I have a secret, that I am about
to impart to you, even though it will unfortunately no longer be secret.
It's a hard thing to do, to make public something which for years we kept
from our loved ones, lawyers, and tax accountants, so bear with me.
First, I'll explain the reason for breaking the vow of silence. We started out calling ourselves the Secret Six. The reason for that--well actually it's secret--no wait, we've agreed that I could tell a select few... We were called the Secret Six, because there were six of us, and we thought the name sounded cool and mysterious at the same time. Maybe not as good as The Magnificent Seven, but still... The problem is, now there are only 3 of us, so the name is not only meaningless, but silly. And there aren't any of us that are spring chickens, so we're looking for a few good agents to join us.
We started back in the sixties,
when spies were everywhere, and communism was still a contender.
There were six of us banjoists recruited by a super secret agency in charge
of keeping tabs on folk musicians. No one generally pays banjoists
any mind, so we successfully infiltrated some of the most secure folk groups
in America. Some of us even got recording contracts. But when
the folk scare was over and the folk market collapsed, we were told we
would become an inactive spy cell, and not to call them, they'd call
on us as needed. That did happen occasionally... One thing
I was never sure of was if we were working for the communists or the capitalists,
now that I think about it...
But we had a few minor uses in ending the cold war--the Berlin Wall falling--that was probably us, although our methods must remain secret. But mostly we worked maintaining our cover--which was playing banjos in nursing homes. The system was this: we'd go into a nursing home, and they'd wheel the more sentient ones into the recreation area, and we'd play a bunch of the old songs everyone loves like "Five Foot Two." In fact, "Five Foot Two," besides being our most popular number, was the cue for one of us to go into the bathroom, and check the toilet paper for secret messages.
We could do this because, if there are six banjos playing, no one notices if one (or two or three) drops out, particularly when playing at nursing homes. The toilet paper system was good, although occasionally someone got there before us, so half of the instructions were missing. In case of infiltration, we were instructed to flush first, and ask questions later.
The time I'm remembering, I went in the bathroom at the arranged time. We had a strict rotation system, and it was my turn to be the active agent. There was no apparent message on the toilet paper, but I did see a magazine in the rack next to the toilet paper. It was Life Magazine, and the back cover had an attractive looking scantily clad woman, with the message, "Smoke Kools." I didn't think it was just coincidence that Kool was my brand. I took out the package, and shook out a cigarette. On the side was written, "Get package at Post Office."
The job of the rest of the Secret Six for this operation was to cover for me, so I felt confident to climb out the bathroom window, and head to the Post Office, smoking a Kool (disposing of the secret instructions) on the way. Having seen spy movies, I knew the appropriate way to get there was to run across 6 lanes of traffic to get to my hot sports car, then to jump out of it and and run and grab onto a fleeing helicopter, commandeering it and throwing the pilot out the door to some waiting sharks. Unfortunately we're kind of rural, so I did the rural thing and just walked across the street to the Post Office.
"Hi Phil," said the postmaster, as he handed me a package. "Door get stuck at the Home? I noticed you were climbing out the window."
The Secret Six have no codewords to distinguish us. We already know who we are anyway. But we were never sure who our "handlers" were. Some of the requests we got seemed mundane, and some just plain odd. Was the Postmaster more than just the postmaster? And which side was he on?
"Yeah, it was stuck, but I got it fixed, no problemo," I said, holding up the package and waggling my eyes significantly.
"Better get some Murine for your eyes," he said.
I set off immediately for the drug store. Espionage is a subtle business, and you never know what might be important. I looked at every bottle of Murine in the store, and there didn't seem to be any secret messages. After carefully studying everything else in the drug store for an hour or so, I went outside for another smoke. The next cigarette had a message like the first. "Take package home." I looked around on the shelves, and located where I'd left the package. Good thing the "chief" thought of everything.
I thought taking the package home an odd objective for a spy. But, ours is not to reason why...
I stopped back at the nursing home, and joined in the final rousing Irene Goodnight, grabbed my banjo and headed for home. When I got there, Alice was waiting for me.
"Did you get my package at the Post Office?" she asked.
"Your package?" I looked at the address label. Sure enough, it was her package. I gave it to her.Later I got to wondering. Is Alice another agent? Or maybe even the chief? Then what about the rest of the Secret Six... That time in Spring when Herman had to dig up his whole garden plot to locate a special microfiche bottlecap. He never did find the bottle cap, but he still got a congratulatory message from the chief, on his own roll of toilet paper.
I asked Alice about it once, but if she's in the spy business, she's tight lipped about it. She only said, "you're just jealous because women are better at networking than men."
I'm not jealous. I don't even know what she was talking about...
|7. The Ravine Runner||8.
|11. The Secret Six||12.
|13. The Old School|
Lost in the City
The Curse of
Pirates of the Puget Sound
Building a platform, plank by plank
How I spent
Help I am trapped
in the future
Nose of Death