The Spy Who Loved Me
It was a common sight that summer, the old refrigerator box moving upright across the lawn.
To the untrained eye it was a free-spirited box, pouncing upon puffball mushrooms and chasing fireflies with unmistakable good cheer. But what the untrained eye did not realize was that this wasn’t just childhood whimsy; this was a mission of the highest caliber, one that demanded both stealth and discretion.
You see, Sister Madly was utterly convinced that her neighbor, Harry, was a Russian spy.
It was not an easy conclusion to reach as the classic signs of Russian pride were absent, such as fur hats and vodka parties, and bowls of borscht on a Saturday night. But there was no mistaking the subtler signs, the ones sadly overlooked by the federal government: the mowing of the lawn before 7 AM; the cans of fruit cocktail he gave to children on Halloween; the disapproval when Sister Madly’s hula hoop got stuck in his tree ‘yet again.’ Yet the incident that all but confirmed Harry’s Soviet sympathies was the night questionable music drifted from the shed tucked away behind his house.
A song that referenced alien abduction.*
* Come Sail Away by Styx
All the music that ever mattered could be found at the roller rink, sandwiched between Roxette’s Joyride and the closing anthem of We Are the World. But this little ditty which encouraged extra-terrestrial naughtiness was nowhere to be found at these skating parties, leading Sister Madly to the obvious conclusion that the song was a code to be deciphered.
Even though the word ‘alien’ never appears in the song, by simply mentioning a starship, the aliens are implied- which was a clever move on the part of the Russians. The ‘alien’ was without a doubt Harry as he proved himself a stranger by strangely suggesting that Sister Madly was not using her hula hoop properly since she kept getting it stuck up in the tree.
As for the starship, there was no such craft parked in his driveway, nor on the street in front of his house. Obviously Harry had the craft hidden away, which could only mean that the starship was inflatable. Yes, somewhere on that property there was a zeppelin stuffed into a coffee can, ready to be inflated and deployed at a moment’s notice- and that moment was approaching. Clearly this was the message hidden in the song. A brilliant lot, them Russians.
And just as Sister Madly was congratulating herself on the cracking of this code, there came a polite knock on the side of her box.
But it wasn’t Harry; it was her dad. And it seemed that after days of watching the refrigerator box amble through it’s many misadventures, he managed to work up just enough curiosity to ask what it was that Sister Madly was doing.
Maybe she should tell him about Harry- after all, when it came to fighting international spies, her dad was probably a bit more capable than she.
To her surprise, the Pater Madly did not seem particularly threatened by the Russians; in fact, he seemed to imply that his greatest foes were a bit little closer to home- the bats living in the chimney, for example. And the wasp’s nest.
Sister Madly had to admit that she did not know which country was currently #1 on the International Espionage Watch List. Perhaps Russia was so last Tuesday. Perhaps another nation was now a greater threat, someplace mysterious and largely unfathomable- like Paducah.
But just as it was with Russia, the badges of Kentucky pride were absent, such as silver spurs. Harry didn’t wear silver spurs, not even with his comfy, tasseled loafers. But he did whistle now and then, to prove his good cheer. Yes, Paducah was a possibility.
Not only was her dad remarkably unconcerned, he was amused, which made Sister Madly wonder if he was a spy as well. After all, he made ice tea in the old apple juice jars, and in the refrigerator one couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Because of this, Sister Madly was often given ice tea ‘by mistake’- which is just the thing a spy would do, in her opinion.
The Pater Madly, however, did nothing to deny – or defend – his ties with Russia (or those with Paducah, for that matter.) Instead, he simply informed Sister Madly that he had gotten her hula hoop out of the tree.
And on the advice of her father, Sister Madly did her best not to get the hula hoop stuck up in Harry’s tree- if her dad was doing his part to improve relations with Russia, she might as well do hers.
She got it stuck on the roof of the garage instead.
THEME SONG: Come Sail Away, Styx
4) Paula Strahan