By William Thomas

The cold war in Russia is back in full force and we’re all hoping the exchanges with the West remain land grabs and sanctions, not playing chicken with aircraft carriers and nuclear warheads.  The last time we were this close to a world war was the missile crisis of 1962 when Khrushchev blinked, Kennedy nodded and the world let loose a Category 3 sigh of relief.

Presently, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstruct the old Soviet Union, which is like trying to unite the Jackson Five, an extremely bad idea, not to mention impossible.  While the front pages detail military incursions and international threats of violence, you just know the spooks are working overtime in the dark alleys of international espionage.

Some time ago an ordinary married couple in a suburb of Toronto were found to be KGB operatives and more recently, a Canadian Navy officer was convicted of selling secrets to the Russians and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  (Canadians were stunned – “Our Navy has secrets?!?)

It was only four years ago the FBI discovered that 11 U.S. citizens, living normal lives from Seattle to Washington, D.C., had been sent there by Russia’s new SVR, the successor to the old KGB.

I mean, does anybody really think it’s a coincidence that every year at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, Serena Williams has to beat seven tall, blonde Russian women who pay way too much attention to what kind of planes are landing at nearby LaGuardia Airport?  Or that the great Russian NHL hockey player Alexander Ovechkin plays in Washington, D.C., the home of the U.S. federal government and not, say, Columbus, OH, home of the Kewpee Burger.  So yeah, they’re here, they’re near, and reporting back to Moscow on everything they see and hear. A person can get pretty paranoid living in an atmosphere with slippery sleuths, wily wire-tappers, computer-hackers, bribers, office burglars and cell phone listeners.  And the worst is … those guys are on our side!  It’s frightening, bizarre and can be quite confusing.  Just think of it, your own neighbours could be operating as foreign Russian agents and you wouldn’t even know it.  So, in case you’re even a little bit suspicious, here are a few of the surefire signs that the couple living next door to you might be Russian spies.

• They have seven satellite dishes on their roof, but no television sets in the house.

•  The husband has pin-up photos in the garage of fully dressed, overweight women known as Pravda’s Sunshine Girls.

• They’re always bragging about how they support the Nyet side of every one of President Obama’s proposals.

• Every Halloween they put hoods over their heads and go door-to-door as Edward Snowden.

• They refer to Russian military exercises on the border of Finland as “window shopping.”

• Whenever you bump into the husband in a park he says, “Mary had a little lamb, her fleece was white as …”  And when you say “snow,” he hands you the floor plan for the White House Situation Room.

• They got noticeably agitated when you told them you had recently cornered a mole in your backyard and killed it with a garden hoe.

• Every day they declare five o’clock to be “The Yeltsin Hour” and pour cocktails for the entire neighbourhood.

• They line up for hours at the grocery store even if it’s just them and the checkout lady.

• During the last election, they became confused when faced with more than one name on the ballot.

• When they hear a thump and come running downstairs in the middle of the night, they’re always relieved to find a burglar and not the secret police.

• When a cop came to their door to warn them about break-ins in the area, they both swallowed their decoder rings.

• Your local post office caught them sending a relief package to the Ukraine with two midget Russian soldiers inside.

• In digging up their leaking pipes, the gas company discovered 4,000 empty bottles of vodka.

• You overhear them at McDonald’s ordering the McPickled Herring Sandwich.

• They live in the top floor of a “No Pets” condominium with a 250-pound Siberian Husky.

• They keep pestering the kid at the video store to bring in more movies that show tanks rolling through the streets.

• And finally, they equate the chance of getting hit by lightning to gays getting married in Russia.

For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of  Wainfleet, go to www.williamthomas.ca