For several years, I was driving around the country under the impression that my boss Riff was the only boss for Drivers of America. That he was the only office, and the only authority. Just over a month ago I discovered there are a few other offices in remote parts of the lower 48 states, including one in the great state of Maine.
After dropping a car off in Bangor for Riff, I made my way to this office that was new to me. I met the man in charge, Monty, a very mild-mannered man who was the polar opposite of the volatile Riff. In a calm and gentle voice, he told me that he was sending me in a car down to south Florida, then he would fly me back up north to get yet another car headed down to south Florida. “Bill,” he said, “Snowbirds are my bread and butter. I will pay you half up front, and half when you get back. The General will be here soon with your car. I have to run to the bank, so please, I beg of you, make yourself comfortable here in my office.”
Monty left and I sat and wondered why Riff couldn’t be a kindly gentleman like this guy. Only a few minutes after Monty left, an old man marched into the office. Marched like a soldier, in perfect lockstep, and in measured rhythm with each step in an exact line. He sat down across from me. “Who are you?” he asked.
“Bill Thomas, nice to meet you.” I stuck my hand out to shake, but it just hung in midair.
The man squinted at me as if he were sizing me up, wondering about my sincerity. “I’m the General, as you probably already know.”
“Which branch of the service were you in?”
The General looked at me as if I was daffy, and chuckled. “Air Force, son. Can’t you read the cap on top of my head?” He pointed at the top of his head, where no cap existed. “See? As you can read, U.S. Air Force. You can read, can’t you son?”
“Yes sir, good, I like that, shows respect. And I have earned that respect, serving my country all these years.”
“As a General.”
“Two stars. Used to be five, went down to one, now back up to two. And I plan to stay there.”
The General looked around the empty office to be sure we were alone, then he leaned in close to me. “Son, do you know any people between the ages of 18 and 34?”
“Good. Good. I have some important classified information that you need to share with them. Now I can’t tell you the classified part, but I will tell you that we will be going to war in the next six months.”
“Don’t be naïve, of course we will! This time it will be Korea, and it will be a nuclear war. You can’t tell me you didn’t see this coming.”
“I demand honesty! I will accept no less! And I am telling you that the age group I mentioned are going to be drafted. And this won’t be some wishy-washy draft like in the 60’s, this time every God-fearing man, woman and child who is physically able will be sent to fight overseas. And if they run, they will be lined up and executed.”
The General leaned back in his chair and put his fingers to his lips. “I’ve said too much already. Forget everything I just told you.”
The General looked at me sadly and shook his head. “How can you so blithely just dismiss this information? Do you fully grasp the gravity of what I’m telling you? We are going to war. You need to spread the word!”
“But that’s classified.”
“I get it.”
“There’s more classified information I could give you, but then I’d be court martialed. I can only go so far.”
“I respect that.”
“Don’t be glib. Don’t be disrespectful.”
“I’m being totally respectful.”
“I have my doubts about that. Let me ask you something. Did you see COWBOYS AND ALIENS at the movie theater?”
“Yes I did.”
“Do you think that movie was just a coincidence? The government is trying to mentally prepare us for what is coming.”
I shrugged. “Well, what exactly is coming?”
“That’s classified. But I can tell you this. Do you ever read science fiction?”
“Well I have news for you, it’s really science fact. We need to be prepared. Very soon we will be at war, Koreans on the left of us, outer space aliens on the right, and Chinese overlords barreling right down our throats. Did you ever think about that?”
“Didn’t think so.” The General pulled out a toy walkie talkie from his coat pocket. “Excuse me, I have to take this.” He spoke into the silent walkie talkie. “This is the General, go.” He paused as if he were listening, but no noise came from the gadget in his hand. “Gotcha.” He threw the walkie talkie to the ground and yelled as he leaped towards me. “Incoming!” The General was in midair as he shouted, and landed on me knocking me and my chair to the ground.
I crawled out from under the General. “What was that?” I asked.
“That was me saving your life. And you’re welcome.” We both got to our feet. “I had you pegged as a commie sympathizer, but I guess you’re OK. I like the cut of your jib, sailor. You strike me as a Navy man.”
“I’m a driving man.”
“Tanks and artillery, eh? Well, I wouldn’t be too proud about it, pride has been the downfall of many a soldier. Are you driving this car I picked up down to Florida?”
“Yes I am.”
He handed me the keys. “Well good luck and Godspeed. And for heaven’s sake, please watch out for the minefields down in North Carolina. I have an appointment with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” The General ducked and rolled on his way out of the office. He was very agile for a man of his age.
When Monty returned and paid me, I got on the road and began my drive to Florida. And I began to ponder, just how many of “Bill’s people” are there in the USA? Much less the whole world?