Guess Again

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I can read your mind and I know what you’re thinking: you’re probably wondering what this article is about. It’s about Bulgaria and ESP (extra-sensory perception). Apparently, young Bulgarian custom officers are being trained to discover drugs or any other form of contraband by using ESP. And it’s proving quite effective. So effective, in fact, that ESP has become a craze in all of Bulgaria.

Last week I travelled to Bulgaria to do some research on the Monastery of Rila. I had heard about the custom officers and their ESP ability, but I had never given it a second thought until I found myself face to face with one of those slick young ESP custom officers in the baggage control checkpoint of Sofia’s international airport. I was about to hand him my passport and open my suitcase when he stopped me.

“No, don’t tell me,” he said. He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, then he exhaled, gave me a sharp look, and observed: “You’re American, but you’re mother is Latvian and your father Peruvian and you’ve been living in Europe for the past twenty years. Moreover, you’re interested in the Monastery of Rila, you wonder if there’s a decent bathroom in this airport, and you think that I’m . . . bananas?”

Holy smokes, he didn’t miss a beat! I was flabbergasted! I was also nervous at being the victim of telepathic intrusion, so I tried to throw the officer off by only thinking of Inca rulers: MancoCapacSinchiRocaLloqueYupanquiMaytaCapacCapacYupanquiIncaRoca-

YawarHuacacViracochaPachacutecTupacYupanquiHuaynaCapacHuascarAtahualpa.

The officer stared at me and smiled knowingly, then he looked down at my suitcase, and without opening it, he remarked: “Samsonite! Clothes, toilet articles, a pair of sneakers, multivitamins with ginseng, notebooks, pens, a Playboy magazine, a box of preservatives, a Bulgarian-English dictionary, and a book by Agatha Christie. No drugs, no liquor, no smokes. Good.” He then grabbed my passport, opened it, inspected my picture, and grinned. “Just as I thought,” he said. “You’re a Sagitarius.”

I nodded automatically – I wasn’t going to argue with this guy. He then handed me back my passport and wished me an enjoyable stay. I grabbed my bags and ambled out, when suddenly he shouted something at me. I stopped and turned.

“What was that?” I asked him.

He grinned and winked at me. “The butler did it,” he said.

“Right. Thank you,” I responded. Then I slowly made my way out of the terminal and wondered what he meant by the butler. The butler? What butler? And suddenly it hit me and I knew what he was talking about. Holy smokes, the bastard had just revealed the ending to the murder mystery I was reading!

I hailed a cab, got in, and before I could open my mouth, the cab driver interrupted me and said: “I know, I know. Hotel Kopitoto. You’re staying till Monday and you’re wondering whether I’ll give you the run around before dropping you off in your hotel.”

“How did you know all this?” I asked him, amazed.

“ESP, my friend.”

“But I thought that only the custom officers were trained in ESP?”

“Nope, everybody has picked it up. It’s a national passtime.”

“Must be pretty boring in the cafés. Total silence, everybody thinking to each other.”

The cab driver chuckled, and I, once again, went through my list of Inca rulers. When we arrived at the hotel, the cab driver took one look at my suitcase, grinned, and winked at me.

“It’s the count,” he said.

I nodded, payed him, and walked into the hotel. The count? What count? . . . Oh no! Not again! But how could he know who the culprit was of my mystery novel? And why was his answer different from the one the custom officer had given me? So who was right? Before I could come up with an answer, the concierge greeted me with another display of ESP:

“Good day, sir. Your room is ready, and yes, it has a small bar, and yes, you can rent a car tomorrow to go to Rilsky, and yes, I can direct you to a good restaurant, and no, I’m not bananas.”

MancoCapacSinchiRocaLloqueYupanquiMaytaCapacCapacYupanqui . . .

The concierge suddenly looked puzzled – his telepathic waves were probably bouncing back into his neurotransmitters with a hodgepodge of indecipherable information. But nonetheless he held his own, he smiled at me, and remarked: “By the way, sir. It’s the cook, he’s the culprit.”

The bellboy arrived, grabbed the key, and asked me to follow him towards the elevator. As I complied, I mused over the concierge’s last words. The cook? What cook? Why, of course, my mystery novel! It seemed to attract the most diverse conjectures. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me when the bellboy remarked:

“It’s not the cook, he’s a dork. The murderer is the playboy.”

I sadly smiled at him and asked him to guess what tip I had in mind for him. He guessed right, but I gave him less, and he left with a sour look on his face.

During the following days, every Bulgarian I encountered was into ESP and I had to go through my Inca rulers like never before. But the odd thing about these encounters was that everybody had a different answer as to who the culprit was of my mystery novel. Including, believe it or not, a monk from the Monastery of Rila who whispered to me as in confession: “It’s the Pharisee, he’s the sinful culprit.” Obviously, his conjectures were tainted by his religious convictions. In the end, as I was flying back home, I was finally able to finish my mystery novel and I must admit that no one, not one single Bulgarian, guessed the truth.

The culprit was . . . you’ll never guess.

(© M. Miranda 2008. All Rights Reserved.)

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