In the galleries above, I was taken from room to room and looked over rather carelessly. After lifting my eyelids with a button hook, a young man with a militarybearing saw that I had no trachoma. Someone else made me cough and breath. I had to take off my clothes and turn around several times. In another room, a big fat man asked if I could bend over. “Why?” Iasked in turn, thinking that the only reason he wanted to know was because he himself would never be able to do such a thing. “Is it that everyone who comes to America has to be able to bend over?”“Yes,” he said.
“Because when we sing our national anthem, we bend over. Now do it or I’ll send you back to Serbia.”
“I on’t come from Serbia,” I protested.
“Exactly,” he said. “Butif I want to, I can ship you yhere, so you’d better do as I tell you.”
I bent over and was passed on to the next room.
There, a pretty young woman with cold eyes asked me if I knew how to read andwrite.
“Of course,” I said.
“What languages?” she asked.
When I replied, “ Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, German and French –and English, as you can seen,” she got very suspicious and asked me what I didfor a living.
“I write books,” I said. Little did I know that in America no one ever believes this. She looked at me the way one looks at a madman.
“What kind of books?” she asked sharply, closingone eye and squinting with the other.
“Stories,” I replied pompously, “essays, dissertations on Biblical poetry, political science, et cetera, et cetera”.
“How can you make a living by doing this?”she inquired, with evident disgust.
“That’s very perceptive of you, “I said with a broad smile. “I can’t.”
“Turn around,” she commanded. She made a letter on my back with a piece of chalk andmotioned for me to leave. “Next!” she shouted.
“What’s that for?” I asked, trying to see what she had written.
“Nothing,” she said, and pushed me into the hall.
By this time I was elated. I imagined...