Monday, November 16, 2009

Part 17: The McKenzie Break

"Hiding places there are innumerable,
but possibilities of escape are as many as hiding places"

~ Franz Kafka

"These prison walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them"
~ The Shawshank Redemption

Having passed the "test" and proved myself worthy, I was now being granted access to the inner sanctum. This was great because Pat provided occasional refreshments for his guests and I was always hungry. But my being chosen to be an active operative in the Chocolate Syrup Caper was not by accident. Despite my antics during the Halloween Carnival's Cabaret performance of Pete & RePete, I had demonstrated that I could be a trooper. Then came an incident that brought me into conflict with Pat Dillon some weeks later.

One afternoon a bunch of us kids were down at the gym messing around the set of an upcoming play. They had been painting scenery and there was a huge drop cloth on the stage. Some of the kids discovered that if we grabbed the ends and billowed it up, it was just stiff enough to hold its shape when you set it down and you could crawl under it. We were doing this when Pat Dillon came along and proposed we play a
hide n seek of sorts. There would be one person on the outside and the rest would be under the tarp trying to hide. The person on the outside would run across the tarp tagging the kids underneath. Each person tagged had to leave the tarp. Last person tagged was It. Pat would be It first. Things were going along fine, but because he couldn't see who he had tagged we began to scramble away to another part of the tarp that wasn't collapsed. This pissed Pat off and he began to knock us down until the taggee gave up and crawled out. Stay down! But I wouldn't give up. Like the scene in Cool Hand Luke where Paul Newman and George Kennedy duke it out, he knocked me down again and again, each time getting a little rougher, but I just kept getting up and crawling to a new spot. Stay down!

Finally he tackled me and sat on my chest, then pulled the tarp back to expose my defiant face. I struggled to get free but he weighed twice as much as I did and I couldn't move.

Stay down you stupid little jerk!
For several minutes I kept trying to get my arms out and thrashed my legs about. He just sat there watching me with a grin on his face, waiting for the fight to go out of me.
Are you done?
I nodded.
Pat stood up and grinned as he held out his hand to help me up.
Waldo, You're OK
And so the partnership began.

Theater was a big deal at Brent, the school usually producing two plays a year. For the '71-'72 school year we had "
The Drunkard", "Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs" and "Down in the Valley". The casts of these particular plays were made up of Seniors, faculty and in the case of "Down in the Valley" parents too (some of us kids were used in scenes requiring children). But Brent was a small school and they were always looking for extra hands to do the dirty work. The whole thing fascinated me and I spent my afternoons hanging out around the gym. Mr. Craig and Mr. Guerra soon had me hauling, painting and running errands for the director. As the opening night approached things got more hectic. There was a steady stream of students coming and going from the gym. One of the advantages to working on a play is that you could have permission to be out of the dorm at night. All the activity and this loophole to a strict dorm rule gave Pat an idea.
Let's go see a movie.

My heart stopped beating. what?

We will go down to the gym after supper tonight and then sneak off Campus and go see a movie. We'll be back in time for bed check.

Part of the problem with being a flunky is that occasionally you get put in the position of having to do crazy things. I had just risen to a new level in the pecking order and I didn't want to go back down. So that night after supper we signed out to go to the gym to "work on the play". Then after a few minutes of work we slipped out and worked our way across the soccer field to a hidden hole in the fence. This secret exit was well known to the Seniors and Juniors and a select few sophomores and freshmen. And now me.

It seemed like it took forever crawling along the fence to that hole. Then we were through and we hurried down along Brent Road keeping to the ditch, past the Pink Sisters Convent. We caught a cab at the end of the road downtown to the Pines Theater. We bought tickets to see
Rio Lobo.

I had a hard time enjoying the movie, I was way too nervous to pay attention. We sat in the balcony and every time I glanced over at Pat he was calm, cool and collected. As the minutes went by I became more anxious till finally Pat leaned over and said let's go.

We retraced our route, catching a cab back to the bottom of Brent Road, keeping in the dark as we walked along the ditch. A taxi came up behind us just as we passed the convent and we dove into the ditch. The car pulled up at the Brent gate and some people got out and started talking to the guards and pointing in our direction.
Teachers! Pat hissed through his teeth
. Hurry!

We quickly scrambled through the hole and raced across the field in the darkness. Behind us a guard was slowly walking down the road shining his flashlight in the ditch along the fence. We scurried behind the gym and raced down the path that led to the Infirmary. There we parted ways. I was
signed in and in bed before Mr Swanson came to do the bed check. I was thinking never again, never again, never again.

The next day we watched as the hole in the fence was being patched, eliminating an illegal route off campus. The Seniors were not too happy at these developments, but as word spread of our exploits I discovered I was a celebrity! Even though the escape route had been discovered, not getting caught was everything, so our expedition was viewed as successful. Pat was happy and more adventures for us were in store.
Over the next four years, I only snuck off campus two more times . I found there were easier ways around the rules and more exciting places to sneak off to on campus.

No comments:

Post a Comment