LaShawn listened with neither a word nor a judgmental look for ten minutes while I expressed my bamboozlement and displeasure. I marched about the living room, frustration causing my arms to flail and my voice to reach shrieking pitch at least thrice (that’s one, Rory). At the end of my miserable tirade, LaShawn just nodded, looked down and pointed, and said, “Your foot’s not blue anymore.”
Seeing my foot back to its natural hue calmed me.
I sat at the kitchen table in mild shock, silently trying to process the information that had rattled me. LaShawn made us both a coffee, and then joined me at the table.
“Here you go, mate,” he said, sliding a red mug in front of me. “Get that into you.”
“No thanks,” I said. I hate coffee.
Seeing I was now sedate enough to handle an explanation of the situation, LaShawn attempted one. He assured me that there was indeed a plan in motion to overthrow the New Zealand government and end the communist plague that had, to politely paraphrase him, sodomised the country to within an inch of its life. The prison break last night was Step Four in the plan. The next step was just what was told me in the video: send Budgie to prison in Rory’s place. I dropped my head into my palms.
“That’s insane,” I said. “It’s… impossible.”
“Impossible?” said LaShawn. “I’m surprised to hear you using that word.”
(He and I had seen our share of “impossible” things, but that’s another story.)
“So, Budgie is really in Nelson Prison?” I said.
“Yeah, he went in last night, after you and Rory left.”
“But that… I mean… He looks nothing like Rory. They’ll spot him right away and kill him.”
“Nah, it’s okay. He has Rory’s prison pyjamas, remember?”
“Pyjamas? What difference does that make? Budgie is four inches shorter than Rory. He has an English accent. Good grief, did he at least shave his head?”
“Ha! You know Budgie would never cut his hair.”
(A “gut feeling” had convinced Budgie he was a direct descendent of Samson from the bible. You know, the super strong guy—had long hair, married Delilah, had his eyes gouged out? Yeah, well, Budgie thought that was his distant ancestor, and so he never cut his hair in case he lost his power like Samson did. Budgie didn’t know what great power he possessed, but he sure wasn’t going to forfeit it for a haircut.)
“Rory escaped that prison half-starved,” I said. “And you sent in Budgie, who is fit as a fiddle, with forearms like Popeye?”
LaShawn nodded and sipped his coffee. (Why would you want to ingest burning liquid?)
“Rory had his head shaved,” I continued, “and you sent in the ginger Rapunzel?”
LaShawn set his mug down and grinned.
“You’re not listening,” he said. “Budgie is wearing Rory’s prison pyjamas. They have his prison number on them.”
“The guards go by the numbers,” he explained. “If Budgie is wearing Rory’s prisoner number, then as far as the guards are concerned, he is Rory.”
“But they will be able to tell he’s not.”
LaShawn shook his head. “They will be able to tell, but they won’t say anything. To say there has been a mistake is to say there is a flaw in the government’s system. You know what happens to those who question the government.”
“They get shot.”
“Shot, drowned, hanged, disappeared and erased—take your pick. The guards won’t dare mention that state prisoner N-24601 is now a different person. They won’t even report the prison break. Officially, it never happened. The government does not make mistakes, remember? The Glorious Leader is never wrong. Communism is paradise, comrade.”
I nodded and gave a chuckle.
“All right, then,” I said, sliding my coffee aside (the smell was nauseating), “so Budgie won’t be shot for being an imposter, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to survive—it’s a bloody gulag. Rory barely made it six weeks in there.”
“You’re not giving us much credit,” said LaShawn. “You think we didn’t plan for that?”
“Go on. What’s the plan?”
He gave me a weird look. “It was in the video. Did you even watch it all like I told you?”
“I watched it all.”
“Well it’s just like Rory said—once Budgie is inside, he’ll slow down time.”
I waited while he took another sip. He set his mug down and stared at me.
“Well?” I said.
“Do you want to explain what he meant by slowing down time?”
“Just what it sounds like.”
“Yeah, but how?” I said, my voice rising. “What does that even mean?”
“Oh, okay, I see. Well, you know how Nils is a whiz when it comes to technology?”
“You’ve told me.”
“Yeah, well, he fixed Budgie up with some gear—it’s called, uh… Proximal Relativity… Displacers? No—Disruptors. Proximal Relativity Disruptors. Is that it? I can’t remember, but it’s something like that.”
I stared at LaShawn.
“Yeah, so, it’s pretty hi-tech stuff,” he continued. “Nils explained it to us. I didn’t really understand all the details, but Budgie got it all right. You know how good he is with that sort of thing.”
“Yeah, I know. But that’s not setting my mind at ease.”
LaShawn looked up at the ceiling and scratched his neck, or what you might call the oesophagus region (that’s two). “Okay, well Nils put it this way for me—Einstein said relativity is like if a young man spent an hour with his girlfriend it would feel like only five minutes, but if he held his hand on a hotplate for five minutes it would feel like an hour.”
I thought about that. “Hmm, true. That’s pretty clever, actually.”
“Right? So, the Proximal Relativity Distractors—”
“Right—Disruptors. They look like… urns or something. You set them up and they form a perimeter, then when you activate them, time inside the perimeter is different to time outside. So, if you’re within the disruption zone you’re like the young man with his girlfriend, while outside, everyone else is like the young man with his hand on the stove. Or is it the other way around? I don’t know. You get the idea though.”
“I think so. So… if Budgie sets those things up in his prison cell, he could be there six months, but it would only feel like a week. Is that it?”
“No, the opposite. He could spend week there and it would feel like six months.”
“Why would he want that?” I said.
“For the song,” said LaShawn. “He needs time to write the song.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about the song.”
“It was all in the video. Budgie might only have to survive a few days in prison, but inside the Proximal Relativity Disruptors, he will have all the time he needs to write the perfect song.”
As I mentally digested the mini science lesson, LaShawn drained the last half of his coffee and then got up from the table.
“You want another one?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I didn’t want the first one. I don’t like coffee.”
“You’ll come around,” he answered.
“And this song he’s going to write—you think it will make a difference?”
“All the difference,” said LaShawn. “Once that song is broadcast to every prison in New Zealand… it’s all over.”
“That’s a lot of faith to place in a song.”
“Why shouldn’t we?”
“Why?” I said. “Because it has never worked before. Give Peace a Chance? How much peace did that song inspire? None at all.”
“Yeah, but that was John Lennon.”
“If you wanted to change the world, would you get John Lennon to write the song?”
“No,” I said. “Fair point. But what about Budgie? I know he’s good, but communism-toppling good?”
“Wait and see,” said LaShawn. The kettle whistled. “And remember, it’s not just Budgie. He’s co-writing.”
“Oh yeah. Dave Dobbyn’s… niece?”
“Yeah, niece,” said LaShawn. He sat back down with a fresh mug of coffee.
“And how is she going to get into the prison?”
“She’s already there.”
“She’s been there three months. Got locked away for writing a song disparaging the Glorious Leader.”
“Yeah. It was something like this…”
LaShawn went on to sing the song Annette Dobbyn wrote. It was more of a dirty limerick really, describing the Glorious Leader doing certain unsavoury things in a place you would not expect. It had me in tears, laughing so hard. I’d love to share it with you, but it is disturbing. Once you hear it, you can’t get the image out of your head. And I’d hate for any children to stumble upon this page and read such filth. If you really want to hear it, you could probably find it on the internet somewhere. You have been warned though.
After I wiped the tears from my face and the last laugh subsided, I said to LaShawn, “Oh man, that is a great song. I’m surprised they didn’t kill her for it.”
“Ah, well, she’s a Dobbyn—New Zealand royalty. They couldn’t just shoot her for a song.”
“I only hope she’s as good a songwriter as her uncle,” I said.
“She’s better,” said LaShawn.
“Don’t let Rory hear you say that.”
“So, do you trust our plan now?”
I nodded. “All right, you’ve convinced me. Hey, if it has a chance of freeing New Zealand of communism, I’m all for it.”
“To ending communism,” said LaShawn, raising his mug.
I grabbed my mug and raised it. “To ending communism.”
We clinked our cups together and then drank. I spat my mouthful of coffee back into the mug.
“That tastes disgusting.”
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