Breakout: A Fable
Updated: May 7
Big John sat in his cell reading a self-help book: Thriving Behind Bars.
He heard someone whisper his name and looked up to see a familiar face standing outside his cell door.
"John. It's me- Freeman." Freeman was his old cellmate who had escaped years ago. He had never been caught.
"Freeman? What are you doing here?"
Freeman smiled roguishly.
"I didn't forget about you, brother, " he whispered. "Remember when we used to scheme about getting outta here?"
"I'm here to break you out of this prison."
"Sorry it took me so long. I had a hard time finding you. I thought you were still on C-Block," Freeman said in hushed tones.
Big John stared at Freeman in disbelief. They had often spoken about escape, but, Big John had finally resigned himself to his sentence.
"I don't know, man," he finally stammered.
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"Things have changed," Big John said.
"What are you talking about? You're still locked up."
"I got a promotion," Big John said sheepishly. "I'm chairman of the advisory committee that reports directly to the warden. Check out this view."
The east side of his cell faced the mountains.
The west side had an unobstructed ocean view.
"We gotta get you out of here."
"Sometimes, the guards let me out. They treat me like an equal."
"A prison is still a prison, brother!" Freeman said.
"It's different, now. We have a golf course and swimming pool."
"Those of us who play our cards right enjoy privileges you might not even get on the outside."
"Privileges?" Freeman said sarcastically.
"I got my own luxury suite, cable, a sauna..."
"It has a walk-in closet. My uniforms are tailor made, bruh."
Freeman shook his head in disbelief.
"And check these out... golden handcuffs with diamond studs. Only shot callers get these."
"What's good with you?" Big John asked changing the subject. "I heard you were living in a cave on an island somewhere in the Pacific."
"No, I live simply, but I'm free," Freeman said.
"Do you get back massages?" Big John asked.
"I do," Big John mumbled matter-of-factly. "What do you eat? Do you get three square meals a day?"
"No, I have to grow my own food and provide my own sustenance. It's hard work, but I enjoy it."
"I had lobster for dinner," Big John said. "Can I get you a drink? I have freshly squeezed orange juice?"
"No, we don't have time. We need to move."
"I've been moving all day. We had a Zumba class this morning. You still working out?"
"No, but I get to explore Nature unencumbered."
"I hate spiders," Big John said. "I went camping with my dad once when I was a kid. Hated it!"
Freeman looked dispirited. Big John read disappointment in his face.
"Freeman, I appreciate what you did coming back for me. But I'm OK. You should go before the guards see you. This isn't the place for you."
Freeman reached in and handed Big John a sheet of paper.
"OK, but take this. When you're ready to break out, follow this map. I'll meet you on the other side when you're ready."
"Thanks, brother." Freeman handed Big John the map and disappeared.
Big John sat on his bed and looked over the document. Two things stood out:
1. escape wasn't hard, and
2. freedom was just a half mile crawl through a sewage tunnel.
He put the paper down and peered out the barred window that had been recently replaced and upgraded with stainless steel- not like the rusty iron bars lesser prisoners had in their cells. He could see the sun setting over the ocean casting beautiful ribbons of purples, oranges, and reds. He also saw a tiny figure emerge from a large drainage sewer pipe just outside the barbed wire fence. Big John reached for the binoculars he used for birding. He recognized Freeman by his gait. Freeman was caked in mud and feces. He looked pathetic. Freeman took off his jumpsuit and dragged a canoe to the shoreline, got in, and finally paddled past the breakers after getting pummeled a few times. A few minutes later, he disappeared as if swallowed up by the sea.
Big John hated paddlesports.
Big John slipped into his favorite pajamas- the soft ones with "Big John" embroidered on the chest in Curly font. Most prisoners had their prison issued numbers on their jumpsuits. His pajamas were haute couture and #1 on Oprah's list of favorite things.
He folded the escape plan and placed it between pages of the self-help book he hadn't finished reading. As he settled in to bed, he could hear the familiar clamoring for freedom that he thought he had disappeared in soulitary confinement. There is was again, clanging on the iron bars of consciousness. He locked it away and closed his eyes to sleep.