Remember a short while ago, when some of our watchers saved the lives of some Exile guards? You probably do, but a refresher: some zombies got the jump on the guards, and our guys picked off the undead with their rifles.
The watchers on duty last night weren't the same ones, but the guards on the Exile side of the river were. Those fellas seem to draw guard duty a lot, and they've become familiar faces to every rotation of our people that man the outposts we've thrown up on our side of the river. It's the same routine at the beginning of every shift--the Exiles walk up to their post, get report from the men they're relieving, then turn to face our side of the river and give a salute to our unseen men and women. It's safe to assume they're thanking us for saving their lives, though I'm surprised they keep up the habit. Their superiors can't be happy about it.
Yesterday was different. The Exiles did their normal thing for the first two hours of their shift, but one of them started to get fidgety. According to our people, he kept looking around across the river as if he were trying to figure out which of the several blinds we've set up were housing our folks.
After a few minutes, the guard got annoyed and pulled out a megaphone. The guy turns it on, fiddles with the controls, and puts it to his mouth. Across the river, his voice carried very loudly. He said, and I'm going to try to get this as close as possible:
"A man walks into a bar with an alligator under one arm. He bets everyone in the bar he can put his balls in the alligator's mouth and it won't bite him. If he wins, he gets a free drink from each person. If he loses, he buys everyone a drink.
The patrons at the bar agree. The man orders a beer, taps the alligator on the head, and places his genitals in the thing's mouth, which slowly closes. The man calmly drinks his beer, and when he's done he smacks the alligator on top of the head pretty hard. The alligator opens its mouth, and the room breaks out in applause.
After closing up his pants, the man jumps on top of a bar stool and points a finger around the room. 'Anyone here brave enough to try it?' he says.
A young blond woman in the back of the room raises her hand and says, 'Sure, but you don't have to hit me with that bottle.'"
Try as they might, our people couldn't help laughing. I don't know if the noise was enough for the guard to see where they were, but they could see him smiling through their binoculars.
The guy kept telling jokes for a while, and people from inside the fallback point started to come out. It was near dusk by the time someone finally pulled the guard to the side and had words with him, and after that he was silent. But he and his partner kept on smiling, even gave a little bow to his unseen audience.
I don't know if this means anything. I don't know if there was an ulterior motive, or if the guy was just bored and maybe realized that our people were probably just as bored. Two years of tension, fear, and mistrust has made me way more cynical than a guy not yet thirty should be, but I find myself hoping that it was a sincere gesture of goodwill.
Not in a large sense. The Exile guard didn't try to broker peace with us or make new inroads to understanding the divide between our two groups. I think that for a little while, he just wanted to be normal. That he understood the people watching him and his home for signs of violence were just that--people. An enemy, sure. But human beings with hope and love and fear and yes--even a sense of humor.
It could be that this is some cunning plan on the part of the Exiles to put us at ease, possibly to make us see them as less of a threat. I admit the possibility, though I can't believe anyone would think we were gullible to fall for something like that. The Exiles are a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them.
I'm going to choose to believe that this was a human moment, maybe a way to thank our people for saving his life and that of his partner. Bringing a smile to someone's face is a gift, especially in times like these. I say we take it at face value and be thankful. Still careful, always cautious, every wary...but thankful. We can all use a few laughs now and again.