Friendship Highway

Silverton Style
September 14, 2016

Friendship Highway


A novel

friendship-highway_book_sizeADRIAN STEWART (aka Ads) and PATRICK DAUGHERTY have a friendship that’ll last till the day after the Apocalypse. College comes to an end, and they decide to freak their conservative parents out by signing up as U.S. Peace Corps volunteer teachers.

Serendipity continues to work in their favor as they end up being assigned to the same country (China), the same volunteer training group, and even end up working close to one another (Sichuan Province-southwest China).

Ads is assigned as a language instructor at a small college in Chengdu, China, and Patrick gets a teaching job at a secondary school in Lhasa. They discover that coincidentally, Ads’ colleague, the Han Chinese LI BAI CHOU, has a deep, life-long friendship with a working companion of Patrick’s, half-Tibetan LHAGBA.

Patrick and Ads are shocked to discover their respective colleagues are close friends, but Li Bai and Lhagba think nothing of this, and immediately decide to take advantage of the coincidence. A covert communication link with assistance from the two Yanks is set up.

It turns out that Lhagba and Li Bai have been forcibly separated for years due to unfortunate political circumstances. At an earlier stage, they both attended the same college in Lhasa. While there, Lhagba’s curiosity inadvertently has him walking into a protest rally against the Chinese occupation of the Tibet. Li Bai notices his buddy sauntering into a house fire with his gasoline suit on, and attempts to deter him. Their luck goes from frying pan into the heart of the blaze as they both end up getting arrested. Even shuttled into the same jail cell.

Unfortunately, email is only available by using public computers at teahouses. A paranoid colleague of Adrian’s named YONG BAO, begins to suspect something unsavory is going on. He believes Ads is a covert spy for the CIA and begins a bumbling, over-zealous investigation of his U.S. volunteer associate.

With assistance from the two Americans, the exchange of emails back and forth between Li Bai and Lhagb is set up. By sheer coincidence, Ads discovers Yong’s snooping and decides he and Patrick must now hide their actions by donning disguises. The use of fake Sumo wrestler attachments is integrated, and its success leads to the Chinese buddies deciding to push their luck a few steps further. A secret rendezvous happens, followed by a “Wives Meet-and-Greet”. Ultimately, Lhagba’s wife travels to, and spends the summer in Chengdu. When she leaves for home, Yong who’s been following the group for a while, attempts to catch all of them red-handed. The train station arrest he orchestrates with assistance of the local military authorities fails. With it, any sort of credibility he’s got as a government watchdog disappears like a 100% accurate drone strike.

At this point the two Chinese couples realize they’re running out of time to take advantage of the Americans’ generosity, and decide they want to secretly leave their home country so they can live near each other. An escape into Nepal is orchestrated.

Thus unfolds the “Underground Railroad-Bizarro Universe-Chinese Version” scenario. With assistance from the Tibet Autonomous Movement folks, Li Bai, his wife and young son travel by train from Chengdu to Lhasa. The group (secretly accompanied by the Yanks) then travels from Lhasa up the Tibetan plateau. Each time they enter and exit a government checkpoint, the stealth escapees are hidden away in coffin-like containers attached to the underside of a supply truck they’re traveling in. The final phase into Nepal, the Chinese gentlemen and their families, secreted behind an invisible wall at the front of a specially designed supply vehicle.

Like the inept, paranoia-obsessed stalker that he is, Yong tails the secret refugees all the way to the frontier between the two countries. He secretly witnesses a minor coffin-ride mishap along the way, and uses this as incentive to jump ahead of the truck carrying the group. Ultimately reaching the border ahead of them to alert the authorities. In an attempt to try and put a stop to the planned invasion he figures they’re initiating. He also hopes to expose Ads & Patrick as secret CIA Operatives.

Yong almost pulls his plan to catch them off, but a hastily discarded diaper hidden inside a box of Bok Choy greens at the top of other export freight fortuitously decoys the border guard’s tracking dogs. Against long odds that even a high stakes Vegas bookie wouldn’t consider, the clandestine relocation succeeds.

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