From the Bunker

Tears from a true Aussie patriot

(Our serial so far …  Secret agent 001 has infiltrated Pearly Gates Dormitory Retreat and uncovered a hotbed of geriatric sedition. The forces of evil were closing in as he pleaded for help.  How has Chief responded to his SOS?)

You’re a bonzer bloke, Chief. I don’t know how to thank you. All I wanted was a bit of a break, a short spell away from the pressure. I didn’t expect you to tee up a holiday home for me. Rent free, and all. You’re a mate, mate, there aren’t too many bosses you can say that about. 

I guess that’s why you’re the chief, Chief. You’re a reader of people. You know when one of your operatives is near breaking point. You could tell that I was right on the edge, undercover at Pearly Gates. Another week there I might have snapped.

Anyway, while we’re on the road together, cosy like this in your plush limo, it’s my chance to thank you, for all you’ve done for me. Don’t worry, I know you’ve kept a protective eye on me all these years that I’ve been with Top Secret Security. That time you sent me to Nigeria to check out whether the Ebola epidemic was a man-made outbreak deliberately created by some sneaky foreign power to put a brake on the world population explosion.

 I’m sorry, Chief, I can’t help it, it brings a tear to my eye, remembering that you personally selected and packed my protective body armour, to keep me safe from the deadly virus. No, Chief, don’t blame yourself – it wasn’t your fault that the top-of-the-range cover-all suit had a hidden flaw, that all the time I was in the disease-ridden dump, I was actually exposed to Ebola and that it was pure good fortune that I came through unscathed. I’ll never forget the way you greeted me at Sydney Airport on my return, a shattered man, tears running down your cheeks and stuck for words. How you wrapped me in a bearhug beside baggage collection and the only words you could find in your outpouring of emotion was my name. “001…001 …001,” you kept on saying, as if I had in fact perished on that assignment. 

No, I’m not crying, Chief, truly I’m not.  It’s just a bit of sinus trouble that cropped up while I was in Pearly Gates. Comes on when I’m under stress. Truly they’re not tears. At moments like this I’ve got to admit I feel like breaking down completely. You know, I could easily lose control, throw myself on your shoulder, and blubber like a baby. Sorry, Chief. Here, I’ll brush it off with my hanky. That’s how I feel about you, Chief. You are my hero. Don’t worry, I’ll pull myself together. I know I must stick to the rules, it’s vital that I rigidly follow Top Secret Security’s guidelines for emotions. I can quote them, if you like, out of the True Patriots’ Manual. 

Yes, I am an emotional person, Chief, I try to keep it under wraps. It’s the bond between us that gets me going. Looking back, Chief, I can see you were always looking out for me whenever I was facing danger. Like a big brother, almost like a father. That time years ago when you sent me to infiltrate the Russian nuclear program. How you insisted that I undertake six months intensive training before setting out for Moscow. “This is a very hazardous job,” you told my fellow agents.” We will do everything possible to safeguard 001.”

I can so quote the Manual word for word, Chief, I can. Listen to this: “Agents must never show signs of emotion over personal matters. You have been accepted into our corps on the understanding you were raised tough, in the stiff upper lip tradition. A gentle tear rolling down the cheek is permissible on occasions of national pride – the raising of our flag, the sounding of our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. Agents should not burst into tears on the rendering of Waltzing Matilda or Aussie-Aussie-Aussie, Oi-Oi-Oi, though a visible tightening of the throat, indicating restrained, almost uncontrollable emotion, is in certain cases warranted.”

Hey, Chief, are you sure our driver knows what he’s doing? It’s pretty dark out there, but somehow it looks like familiar territory. 

If you say so, Chief. Okay, I’ll just lie back and relax. I’m still a bit tense after Pearly Gates.

Chief, do you remember the hundreds of hours I put in learning the language for that Russian job? What a stuff-up! How was I to know they were teaching me Swahili, not Russian? And the botched job by those cosmetic surgeons trying to transform me into a Korean. Just sheer luck that I was turned away at the Russian border by that officious Customs official. 

If I had been allowed through and begun duties in Moscow with the Russian scientists, they would have quickly smelled a rat. A Swahili-speaking pseudo-Korean with a botched facelift might have been too much for them.  

I still remember how angry you were when I walked back disconsolate after being checked at the checkpoint. Strange that your internal inquiry into who was responsible for the Swahili bungle never turned up a perpetrator. And, of course, the cosmetic surgeons had fled. I’d like to get my hands on them. It was the end of my marriage; my wife Marsha wouldn’t believe it was me when I walked in the door and our dog Gerald attacked me.

Marsha said that even if I was me under all those funny-looking bumps on my face, she’d had enough of the marriage. “I’m getting out of here,” she told me. “Even if you are you, I’m going, 001. You’re married to Top Secret Security, not to me.” She stormed out of the house, dragging Gerald on his leash and that’s the last I’ve seen of them.

I didn’t cry, I remembered my training, I went out to the back yard and punched the lights out of the Mercedes. 

Eh? Yes, it is Top Secret’s vehicle. I paid for the repairs myself. Section F3 of the Manual – Self Inflicted Wounds and Damage.

Chief, look out there, there’s something gone horribly wrong. Can’t you see? I know this country. I’m sure of it. This is the road leading into Pearly Gates. Look! Look! There’s their sign, in plain English. Pearly Gates Dormitory Retreat 2km. We’re only two kilometres from that bloody hellhole. I’m getting very bad vibes about this, Chief. 

And look! Look! Another sign … Pearly Psychiatric. Why are you opening the car door, Chief? Take your hands off me. We’re going at 120. Chief!  Ch…i…e-e-e-e…

(This column by Mick Barnes is also on the Web in curmudgeonblog.com along with other silly and serious issues.) 

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