I sat there beside the shed in increasing panic, staring at my right foot. It was smurf blue. My shoe and sock were removed—how and to where I didn’t know—and my pants were cut off at an angle, just above my ankle. They were perfectly cut, too—not a frayed thread. The skin on my blue foot was as smooth as glass; every hair was gone. I braced myself for pain, for burning, for the sight of blood, but none of them showed up. LaShawn knelt and examined my foot in wonder.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“My foot… my foot is blue,” I spluttered.
He lifted the cut leg of my pants to reveal my right shin, as white and hairy as ever. It was only from the ankle down that I was blue.
“My foot is blue, man,” I gasped. “Why is it blue?”
LaShawn picked up a few short lengths of copper wire by the door.
“Check this out,” he said, holding one up for me to see. Its ends glowed. “Something cut the wire, or maybe melted it. I guess that’s how your foot got loose.”
“My foot is blue.”
I laid my head back on the grass; I felt faint.
“Hey, are you all right, mate?” said LaShawn.
“Let’s get you inside,” he said.
He helped me to my feet. I think he intended to carry me, but I am a hefty lad and he had to settle for supporting me while I limped.
Inside the house, I flopped onto the couch and laid my head back on a mercilessly dense cushion. LaShawn propped my foot on the coffee table and then went to the kitchen. He returned a moment later with a bag of frozen peas, Neville. The peas had been in Budgie’s freezer for at least eight years and had long passed their expiry date. They served as an ice pack for injuries: my sprained ankle on New Year’s Eve 2013, Budgie’s broken wrist the time he bought a quad bike, LaShawn’s bruised hip from when we tried Judo moves we had seen in the Olympics, my sprained ankle on Anzac Day 2017, Rory’s black eye after his first and only attempt at juggling, Ezra’s dislocated shoulder, my sprained ankle on Anzac Day 2018 and Rory’s busted nose at our last poker night when he tried to break up a scuffle between Lashawn and Budgie. The point is, those peas had earned a name, and that name was Neville.
With Neville’s icy comfort slumped upon my foot, I began to feel better; I sat up and examined the shiny blue skin at the bottom of my right leg.
“I think I should go to the hospital,” I said.
LaShawn crouched and squinted up close at my foot. He poked my big toe with his finger.
“Does it hurt?” he asked.
“Can you move it?”
I turned my foot from one side to the other. I wiggled my toes.
“Yeah, I can move it.”
“Well, it seems okay to me,” said LaShawn.
“Okay? It’s blue. Look at it.”
“Yeah,” said LaShawn standing up with a shrug, “but lots of things are blue.”
He left the room.
“Hey!” I called after him. “This isn’t normal, man. Healthy feet don’t just turn blue. I need to get this checked out.”
“Well, just give it a minute, will ya?” he yelled back from the games room. “Give Neville a chance to work his magic. I think he deserves that much.”
I looked at Neville and sighed.
“If you’re still worried about it in an hour,” said LaShawn, re-entering the room with an old video camera, “then I’ll drive you to the hospital.”
LaShawn sat down next to the television and plugged a cord into the video camera.
“What have you got there?” I asked.
“The boys made a tape for you.”
Budgie and Rory used to make short films—ridiculous stories, corny dialogue, embarrassing production values, atrocious acting—I loved watching them. LaShawn got the latest film on screen and then hit pause.
“I have to go check the… check the brisket.” He handed me the video remote control. “Make sure you watch the whole thing.”
“Yeah, of course,” I said, grabbing the remote and making myself comfortable.
LaShawn went outside.
I pressed play.
The video began with Rory and Budgie sitting on Budgie’s couch—the very couch I was now sitting on.
“Are we on?” said Rory.
“Yep, go,” said a voice off camera (it was LaShawn’s).
“Okay,” said Rory, looking to camera. “Hey Miles, how’s it going? This isn’t going to be one of our short films—I know you like them. No, we actually need to tell you something, and this… well, this seemed the best way to do it. If all goes to plan, you’ll be watching this two months from now.”
“Or from your perspective,” added Budgie, “it will be two months since we filmed this.”
“Yeah,” said Rory. He took a deep breath. “Miles, if you’re watching this… I’m not dead.”
I leaned forward on the couch.
“Just a bit of perspective,” said Rory, “because, you know, things could have gone very differently. Anyway, I’m alive and well—I hope—and you have just helped me bust out of prison. This was planned, Miles. My imprisonment, the jailbreak, and everything else we’re about to tell you—it’s part of a mission. We couldn’t let you in on the details earlier, because we needed your help, and we weren’t sure how you would react.”
“We had a pretty good idea how you would react,” said Budgie.
“Yeah,” said Rory. “You don’t handle pressure well, Miles, when you have a lot to think about. But you do all right when you get thrown in the deep end. So we threw you in the deep end. The newspaper article, the prison visit, becoming my body double—it may all seem short notice, but we’ve had it in the works for a while now.” A huge smile spread across Rory’s face. “We’re going to end communism.”
I sat forward; Neville fell to the floor as I removed my foot from the coffee table.
Rory nodded. “We’re doing it. I know it sounds insane but hear me out.” His face became serious. “Two thirds of New Zealand’s population are in prison. Two hundred thousand are dead or missing. Hell, the government liquidated every man, woman and child in Palmerston North! They burned it to the ground and now deny the place ever existed. We have to do something. We can do something.” He put his arm around Budgie’s shoulder. “We have a secret weapon.”
Budgie nodded to camera. “You know how you’re always telling me I should write more songs?” he said. “Well, I’m taking your advice.”
“And get this—” said Rory, “he’ll be collaborating with… Dave Dobbyn’s niece!”
“You should hear her stuff, Miles,” said Budgie, looking almost as excited as Rory.
“Yeah, she’s amazing,” said Rory. “Nearly as good a songwriter as her uncle.”
Budgie shook his head. “She’s better.”
Here, Rory swung a wild backhand at Budgie, who ducked it and covered up in a defensive position. Rory rained down a barrage of crazed but ineffective punches; LaShawn ran in to break up the melee. There was swearing on all sides and accusations of treason before Rory stormed out of frame and LaShawn paused the filming. The screen went black for a second, and then the picture returned: Rory and Budgie sat on the couch again.
“Sorry about that,” said Rory, clearly still ruffled. “But you know a proud New Zealander cannot sit idly by while anyone slanders Dave Dobbyn.”
“I didn’t slander him,” said Budgie.
“Just… just don’t,” said Rory. He looked to camera. “All right, Miles, here’s how it is. We need a man inside the worst gulag in New Zealand, Nelson Prison. Prison radio is broadcast from there to every gulag in the country. That’s how we’ll reach the people. Since I’m a citizen, I can get my foot in the door. Now, it doesn’t take much effort to get sent to the gulag, but appreciate that I have to commit an offence bad enough to get sent to Nelson, but not so bad that they’ll shoot me on the spot. Once I’m in, I’ll make connections and preparations, and then I’ll break out. I’ll have to leave the country immediately—you’ll help me escape. Sound familiar? All right, here’s what you don’t know. We’re going to have you meet me at an abandoned drive-in movie theatre. There’s an old minibus there—Budgie will be waiting in the bus. I’ll give him my prison clothes, and he will sneak into the prison through the tunnel that got me out. Make sense? Once he’s in, he will slow down time while he and Annette Dobbyn co-write the song that will end communism. They broadcast it, and the walls come crashing down.” He turned to Budgie. “Hey, that’s a pretty good lyric—the walls come crashing down.”
Budgie screwed up his nose and shook his head. “I’ll write the song.”
The screen went black.
Footsteps tapped the front porch.
“Everything looks fine in the shed,” said LaShawn, entering the house. He looked at the blank T.V. screen. “Oh, you watched it then?”
I stood up and faced him, furious. “Yeah. Now would you mind explaining what the f**k they were talking about?”
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