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Shell Shocked: The Russians are coming! The Russians are here!

By ART STEVENS - | Sep 9, 2021


The call arrived from Moscow after days of encrypted messages exchanged between spy and handler. Russian spies were being identified and ousted throughout the country and the spies in Sanibel were getting itchy.

Handler: Greetings from the mother country. It seems we have a problem in Houston, as they say. Heh, heh, heh.

Spy: This is no time for American style humor. Our covers are being compromised. Sanibel may be the one remaining area in the U.S. where we haven’t been caught yet. After all, how could they catch us? We are as American as apple pie.

H: And you accuse me of American style humor? Listen carefully. Putin is really very upset. He believes the other careless spies have jeopardized our entire mission. He will not accept failure on the part of our Sanibel operatives.

S: Is not to worry. We are so embedded in Sanibel life that there’s not a person alive who can catch us. Our mission is safe and is in good hands.

H: You must talk in code. This may not be a secure line. The FBI is not as inept as we were led to believe. They have been tracking this operation for years. We in Moscow would never have thought that they could penetrate our elaborate scheme. Be very careful what you say. But we must be certain that your covers are not compromised.

S: I understand. Then let me tell you about my day. I got up this morning and went to the beach. At the beach, I looked for some attractive shells. I was doing this for a while and came across a sea turtle. The sea turtle was in the process of hatching. Are you with me so far?

H: (Pecking on his computer and translating the code to a nearby apparatchik) Our Sanibel agent is saying that the plan to turn Sanibel into a Russian province is proceeding well. He says that he got himself elected to the Sanibel City Council and has won the confidence of the Sanibel public.

S: After I took a photo of the sea turtle I went shopping at Bailey’s and brought a grocery list with me.

H: He says that he has arranged for Russian borscht to make their way onto the shelves of Sanibel’s super markets and that Russian vodka is as popular as ever.

S: I then proceeded to a Sanibel bookstore and bought books written by my favorite American authors: James Patterson, Stephen King and Danielle Steele.

H: He’s begun the subliminal culture exchange by placing novels by Dostoyevsky, Pasternak and Tolstoy in every book store in Sanibel.

S: I then went to Over Easy for breakfast and stuffed myself with bacon, eggs, sausage, French toast and orange juice.

H: Excellent. He just told me that he’s bribed the chef at Trader’s to put blintzes on the menu. Once Americans are smitten with blintzes, the cultural exchange will become easier to manage.

S: I went to Big Arts and bought tickets for an upcoming country and western performance.

H: More progress. He’s arranged for the Bolshoi Ballet to perform at the Sanibel Cinema. (shouting into the phone) Wait a moment. The Sanibel Cinema has closed. You have been set up. It’s a trap. You must either take the cyanide pill we carry for such contingencies or just disappear from Sanibel. You will be discovered.

S: (forgetting about code talk) Oh, dear Lenin, I have made a grave error. I made arrangements with the wrong theater. I will now be discovered. I must disappear from Sanibel but I will make sure our other operatives here — the waitress at Doc Ford’s, the tour guide at “Ding” Darling and the folk singer at Traders — won’t be compromised.

H: But how can you disappear so easily if you’re a member of the Sanibel City Council?

S: Easy. After the city council votes on an important piece of legislation I introduced — a bill to legalize Russian as a second language in Sanibel — I will immediately go to Plan B. I will win the $50 million Florida Lottery and retire to New Jersey.

H: But how can you be so sure that you will win the lottery?

S: Aren’t you forgetting where we have placed the other Florida operatives?

Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for the Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.