted with Mr. and Mrs. Lion who had worked for ten years in the state slaughter house back in the seventies until they had migrated to England to work in a Butcher’s shop. It’s incredible. God is really powerful there, in the English ark, all your details are on something called the Internet. They key in your number and your whole English work record comes up on screen.
As they stood in the queue, Mrs. Beaver could not help noticing that behind all the other windows, NOI‘s daughters sat chatting with each other. She wondered why NOI couldn’t get themto help out with the long queue.
Just ahead of them at the window a row had broken out amid a flurry of clucking and feathers. Mr. and Mrs. Eagle were migratory like the Lions. They had booked into the Salt Lakes hotel for just a week and thought that they could sort out their shelter in that time – especially as they had taken special care of their work books. However NOI had spotted that their stamps from Bulgarsalt were round instead of square and that Pest Control had only numbered the days and weeks of their work – not the hours. Unless the Eagles could sort out these anomalies, they would be denied shelter for the coming flood.
But…but…the Eagles knew that Bulgarsalt had been privatized in 1995 and the Pest Control had become part of the newly abolished Ministry of Extraordinary Situations. How could they find anyone to provide the right stamp and the correct details.
Not Noi’s problem. It’s down to every animal to search out the information themselves if they need shelter. You can’t expect God to be bothered to go and find things that weren’t properly recorded in the first place. You just have to find the appropriate archives.
The Lions looked at each other as disquiet spread through the queue. Surely Noi was ordained by God to help the weak and helpless. Everywhere in the world God knew everything – except apparently in this magic land beyond mountains, lakes, rivers and forests. Mr. and Mrs. Donkey who had lost their work books in a barn fire informed everyone with gloomy satisfaction that they had waited two years for their right to shelter to be recognized and now had to fill in Form OP30 before a new recalculation.
Meanwhile outside the rain continued to pour down. The young were already drowning. Inside the ark, behind the windows, amid stacks of files, Noi’s daughters looked bored. At least it would be lunch break soon. They’d have a rest from watching the ebbs and flows of desperate animals clutching antique worthless documents. And NOI had put up posters reminding everyone that they should speak in quiet tones, no matter how outrageous his requirements seemed to be.
Just as well – otherwise the animals might get seriously anNoied.
Note NOI is the acronym of the National Insurance Institute, responsible for the calculation of Pensions. Fortuitously it is also the Bulgarian variant of Noah.