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"The FBI has cut substantially its backlog of untranslated audio recordings from terror and espionage investigations since an audit last year found hundreds of thousands of hours of tape had not been reviewed, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Friday. 'We have worked on the backlog. It is minimal now.'" —Associated Press

Intercepted 14 October 1529

IBRAHIM: Peace unto you, O Caliph of Islam, Shah of Baghdad, Sultan of Egypt, Caesar of All Lands, and Master of the World! Allah is great!

SULEYMAN: Peace unto you, Vizier. You may report to us on the state of the siege.

IBRAHIM: As is known to Your Omniscience—for indeed, in your valor you are ever in the thick of battle—our stratagems were many and clever, yet it has not been the will of Allah that they succeed. The walls of Vienna were damaged but not, alas, fatally breached by our cannonade. Our men fought like devils, but [inaudible].

SULEYMAN: You're breaking up.

IBRAHIM: Your servant begs forgiveness. This [inaudible] artillery piece is in the way, I think … Is that better?

SULEYMAN: A little.

IBRAHIM: When at last our mines tore holes in the defenses, the pikemen drove us back. Meanwhile the [inaudible] rain, which began during our march from Bulgaria—and which does not perturb the Christians, who must be fish, like their prophet Jesus, and not men who breathe air—has sickened tens of thousands of our troops and thousands of our camels. And our devastation of the Austrian countryside, which seemed such a good idea at the time, has [inaudible].

SULEYMAN: You're breaking up again. What carrier are you using?

IBRAHIM: Verizon.

SULEYMAN: Are you mad? West of the Bosporus the roaming charges will kill you. We have commanded the janissaries to switch to T-Mobile. You and your general staff shall do likewise.

IBRAHIM: Forgive [inaudible] your servant, who is less than the meanest flea on the [inaudible] of your stallion. But we just signed a [inaudible] contract, and we got free phones.

SULEYMAN: Flip?

IBRAHIM: Flip. With built-in [inaudible] and hookah lighter.

SULEYMAN: Well, this matter shall wait upon our further deliberations. But as to the siege, what is your counsel?

IBRAHIM: Your servant, who grovels in the [inaudible] Christian mud before the seat of your wisdom, counsels Your Magnificence to abandon the siege.

SULEYMAN: Abandon the siege? Can this be the will of Allah—that the infidels prevail? Tell us, Greek slave, why we should not have you chopped into a thousand pieces and [inaudible] olive oil and [inaudible] ganouj?

IBRAHIM: Master of the World, your servant presses his nose into the mire and offers his shapely [inaudible] for chastisement. Yet as Your Immensity knows, the ways of Allah are very deep.

SULEYMAN: And your point is?

IBRAHIM: I believe it is the will of Allah that we be defeated—or, rather, feign defeat—so that we may achieve a greater victory.

SULEYMAN: Relate further.

IBRAHIM: When the army of the faithful withdraws from the outskirts of Vienna, let us leave behind bags of the magic bean Arabica. Let us leave them close to our abandoned fires so that [inaudible] may bring out the aroma. Thus even the infidels, in their simplicity, will guess what the beans are for. And if they don't get it this time, we can leave behind some more at the next siege.

SULEYMAN: And how, slave, does it behoove us to give the uncircumcised this great gift?

IBRAHIM: For us, Your Alertness, it is a gift. Allah has taught us to master our passions. But the Christians are slaves to strong drink. For them it will be a curse. They will lay their own cities waste, demolishing [inaudible] so that rows of identical coffeehouses may be built. Never will their digestion be untroubled. Never again will they sleep …

SULEYMAN: Yes! Yes! They will spend their endless waking hours inventing devices of [inaudible] and futility. Devices that appear to save labor, but in truth [inaudible].

IBRAHIM: Let not the anger of Your Longsufferingness be kindled against your servant, but I think now you are breaking up.

SULEYMAN: [inaudible].

IBRAHIM: You want to call me back?

Evan Eisenberg is the author of The Recording Angel.
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