16 Sep

Spoiler Alert: The Break

“Spoiler Alert” is a serialized short story, coming in 13 parts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. “The Break” is part three. It’s best if you know the end first, so go to part one if you haven’t read it yet.

The guard that night was a little green. He may have been in on the scheme — I’m sure they all were to some extent — but this guy was definitely just following orders.

Somehow, David talked me into pulling my pants down and sitting on the toilet, acting like I had painful diarrhea. “Don’t worry. The guy’s not going to come over and verify.”

It was a convincing lie. What David privately knew was that the entire plan hinged on the probability of the guard opening up the cell to verify that my problem was only diarrhea and not some more sinister ailment that could land me in a hospital. Apparently, they were scared to death of an American prisoner ending up in a hospital.

“Bad PR?” I asked David later.

“In a sense, yes. The doctors aren’t quite as crooked as the police. So when a gringo ends up in the hospital, sooner or later the whole scandal gets exposed.”

He was full of fun facts, it turned out, but I was still under the impression that he’d learned all this from eavesdropping.

When I told him so, he just smiled and said, “Eavesdropping is your friend.”

If I’d been able to eavesdrop on David’s conversation with the guard, though, we may not have escaped. I’d have known immediately that David had lied to me.

I almost panicked when the guard came into the cell. I kept one eye on David, who told me to “keep moaning” and motioned to the guard’s hip where his keys hung. “He’s going to check you for signs of insect bites and dengue fever.” I was slightly miffed at having been lied to, but I was curious to see whether David could actually pick a policeman’s pocket.

And in fact, he could.

A few hours later, we simply walked out of jail. The guard wasn’t asleep; he was watching a movie — some bootleg copy of Men in Black dubbed in Spanish. We even grabbed our backpacks, which were stashed by the door, albeit missing most of their former contents, and David stole a gun.

Once outside, I was giddy. “That was amazing!”

He shushed me. “Let’s not celebrate until we’re in Guatemala.”

I expected us to head out of town, toward some trees maybe, a river. Instead, we went straight toward the city center. I was inclined to trust the guy who just got me out of prison, but I needed to have some answers. So I asked.

He said it again: “If someone had told you when you were a kid that you’d break out of a Salvadorian prison some day, would you believe them?”

“I’ve heard this question before.”

“Is your answer the same?”