Daylight was seeping into the room when I awakened. Absence of any activity sounds outside indicated it must still be quite early morning. There being no urgent reasons to do otherwise I remained comfortably on the ledge for a time just appreciating a completely rested feeling. Even when thoughts of my circumstance began to creep into my conscious, none seemed worrisome. In fact, one of the first was the pleasurable thought that Konrad had probably not slept and rested nearly so well as I. The look of frustration on his face after striking me came vividly to mind, and generated thoughts of the probable reactions to that of the several witnesses. He had definitely "lost face" with all of them and obviously had realized it. And he had done so in circumstance and manner which could be detrimental to his apparent ambitions to advance in the Party. There was even the possibility that the fellow in the gabardine uniform, who must certainly have been from headquarters at Pyoktong, might have chastised him a bit for it after my own eviction from the scene. Yes, there were several reasons why Konrad may not have slept so well as I that night.
The sight of my rice bowl on the ledge shortly beyond my feet raised wonder if I’d be served any breakfast. The sound of voices outside the door drew my attention from that. Shortly it opened and Konrad leaned in far enough to place a bowl of rice on the top step, followed by some small object alongside of it. He did not appear as he did so to look toward the corner where I was lying. The door closed as soon as Konrad had withdrawn and the log was emphatically leaned back against it.
When I went to get the rice I noted the body of the rat about two feet from the steps and decided its disposal could wait until after breakfast. The item beside the rice bowl was a few small sheets of paper and a well-sharpened stub of pencil. On the top sheet was printed: "YOU MUST REALIZE YOUR MISTAKE."
A study of my surroundings was made during the leisurely breakfast. It was the typical, dug-out kitchen. The ground level ledge I was sitting on extended around on the west side terminating at the door. The cooking pot which would have been at center base of the north wall was of course no longer there, leaving just a gaping hole; the beginning of the horizontal flue which would originally have fed into a chimney at north end of the building. That chimney I knew was no longer there, apparently having been removed or collapsed and covered when the terrace on which the Little Schoolhouse stood was constructed. The old flue was still of some interest however, in case I might be kept here long enough to consider going into it and prying up through the top of it into one of the two rooms north of the kitchen that I had noticed were still used for some purpose. I remembered how thin the mud and rock floor had been above such a flue in the middle room at Pak’s Palace.
Finished with breakfast, I picked up my own bowl from the ledge beneath the boarded-over window, placed it in the now empty one and set them on the step for whoever might come to retrieve them. The little stack of note paper, with the pencil set aside, seemed to be an appropriate place to put the dead rat. I doubted that Konrad would sense as I did a sort of correlation with what he had printed on the top sheet "you must realize your mistake." The fellow had never impressed me as having much sense of humor; especially not when we had parted last night.
There was sufficient of space between the vertical boards of the front door to provide a quite wide view outside of it. It was possible through one of the cracks to see the door of Konrad’s office on the east side of the headquarters building, which might prove to be convenient. At the moment there was only a sentry idling in the open space between my special quarters and the headquarters. I returned to the comfortable corner of the ledge to do some thinking and await further developments. The first "further development" was a call of nature. So I returned to the door and called "ta-bien" to the sentry. He came at once, removed the log, opened the door and escorted me to the nearby latrine. My first thinking after return from that was about Konrad’s note on the top sheet of paper saying, "You must realize your mistake."
Obviously it was his intention that I should write something to that effect on one or more of the other sheets. It was at once mindful of the initial experience at Pak’s Palace; a note from "Four Eyes" directing "Write all you know about" something or other; after which would come instructions to explain or give further detail. But there was an important difference. Four Eyes was only following a procedure designed to start the prisoner in the progressive process of doing whatever he was told in order to qualify for the "lenient treatment." Konrad had some of his own personal interests at stake; possibly even the prospect of losing his job. Beyond his "loss of face" in the eyes of the two soldiers, the presence of the Korean couple as witnesses might have made his performance detrimental to the relationship between the "Chinese Peoples Volunteers" and the Korean populace, which was apparently somewhat tenuous otherwise. It was in any case evident that Konrad wanted to avoid further direct confrontation with me. Which was reason enough to ignore the note until such time as he would be compelled to speak to me about it.
There were thoughts of the possible need to work out some manner of exercise schedule, if I might be kept in this place for an extended time. There was enough room for some walking around on the floor. But there was a bit of litter there, nothing to brush it aside with except a foot, and the first such move revealed an unseemly accumulation of dust. Increase of daylight seepage into the room enabled further investigation of the flue. Though dusty, it remained open for fifteen or more feet, and large enough to easily crawl in for that distance. So the next room might be accessible via that route if something, even a stick, could be acquired for opening a hole up through its floor. And I recalled having seen a number of soldiers emerging from that room one day carrying books, as though it might sometimes be used as a classroom. Some sound and motion outside the door sent me scurrying back to the comfortable corner of the ledge.
The log against the door was advantageous for me, in that it had to be removed before the door could be opened. When it opened Konrad leaned in looking down at the step. The rat atop the papers appeared first to catch his eye. He picked it up by its tail and tossed it out behind him, put the pencil back atop the papers, then picked up the two bowls and withdrew without even an apparent glance in my direction. As soon as the door closed and the sentry began replacing the log I hurried to view the further action outside. . Konrad pointed at the rat and spoke to the guard, probably telling him to dispose of it, then went on to his office.
There was further satisfaction in Konrad’s avoidance of even looking for me in the room. He would have to both look and speak before I would provide any written response to that note on the top sheet of paper, even though I had already figured out what the first such response would be. Obviously, it was now Konrad, rather than I, who was on trial . He needed to get some manner of concession (or confession) from me to atone for his gross mishandling of the matter last night. And it would have to meet the approval of someone at Pyoktong. So he would likely have to take anything which I provided to Pyoktong for review, quite as he had made several trips there to get answers to the questions we had posed during the "discussion" sessions he had conducted in the Little Schoolhouse. So while he was unquestionably able to restrict my physical activities, I could probably gain a measure of revenge by controlling some of his.
There would be need, of course, to figure out some worthwhile mental things for myself to do in my physically restricted circumstance. But there seemed to be no great rush for that at the moment. Rather it was a pleasure to further enjoy the not completely understood sense of well-being. which had been with me the night before just prior to going to sleep. There was that wonderment again as to why, after so many Providential things had seemed to be in place to help me on the way, they suddenly stopped; allowing my recapture and return to here. Yet the sense of well being remained and along with it acceptance that there must be a good reason for the overall experience, including my recapture, which I would probably come to understand somewhere in the future.
The door opened about noontime and a soldier leaned in to set two bowls on the step. He looked at me, pointed at one of the bowls and said , "kai schwi;" then withdrew with a nod in response to my, "sheh-sheh ni." So what matter that the officer of the guard had for some reason an intense dislike of me. Respect of the guard soldiers was far more important to keep one’s durance from becoming vile. And rice and water were certainly as good prison ration as bread and water; perhaps even a bit more nourishing. So I brought both bowls to my comfortable corner and began a leisurely lunch.
But that was interrupted shortly by some new sounds outside the door which seemed to demand attention. I left both bowls on the ledge and hurried to see what was happening. It was only changing of the guard, but an especially interesting scene. The oncoming sentry was the pock-faced soldier who had escorted me to and stood behind me during the "night court" session with Konrad. And by the time I reached the door he was telling the other soldier about it. Though I could understand very few of his words, his accompanying pantomime was vivid. And during it he referred to me as "Mequadi gunrhu" (?) (American soldier) , rather than the derogatory term, "po-do," which they were instructed to use and which means "utterly defeated."
When mimicking Konrad he spoke sharply, increasing to angrily; depicting my actions in between as standing erect and speaking softly. A sharp swing of his arm emphasized his apparent mention of Konrad striking me. After which he snapped erect again and said with a quick turn of his head, "Mequadi gun-rhu ptu-ii!" I wondered, as the two of them laughed together and I returned to finish my lunch, if Konrad had sense enough to realize how quickly that story would be known to every soldier in the guard company. And my amazing feeling of well-being intensified still more.
Konrad came to the door again during the afternoon, peered down at the untouched papers, picked up the two empty bowls and withdrew; again without appearing to even glance in my direction. A soldier brought my rice and water that evening and on the following morning. A different soldier came at noontime, and after placing the bowls on the step picked up the pencil and top sheet of paper, replaced them after looking at the still blank next sheet. He looked at me, then, but said nothing and at once withdrew. I hurried to the door as the sentry replaced the log. The other soldier went immediately and knocked on the door of Konrad’s office. When it opened he spoke briefly. Konrad looked out, including a glance in the direction of the door of my confinement, then said a few words to the soldier and withdrew into his office.
Since this was apparently going to be something of a waiting game, I spent that afternoon giving some thought to the manner of mental activities I might occupy myself with until and probably after Konrad would confront me with verbal instructions to write something to prove that I "realized" my mistake. An immediate worthy subject was review of lessons learned from this first escape venture which needed to be applied in the next one. There was little likelihood of an opportunity to try again this summer, but the way things were going at the so-called peace talks we would still be here next summer unless there was a change in policy makers back in Washington and New York.
The sound of footsteps and voices outside the east wall interrupted my thoughts on that. The residents of the Little Schoolhouse were going for exercise in the big schoolyard and then bathing and washing of clothes in the stream. A double tap on the wall was followed by the words, "Hi chief hang in there;" most likely spoken by Sgt. Arnold. A quick double tap on the wall had to serve as my response. What all of thoughts might have filled the rest of that day are no longer recalled. But it did include realization that in addition the general sense of well-being, I had somehow been relieved of the diarrhea stomach pains and other consequences which had plagued me (and others) since our days at Pak’s Palace. Which was certainly a welcome relief, especially in my now restricted circumstance. I wondered if it was due to the diet of raspberries and fresh stringbeans, or if it should be regarded as yet another Providential happening. I drifted into sleep that night with the same feeling of well being and assurance that had been with me the night before.
A soldier brought my rice and water next morning, with a look and nod at me as he placed them on the step. Konrad approached about mid-morning as I was walking a bit for exercise. By the time the door was opened I was seated comfortably in the corner, with feet upon the ledge and leaning back against the south wall. He reached down, picked up the papers and after glancing at them looked at me and said: "You have not written anything."
"I have no one to write to and nothing to write."
He looked away from me and said, "But you must realize your mistake."
"I realize my mistake."
With only a quick glance at me he said, "You must write that you realize your mistake."
I delayed deliberately, hoping he might think I was pondering that; while I was actually enjoying his obvious discomfiture and unwillingness to look directly at me. After a few moments I said, "Well I guess I could do that."
He put the papers back down on the step after removing the one on which he had written, and still without looking at me said, "I will be back this afternoon to see what you have written." He started to close the door but then reached back in to retrieve the empty bowls before departing.
When the sentry had replaced the log against the door, I decided I might as well fulfill my part of the arrangement at once. There were about a dozen sheets of paper on the step, of about 5 by 8 inches dimension; far more than was needed for what I felt obligated to write. On one sheet I printed in quite large letters: "SINCE I WAS RECAPTURED WHILE TRYING TO ESCAPE ." On another I printed: "I REALIZE I MADE A MISTAKE!" After placing those in proper order on top of the unused sheets, I resumed my morning physical exercise which had been interrupted; and gave some thought to what Konrad’s reaction to that would likely be and what manner of ambiguous stuff I might compose in response to his further demands.
Konrad’s premise, of course, was that it was a "mistake" for me to try to escape. I saw no need to accede to that. Rather, I would pretend not to understand that was what he meant; even after he might try to explain it. When he returned that afternoon I was sitting relaxed in my favorite spot when he opened the door. He glanced at me, then quickly looked down at the papers. He picked them up, withdrew from the doorway, and began walking toward his office as the sentry moved to close the door. But he stopped shortly and turned back, apparently having discovered that there was writing on only the two top sheets. When he returned to the doorway he looked in at me, pointed at the papers and said, "This is not enough. You must write more than this."
"What more is there to say?" I asked. "I tried to escape. I made a mistake and was recaptured. So I realize I made a mistake."
"You must explain your mistake," he said. "tell some details about your mistake how you now understand your mistake in trying to escape."
I told him I would have to think about that, that I would think about it that night and try to write something more in the morning. He placed the papers and pencil back down on the steps and departed.
There were really more important things to think about that night. I could apply myself to producing some ambiguous explanations in the morning. There were some thoughts as to what might be happening with Shaw and Wem. They were probably being asked a few questions but were likely being kept together. Of greater concern was what might be done to Happy. The officer of the guard would likely want to have him punished in some way for his actions in my behalf; especially since the efforts to soothe his injured ego by ranting at me had not been very successful and may even have backfired somewhat by further disgracing himself with the troops
First came the disturbing thought that Happy might be sent south to one of those labor battalions which were eventually used as cannon fodder in human wave assaults. That would be the sort of thing the guard officer would likely think of. But the guard officer would not be the one who would decide Happy’s fate. In fact, if he lost his job because of his performance, which could happen, he might himself be sent south. Which may have been the reason for his ranting at me while I was held in the little tee-pee awaiting the night court session with Konrad.
Konrad was the more likely one to decide what to do with Happy. That was the political officer’s job in any case, disciplining of personnel in keeping with the Party line. Also, he was the one who had assigned Liu as our "orderly" to begin with. The fact that I had not seen Happy chogi-ing the food buckets past this place to the Little Schoolhouse indicated he no longer had that assignment in any case. And I thought it unlikely that he would be assigned another job in close association with prisoners, here or in any other of the camps, because of the friendliness he had shown towards us quite apart from the specific actions in my regard. "Attitude adjustment" would be necessary, if he were continued employment in or around the POW complex. And it was troubling to imagine the possibilities of treatment he might receive to effect that. Some reassuring was the feeling that the stamina derived from his coolie background would enable him to endure whatever might be imposed.
After breakfast the next morning I composed the "explanations" of my mistake. By printing quite large, I used all of the remaining paper for just a few items; not clearly remembered now but including such things as having no map, not really knowing where to go, risking injury traveling in the dark, lack of food and water, and so on. Konrad picked up the papers when the mid-day rice and water was delivered. He returned about mid-afternoon and told me I had not written enough, that I must explain more, and placed a few more sheets of paper on the step. I told him that would probably not be enough paper if he wanted me to write a full explanation. He said I was writing much larger than necessary with the printing. I said I would re-do the whole thing, writing instead of printing, but I would need more paper in any case. He returned to his office, then, and shortly called the sentry there to deliver more paper to me.
Next morning I spent considerable time rewriting my explanations, now using a lengthy scrawl of words instead of large printing. That included a deliberate variance from my normal handwriting in the formation of a couple of letters. An excess of verbiage in every ambiguous passage was calculated to further enhance the ambiguity and possibly compel Konrad to refer frequently to his Chinese-English dictionary to find out what some of the words meant. There was even an element of pleasure as I did so, imagining what his reactions and puzzlement’s might be as he read it. I had the draft completed by mid-morning. But when I saw Konrad approaching the door shortly after noon I pretended still to be working on it and told him, when he asked, that I thought I could have it completed later in the day. He picked it up when my rice was delivered that evening.
Shortly after breakfast next morning Konrad appeared with the papers in hand and said he had marked some places in which I must "make more clear" my meaning. I said, "okay," and he left some more paper because "it might be necessary" for me to re-write some of it to "make it more clear." I told him that I would try, but hoped he would understand that I was just a "poor farm boy" without much in the way of education. If he was sharp enough to sense the intended sarcasm, he was also able to avoid showing that he did so. And he firmly said I should do the clarifications at once and he would come for them after lunch.
There was some satisfaction in the feeling as I looked at the marked places that Konrad may have spent considerable time studying those passages. It also appeared that despite his fluency with the English language in general conversation he did not readily perceive or comprehend such nuances and ambiguities as I had included. So I promptly added more of such in the rewriting of them. That task was finished in probably less than an hour. I spent the rest of the morning with some physical exercises and shifted my thoughts to things which I had by then decided were more important or pleasurable to think about.
Konrad appeared at the door when a soldier was delivering my noontime rice. He looked at me, perhaps questioningly. I pointed at the papers which I had placed on the step. He picked them up and walked at once toward his office. When the door had closed I went to get my rice and peek through the crack to further observe Konrad’s actions. He entered his office, but quickly returned shouldering a small backpack. He spoke a few words to the sentry then walked briskly out of sight toward the roadway which would lead to Pyoktong.
So whatever he might get me to write had to be approved by someone in Pyoktong. Konrad, not I, was really the one on trial! I savored that thought as I leisurely absorbed my rice, then languished on the ledge for a while wondering how many times he might have to make that trek to Pyoktong before his political superiors there might accept what I had written as sufficient of concession, or "confession," by me to get him off the hook. Probably there was someone at Pyoktong sharp enough to recognize the ambiguities of the stuff I had written. And eventually there would likely be demand for something specific from me, possibly by someone other than Konrad. But meanwhile, so long as he was a "go-between," it would be interesting and was something of a challenge to see how many times I might be able to make him go to Pyoktong.
Konrad returned from Pyoktong the following morning, but did not visit me until after noon. And he seemed almost apologetic as he told me then that "higher authorities" at Pyoktong were not satisfied with what I had written. He handed the papers back to me and said I would find marks in those places where they wanted more explanation to "make clearer" what I meant and perhaps more detail. He seemed actually disappointed about it, and I sensed that would be because of his own interests rather than mine. My presence in solitaire, close at hand, was probably embarrassing to him, but he had to keep me there until he could extract something from me to the satisfaction of those higher authorities at Pyoktong. There was some enjoyment of the fact that he avoided looking directly at me as he talked.
I riffled the papers, noting some of the markings, and said in that case I would need some more paper. He pointed at a few clean sheets which he had included. I said that wouldn’t be enough since I would have to rewrite the whole thing. He said that wouldn’t be necessary, I could just fit explanations in wherever necessary. I said that would be "messy," and since I was having to please "higher authorities" I would prefer to rewrite the whole thing so it would be neat and more likely to satisfy them.. He glanced at me then, perhaps wonderingly; then said as he turned away that he would send some more paper but I should start with what I already had because the sooner I would do it the sooner I might be allowed to return to be with others..
It appeared that Konrad thought solitary confinement was in itself severe punishment; that one should be anxious to get out of it as soon as possible. But in this instance, not so. Unlike the brief solitary period at Pak’s Palace, the physical circumstance here was not uncomfortable. Nor were there uncertainties now about the purposes and objectives of Konrad’s actions. It was the same progressive process which Four Eyes had attempted at Pak’s get the prisoner to write just a little, then demand that he write more to explain, toward the eventual objective of getting him to "cooperate" further in other regards. But in this case, Konrad’s objective appeared to be to get himself "off the hook" (so to speak) for his mishandling of my case during the night court session. Which circumstance imposed limitations on the manner of pressures he might apply on myself in his effort to get me to write something satisfactory to his overseers in Pyoktong.
There was no need, therefore, to hurry in complying with the demand for further explanations Since my escape venture had evidently caused considerable disturbance at Pyoktong, it was unlikely the "higher authorities" there would allow my return to the Little Schoolhouse or any other sizable group until too late in the season for me to try again. And being with others was not so important to me as Konrad seemed to think it would be. In addition to satisfactions observing and contributing to his discomfiture, there were many worthy things to meditate upon in solitude. There was enjoyment in making my explanations "more clear" by embellishing the ambiguities of the first draft and adding some more. Only an hour or so was actually needed to accomplish that. But it seemed well for several reason to make Konrad think it was a difficult task for me. So for the next two days whenever the log was removed from the door I pretended to be working on the papers when it opened, no matter who might look in.
There was also time during those two days to observe activitie in the passageway between my quarters and the headquarters building. Apparently it was "tax time" for the Korean community. Citizens carrying bags of produce from their fields or plots passed by and sometimes waited in line to enter the building. When they came back out, though not completely empty, the bags were far less full.. Most notable was a young couple whose wedding procession had passed by the big schoolyard a few weeks earlier while we were exercising there. They arrived happily toting two bags bulging with produce. The sadness in their faces when they departed remain vivid in memory yet today
I gave the revised draft to Konrad in late afternoon of the second day. He went to Pyoktong next morning and returned late that afternoon, but did not visit me again until the following morning. He then told me that my "admission of mistake was much improved" but I must provide still more details in explanation to show that I understood the seriousness of it. He gave me some more paper on which he said I should write that "separately." instead of redoing the whole thing again. So I applied my developing literary "genius" to that for an hour or so, acknowledging my "foolishness" for going on such a venture without such things as a map to figure where I should go, a compass to tell which way I was going, medicines or even first aid kit in case I became sick or was injured, lack of any money with which to buy food, and inability to speak the language of any people I might encounter. I then resumed my meditations and observation of surrounding activities for two more days before giving it to Konrad.
Upon return from that trip to Pyoktong Konrad instructed that I must now describe my plan for the escape; where I intended to go. I sensed that my mention in the previous writing that I had no map to figure out where to go probably had prompted that question from whoever at Pyoktong had examined it. So to avoid even a hint of my actual intentions, and then likely being pressed for further details, I quickly wrote that because I had no map the only thing I could do was follow the Yalu River which I knew flowed into the Yellow Sea; and that I had hoped to find a small boat or something on which to float down the river and out to sea to reach one of our ships which I knew patrolled out there. Rather than delay with that, it seemed a good idea to demonstrate "eagerness to please." So I gave it to the soldier who delivered my evening bowl of rice, and indicated for him to deliver it to Konrad’s office. Konrad hiked away to Pyoktong early next morning and returned in late afternoon. But he waited until the following morning to inform me that my "admission of mistake" was now satisfactory, but I must also give "promise for the future" not to make such mistake again.
Whoever at Pyoktong was handling my case was apparently more perceptive of my ambiguities than Konrad was. And possibly he was being a bit ambiguous, in turn. In any case, I interpreted the demand that I give "promise for the future" to mean a promise not to try to escape again. I had already decided I would not do that. So I applied my developing literary talent to create a quite lengthy and exaggerated description of the great risks and hazards encountered during my escape attempt; ending with a promise to not so endanger myself again.
Only an hour or so was actually spent in doing that. But again I thought it a good idea to make it appear to be a difficult task. So I waited until late afternoon of the following day, then called out to the sentry and indicated for him to deliver the papers to Konrad in his office. Konrad emerged a few minutes later wearing his small backpack for another trip to Pyoktong. Whether he returned that night or the following morning, I did not observe. But shortly after noon of the following day the sentry opened the door, beckoned me out, and ushered me to and into Konrad’s office, the door of which was already open.
Konrad did not look at me as I entered. He was seated at his desk with the papers on which I had written before him, and a bundle consisting of my other set of clothing alongside. Still without looking at me he said: "You must write that you will not try to escape again." Then pointing with a pencil at a space between lines already written, he added, " But you need not write a new page, you may add it here."
"If you want that written in there," I said, " you will have to do it yourself."
And he did so at once, in an obviously well practiced simulation of the scrawling script which I had effected in my own writings. He then handed the small bundle of clothing to me, still without looking directly at me, spoke some instructions to the soldier, and busied himself moving things on his desk as I departed.
A glance toward the Little Schoolhouse as I exited Konrad’s office found no one in view on its grounds. Quite probably Konrad had timed this meeting during their absence for exercise and bathing My soldier escort indicated we should go the opposite direction and we turned westward after reaching the village main street. I wondered as we walked together if he could understand English, since he had witnessed the conversation and action in Konrad’s office. Even if he did, and understood what had happened, he would not likely report to anyone that the camp political officer had forged a portion of my statement.
My escort was one of the soldiers who had been involved in my recapture. We walked side by side, in manner more as companions than as captor and captive. After about a hundred yards we passed beside a Korean house on the south side of the street and he indicated we should turn in that direction at the western end of it. Another sentry was posted on the south side of the house. After speaking with the other soldier my escort indicated for me to go into the room on the west end of the house. I thanked him with a "sheh-sheh ni" and received a respectful "boo kach" in return.
Not at all surprising, perhaps somewhat expected, Shaw and Wem were in the room. So my solitary confinement was ended; but I sensed very shortly that in some respects solitude would continue. For it was at once evident my two escape companions were in a spiritually glum state. And neither of them would likely be contributory or even substantively conversant in matters which were to me most needful and deserving of consideration for the future.
Shaw was at once eager to talk however; and to complain of the current circumstance. There was no indication that he harbored ill feelings toward me for it. Rather, though unspoken, he appeared to recognize his own responsibility for the main handicap in our escape venture. His complaint was boredom. And it was soon evident that in addition to lack of anything entertaining or physical to do his conversations with Wem were not very stimulating. He promptly described what they had experienced since return to the camp. Except for the first night, they had been quartered in this room ever since. There had been no interrogation of them. They had seen nothing of Konrad. Tsai had given them the rules of their confinement and occasionally checked on them.
One significant thing had happened during their first night after our recapture. They were held in a small building somewhere in the village, and shortly after dark "Happy" had come in and sat down beside them. There was no conversation, of course. He just sat there quietly for a short while, then departed. After he was gone they discovered he had left a small bit of tobacco, paper and a few matches. Shaw wondered why he would do such a thing.
I sensed that he had done it to convey a message; intended more for myself than for them. Unable to get near to me, he would expect that I would eventually learn of his visit with them. It indicated that something was being done to him because of his display of concern for me during our return to the camp.. I thought it doubtful that either of them would comprehend such motive and devious method by a "simple Chinese coolie," and felt it might be best for Happy not even to suggest it to them. So I only said that it probably was done just to let us know he was being sent away from the camp for "attitude adjustment." Shaw shrugged in dismissal of that topic and asked about my experiences in the interim. Seeing no useful purpose in providing details, and several reasons to not do so, I simply told him Konrad wanted me to give a promise that I would not try to escape again. He asked if I had done so. I told him I had not. He wanted to know if I intended to try again. I told him our brief experience had convinced me escape was possible, but it would probably have to wait until next summer. That topic was abandoned at that point and I resumed some questioning of him and otherwise appraising the new circumstance.
The room we were in was quite spacious for only three of us; (as large as the one at Pak’s Palace wherein more than a dozen of us had sometimes been crowded) And it was in well-kept condition; the hard packed clay floor and walls smooth and clean. The woman who owned the house lived in the other end of it with a small grandchild. The room immediately adjacent to ours was unoccupied. The door through which I had entered was covered with a fine-mesh screen, allowing both light and air into the room. The door in the north wall had been boarded shut on the outside and was covered with a heavy oiled paper to forbid any view out through it. There were no windows.
The floor was about two feet higher than the ground outside to southward. A retainer wall of rocks effected a hard-packed terrace about twenty feet wide, after which the ground sloped gently down to the stream. There was a well tended garden between the retaining wall and the stream. An enclosed and roofed latrine was near at hand for our exclusive use. A call to the guard provided access to that, and trips to the stream were allowed to rinse rice bowls, bathe and wash clothing. Brief periods outside for exercise on the small terraced area were also allowed, and the rock wall at its edge was well suited for sitting in the sun. Add the fact that we had room service for our meals and one could not but admit that it was probably better accommodations than most any other prisoners of war had ever experienced
Konrad opened the door briefly the next morning to inform us that our trial would be conducted at Pyoktong, started to close it at once but paused as Shaw managed to ask him quickly if that meant we would be going to Pyoktong. "No you will remain here until your trial is concluded," he replied, then quickly closed the door and disappeared.
"That ain’t right," Shaw said, indignantly. "If they’re gonna try us for something at Pyoktong, we oughtta be there!"
I started to try to explain to him a bit about communist "justice;" but his immediate reaction made clear it would be a waste of words.
There was a change of diet for us that evening. Instead of rice ladled into our bowls from a large bucket outside, the soldier delivering it handed in a small bucket filled with a grain which looked like boiled barley. There was more than twice the amount which we had been receiving of rice. We each ate two bowlfuls of it and there was still some remaining. From its texture and taste I realized that it was not barley, and sensed that it was far less nourishing than rice.
Within less than an hour all three of us were stricken by severe stomach cramps. The sentry’s reaction when I called to him from the doorway and demonstrated pain in the stomach indicated that he was expecting it. He called out to somewhere and in less than a minute Tsai appeared with some Epsom salts and a pot of kai schwee. He mixed a cupful for each of us to drink, with some mention that it was "medicine" to take care of our problems. I asked him what that was which we had been given to eat instead of rice. He said, "We call it golyon. You would call it sorghum seed."
The purpose was obvious fill our stomachs with a bulky grain very low in nourishment to in short order reduce our strength and stamina. And if we ate enough of it to plug our systems, the Epsom salt treatment would reduce it even faster. Since it was a deliberate thing, there was no point in further questions or discussion of it with Tsai. But Shaw, characteristically blurted out, "Well why are you giving us that stuff to eat? Rice is better."
"Golyon is good food," Tsai replied. "Only you must not eat too much of it at a time. But the medicine I have given you will help you feel better soon." He then departed at once..
The Epsom salts did in fact relieve our discomfort in short order, after which I attempted to explain to Shaw and Wem the reason for our change of diet, and what we would have to do to cope with it. Since the golyon was far less nourishing than rice, we would have to eat as much of it as we could to maintain strength and stamina. But more than a bowlful at a time would plug our systems, and repeated doses of the Epsom salts would drain our strength even faster. So after eating a bowlful we should stash a similar amount out of sight to eat a little at a time until the next fresh bucketful would be brought. Which worked quite well, except that Shaw and Wem decided after a couple of days that they could eat more than just one bowl of it while it was fresh and warm. After another Epsom salt treatment they decided to abide by my "one bowl" prescription.
Shaw managed during that treatment to make complaint to Tsai that we had nothing to do to occupy time; couldn’t we have a deck of cards or something to read as was provided before? Tsai promptly brought a handful of papers and passed them through the door into Shaw’s eager hands. Shaw quickly seated himself with back against the wall and began looking at them, but after only a few moments flung them into the far corner of the room with a characteristically crude expletive.
"What did you expect, John?" I asked. "Comic books or maybe Penthouse magazine?"
He stared at the floor with mumbled repetition of the expletive.
Shortly, I retrieved the papers to see for myself what they might be. The first few, stapled together, contained Karl Marx’ Communist Manifesto. The other, a much more lengthy assemblage, was labeled as being a speech by Joseph Stalin’s in 1936 introducing the new and revised Constitution of the Soviet Union.
I had at sometime or other previously read the Manifesto, probably giving little thought about it other than noting its inconsistency with the political and philosophical concepts which I had come to believe were underlying of and essential to our own or any other free society. It would be worth reading and appraising again, in light of subsequent personal experience and present circumstance.
As for Stalin’s 1936 speech:: That was the year in which I graduated from high school. I recalled reading something about the death of Lenin, and Stalin’s assumption of the dictatorship in "Russia" at that time. But if his speech had been printed in any American publications which I might have seen, it was not something in which I would have been interested at the time. But now, both that and the Manifesto seemed probably worth reading; to provide something to think about other than recollections, speculations and imaginations such as had been my only food for thought during solitary confinement. And they would perhaps help my mind avoid dwelling on the fact that neither of my physical companions were capable of substantive conversation about anything beyond our present circumstance.
A skimming of the materials that afternoon indicated that Stalin’s speech, especially, might provide some insight into the mind-set and/or rationale of some of the enemy personnel with whom I had dealt with in the past, had currently to contend with Konrad, Tsai, and the anonymous conductors of our "trial" in Pyoktong and whatever more of interrogators and such might be encountered in the future. Knowing as much as one could about the enemy was obviously as important in the so-called "war of or for the minds," as it was in physical combat. Studying it, perhaps even asking for more, would be an excellent way to occupy time while awaiting outcome of our Pyoktong trial in absentia and during whatever of prolonged isolation might be in store.
On the following day Tsai brought something else to "occupy our time;" two large buckets of fresh string beans. We could sit outside and remove the strings so the cooking crew would not have to do it. We did so gladly, expecting of course to receive some of them cooked with our evening bucket of golyon. But that did not happen; only the golyon was served to us. I suspected it may have been Konrad’s idea of a joke, or vengeance of a sort, having in mind the stringbeans we had gathered during the escape venture. So when another batch was brought for us to de-string the next day we pocketed a few of them, rinsed them in the stream that evening when we washed our bowls and ate them raw. No more beans were brought for us to "de-string." I suspected that probably the guard had noticed and dutifully reported that we had kept some for ourselves.
Otherwise, the guards were certainly respectful, quite as Peter Love had said they should be when he first spoke to us through interpreter Tsai at the Little Schoolhouse; except for one who appeared on the scene about a week after I had joined Shaw and Wem in isolation. Whereas all other of the guards were dressed in everyday garb, and carried only a rifle, this quite smallish fellow first strutted into our view in full combat regalia; a bandoleer of ammo across his chest, bayonet in scabbard hanging from one side of his belt, and a "potato masher" type of grenade showing on the other side. We watched through the screen in the south door of our room as he marched briskly to a stop in front of the soldier who was on duty and formally took over the guard post. The other soldier appeared to grunt something in response, hoisted the sling of his rifle onto his shoulder, and walked toward the street with what appeared to be a disdainful glance at his replacement as he passed beside him.
The newcomer turned about, facing in our direction, spent a minute or more checking his paraphernalia and uniform, then stood erect atop the retaining wall at the edge of the terrace as though posing for a photograph. "Poster Boy!" was the obvious moniker for this fellow; and quite probably very accurate. For I had seen at Pyoktong what appeared to be a recruiting poster for the "Chinese Peoples Volunteers" an enlarged photo of a Chinese soldier dressed in that manner. Quite possibly it was of this very fellow, and he had now been assigned to the guard detail here.
My mention of that possibility sparked Shaw into a more buoyant attitude, mindful of his sharp-mindedness when we were at the Slave Camp. We shared amusement as we watched "Poster Boy’s" performance through the screen in the door. He would stand stiffly for a while, then look about quickly as though to see if there was anyone around to notice him. Then, again, he would check his paraphernalia, looking at it, then patting or adjusting some of it. Shaw said, as the fellow patted the grenade, "What the hell’s he carrying a grenade for? That don’t make any sense here...." I suggested that it was most likely a dummy used to complete his combat regalia for the poster, and he’d been allowed to keep it.
A sudden turn of Poster Boy’s head indicated that something was happening behind him, out of our sight. Shortly the woman who owned the house came into view working in her garden. He snapped to attention again then, shouldered his rifle, and began walking back and forth just a few paces on top of the retaining wall. The woman ignored him. Very shortly he stopped walking, faced in our direction, grounded his rifle and stood looking rather glumly at the ground. Enough of watching Poster Boy. Since the show seemed to be over, Shaw and Wem resumed quiet conversation and I resumed study of Stalin’s 1936 speech. But only for a short while it was interrupted by a loud whisper from Shaw: "Hey, Chief! Look at that!"
Poster Boy was now coming toward the door, walking in a crouch with rifle now slung across his back as though quietly sneaking up on us. Apparently because he could not see us through the screen, he didn’t realize that we could see him. When he arrived at the door he snatched it open and glared in at us. I was seated with back against the wall. Shaw and Wem had stretched out on the floor. He signaled at them with his free hand and gruffly said, "Up! Up! Sit up! Sit up!"
Probably more instinctively than in willful response, Shaw and Wem scooted themselves into sitting positions against the wall. Still glaring, with as stern of facial expression as he could manage, Poster Boy then said "Stay sit up!" He glared for several seconds more, then closed the door and strutted back to his post, looking around as he did so to see if anyone was around to observe.
"What the hell is this?" Shaw exclaimed, as Poster Boy was walking away.
"A small fellow with a smaller mind and a big empty ego," I said. Then seeing that Shaw didn’t grasp that I added: "Doesn’t he remind you of someone you knew at the Slave Camp?"
"Little Commie! Of course! Same type!" Shaw responded quickly. Then added that he thought we should complain to Konrad or Tsai about it.
Perhaps to Tsai, next time he might show up. But Konrad might go along with the idea of having the guards order us to sit "at attention" in the room during the day. There was a better way to deal with this kind of fellow. Since he was obviously desperate for attention, the better thing to do was to ignore him. And since he didn’t realize that we could see him approaching, when he would snatch the door open we could all three be sitting up staring at the opposite wall. Shaw agreed with the idea, but did not fully understand it. When Poster Boy sneaked up about ten minutes later and snatched the door open, instead of staring blankly at the opposite wall, he glared back at Poster Boy.
That juvenile "stare-down" lasted for well over a minute, possibly two or three. Finally, Poster Boy grunted something, closed the door and departed. Shaw at once claimed victory that he had won the stare-down. When he had finished boasting about it, I asked of him: "And just what did you accomplish by that, John other than keeping that little creep standing there holding the door open so fly’s could come in, and all of us sitting up like he wants us to instead of relaxing however we want to? I’d say he won. He wanted attention and you gave it to him."
Shaw mulled that over for a bit, then acknowledged his mistake. When Poster Boy "sneaked" up again about ten minutes later and snatched the door open all three of us were staring at the opposite wall, with nary a glance directly at him. He closed the door after but a few seconds and went back to his post position at the edge of the terrace. That scene was reenacted several times that day, until Poster Boy was replaced by another of the soldiers. It began again when he was back the following day. But after a couple of times he apparently realized or suspected that we were somehow able to know when he approached the door. Instead of coming directly from where he usually stood, he moved first toward the east end of the house until out of our view, then crept along the wall until he reached the door. But each time he snatched it open he would still find us staring at the wall.
Later that day he disappeared from our view walking westward. At the sound of someone approaching from that direction we assumed our staring positions, ignoring the opening of the door. It was held open some longer than usual that time. After it was closed and whoever opened it had departed Shaw said, "Hey, I think that was Konrad!" Which was apparently so. Another soldier was by then in view out on the terrace, having replaced Poster Boy in routine change of guard. Shaw was concerned then that Konrad might have come to give us news about our "trial" at Pyoktong. If so, I told him, Konrad would be back.
And so he was, on the following day; to inform us that our trial was ended and that we had been sentenced to confinement for a certain number of weeks, Shaw immediately subtracted the time which we had already been apart from the others, and said that left only a few more weeks to go. Konrad as quickly responded that serving of the sentence was beginning as of "now." Which would have it ending in late October, when oncoming weather conditions would be forbidding of another escape attempt.
Poster Boy never again returned to keep watch of us; nor was he seen again in the camp, at least by me. What happened with him may as well remain an insignificant, unresolved mystery. But I suspect he was probably sent elsewhere because he was unquestionably a misfit with respect to other soldiers of guard company. The somewhat amusing aspects of his conduct were not particularly missed, because various other events around and about our confines were sufficiently entertaining to prevent monotony.
The woman who owned the house spent considerable time working her garden; sometimes encouraging her little grandchild to try to help; other times scolding him for one thing or another. The child’s parents occupied the room adjacent to ours for a couple of days and nights. Their attention to the child during the brief stay led to a very poignant parting and difficulties for the grandmother in quieting the child for several days and nights thereafter. A young man, perhaps in his teens and appearing a bit retarded, deftly fashioned a broom for her from a bundle of sticks and straw which he carried. After checking the broom by sweeping her doorstep, she gave him something to eat. Another fellow, whom we decided must be a traveling salesman because he carried a large pack, obtained a squash and a turnip from her garden. He then removed a pot from his pack, built a small fire beside the stream, and cooked them for himself.
Temporarily puzzling was to observe the woman one day as she dug up all of the plants around the perimeter of a quite sizable patch of potatoes. The potatoes on them were only beginning to develop. After plucking about half of them from each plant, and dropping them into a small basket, she put the roots back into the hole and pushed dirt back over them. Did she think they would still grow? I thought that very unlikely, even though she did pour some water on each one afterward, then swept dry dirt on them. Two days later two young men arrived at her garden; one with a shovel and the other with pad and pencil. The shoveler dug up only a few of the plants in the perimeter rows, and counted the tiny potatoes still clinging to their roots. Then they counted the plants still in the patch. After some apparent computations, the fellow with pad and pencil spoke a few words to the woman and they departed. Tax assessors! There seemed no doubt of it. Perhaps this hard working farmer woman would be able to retain a larger portion of her produce than had that young farmer couple whom I had observed paying taxes at the headquarters building during my solitary confinement.
The woman also owned a small pig. It seemed in some ways more of a pet than prospective food for her table; following as she worked in the garden yet seeming to have learned to not damage any of the plants and to enjoy some petting by the grandchild.. It stopped in front of the three of us one day while we were sitting on the retaining wall during our allowed time outside. With a small stick which happened to be close at hand, I rubbed the sensitive area on the underside of its chest and it promptly lay down and went to sleep. Shaw and Wem were duly impressed when I explained it to them; though a bit skeptical when I told them the procedure would work on alligators and crocodiles as well.
Subsequently, whenever the pig saw us sitting on the wall, it would come for its belly rub and promptly stretch out at my feet. The guard soldiers of course noticed this, and so did the woman.. She one day rubbed a stick on the pig’s ribs for quite a long time, but eventually whipped him with it because he did not lie down. At least one of the guards was seen trying it also, but only dropped the stick when his effort proved in vain. A few days after that, Tsai stopped by our room and opened conversation saying: "The guards say you do a trick with the pig." I told him it was not a trick.
"But they say you rub the pig with a stick and it will lie down and go to sleep. But other people try the same and it does not do it."
"It is not a trick, Tsai. It is just know-how."
"Could you teach me how to do it?"
It would have been easy to do so, of course. But there might be advantage in leaving an impression of mystery or special knowledge. So I said, "I don’t think so, Tsai."
He asked, "Why not?"
Without any emphasis or show of emotion on my own part I said: "Because in order to do that one must be smarter than the pig. And if you were smarter than the pig you would not be a communist."
He studied my face for a few moments with no change of expression in his own, said "Thank you," closed the door, and departed.
Shaw was some disturbed about my remark to Tsai, worried that it might have made Tsai angry and might result in worsening of our treatment while in isolation. He seemed to have difficulty accepting or fully understanding my explanations to the contrary. Tsai might be some puzzled by my remark because of translation uncertainties. For the same reason he would not be angered by it. And even if he became so, he was not authorized on his own to alter the conditions of our treatment; and neither was Konrad now that a sentence had been issued by "higher authorities" at Pyoktong. The golyon diet had most likely been ordered by those higher authorities at Pyoktong for its debilitating effects, quiet as they had now directed we be held in isolation until too late in the season for another escape attempt.
So far as I was concerned, the golyon was really the only "bad" thing of our present treatment compared to circumstances with the group at the Little Schoolhouse. We had as frequent of bathing, clothes washing, and outdoor exercise periods here, even some extra trips to the stream for rinsing our bowls. The guards were every bit as respectful and considerate, now that Poster Boy was gone. In fact some of the guards, particularly those identifiable as having been involved in our recapture, sometimes seemed even a bit more respectful here, perhaps regarding us as a bit special because we had escaped and led them into a challenging chase. My "trick with the pig" obviously enhanced their interest and perhaps respect, which was reason enough to keep it as something of a mystery.
Shaw and Wem of course wanted more company because of boredom; now rapidly increasing with one another. I would probably have been some depressed by lack of stimulating company also, but for the reading materials which Tsai had brought in response to Shaw’s request. Re-reading of the Manifesto caused me to realize that it was a far more significant document than I had recognized when I first read it more than 15 years previously while in high school. That would be due to increased awareness of political realities at home, as well as in the world abroad. And Stalin’s 1936 speech was intriguing. Just beginning reading of it brought realization that it would provide insight into the rationales of both the leaders and the lackeys of the communist apparatus. Hence, it might be helpful in understanding and therefore contending with actions of the administrators of our present prison circumstance; Konrad, Tsai, and the anonymous superiors at Pyoktong. For those two documents would have been fundamental elements of their political and philosophical orientation.
Shortly I discovered some passages in Stalin’s speech could be used to occasionally lighten the mood of my two companions. The hypocrisy of some of the simplistic statements therein designed to appeal to the proletariat "masses" could be read aloud and exposed in humorous manner. One of the slogans for the self-esteemed intellectuals at the lackey level brought quick response from Shaw. When I read aloud from Stalin’s script, "he who does not work, neither shall he eat," John excitedly said: "My god! That’s exactly the same as Little Commie and Idle Hands said that day at the Slave Camp!"
"That’s because this is exactly where they got the idea from," I told him.
"Really?" Shaw responded. " You think so?"
"I know so," I replied. "This is where all of the flunkies of the communist apparatus get their basic ideas. This is the Party Line from the very top dog of the party good ol’ Uncle Joe Stalin, himself."
There followed a brief discussion with Shaw on that aspect of our situation. He asked if that would be the case with Konrad and Tsai. Certainly it would, though possibly with some difference. Konrad was likely a member of the Party, with ambitions to rise in rank within it, and therefor studious of the political structure well above the basic Marxist premises. Tsai might not actually be a member of the Party, but an intelligent fellow with a good job as servant thereof which would put him a little above the "working class" in living standards and social standing. And what about the guard soldiers? Mostly just part of the subject "masses;" doing what was necessary to get along with the communist regime. Did I think Little Commie at the Slave Camp was a member of the Party? No, because I didn’t think he was intelligent enough for that. He was smart enough to memorize and parrot the Party line and thus be put in position where he could boss some others around, and probably with some illusions of grandeur for himself. But I doubted that he had the basic intelligence to become even a low level functionary of the so-called "intelligentsia."
Shaw lost interest in further discussion of such matters whenever it required some thinking much beyond or outside of immediate personal concerns. So he spent most of our time within the confines of our room in quiet conversations with Wem or private thoughts of his own. I spent most of it reading and analyzing the lengthy text of Stalin’s 1936. More than merely reading, many parts of it were deserving of intense study.
My deep thoughts on some part of it were disrupted one afternoon by a strange sound from the north wall of the room. When the three of us looked up, a wiggling finger was projecting in through the heavy, waxed paper which covered the upper portion of the north door. As we watched, the finger was withdrawn, an eye peered in through the hole and after scanning the three of us quickly disappeared. That was followed by the sound of someone moving outside. A quick peek out through the hole confirmed that the guard presently on duty had poked the hole in the door so that he could keep an eye on us from the shade on the north side of the house, instead of having to stand in the hot sunshine on the terrace south of the house. The three of us shared the humor of the situation briefly, then resumed our previous doings.
Shortly, the sound of conversation drew me to the peephole. Three young Koreans were lounging in the shade, talking with the guard. Shaw and Wem both took a quick look, after which Shaw expressed wonder if they might be some "pro-American" Koreans who had heard of our escape attempt and might be thinking of trying to somehow help us get out for the big reward which he had heard was offered to any Koreans who would help American prisoners escape. I acknowledged that was a possibility, without mentioning that the big reward was offered for helping pilots or high-ranking prisoners such as General Dean to escape; not just anyone. He then asked if I would go along with such a scheme. I told him I would certainly not entrust my life to someone who was doing it just for money, because they would certainly abandon me or turn me back in pretending to have recaptured me, if they found their own lives in danger. Shaw quickly agreed with that and dropped the subject.
After the novelty of the guard peeping in was gone, Shaw became some disturbed by it. I told him to just ignore it, as I was doing. He said he wished that he could, but just couldn’t; and thought we ought to ask to see Tsai and complain to him about it. It was in fact a little disturbing to myself to have that eyeball appearing in the peephole every few minutes. But I thought it would be better if we could put an end to it without telling Tsai about it, especially since the peephole would then allow us to now and again look out to see what was going on along the street. So shortly after one of the guard’s peep-ins I moved to the far corner into which Shaw had thrown the papers. There was a loud grunt when he looked in and couldn’t see me, and a clatter as he hurried around the end of the building. But by the time he reached and opened the door I was seated in my usual place reading Stalin’s speech and gave him but a brief glance as he looked in.
The guard went back to beside the north door then and resumed the frequent peep-ins. I then suggested that Shaw should go to the remote corner and be doing some kind of exercise there when the guard looked in. Again there was a clatter as the soldier rushed around to the door. But after watching Shaw doing deep knee bends for several seconds he shook his head, perhaps a bit sadly, closed the door gently, and walked out to the regular guard post position at the edge of the terrace.
Shaw’s mood was lightened for several days by that. Plus which, one or another of us could check activity in the street whenever we pleased. Mostly it was various of village residents or the camp personnel walking back and forth. But an oxcart trundling westward laden with woven bags of something or other was sufficiently exciting for all three of us to share. Also shareable was a red bearded fellow escorted by two soldiers, carrying a large sack over his shoulder and traveling eastward. Perhaps we would meet him if and when we might return to the Little Schoolhouse.
Both Shaw and Wem seemed improved of mood when they began counting the days remaining of our sentence to "confinement." And occasionally I would still read some passage from Stalin’s speech to them together with a humorous or sarcastic comment. But one in which I thought Shaw would recognize the hypocrisy brought an unexpected reaction from him. It was Lenin’s socialist maxim "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need!" And after reading it, I remarked: "Now ain’t that generous of ‘em.!"
To my considerable surprise, Shaw snapped back: "What’s wrong with that?"
After recovering from my surprise that he did not perceive the ambiguity or deceptiveness of that maxim, I asked, "What’s right with it, John?
He paused for a moment, apparently realizing that there might be something wrong or deceptive about it, then said: "Well, I don’t see nuthin’ wrong with it. Different people have different abilities, but everyone has pretty much the same needs."
All Right," I said. "Would you be willing to work for me on that basis?"
He hesitated, now obviously realizing there was probably something deceptive about it, and pondering what it might be and how to respond. So I added: "What’s this? You’d be willing to work for Joe Stalin on that basis but you don’t trust me?"
"Well, okay," he said, "providing you live up to it."
"Of course I’ll live up to it!" I responded, "Just exactly as good ol’ Joe Stalin would. So first thing to consider is your abilities. What can you do?"
"I’m a truck driver," he said. "You know that’s what I was doin’ in the army."
"All right. You can drive a truck for me. What else are you able to do?"
"Well drivin’ a truck is full time job," he said.
"Not necessarily so," I said. "And remember the deal is that I’m to get work from you according to your abilities. And I know you are able to do other things besides drive a truck You can load and unload a truck, too, I know that because I saw you doing it at the Slave Camp."
"But if I have to load and unload the truck," he countered, "I’ll be too tired to drive it. Or might fall asleep while I’m drivin’ and wreck it."
"Now John, of course I don’t want you wreckin’ my truck. So I’ll have some more guys lined up to help you load and unload it and probably at least one who’s able to take turns drivin’ it. So I reckon that’s settled. You’re gonna drive a truck for me ‘cause that’s what you’re able to do. Now I just need to figure out what you need."
"Well I don’t expect to live like a king," he said. "Just an ordinary size house, a car, maybe two when I get married, and a few suits of clothes nothin’ fancy...."
"What do you need a car for?" I interrupted. "You’ll be travelin’ around in my truck so you don’t need a car. Or a house ? You’ve got plenty of room right here for sleepin’ and eatin’ when you’re not drivin’ the truck. And you’ve got all the clothes you need one suit to wear while the other’s dryin’. And where’d you get the idea that you can decide what you need? Now that I know what you are able to do, I’m the one to decide what you need. From you according to your ability, to you according to your need!"
"That wouldn’t be right." Shaw said. "That wouldn’t be what that means ."
"That’s exactly what it means, John, except that in the communist dictatorship you wouldn’t even have much say about what you’re able to do. Remember how it was at the Slave Camp? Chun or the truck drivers or Little Commie told us what to do, and Idle Hands decided what we would get in return."
"Well yeah...," John began in response, "...but that wouldn’t be what it means in this case " He stopped talking at that point, and averted his eyes from mine.
John Shaw had shown himself at the Slave Camp to be a basically intelligent young man; with a logical and quick learning mind; no matter that he had dropped out of school at the tenth grade. (Schooling is neither source nor determination of intelligence, and in the long run only a lesser part of education.) I had been much surprised when he failed at the outset to recognize the ambiguous deception in that renowned socialist maxim. It was evident at that point that he recognized the validity of my argument, but for some reason wanted to avoid acknowledging it. Eventually he turned to Wem, who had sat silently as usual throughout our dialogue, and said:
"Well that really can’t be what that means. When we get back with the group we’ll ask one of the officers. They’ve been to college, so they’d know what it means."
However much or little Shaw may have learned from that discussion, it had brought realization to me of the vulnerability of basically intelligent people to the Marxist or socialist dogma whenever they lack knowledge of the fundamental principles of democracy and free, private enterprise. And his statement to Wem that the officers would know about such things because they had been to college was reminder of the comeback by that "professor from P’yang U" at Pak’s Palace:
"It does not matter how much education. It only matters what kind."
Konrad beckoned us out of our "confinement" room a few days later and wordlessly led us to the steps leading up to the Little Schoolhouse. Like a theater usher, he flashed a hand toward the steps, and quickly turned away to his office in the headquarters building.
Back to School
The Great Escape
Table of Contents
©2002, 2003 by Lynn Waterman; used by permission of the author, Duane Thorin.