17 May 2019

[Ellis "Da" Millsaps] - Go Down Moses

*What follows is Da's fourth installment of his Memoirs, "Son of a Preacher Man: a Rock & Roll Cowboy Grows Up Southern Baptist"

Chapter 4: Go Down Moses

Somewhat contemporaneously with television entering my life, movies made their appearance.

The first movie I ever saw was ‘ Tammy.’ My sister Wylene took me with her then boyfriend to the theater in Cartersville. I can still remember the opening credits and the song. Wylene named her first child Tammy.

The second was again with Wylene and boyfriend. I remember it had teenagers driving fast cars and didn't  interest me. We had to leave early because I said the popcorn hurt my toes. I later realized my foot is had gone to sleep, something I hadn't experienced before.

My mother and my oldest sister Joyce would take me and Joyce's children, David and Denise, who were only  one and two years respectively younger than I to the drive-in. I only remember two films,’ Old Yeller,’ for which I have never forgiven them, and ’Imitation of Life,’ an odd choice since we were eight, seven and six years old. it starred Lana Turner and  Sandra Dee and explored the then racy subject of the light skinned daughter of a black woman passing as white. Think maybe they wanted to see that one themselves?

Around this time they took us to see’ Gone with the Wind’ at the Cartersville theater.Back then, long before it first was shown on television In two parts in 1976, MGM would re-release it to theaters every few years. The last thing I remember was Scarlett biting the dirt covered turnip and saying” As God is my witness…” I think David and Denise were already asleep.

My mother sans Joyce took me to see two films at the theater,’ The Ten Commandments’ and’ ‘Ben-Hur’. In the 1950s movies  didn't open at a theater near you. First they came out in the big markets and then it could be months before they made it out to the sticks.

So in 1956, when I was four years old, my mother drove me the 40 miles from Cartersville to The Fabulous Fox to see’ The Ten Commandments.’ I knew the story well already, knew all the plagues, including the frogs and the locusts they were leaving out to keep the movie under four hours. I followed the entire epic with rapt attention. Cecil B DeMille made the Red Sea part. I saw it right there on the big screen.( Maybe Jonah did live in the belly of a whale.)

A few years later she took me to see’ Ben-Hur’ at the Roxy. I loved that chariot race.

The networks always show The Ten Commandments’ at Easter, somewhat odd since Jesus doesn't figure in the story. (He does make a cameo in Ben Hur.) I tried to watch The Ten Commandments this year. I watched it until I got through the Red Sea. It had commercials. Two hours was all I could take.

Buy at my original viewing I was impressed with how the movies,at least the ones my mother took me to see,ran in opposition to TV fare, reinforcing my church life.

When I was twelve or so Mama and Joyce would drop David and me off at the Cartersville theater when it opened on Saturday and leave us there till suppertime.We’d watch’ From  Russia with Love’ , ‘Dr.. No’ and then ‘From Russia with Love’ again. We learned a lot there that we didn't get in church...

Ellis "Da" Millsaps is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved... 

16 May 2019

Just Say No (to the War Drums)! - A Commentary by Marshall McCart

It's been quite something, something that I haven't seen it in about 15 years. A total & absolute changing & reversal of the narrative at the national level. As soon as the Dems' attempts to go "All In" against Trump started to fall apart & - more importantly - the war machine's desiring for added profits (See: Iran) started to grow, we've seen the news cycle totally change, haven't we [and how about so many outlets - especially Drudge Report - not giving any print to the apparent impending indictments against the deep state?]. 

Strange, no? 



The recent legislation from states like Mississippi, Georgia. Louisiana - and of course - Alabama, has completely sucked up the air in the proverbial room. Isn't it funny how that always works? i

BONUS - Were these actions the result of a few northern states basically legalizing infanticide?

We report; you decide...

Well, I have no doubt that we won't have to worry about the possibility of a Republic-ending mistake of going to war with Iran in 2019 because I know CONGRESS would never allow it.

So, ultimately, all is well.

We hope...

Thanks for reading. Until next time. 

- MB McCart

Nature Watching with the Alibug: Woodpeckers, Rabbits & More!

I feel like my yard is under siege this year!!

Rabbits and Deer are eating my flowers, and Raccoons are looking for bird's nests in the top of the trees! Cowbirds are scaring off my migrating birds and regular birds! Oh, my! 😞

This particular Raccoon has traveled through the limbs of a White Oak to the VERY flimsy limbs of a Chinaberry Tree, (which needs to have its trunk slit!!) probably looking for baby birds or unhatched eggs. Pretty sure it's not up there to smell the flowers! I'm saying the limbs are flimsy and also brittle, because the only thing my Dad ever broke on his body as a boy was his arm; and he broke it falling from the branch of a Chinaberry Tree that was breaking under his weight!

Rascally Rabbit
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A Trash Panda in a Tree!
Scruffy is still here! I'm usually seeing little lady hummers this time of year. I have seen one! But she's not showing up too often. However.....the spider webs outside my bathroom window seem to be gone and that's important! More than once, I've seen female hummingbirds collecting spider webbing to use in constructing nest! SO............??? Scruffy has been a little bored, it seems. He's been absolutely harassing the songbirds that haven't been run off by the Cowbirds! Since he's about a third their size, or maybe even a fourth!!....it's pretty funny to watch! 😆

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Scruffy the Hummingbird

Wow! I haven't seen these guys near my house in over 40 years! But this one is working on a cavity nest in this pine across the road from me. Not a great picture...but if the birds stay, the pictures will hopefully get better! I am SO excited!! 🤩 BTW...With Crows, Blue Jays, Red-headed Woodpeckers and other birds, the males and females are identical! So it's hard to tell male from female. Obviously, the birds know! 😃

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Red-headed Woodpecker

Alisa Brown 

Multi-generational Newtonian & former WGFS radio host, Ms. Alisa loves the outdoors, birds, the arts, fine dining & great music. She's also got a thing for pirates... An absolutely wonderful woman, we're so glad to have her beautiful nature pics here at TPC. 

14 May 2019

[Perrin Lovett] - A Couple of Things: The Neocons Dream of an Iranian War; Hellywood Hating on Georgia, and; MUST READ Civil War Fiction

Greetings, beloved readers, near and far! It’s a busy time of year, policy and news-wise. Join me and we will explore two of the more interesting, if not alarming, topics of the recent cycle, followed by an excellent literary recommendation. This trio I found more tantalizing than little Benny’s BBC meltdown (poor wuttle Trotskyite snowflake), the unchecked flood across the Southern border, the new baby Royal, Trump’s trillion$ trade Tweet, social media either spying on or banning everyone to the right of AOC, and whatever happened concerning the coming GREAT QUADRENNIAL BLACK MASS. Here goes,

Cometh an Iran War?

The crazies that still have us fighting unwinnable, undeclared wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and one-third the rest of the world, aren’t happy about the way Russia checked U.S. imperial aggression in Syria. They’re really upset that the same thing happened in Venezuela, even as most Americans still can’t find that country on a map. Now, they want to go for the prize, the country they’ve been eyeing since 1979. Actually, THE Prize is Russia. But, for now, this week, Iran will serve as a good proxy.

Unlike with Iraq and Afghanistan, now they’re not even floating lies to justify the adventurism. They’re just doing it. Those who still wonder about things like this are left to wonder: Is it about oil? Are they blaming terrorism in [fill in the blank]? Did Seeing Eye Netanyahu order it? Is this for the benefit of our “friends” in Saudi Arabia? Could Goldman Sachs or Raytheon be in the red? Economic diversion? Another refugee source?

We may never know. Leaks, hints, and what passes for news, to some degree, kind of support all of my ponderings. For instance, we’ve heard rumors of Iranian plots against unspecified American interests in the region. Those, for some strange reason, remind me of the promise of Saddam’s Yellowcake, minus any semi-plausible specificity.

As is, we’ve got some big, tough words from some small, stupid men. The USS Lincoln steams towards the Persian Gulf. A task force too. A B-52 squadron. Patriot missiles. Etc. It’s almost like they’re gearing up for war. If so, will it be another of the splendid cakewalk variety? Could it be yet another endless quagmire complete with a Toby Keith ballad? Or, could this be the one in which Russia takes Uncle Sam behind the woodshed? We may soon know.

Meanwhile, a little closer to Covington,

The Devil Wants Out of Georgia

For as long as the neocons have dreamt an invasive slaughter of ancient Persia, the leftists have made slaughtering unborn babies (now, born ones too) one of their signature issues. Their “Holy” day is January 22nd (1973), the date on which the Supreme Court said murdering babies was a-okay. (I do not refer to the Supreme Court as “The Nine” for nothing).

Great was the consternation amongst the communists when some States began rolling back a few of those rights of women to choose (to murder), began to (GASP!) declare that living human babies are in fact just that. You know, little human beings with some rights of their own. You know, like the right not to be chopped into bits, vacuumed up, and sold to vampires. Last week, Governor Kemp signed Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill to that effect.

The ghouls of Hollywood, every last one of them degenerates, are not happy. And, they’re threatening to take their drugs, their STDs, and their child-molesting ways and leave town. All I could think to say when I heard the news, was, “Good!” Then again, being one to shun movies, television, and other forms of Satanism, I didn’t really know that Georgia had a film industry to abandon. You do, it seems. They want to control “your” Gold Dome and, if you don’t let them, they’ll leave.

A long list of celebrity garbage figures, none of whom I had ever heard of, issued a variety of condemnations, threats, and dire warnings. In particular, an outfit called “Killer Films” no longer considers Georgia a viable shooting location. Okay … if these killers can’t shoot at little babies, they’re going back … to hell? Sound good to me! Get out and take the rest of the trash with you!

I understand that some Georgians reap financial benefit from the salacious propa-tainment industry. Would you rather keep the money at the risk of your kids and the sovereignty of your State? I know, I know … Ain’t no time fer such questions. Gotta go see Endgame! (Ironman dies!) If you’re of the world, then by all means, keep supporting the catamites and demons. If you are merely in the world, then stop supporting those who hate you. Reject their “cool” films, “funny” shows, “dope” lyrics, and the rest of it. Ditch the fake and the obscene for the real and the beautiful. Remember, to have a heartbeat, you’ve gotta have a heart.

And, one finds battalion-level strength heart in,

A Fatal Mercy, The Man Who Lost The Civil War by Thomas Moore

The novel opens with high honor and hard truth, about the War and about the human condition. It also addresses more important issues:

Doc Craven has ordered me to give up drinking, and Nellie won’t let me chase women. If I have to give up cigars too, then I might as well be dead.

- Chapter Two, A discussion among the FitzHenry boys.

(Pic: Amazon/Green Altar Books – Shotwell/Moore)

Drayton FitzHenry, former Confederate cavalry officer, is a professor of classics. In fact, it’s said that he made the department. (See what I meant, last week, about the importance of the classics?) He also failed to take a shot at Gettysburg. How might his martial mercy have affected the War of Southern Independence? You’ll have to CLICK above and find out for yourself. This is another of my review previews. I’m just beginning to work my way into the newly published tome. However, I can fully recommend it at this point - especially to those who love the South and our history (that’s quite a few of you).

There’s more behind the exhortation: Tom Moore is a friend of mine. He is a man of the West, dedicated to more than “mere” Southern culture. He is the living embodiment of measured, educated civility. Ever in search of truth, he walks resolutely where Angels fear to tread. He’s served your interests, still does, even if you don’t know it. Repay the favor and buy the book - $4.95 on Kindle and $19.95 in paperback.

I’ll close with the fitting lyrics that I posted on my blog and emailed to Tom the other day:

Saw you a-marchin’ with Robert E. Lee;
You held your head a-high, tryin’ to win the victory.
You fought for your folks but you didn’t die in vain;
Even though you lost, they speak highly of your name.

– “Johnny Reb,” Merle Kilgore / Johnny Horton (1959)

Until next time, mes chers amis.

13 May 2019

[Bess Tuggle] - Memoirs of Surviving Children: Out of the (sometimes dirty) Mouths of Babes

Okay, to set this one up, my children (biological and otherwise) were raised in a two-story house with a full basement.  The first floor of the house was wide open.  The kitchen had an island stove/oven.  Turn around and the kitchen sink and window was right there. The back door opened into the kitchen, the main door we used, and we all kicked our shoes off next to the back door (not that it really mattered with the dogs, cats and other random creatures that shared our home from time to time).The kitchen was completely open to the living room.  Upstairs, I had a loft office along with the master bedroom, bathroom and closet; if you weren’t 18 you didn’t –dare- walk up those stairs!  I could lift my butt up 6” off my desk chair and see the boys playing in the back yard.  I could also look over the loft rail and check on them in the kitchen and the living room.  To this day, I don’t think they realize that there was one A/C vent on the top floor that let me hear everything going on in the basement.  If I just busted myself out, so be it.  My memories still give me grins and giggles.

I had supper on the table every day at 5:30.

Standing in the kitchen cooking, with my oldest doing his elementary school homework, son #3, at about 2 ½ years old, gets on his knees in one of the kitchen chairs, puts his elbows on the table, leans over, and asks his brother “What’s that f’in shhhhiIIIIiiittt?”  

I stopped, mid-stir on whatever I was coming up with to feed the masses, and asked “What did you say?”

At 2 ½ he had a tiny, pint sized little adorable voice.  He answered immediately “F’in shhhhiIIIIiiittt.” 

I turned my back to the stove and table, put my hands over my face, and laughed so hard I cried until I couldn’t catch my breath.  Now I’ve got a child that’s scared to death because Mama was crying – and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it at that moment.

His father finally walked in the back door from work and asked what was wrong.  I’m sure I looked completely distraught.  Tears everywhere, hitching breath… I finally caught my breath long enough to tell him to ask his son what he said.  

“F’in shhhhiIIIIiiittt.”  

Son #3 got sent to his room.  Neither of us could deal with that one with a straight face.

When his father asked me where he got that from I calmly answered “Do you remember your tirade walking in the back door last night after work, tripping over the boys’ shoes?”

Supper was burned to a crisp.  Nothing more to be said.

Bess Tuggle

A jack of all trades, Ms. Tuggle has been a Covington resident since the late 70’s. She's been a K-Mart cashier, cabinet builder, vet tech, office manager for a beef cattle ranch and water well company (where she was able to hold benefits for D.A.R.E. and Scouts), a court reporter, business manager, assistant at a private investigation firm, legal assistant, convenience store clerk, landscaper and elementary school substitute teacher.  Her greatest pleasure is being a wife, mother and grandmother.  Her stories are all real, and all names will be withheld to protect the innocent, and also maybe the guilty, depending on the crime & the Statute of Limitations.  


Your Source for the REAL Story

12 May 2019

Sunday Night Check-in - On the C-town Beat: Mayor's Race; Knight Retiring; SHIII; Odds & Ends

By MB McCart, Editor

Hey, guys, how goes it? Good, I hope.

So another week in the books of the #COV. In terms of local news, a lot of coverage & ink from the other press outlets in town have been dedicated to the "Accused Killer Parents" trial. Following that story - and even going as far to watch in on FB Live - is something that has no appeal for me. Thinking about that poor baby, though...it's just awful. Hopefully Justice will be done.

Mayor's Race 

After almost three weeks of speculation & hearing that something was imminent, it seems confirmed that former Covington City Manager, Steve Horton, has publicly declared his intent to run for Mayor of Covington this fall. 

I know a good number of folks who really think a lot of Horton, but I know a fair number of folks that don't. Not unlike your semi-esteemed Editor, and possibly some of you reading this, it oftentimes seems as if many of us out here have a duality of emotion directed in our direction - having fans & non-fans.

Horton, by most accounts, did at least a fair job as City Manager, filling the large shoes left by his predecessor, Frank Turner Sr.

I was recently sent Mr. Horton's contact info & hope to have at least a preliminary chat & corresponding story soon. Personally, I really don't know Steve, but the few times I've met him it seemed as if he was a stand-up guy. I'm looking forward to learning more about him.

That puts our list of declared mayoral candidates now at two - Horton & the Preacherman, Tim Walden.

I recently spoke with our current Mayor, Ronnie Johnston, & according to him he still hasn't made up his mind if he'll run for another term or not, though this writer feels fairly confident he'll probably end up qualifying for this race when the time comes, speaking of the aforementioned phenomenon of having a fair number of both supporters & detractors.

At this point, if all three qualify, it's definitely a 2-man race between Horton & Johnston. Who has the most goodwill? Who has the most...'badwill'? We shall see; however, don't be surprised to see at least one more person throw their hat in the ring, likely a west-ward entrant.

Current City Manager Leigh Anne Knight Retiring 

So that was the deal with the new contract & severance package. It's what I figured...

I thank Ms. Knight for her service to the city.

The selection of the person to take over this position will be a very important one. We'll keep an eye on it.

The Cherokee Scotsman, Samuel Hay III 

Against better judgement, I decided to take a swipe at my old friend on the book of faces the other night, in essence asking - in a bit of a snarky way - what he'd been up to since he'd blocked me back in March. Based on the screenshots, he sniped back. Hell, I'd been disappointed if he hadn't.

Poor ole Sammy, I kinda hate to see him piss away his legacy like this, but let's face it - he's gotten old, and mean, bitter. I'm too busy to play Cowboys & Indians w/ him, if I had the inclination to do so anyway. Hope he finds whatever it is he needs to find. I'm going to get you back on some of the AME prayer lists, Sam. We're all pulling for you!

But seriously - call me anytime, pal! And really, I'd prefer to see you in person sometime soon. If you thought I ripped your head off that night in front of Amici a while back, I'll raise the bar this next time, I assure you.

Odds & Ends

I ran into an old friend recently who had some direct knowledge of the whole Rec Commission situation (within the actual department) & was someone I'd spoken with a few times about it the last year & a half. We were both just like - "well, hell...is what it is." A few hundred grand down the drain. Everybody knew of the issues & problems for years. The Rec Commissions investigation back in 2017 presented compelling evidence. Later, the county itself found that the firing was with cause. But, we see how things turned out. What can you say? It's Newton Co. 

This past week I saw Tommy Craig twice in as many days. I drove by him standing in front of his law office on College Ave one day; he drove by me as I was standing & smoking on the corner of College & Elm the next day. We waved both times, and while the last several times I'd seen him a while back & he looked pretty rough (dealing with some pretty serious health issues, you know) the sonuvabitch looked healthier than a horse, probably in better looking shape than I've seen him in five years. How 'bout that? 

Image result for tommy craig covington ga
Got the law office looking good & not like it was starting to fall apart; making big bucks from the Sheriff & seemingly in good health. Wm T "Tommy Craig," folks - NOT going gentle into the good night...

Well, alright, until next time. 

Thanks for reading, 

MB McCart 

10 May 2019

[Perrin Lovett] - Winged Justice From Cuba: A Tom Ironsides Story

Author’s Note: The following is partly based on true events, a blended, fictional account of several independent and real stories. Names have been changed, omitted, or dramatized so as to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the dead. The resemblance of any character or entity in this tale, to any person or entity, living or dead, is mere semblance only. Please, enjoy.

Sometimes the mind wanders. In daydreams, a man can relive what he found harrowing as well as those pleasant times that feel now, as they did then, just like dreams. Sometimes, if one isn’t careful, the two meld together. Tom’s brain turned back the calendar to another stage in his life’s journey.

Tom stood in the door of “his” Dassault Falcon 7X, peering into the gloom above a dark, tropical landscape. The absence of the sun (and the moon) rendered the ordinarily green fields of cane a deep shade of midnight blue. It was after midnight. Technically, it was 12:44 AM on a Friday - Tom had just consulted his Submariner. And, technically, he did not like the feel of this particular night.

The cane…, Tom muttered in his mind, They cut down every cane in the fields.

And, they had, except for two narrow strips, one on each side of the rural roadway. He saw it, even in the dark, as he landed, smoothly, on crumbling, gravelly, barely-there asphalt just South of Sierra Morena, Cuba. The wingtips were literally touching the closest stalks on either side. Now Tom kicked himself for the placement - those cane screens and several stands of trees - out there, just a little, but just a little too close.

‘Why do I feel like this is a setup?’ Tom asked aloud to the night air.

‘These are the coordinates, boss,’ came an answer from the bottom of the stairs, barely audible over the three idling Pratt & Whitney turbofans. The answer came from “Oak,” a giant of a Team Six NCO, with a beard, biker tattoos, and the Devil’s poker face. He wore his shades despite the near total darkness. ‘Give the boy a few minutes. He knows what he’s doing.’

The “boy,” was Clandestine Services’ new wunderkind, some dazzling experiment out of Air Force Special Ops. He was good with computers. He was twenty-six, good-looking, and gregarious. He did something in Afghanistan. And, he spoke Spanish.

They were supposed to be waiting for us. Damn! This baby makes a lot of noise. Castro, hear us roar,’ Tom grumbled to no-one in particular. Then, he cocked his head and spoke over his shoulder, ‘Birch, how long have we been sitting here wailing like a Banshee?’

“Birch” was Tom’s own guy, picked out of Recon support and run into logistics for the Special Activities Division. He was the only man on the team older than Tom; they had to bend some rules to get him the job but it all worked out very well. The least Jarhead-looking and least Company-looking person imaginable, Birch was a lifesaver.

‘Six minutes, Tom,’ Birch replied with his usual nonchalance. He then called to the remaining support team in the back, ‘We got FLIR onboard? I think we should scan the hedge and the fields.’

As the men began searching for heat-ID equipment, Tom scanned the horizon. He had a pretty good view from the hatchway. He went over the mission in his head, still confounded and, if he admitted it, a little shaken. This is the damndest and sickest waste of resources I’ve ever even imagined, he thought, engines running on an open road, in a hostile country, boxed in by sugar cane … all of our lives on the line for what?

The “what” behind this particular overnight excursion into danger bothered Tom to his core. He strongly considered the short time he had left before they could magically blend retirements together and let him walk.

The plan, as best he understood it, was a simple prisoner exchange - an exchange organized at the behest of friends of the current administration. The Company, for its part, was in country to return a convicted terrorist, maybe the last of the anti-Carriles gang, based on the personal request of Senor Presidente Castro. He had been convicted in, was serving a life sentence in, the US, for terroristic activities against the people of America. The low-life they were picking up was wanted in both countries. The Cubans currently held him on substantial charges of child sex trafficking and some of the vilest allegations of child sex abuse Tom had ever heard. And, Tom had spent the past 25 years hearing the worst the world had to offer.

The pedo-queer, as Tom called him, was wanted in the US in connection with a notorious Florida billionaire’s sex slave island. A few years back, Sugar Daddy Warbucks had been given a light criminal slap on the wrist and sent on his way to the Virgin Islands. It paid to call a former President your buddy and alleged “customer.” Tonight’s loser was wanted for the civil trials, just heating up if the news was to be trusted - a huge if. The thing that kicked Tom hard in the guts was that Mr. Pedo Bear was wanted as a material NON-witness. Someone wanted this degenerate so he would NOT have to testify about the island nor stand trial on his own! Wanted so “they” could keep him out of court and, consequently, out of the reach of true justice.

Cuba was getting a hero back, to keep in cigars and rum through his old age, a dangerous hero released from lawful US custody. In exchange, America’s crooked elites, via the Company, were getting a disgusting threat to children hemisphere-wide that the Cubans probably planned to hang. Both men were escaping justice. Bullshit! doesn’t even come close, thought Tom as he white-knuckled the hatch flange.

Two men descended the stairs and went to either side of the plane. They had found the FLIR scopes. But, maybe there would be no need... Before they even took up positions in the cane rows, Oak rapped on the side of the stairs. Tom followed the big man’s outstretched fingers and his bellow of ‘ten o’clock.’

Just beyond the tip of the port wing, just off the road, came a rustle and some voices through the hedge. Oak leveled a “borrowed” AK-74 in the voices’ direction. Tom fully cocked his H&K .45 and dropped the safety. From behind, Birch flipped the fire selector on an MP-5.

Out of the cane walked four men. “The boy” led the way, followed by a disheveled heap of a bearded, Berkeley professor-looking fellow in a worn tweed sportcoat. Professor Tweed was flanked, closely, by two slightly smaller, plain-clothed cookie-cutter copies of Oak.

Wunderkind spoke (yelled), a little too loudly even over the whine of the engines, ‘Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! We’re the good guys.’

‘You’re the loud guys,’ Tom growled, ‘Get that piece of shit on the plane and let’s get the hell out before hell breaks out.’

The young Opium War hero stopped at the bottom of the stairs. He called up to Tom, who was just turning towards the cockpit, ‘It was a lovely place. Nice folks too. None of them seemed to work for the regime. Ha! But, they didn’t have your Belicosos finos; I did score you some Soberanos.’

‘Great,’ snorted Tom, ‘you did good kid. Now, get everyone onboard. Now!’ He thought just a moment and added, staring hard at Dr. Pedo who was being led up to the door, ‘Make our guest comfortable. We’re forbidden to interrogate him about … what he knows. But, I want to know everything about him. If I ever need to look, I want to know where to find him anytime, anywhere on God’s Earth.’

The younger man looked confused and almost defensive. He replied, ‘We … we weren’t supposed to…’

‘Oak!’ shouted Tom, ‘Find out for me. And only for me.’

‘You. Got. It. Boss.’ Oak both said to Tom and sneered to the Tweed Dweeb. When Oak had first read the mission dossier, he had left a basketball-sized dent in a steel file cabinet. Tom half hoped for a repeat performance with a living object.

Just then, hell did break out.

‘We’ve got company!’ screamed the FLIR man off the left wing, on the side the boarding party had just come from. Over the JP-fueled noise of whirling aluminum and steel, he had caught multiple voices, maybe a vehicle engine revving. Here and there, lights shone out in the field.

Yep, a trap. They’ve double-crossed us, Tom thought, can’t blame them one bit.

‘Move your asses! We’re going, now!’ Tom thundered as he raced to the cockpit. Birch was right behind, slamming himself into the right seat. Tom didn’t even wait for the door to close. As soon as he heard “all in,” he pushed the throttle forward, flipping switched deftly but madly.

Lurching, then rolling steadily forward, they were departing in a hurry for Tampa. Maybe it wasn’t hurrying enough.


It seemed that “customs” didn’t approve of something in their departure plan, or, maybe, their cargo. Tom was painfully aware that his aircraft was taking small-arms fire. The hiss to his immediate left told him the bird’s skin was compromised. The burning in his left arm, just above the elbow, told him his was as well.

‘GAH! Hang on!’ He looked down. Blood on his arm. Blood on his shirt. His lap. Some on the controls too. He didn’t feel pain, just a hot, numb sensation spreading from his shoulder to this fingers. Despite whatever was the damage, he gripped the yoke, firm but steady, with his left hand. His right rammed the throttle ahead all the way - actual balls to the bloodied wall.

They were off the ground before the door was fully shut. A few more ominous CRACKS reverberated through the cabin but it appeared they had escaped. But, at what cost?

‘Everybody okay? Anyone hit? Is anyone hit?’ Tom yelled back through the cabin, his voice drowning the automated alarms that broke out at almost the same moment.

Birch quickly scanned the cabin. ‘We’re good. It’s just you, Tom,’ he said, leaning over to take a better look at the latest addition to Tom’s work-related injuries. ‘That doesn’t look good,’ he said, the nonchalance easing just a tad. He turned back and shouted, ‘Bleeding kit up here now!’

‘I’ll live. Gotta bigger bird to fry at the moment,’ Tom said with a slight wince, his eyes alternating between the dark horizon and the instrument panel.

The Falcon leveled off as it crossed the beach. Florida in a flash but alive too, thought Tom as he adjusted the trim and eased back on the throttle. He had climbed to almost five-hundred feet over land. Within a few seconds, now that the Straits of Florida streamed darkly below his windshield, he dropped. Two-hundred feet. One-fifty. One-hundred. Accompanied by further electronic cries of impending disaster, he stopped the descent at what he reckoned was about seventy-five feet. Low altitude came with increased danger but it cut radar visibility. Now, he had to address all the alarms...

Triage, normally a welcomed rite on the battlefield, was a severe inconvenience at the moment. The team medic visually assessed the wound. He leaned around, forcing himself between Tom and the seatback, a fit tight and awkward. ‘I need to get a tourniquet on,’ he said matter of factly.

‘I need to keep us in the air,’ Tom replied as he worked through a list of automated warnings, he added to himself (maybe to Birch), ‘this thing isn’t as pitch trim friendly as you’d expect.’

A few grumbling protestations from the pilot and his blood stopped squirting out. ‘I’m gonna hit it and then give you a shot, sir,’ said the medic.

‘Fine. Make it quick,’ Tom replied without looking, ‘Birch, we got a problem. Left nacelle’s been hit. Hard. Think I’ve got a fire. No power. … Number two doesn’t seem happy either. … Right is … right, fine. Get out the emergency procedures manual. Somewhere over by you. Book.’

‘Got it,’ Birch said after a short search. He turned on a custom red map light and started thumbing - for what he wasn’t sure.

‘Gotta cut out number three. I can’t risk dragging a flare behind us,’ Tom half said to himself. Without glancing over he started a series of orders to Birch, ‘Engage the A-P-U. Start with the overhead and then operate off the fire control panel,’ he said, pointing up and then forward for the benefit of his confused co-pilot. ‘Just read through it and listen to me.’

In a remarkably short time, the medic still hovering over his shoulders, Tom stopped fuel to his dead port engine. Satisfied it was off, he managed to bleed out and restart the central fan - something was jamming the intake or the s-duct. Without any ability to properly diagnose it, he decided to get it running and open it full blast. ‘I’ll make her happy. Use her for full thrust and steer with number one if I have too,’ Tom informed Birch. Without understanding much beyond the severity of the situation, Birch concurred. He relied less on Tom’s limited aviation experience and more on his confidence. Knowing Tom wouldn’t break radio silence - for anything - until they were on approach (to somewhere), it was in their hands and God’s.

After a minute or three, they thought they had salvaged the flight. Tom shouted to the rear, ‘I need eyes left and behind! I’m gonna zig-zag. Gotta tell me if we’re burning.’ He knew, even in the absence of radar, open flames make for excellent air-to-air, SAM, or gun targeting. A few herky-jerky turns later he was informed (and satisfied) that they might be trailing sparks and smoke but no open flame.

The pilot almost cracked a smile. Then, he turned and yelled to Oak, ‘Start getting me some information out of that hobo.’ Oak commenced in expert fashion. A few thumps and screams later and Tom heard their passenger begin to excitedly speak.

The kid called up to the cockpit, ‘He says he wants a lawyer. Says he wants to see the Israeli ambassador.’

‘Check the overheads! See if we have some of those,’ Tom said sarcastically, ‘Oak! Tell that child-molesting faggot if he doesn’t start talking, he’s going to take a high dive at five-hundred miles per hour!’ Oak said more than that. Whatever it was, it got some results - discreetly recorded for Tom’s use only.

‘We’re not going five-hundred,’ Birch informed, over the still screeching warning alarms, ‘Maybe holding two-seventy … two-eighty.’

‘And, that’s all we’re gonna get, man,’ said Tom, just as his eyes settled on a new warning message. He scanned the gauges several times. ‘Well, hell,’ he almost chuckled, ‘Losing fuel. Our gate crew did some fine shooting. Okay, MacDill is out of the question. Homestead might… Hey, everybody, we’re going to Key West!’

(Picture: PBS/Twitter)

At their present speed - if the gas (and their luck) held - Naval Air Station Key West was a little under one-hundred miles away. The Fates relented and both fuel and luck held. When he was confident he was approaching American waters and airspace, Tom climbed a little. Then, he gave Birch the go-ahead to radio for an emergency landing.

Maybe a newbie, the airman in the tower didn’t quite understand Birch’s classified code speak. But, he did gather there was a serious problem with the aircraft that had just magically appeared on his radar. They got a few warnings, some confusion, and then permission to land.

A minute or two later they could see runway lights ahead; Tom swung out a little right so as to approach North by Northeast. Key West, famed Southerly end of America, shown brightly to their left. A distant glow to the right told them the juice was still on in Miami.

Tom prepped for landing and addressed one final alarm - something was wrong with part (or all) of his landing gear. ‘El revolucionarios are pretty damned good,’ Tom sneered through a grimace, ‘Brace for a crash! Now!’

As the whole team did their best to brace, Tom counted down the altimeter, synching it with the rapidly growing ground outside. Final adjustments. Power back. Nose up. Three. Two. One… With a thud and a grinding, whining sound they were back on Earth. The Falcon jerked and jolted. It wanted to drift left. With Birch’s assistance, Tom held her straight and tried his best to brake. Those boys shot the shit out of us, he thought, saaalute, commies.

In the end, they rolled almost the length of the runway before coming to a shuttering stop. Outside, a small armada of firetrucks and military police vehicles converged on the wreck.

The stairs opened and settled on the ground with a clang. They were listing considerably to the left, one rear landing gear assembly was destroyed and the corresponding wingtip was almost touching the composite surface of runway 14-32. Birch was the first off and immediately talking to MPs and then an officer. It was now understood they were to be unhindered. Exactly who they were and what they were doing was speculated over but not asked about. The fire crew ordered all parties out. An ambulance came for a reluctant team leader.

Tom was the last off. He walked slowly towards Birch, the kid, Oak, and the paramedics. As he closed in on Professor Pedo he couldn’t help himself. He drove his right foot forcefully into the back of the man’s left knee and rode him down. In a flash, he delivered a powerful forearm strike to the shrieking non-witness’s head, the head which literally bounced on the tarmac. As the friend of a friend of a former president spit blood and teeth and whimpered, Tom casually spoke as he passed, ‘I’ll see you again one night, my friend.’  

As he climbed into the back of a waiting ambulance, the kid leaned in with words to lionize, ‘That was excellent flying, sir. How long have you had your pilot’s license?’

‘What license?’ Tom answered just as the doors closed.

Late that afternoon an exhausted paramilitary operations officer walked into the reception area outside a briefing room in the CENTCOM bunker at MacDill Air Force Base. His jacket loosely draped over his shoulder, hid a brand new blue sling. He stopped at a little concierge table. After adding two fingers of Scotch to his styrofoam coffee cup he fumbled with his flask.

‘Can I help you with that contraband, sir,’ came a semi-sultry voice from behind. Tom glanced over at a very attractive, very young woman in uniform.

‘Well, hey there, darling,’ he started as he scanned for insignia and what might lie beneath, ‘...Lieutenant. Can you help me get this back in my coat pocket? This sling makes it difficult … I was playing polo and… It’s Bowmore, the best your PX had. Don’t want to lose it. I’ve got the rest in my car if you’re free in an hour.’

With a polite word (maybe a sarcastic threat) the woman with short blonde hair eased the flask back where it belonged. She gave Tom a pat on his chest and then a knowing, sadistic tap on the left arm. As she walked away, he noticed that she looked back. She looked but she didn't catch the kiss he blew.

A no-nonsense-looking Air Force one-star hailed Tom from an adjoining room, ‘Commander Bond, if you’re done harassing my officer, we’re ready to get started in here. Langley’s on screen.’

Tom entered and rattled off his report, expressing plenty of not-so-subtle disdain for the mission and for those who had requested it. He especially wanted to know why their “guest,” after a visit to the emergency room, was turned over to the private security firm of the Federal Reserve. He received no answers. He was upbraided for wrecking the plane (‘What plane?’ defied Tom) and for brutalizing an important NON-witness (‘I’m not responsible for anything the Cubans did,’ was all that got them). Then, at last, the conversation turned pleasant. As he expected, the bean-counters were cobbling together about 28 years worth of retirement (of one kind and another) for services rendered to a grateful, if uninformed, nation. His coming trip to Headquarters would likely be his last.

On his way out of the office, as he scanned for the Blonde Sadist, his new one-star friend walked up to him and spoke, ‘Colonel, my boy mentioned something about a cigar mix up in between what “the Cubans did” and the here and now.’ He offered Tom three Belicosos finos from his pocket. America still had some decent brass.

Way too late that evening, Tom slumped over the bar at Steak O’Brien’s, Palma Ceia’s finest watering hole. Michelle, the twenty-something Barbie doll bartender in the low-cut white t-shirt, leaned towards him as she had the past two hours. Thirty minutes later, as they left together, she cooed, ‘So, again … what'd you do to your arm?’

‘Like I told you, I’m a drug dealer. Had a shootout with the police,’ Tom said flatly as he tightened his grip on her waist.

‘Bullshit! You are the police.’

‘Well, I do have some handcuffs.’

Despite his not sleeping for the past forty-eight hours, 12:44 Saturday morning was considerably more enjoyable than the same time the previous day.

***Seven-plus years later…

Tom stared ahead at nothing. Michelle had been fun. Now, which breakup was she? Did she ever still text? Call? He pondered hard; it was difficult to keep count. Maybe, maybe it was best to finally leave the college girls back in college. Was thirty the new floor? Young Ms. Tomlinson, here, she was probably just about right… Then, he saw the glimmer on her left hand. Ah, well, it wouldn’t work anyway.

MRS. Lucie Tomlinson sat at the other end of the lunchroom table. He had just returned to her nineteen Kindergarteners after a rousing music class. He was graciously invited to dine with the young academics and their lovely leader. This being December, the wonderful lunch ladies at L.D. Jever Elementary, a South Carolina blue ribbon award winner for increasing STEM diversity or something, had prepared turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Following confusion about how to make change for a Ten, Tom’s turkey was free. And, it was pretty good.

To Tom’s right, a girl with long, curly brown hair approved of the mashed potatoes. In fact, she was wearing them on her shirt sleeve. After the claymation video of “Peter and the Wolf” concluded - Tom’s third screening of the day - little Ms. Macey Somebody had crayoned a picture of Santa for her parents. Tom received a half-finished, nearly all green drawing of Rudolf.

She recounted the various adventures of her cat. She did not like red peppers. Mr. “Eyesnides” looked like a giant Christmas elf. Then, she exclaimed about the mashed potatoes on her sleeve.

Tom acknowledged, ‘Hey, little lady, you’ve got mashed potatoes on your sleeve.’

He also, silently, acknowledged the good he had done two Decembers before on his Mediterranean “vacation.” What were the odds of finding Professor Pedo in Sicily, at that hotel, at that time of the night? Tom remembered it, heard it again with lucid clarity - that sweet, soft sound of success - of justice: Pfwoot! Pfwoot! Pfwoot! He had almost left an apologetic note for room service; he had left a drop knife and some photographs for the inspectors.

He smiled. What he had done, he had done for this little girl and so many others just like her. It was a darn good day.