My friend lives in one of those gated communities that are reminiscent of a POW camp, albeit it one with nicer huts and fewer guard towers.
We were walking around the inside perimeter when I began to get serious…
“OK, so who’s Big ‘X’ here anyway?” I asked.
“Big who?” he said.
“You know – ‘Big X’ – the officer in charge of escape activities?” I said.
“You’ve been watching The Great Escape again, haven’t you?” he said.
“Noooooo,” I answered, with monumental untruthfulness. One gets inured to lying when you’re behind barbed wire, or decorative landscaping. “I think I can help you with tunneling if you need it. How are your forged documents coming along?”
“You idiot – we are not in a POW camp and we don’t need fake documents! We have real documents like my drivers license here – see?” he said.
“Wow – this looks real! It must have cost you a fortune in bribes to get it. What about maps, train tickets, foreign worker permits, that sort of thing?” I asked.
“All right – I’ll play along. We have a secret workshop where inmates toil for hours on forged passports. When the guards come around they all pretend to be a bird watching club, drawing birds.” he said.
“Brilliant!” I said. “What a great cover! I notice you have ice cream trucks roaming around – obviously to cover the noise of tunneling. What do you do with the dirt from the tunnels?”
“We mix it in with the topsoil in our flower beds. The guards haven’t noticed.” he said.
“Good, good. Now, the people I saw leaving out the front gate on work parties – we could try and work some sort of diversion and perhaps one or two of them could bolt under the noses of the guards.” I said.
“Well, Fred there wanders off all the time. They really call out the troops when that happens.” he said. “They usually find him down the street at the peeler bar. I know because I’m usually with him. ”
“Ingenious! We have to bring the fight to the enemy and by tying up his troops it means they can’t contribute to the war effort. Excellent! Now – have you begun the 3rd tunnel yet? I think it should go from your hut here, under the wall, and up on the other side, just beyond the sidewalk. What do you think?” I asked.
“You’re a loonie is what I think. But just to make you feel better, I’ll tell you that we’re re-tiling the bathroom so perhaps I could put in a trap door there” he said.
“Good idea” I said.
Later, as we approached the main gate, the guards were eying me suspiciously. One of them, wearing a yellow jacket, his insignia gleaming, approached me.
“Excuse me, sir?” he said. “Could you sign in please? We like to keep track of our visitors here.” He said.
“I’ll bet you do” I said under my breath. “You’re going to put me in the cooler for three weeks aren’t you?” I asked.
“Beg pardon sir? Cooler? I don’t know what you mean. We draw someone’s name each week from our visitors list and they get…”
“Tortured! I knew it!” I exclaimed.
“…a free coffee and fritter at the donut shop down the street…” he said.
I took a chance and bolted before he could continue, waiting for the crack of rifles as I leaped over the wall and made good my escape.
Travelling only at night, eating the odd potato from back yard gardens, and taking the number 9 bus, I made it all the way home.
I hope the announcement of this triumph boosts the morale of the people back in the camp.
In the meantime, I’ve got to go hide some hacksaw blades inside a Red Cross parcel. We have got to get those poor people out of captivity!