The Ten Weeks, 14 January, The Bureaucrats Are Caught Flat-Footed

Events played out pretty much as Pierre said they would. The ophthalmologist reported that Carol was capable of sight, although he prescribed corrective lenses for near-sightedness. He gave no explanation for her sudden change, although he heard Claudia’s story, as did just about everyone else she encountered. Less able to come up with a response was the school, which insisted that she remain there. This threw Claudia into a depressed state, which she carried with her when she came to work on Thursday.
She came into Pierre’s office and bowed. “May I speak with you for a minute, Monsieur des Cieux?” she asked him as he sat at his desk, puffing his pipe.
“Of course,” he replied, having a good idea of what she was about to say.
“I talked with the headmaster yesterday at school. She won’t even discuss transferring her out. Her teachers don’t know what to do either, although they’re starting to teach her to read.” She was on the verge of tears. “She wants to go to Dillman-Arnold so bad, like her neighbours. I want her to have a normal life. Why are they treating her this way? Do they hate her? Do they hate me? Is it still a crime because I had her on my own?”
“Actually, it is no longer a crime to have a child without a husband in Verecunda,” he replied calmly. “It is one of Kendall’s achievements. Honestly, I don’t think that they hate either one of you. They just don’t know what to do. This has never happened to them before. Did they state that she might have a relapse into blindness?”
“Yes, they did,” Claudia replied. “They said this may be temporary. But it can’t be. Madeleine prayed for her. She used to be blind, but now she sees. How can it change?”
Pierre thought for a minute. “Bureaucrats find it easier to retreat into the mediocre rather than take the risks of progress. I will see what I can do.”
“Thank you, Monsieur des Cieux,” Claudia said. Bowing again, she turned and began to leave the office. Verecundans frequently made fun of East Islanders for their formality and attention to rank, but Pierre said that his predecessor gave Claudia the job more for her bow than for her secretarial skills.
“There is one more thing, Mademoiselle Yedd,” Pierre said. She stopped and turned around.
“What is it, Monsieur?” she asked.
“My desk is still without my coffee,” he observed.
“Oh, I am sorry,” she said, beating a hasty retreat. She returned with the coffee shortly, the service arranged exactly as he always insisted.
Pierre sipped his coffee, realising that he had no plan at all to solve Claudia’s problem. His experience with bureaucrats all over the Island was extensive; he sold tyres to all seven sovereign nations, to say nothing of the municipal entities, state and district governments, and of course Serelia’s free cities. His experience with Verecundan bureaucrats told him that they were getting harder to deal with than their counterparts further east as the government expanded its regulatory maze.
He finished his coffee and decided to take a stroll in the warehouse to see what was going on. Luke had just finished sending off a shipment to the Grand Tyler of Claudia when he came up to his superior, who was standing watching the proceedings.
“Going to the port?” Pierre asked.
“They’re transshipping it through Vidamera,” Luke said. “Used to be able to sneak through Aloxa, but they’ve stopped that.” He looked at Pierre. “Something eating at you, Boss?”
“It concerns Claudia,” Pierre confessed. “Carol’s school will not permit her to transfer out to a normal school. She asked me to help her. Frankly, I don’t know how.”
Luke thought for a minute. “You mind if I make a few phone calls?”
“To whom?” Pierre asked.
“I’ll tell you when I’m done.”
“Go ahead,” Pierre said. “It would be tragic if my daughter’s miracle would be spoilt by a group of stupid functionaries.”

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