As the Libyan rebels raided Colonel Gaddafi’s compound this week I was reminded of a story I wrote in fourth grade: Fredd and I the Spies. The basic plot is that President George H.W. Bush asks me, a 9-year-old boy, to make a friend in Italy (the oddly spelled “Fredd”) and spy on a chemical weapons plant in Libya.
Why a 9-year-old spy?
“If we sent a grown-up man then it would be more obvious.”
As you can imagine, it’s pretty incredible.
One of my favorite moments is that they give me a car that converts to a submarine and that’s how I get to Libya. I drive across the Atlantic Ocean:
“It took me a few hours, but I finally made it.”
We did much of our spy work by reading a newspaper article in a McDonald’s which laid out Libya’s plans to attack the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (yes, that’s what it was called when I was in fourth grade) with chemical weapons.
A less ludicrous plot point in the story is that we discover a secret tunnel that gives us access to the chemical weapons plant. Fast-forward 20+ years: This week the Libyan rebels discovered a secret network of tunnels under Tripoli.
But my life as a spy was not meant to be. When President Bush asked me if I’d like to be a full-time spy during a press conference (!) announcing the success of our mission, I declined.
“I’d rather have friends than bullet holes.”
After 36 hand-written pages of James Bond-inspired (i.e. heavily borrowed) violence, I suddenly became aware of the potential for harm.
(While the story is packed with James Bond references—this was 1989 and the height [and end] of the Timothy Dalton as James Bond resurrgence—I was pleasantly surprised to see a reference to the “pocket grenades used by Leonard (in Leonard Part 6).” If you’re not familiar with it, Leonard Part 6 is a 1987 Bill Cosby spy spoof so bad that Cosby himself urged people not to see it. He went so far as to buy the television rights so it would never appear on TV. My 9-year-old self disagreed. I still remember a spectacular scene where Cosby fended off man-eating lobsters using their natural enemy—what else?—melted butter [surprisingly, the clip doesn't hold up as well on YouTube]. I also remember wishing I could watch the five previous installments that surely existed. Ah, to be 9 and have such low expectations. Despite Cosby’s efforts, Leonard Part 6 is available on DVD and Amazon’s Instant Video.)