The CIA has announced that it plans to slash 820 clandestine agents from its payroll. These are cloak and dagger men and women, and their training has probably not prepared them for a job in the private sector.

It will be tough for these people to get employment. An interview with a dress-company personnel director could go something like this:

"What did you do before?" the personnel director asks.

"I was in cloaks for 25 years," the former agent says.

"But not dresses? Why were you discharged from your previous employment?"

"I was replaced by a computer hooked up to a satellite and they told me I wasn't needed any more."

"What can you do?"

"I can transmit 120 words a minute in code from a radio no larger than a cigarette lighter."

"That's very good, but we really don't need anyone to do that in the dress business. Is there anything else you can do?"

"I can steam open an envelope, photograph the contents and seal it again so nobody will be the wiser."

"Are you saying you'd like to work in the mailroom?"

"Not exactly. But you asked me what I could do."

"We really have no need for anyone steaming open mail. Could you tell me what else you're qualified at?"

"I can put an electronic bug in a room so nobody will be able to find it."

"That sounds illegal."

"Not if it's for national security reasons." "We're in ladies' dresses. We don't have any national security clients."

"I can fix a guy's drink so he'll pass out in two minutes."

"That's interesting, but that isn't usually the way we treat our buyers."

"I'm good at breadins. I can get in and out of a place in 15 minutes and the people will never know I've been there."

"Dear me. You do have a lot of talents, but none of them seems to fit in with the needs of our company."

"Wait before you turn me down. I know how to use invisible ink. I can write 'The Lord's Prayer' on the back of a postage stamp, and no one will be able to find it."

"All we want is someone who can sell dresses."

"I can sell dresses. If a guy doesn't buy any, I knew how to eliminate him without leaving a mark on his body."

"But you can't kill a person just because he doesn't buy one of our dress lines."

"I can turn him around and have him work for us instead of for them. I've done it many times."

"You must have been in an extraordinary business before you were laid off."

"I can't talk about it. You see this pen? It looks like an ordinary pen, right? But the ink is mixed with truth serum. You spill a drop of this ink on a man's hand, and he'll start babling secrets you wouldn't believe."

"Of course we always like to know what our competitors are doing, but using a pen like that wouldn't be worth the risk."

"All right. Take a look at this filling in my tooth."

"It's a very nice filling."

"That's how much you know. It's a cap for a cyanide pill. If someone tries to get any information out of me about the price of your dresses, I go chop with my incisors and your secret dies with me."

"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you're overqualified for selling dresses, Mr. eh, eh, eh. . . "

"Torchlight Four. As in 'We hear you loud and clear, Torchlight Four. Over and out.'"