"I think it’s time Harry.“
"Yes you are right Frank. Let’s go and get Charles.“
And the two men made their way down the corridor of the building on their way to Charles’ room. They knocked at the door and entered. Charles was sitting on the bed ready dressed wearing his raincoat and had a small case beside him.
“At last you two have arrived” he said “I have got myself ready and have been waiting for the last ten minutes.”
“Yes Charles, we are now here, but where do you think you are going dressed like that with the suitcase.”
“Well you said we were escaping tonight, so I got everything ready. We have to cross the lake by boat and I didn’t want to get wet, so I put my raincoat on.”
“Charles wearing your raincoat is all right, but you still have your pyjamas on underneath, you will catch a cold and after we escape you cannot run around in your pyjamas.”
“But Gladys said she will be waiting for me on the other side with a change of clothes, so I decided wearing pyjamas would be best. I don’t need shoes as they will only get wet on the boat.”
Frank and Harry just shook their heads in despair. It was always difficult to explain things to Charles. He never really understood, but he was their friend and where they went Charles came as well. Gladys was his wife and she meant everything to Charles. She had died five years ago, but it was difficult to persuade Charles that she no longer was alive.
“OK Charles” said Harry “you can come as you are, but just stay close to us. This will not be an easy escape, the night watchman is always alert to noises on the stairs, but as tonight is the European soccer cup final on the television we hope that he will have his eyes on the screen and not on the exit. At least you won’t be making any unnecessary noise barefoot.”
“You are right there Harry, do you think we should leave our shoes and socks here as well.”
“No Frank, I do not. Just make sure that you are quiet. So let’s go.”
And the three men made their way down the stairs past the night watchman’s office.
“Charles down on your knees and creep past the window to the office. Our three heroes then began a synchronised creep until they were out of the main door. They then stood up.
“Frank, Harry, my feet are cold. Wait a minute while I get some socks out of my case.”
“Charles we told you to wear your shoes and socks. Now we have not got time for a complete change of dress. You will have to put up with it. Why do you have a case with you?”
“I have all my letters from Gladys in the case, as well as photos and a complete change of underwear. When we arrive on the other side of the lake I want to be dressed in clean clothes. Gladys will be meeting me with my Sunday suit and hat.”
“Frank, I think we will have to keep an eye on Charles, his mind seems to be wandering just a little bit.”
“Well he has a point Harry. It is always good to have a clean change of underwear, you never know. My mum always told me that you might have an accident and have to go to hospital and it makes a better impression on people when they see that you are dressed nice and clean. It could be that you have a touch of the runs and then you really need clean underpants. I remember ……”
“Frank otherwise you feel ok I assume. We are three men all approaching our seventy-fifth birthday and I think we are old enough to know what to wear, except for Charles of course, but he is an exception.”
“Why am I an exception?” Charles asked.
“Don’t ask such questions, Charles, you know what happened at the last birthday party we celebrated together. You wanted a fancy dress party and came as a hot dog smothered in ketchup and mustard.”
“I thought that was a good idea” answered Charles.
“Oh, it was a very good idea” and Harry and Frank started laughing. “The only problem was the sausage bit. You should have kept your clothes on.”
“Stop laughing at me; everyone knows that sausages don’t wear clothes. See, I am not as stupid as you seem to think.”
“Frank, Charles, now pull yourselves together. We now have to go down the path to where the boat is moored and this could be tricky. We don’t want anyone falling in the lake, now do we?”
And the three men made their way precariously along the slippery path to the rowing boat.
“So now who is laughing at my bare feet and pyjamas? I am the only one here with a bit of common sense.”
“Can you explain that Charles?” asked both Frank and Harry.
“Easy answer; one of us has to untie the boat and push it out onto the lake. I am the only one with bare feet and I can roll up my pyjama trousers. My raincoat will stop me getting wet.”
“He’s right there Frank” Harry answered. “Looks like Charles has more sense then we credited him with.”
Frank and Harry boarded the rowing boat and Charles untied it and pushed it away. There was a bit of trouble as Charles was so pleased with the achievement, he forgot to jump into the boat. Luckily Frank grabbed the oars and rowed back to the banks of the lake. Frank and Harry then hoisted Charles onto the boat.
“Thanks boys, did you see how well I did that? You can really be proud of me now.”
“Yes Charles we are proud of you, just a shame you stood in the water waving goodbye to us both.”
They then started rowing, Charles gave Frank and Harry instructions to keep up the rhythm. They passed by a large sign on the bank with the name of the boat station. Charles threw some mud at it.
“We don’t want to go back there do we boys.”
“Definitely not, said Frank and Harry in unison.”
The sign said “Paradise home for the elderly mentally ill. The place where you can be sure your beloved relatives will be cared for by an expert staff.”
Our three brave boats men were not happy with the expert staff. They were never allowed to go for walks on their own; they were supervised when they had a bath and just could not do what they wanted. Frank, Charles and Harry decided it was time to make an escape. They were convinced they were being kept in this place against their own will. Charles was sure that Gladys had tried to rescue him many times, and that was the reason why he never saw her again.
“Frank, I think I have a cramp in my arm” said Harry.
“In that case Charles can take over your oar, but be careful how you move on this boat, it is very small and we don’t want any accidents.”
Frank stood up and the boat began to sway from side to side.
“Sit down Frank” said Harry “this is not going to work. We will have to think about this.
“I have the answer.” Charles put his hand up in the air in an excited way.
“Put your hand down Charles. You are making the boat shake even more. What do you want to say.”
“OK Harry, I know you always think you have the answers, but this time I have the solution so listen to me. If Frank stands up on his own the boat starts rocking and might capsize. Now if I stand up with him it will balance the weight and when Frank moves to the back of the boat I will move to the middle and we will both sit down again at the same time so that the boat remains in the right position in the water.”
Harry and Frank looked at each other and decided that Charles had spoken a few words of wisdom, which was not often the case with Charles.”
“Yes that is the answer”, said Frank.
“OK, Frank, Charles at the count of three you will both stand up and exchange places. Do I make myself clear? One, two three.”
And this really worked. Charles stood up holding his raincoat together to make sure it kept him warm in the cold night air, Frank stood up in the boat and the two of them changed places.
“We did it” said Charles and sat down in the boat. “What do I do now” he asked.
“The idea is that you take the other oar and start rowing with me” said Harry.
“Which oar” asked Charles.
“Why the oar that Frank had of course.”
“I didn’t think I needed the oar any more” said Frank “because I was changing my position with Charles, so I just pushed it into the water.”
“You did what?” and now Harry was becoming a little annoyed “How do you expect me to row this boat on my own. Do you have your wits about you.”
“Now don’t start annoying me. Are you calling me mad? My wife called me mad before she put me in the home. I do not allow anyone to call me mad. I am not speaking to you any more Harry, you have now annoyed me.”
“Frank, have you forgotten that we are friends. Of course I did not mean you were mad, we are all tired and a bit excited.”
“I don’t care Harry. First of all you get on your knees and apologise before I talk to you any more.”
“How do you expect me to get on my knees? There is hardly any room in this boat.”
“That is not my problem Harry, you started the argument by insulting me in front of my friends.”
“There is only one friend here and that is Charles and I am sure he knows that I didn’t mean what I said, don’t you Charles.”
“Well I am so sure Harry, after all that is a bit of a strong insult. We all know that we were kept in the home under false pretences. That is really the worse you can say. I would get on my knees and apologise if I were you.”
“Ok, ok, I am now on my knees and Frank I apologise for the insult. Are we now friends again?”
“I will think about it Harry and now sit on the seat you look stupid on you knees in the boat. And where is the other oar?”
“The other oar? I had to let it go to get on my knees.”
“Oh, great” said Charles. “Now we are sitting in the boat with no oars, so how do we steer?”
“That is a very good question Charles, do you have the answer?.”
“No not really, but I know what I can do. I will take off my raincoat so that it will not get wet and get into the water. I can then swim and push the boat towards the other bank. It is not so far, I can see the lights on the other side. I am sure Gladys is waiting for me there. Look boys there she is.”
“Where, Charles I can’t see her.”
“Neither can I” said Harry
“There she is, Charles, Frank, she has got into the water and is wading towards me. I have to go now. See you on the other bank.”
and before Harry and Frank could stop him, he jumped into the water and made off in the direction of the bank. Unfortunately Charles could not swim.
The next day the newspapers were full of their escapades.
“Three patients of the local mental hospital rescued.
It was noticed that three inmates of the local home for the elderly were missing from their beds yesterday evening. After a quick search it was found that the rowing boat was missing from its moorings. The lake police were informed and a search was quickly organised. One man was pulled out of the lake. It seemed he was looking for his wife that had departed some five years earlier. The boat was floating on the surface of the lake without any guidance. The other two men had lost both oars. All three men were suffering from over exposure and were taken into care at the local hospital. They have now been returned to the mental hospital.
Pictures to Words