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Four Conversations in a Hospital

There is an elderly patient, more than eighty years old, who is residing, without exaggeration, in the most luxurious hospital in Egypt. He alone occupies a whole floor of the hospital and all the rooms have been opened up to create what amounts to a royal suite equipped with every comfort. The patient doesn't like to read so he divides his time between watching the giant television screen in the sitting room and making phone calls to his loved ones and friends. Yesterday the patient made four phone calls, which went as follows:

First Conversation (with a man with a hoarse voice):

The man: Did you hear what happened in Port Said?
The patient: I'm sad about the young people who died.
Man: It serves them right. Aren't they always insulting the police and wanting to execute the officers who defended the police stations? To hell with them-they haven't seen anything yet. Now there are gangs raiding banks and kidnapping tourists and killing people in broad daylight.
Patient: The people followed the lead of troublemakers and this is the result.
Man: Now everyone's nostalgic about the good old days with us.
Patient: But now it's too late...What have you been up to? Are you well?
Man:Did you know that the prison director is one of my students? He worked with me at State Security when he was a young officer. The man remembers his friends and he makes sure I have everything.
Patient: A really fine man.
Man: Last week the prison director, out of the goodness of his heart, agreed to let me bring a treadmill I can run on every morning. You know how I like to look after my health.
Patient: Sure. You used to have three wives, so what are you going to do now you're in prison?
Man:We live in hope, God willing. (They laugh.)
Patient: So what's this I hear about purging the police force?
Man: It's nonsense, sir. They should purge the country of those kids, the mercenary traitors who've wrecked it. What annoys the Tahrir kids is that all the senior officers are still loyal to legitimate authority. And the media's attacks on the police force have sapped their morale-they don't want to work. If they don't like the police, let them protect themselves.
Patient: I read there are some police officers siding with revolutionaries who have formed an alliance calling for a purge?
Man:Those are just officers envious of colleagues who are more competent than them--the top officers are all with us.
Patient: I'm proud of the police commanders. God protect them. What about State Security?
Man: They send you greetings, and pray for the best for you.
Patient: One State Security officer is worth a hundred others.
Man: I do have one request of you, sir. Today in prison we're cooking stuffed pigeons and we know how much you liked stuffed pigeon.
Patient: How did you know? (They laugh.)
Man: That's my job, sir. We decided we couldn't have stuffed pigeon unless you ate with us. Would you allow me to send some over to you?

Second Conversation (with a woman who speaks excitedly):

The patient: Hello, my dear. How's Rome?
The woman: I won't keep you long. I have to give an answer to the Italian estate agent.
The patient: Good.
The woman: We've put the palace in Rome up for sale, as we agreed, but unfortunately he's offering 20% below the market price. When the Italians found out the palace was yours they thought you must be in trouble, now they are trying to take it for a steal.
The patient: Tell them they've misunderstood. I'm not in trouble. If the palace or any other assets remain in my name, no one can do anything to me. Tell them I'm selling because I need liquidity for our companies.
The woman: That's what I said, but the buyer insists on the lower price. Should I sell or not?
The patient: Of course not.
The woman: That's what I said too. I'll tell him we're turning down his offer and insist on the asking price.

Third Conversation (with a man who speaks English with a heavy accent):

The man: Good evening, sir.
The patient: Good evening, where have you been, my friend?
Man: I'm always thinking of you but I don't like to disturb you.
Patient: You've proved you are loyal in the full sense of the word.
Man: You're a loyal friend too. I won't forget the many times when you took a stand in the interest of our country. You fought terrorism with us and helped protect our young men's lives. So I was upset when I received your message saying your life was under threat.
Patient: I'm afraid for myself because the situation is Egypt is unstable. You can't predict what might happen.
Man: We contacted our men in the U.S Government and they told us the agreements they made will remain valid. Nothing bad can happen to you. This is a commitment from us and from the Americans.
Patient: I can't thank you enough.
Man: We've also been influencing the Gulf States through the American administration.
Patient: How so?
Man: There were some Gulf governments that wanted to give aid to the Egyptian government. But we persuaded the American administration to put pressure on the Gulf monarchs to stop the aid money.
Patient: Wise move.
Man: We can't allow aid to Egypt until we're sure of its intentions towards us.
Patient: Anyone who refuses to be friends with you is either a terrorist or an ignoramus.

Fourth Conversation (with a man whose voice is old and tired):

The man: Hello, sir. How are you? I know I've been remiss-I'm sorry.
The patient: I appreciate your circumstances, God be with you. Be brave.
Man: It really is a very difficult situation. The Egyptians seem to have gone mad.
Patient:I've been following the events and I'm as surprised as you. Are they really Egyptians? They've been living in chaos for a year and yet they're still listening to what the trouble-makers say.
Man: January 25th was a shock. Millions of people in the provinces came out in support of the revolution. What a lousy revolution! The country's in ruins.
Patient: Never mind, let them be. It's they who chose anarchy. But don't listen to what those kids say: they're anarchists who want to bring down the state. Don't change anyone in the police force, the judiciary, the media or in any ministry. Those talents can't be replaced, especially the public prosecutor. Make sure you don't change him. You'll never find anyone like him.
Man: Rest assured, sir. We'll let them talk, but nothing will change.
Patient: What do they want? They got rid of their president and put him on trial. Don't they want democracy and fair elections? Well, that brought them the Muslim Brotherhood. What more do they want?
Man: Don't worry, sir. We're in full control.
Patient: But what happened in parliament? What some of the members have said makes me really anxious. Didn't you make an agreement with Sheikh Hassan? Did he go back on his word?
Man: No, Sheikh Hassan will fulfill our agreement. He explained to me that he has many members who don't know about our agreement and he has some zealous youngsters to placate.
Patient: The country's ruined. Everyone and his uncle thinks he's a leader.
Man: In the end we make the decisions and what we say goes. Nothing will change. Egypt will stay as it is. If people like it, fine; if they don't, let's see what they come up with.
Patient: You're right. You have to be tough with these people. If anyone comes close to the interior ministry or the defense ministry, open fire on them. But don't forget the people inciting them. There's any number of writers and journalists posing as leaders. They're the ones agitating the people. I'm sure you know who they are.
Man: I know who they are, sir, and they'll soon pay a heavy price.
Patient: You have to punish them, but more important is to expose them; so people know what they are really like. Tell the State Security officers to work on them.
Man: Every step we take, it's in coordination with State Security.
Patient: May God help you succeed.