Fast and Loose
elcome to “Dateline: Pounder County.” I’m your host, Bob Butler. This evening our guest is Warden O.A. Gilroy of the Harkness State Penitentiary. Warden—welcome.
Warden: Delighted to be here, Bob. My wife loves your show.
Butler: Let’s talk about last night’s prison break.
Warden: I knew you were gonna say that!
Butler: How many inmates escaped?
Warden: We don’t know yet.
Butler: Just roughly.
Warden: Even one is too many, Bob. I could barely get to sleep last night.
Butler: Give me a number.
Warden: Nine hundred and forty.
Butler: So, all the prisoners.
Warden: We can’t say that for sure. There could be a couple hiding in the laundry — or more likely, the snack room!
Butler: Nine hundred and forty escaped prisoners. Is that a record?
Warden: I would think so. You’d have to ask a historian. Is it “a” historian or “an” historian? ’Cause they both sound wrong!
Butler: How in God’s name could so many convicts escape?
Warden: Well, when we slow down the security video, it clearly shows them rushing out the front gate.
Butler: Just rushing out.
Warden: Or in some cases, skipping.
Butler: The gate was open?
Warden: Yes it was. It was propped open, so its hinges could be oiled.
Butler: Propped open. So nearly a thousand dangerous criminals got loose —
Warden: I don’t know how much you know about hinges, Bob. But if hinges don’t get oil, first they make a horrible squeaking. Eventually they seize up, and then you have a huge and very heavy iron gate breaking off and crashing to the ground. I don’t think any sane person wants that.
Butler: OK. So the prisoners go through the gate…
Warden: Not through the gate. Through the gateWAY. Only Casper can go through a gate!
Butler: Fine. So now they’re in the parking lot. Don’t you have guard dogs? Don’t you have towers manned with sharpshooters?
Warden: Of course we do. Our guard dogs were on vacation. So that’s the story with them. And by the time our sharpshooters could get over their confusion and butterflies and whatnot, the prisoners were long gone.
Butler: How is that possible?
Warden: They had golf carts.
Butler: (confounded noise)
Warden: I know, I had the same reaction. Hundreds of golf carts. It’s like something out of a science fiction movie.
Butler: Didn’t anyone notice hundreds of golf carts sitting around?
Warden: Notice, yes. Do anything about, no.
Butler: So the convicts had help on the outside.
Warden: It certainly looks that way. One theory is girlfriends. The other is golfing buddies.
Butler: Is Harkness a high-security prison?
Warden: We thought it was! (chortles, slaps knee)
Butler: So now we have mobs of felons roving Pounder County. Are these men violent?
Warden: Oh, very violent. The other day one of ‘em bit me! (pulls up his shirt to show Bob)
Butler: Have you captured anyone?
Warden: In what sense?
Butler: Caught. Apprehended.
Warden: Not as such, no. But a major manhunt is on. We’re combing the entire region.
Butler: I’m surprised to hear that, because just this afternoon, I saw at least a dozen convicts, still in their orange jumpsuits, over at the Lamplighter.
Warden: Come on.
Butler: Right across from the prison. Drinking beer, and eating popcorn with Worcestershire sauce.
Warden: You’re funnin’ me.
Butler: I’m not. It was frightening.
Warden: You’re funnin’ me. Cons don’t have any cash.
Butler: They paid with threats.
Warden: (chuckles) That’s a con for ya!
Butler: I’ll be blunt with you, Warden. People are saying this whole affair stinks to high heaven.
Warden: (stiffens) They are, huh? (takes out cigarettes) Okay to smoke in here?
Warden: Could I have some water?
Butler: It’s there, by your elbow.
Warden: Cool, cool water. (takes a long swig) How’re we doin’ on time?
Butler: Warden, I’m just going to ask you straight out: Was this entire prison break staged?
Warden: Whoa, whoa, hold the phone there! I agree, the whole thing looks very strange. Especially when you consider that the state is in budget trouble. But allowing a bunch of vicious thugs to bust out, just to save 50 or 60 million a year -– that’s crazy.
Butler: So you’ve heard the rumors.
Warden: Sure, we all have. But the idea that my guards and I would take a retirement package so the prison could be sold off to a Bible college — it’s just bizarre.
Butler: Without a doubt. But is it true?
Warden: (heavy sigh) Yeah…and here comes the guilt wave. Woosh!
Butler: Well, now we are out of time. Folks, thanks for watching, and please: Be careful out there. ◊
This piece originally appeared in The American Bystander #1.