by Cary O'Dell
Later that evening, Margaret--the Deputy--goes out to the garage to deliver to the prisoner (117, Bud, her son) his dinner consisting only of crackers and a glass of water with one cube of sugar for dessert. Bud says, "Thanks, Mom."
She replies, "I am NOT your mother!" as she closes the garage door, sealing Bud back inside. In an amazing lack of maternal judgment, Margaret not only shuts the door on Bud but is seen going so far as to lock the garage door with the key - but what if there's a fire?! The ornate wood design of the garage door makes it appear heavier than it really is - its facade as solid and as impenetrable as the Berlin Wall.
For Mother Margaret, the hardline of Tyrantland is getting to her. She becomes, however briefly, the moral conscious of this piece, like the character of Piggy in Golding's "Lord of the Flies."
As Margaret sulks with guilt outside the garage, her husband arrives to commiserate with her and suddenly they are like two soldiers comparing notes in a fox hole. Margaret says, "I feel so awful about how we're treating them" (cf. "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver"); and adds, "I feel like I'm the one that wants to quit."
Jim concurs, stating that he didn't think the kids would hold out this long but that they can't stop now, "This is the most important lesson they've ever had. If our young people don't think enough of our way of life to try to preserve it, I shudder to think what's going to happen to America."
There is only an hour and a half left in the game. Jim begins to wonder if he' going to lose. As Mr. and Mrs. Anderson retreat to the kitchen to regroup ("We'll have to think of something that will really bring them around," he says), Betty and Kathy sneak out to the garage to break out their brother. Betty, showing a resourcefulness and strong rebellious streak, has found a second key to the garage and has stolen it. In what might be a continuity error, Betty has also changed clothes. Gone is the utilitarian white shirt of earlier, replaced by a blouse with crisscrossing stripes - a cage pattern.
While Kathy spills to Bud the news of what their parents are getting to have for dinner ("thick steaks," sweet corn, and strawberry shortcake -- amazingly though no all-American slice of apple pie), Betty, her head wrapped tightly in a babushka like she's a member of the French resistance, tells the others, "We are all going to escape. That's what prisoners do, they either revolt or they escape." Betty maps out their plan of action: she's going to the hayride, Kathy's going to Patty's, and Bud has to hide someplace too. Betty, almost giddy with excitement, figures they can all come back at 8 o'clock and collect their money!
But the jail break is short-lived as their less-than-benevolent leader surprises them suddenly there in the darkness. So stunned is Bud by their Tyrant's abrupt appearance, hat he drops his dinner tray. "Don't you know you can't have a public meeting without permission?" the Leader intones.
As the deflated prisoners repair to the house, in single file and with their heads bowed, the Tyrant passes yet a new dictum: no one can leave the house before 8 o'clock. Betty tries to argue, "But wait you're making up new rules!"
Next, we are back in the Anderson living room. Bud is reclining on the back of the sofa (shouldn't Mom be telling him to get down?). Meanwhile, Kathy and Betty are working a newspaper crossword puzzle laid out on the coffee table, its pages lying over their Dad's savings bonds literature.
Bud checks his watch and gets excited at having only five more minutes to go til they win. But Betty's suspicious, "I don't get it. He's let us just sit here for the last hour without trying one of his tricks on us." Bud reasons that their Dad is probably trying to wear them down with "psychological warfare."
Dad enters the living room and his kids, now as fully conditioned as POWs, immediately sit bolt upright, at attention, arms interlocked. Margaret follows close behind with a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Kathy reaches out to grab one but Bud slaps her hand away, "No Kathy!...What's in them?"
Mrs. Anderson reacts like she's been shot!: "You don't think we'd poison you do you?"
But Bud's not convinced. He refuses to eat any cookies until Dad has one first. Mr. Anderson takes a bite and pronounces them "delicious."
Appeased, Kathy and Bud reach for a sweet and as Bud does so, Betty sees that by Bud's wristwatch, it's 8 o'clock. They've won! The newly freed citizens of Tyrantland rejoice, jump up, hug each other and bounce around.
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