I was checking both defunct mowers when I noticed a key was in the shed lock. Meaning someone was in there. I had an idea who, opened the door to the heated, lighted storage shed where the previous tenant fixed a 4x4 motor—oil spots on a nice rug—where we kept the garden tools, an extra washing machine wrapped in a tarp and Mitchell, sitting on the only chair next to my work bench.
“Took you long enough.” He lit up and added, “Nice site-thingie. Well writ.”
“Blog.” I corrected, but he waved that away with a smokey hand.
“Whatever.” He looked around the small shed, “Not bad, but it needs something.”
“I’ll have the maid leave flowers next time.”
“I meant the blog-site-whatsit. Needs something to perk it up, catch the eye.”
“What!?” I had a mower to fix.
“Pictures.” He nodded sagely, “Something to stay in the viewer’s mind.”
He tossed down an old snapshot.
“Over on the right is where I got basic training, came out a ‘nom-com’—
‘They’ll call you SARGEANT!’— my instructor poked my gut on the last day. I was seven years old and had gone to a ‘weekend at daycamp’ which lasted two weeks. Go figure.”
“Seven!? SARGEANT—TWO WEEKS!? Didn’t your parents notice!?”
“Presumably,” Mitchell shrugged, “They were in on it.”
“Then, two weeks in the Sierras, learning to find anti-personnel mines, anti tank mines and body-traps on bodies and doors. I turned eight that summer.”
“Then formal boxing lessons—I learned defensive tumbling and Judo when I was six from a pro-football line backer, so I knew the...drill.”
“We had moved to the far south end of the Imperial Valley and I joined a kid gang, so my parents tried to put me in a school for smart kids, but when I visited, those kids there looked hungry, vicious, left outside too long. I rebelled and Mom and Dad taught me Chemistry, Rocketry, Biology and Electrical Engineering at home. Learned how to make a motor from a beer can and nails...and a rail gun.”
“Then came the field-trips to that famous airbase out in the desert. “ He stopped and shook like a large picture window while scenes I barely remember flashed in the rectangles—this was ‘to segment the retina into 81 individual nerve areas.’ ”
He smiled, “My mind’s eye sees a multitude of mini-screens with data, pictures and stuff, pulling any one to focus, like satellite weather views, or medical views of people in front of me or maps like GPS...a bunch of stuff.”
“Then,” He looked at me, but I nodded him on, “We moved up near Little Mountain where it rains all the time, and after Swim Team, I went Summer camp where I learned to cheat at blackjack games, build a 60‘ rope bridge and swim 30 yards under murky water at midnight, sneak out on the shore and kill a man with my swim trunks‘ string around his neck.”
“Uh...I need to fix my mower—”
“And I was all for it, a true believer! Until the following month, when our Leader asked my five man squad to join Advanced Underwater Demolition training and I balked. ‘Set off explosives under water—how far away would our escape sub be!? HAVE YOU GUYS EVER SEEN FISH DYNAMITED OUT OF A POND!?”
“Calm down, drink this and don’t be a chicken.” Our Leader gave me a little paper cup of what looked like thick soda pop as my squad muttered ‘Chicken! P-KUK!‘ “
I got home somehow, maybe they walked me between them, and a week later my Dad died. And sitting up in the far left corner of the church at the funeral were about 20 men in grey who looked hungry, vicious, left outside too long....”
“And then Dad woke me up one night, dressed in a military billed cap, tight jacket and khaki pants, like when we’d go fishing at dawn. ‘I’m not dead,‘ Dad said, and took out his whittling knife, carving a long groove in my desk, ‘This is so you know I was here. I’m what you’d call a spy and I have to go away. Forever. Remember that I love you.‘ “
Mitchell sat and puffed, rubbing his face for a moment.
“After that I went to hell up in the high desert with Military Intelligence Ops as my mentors, some 30 of them. I tell you about my Mentors next time.”
He eased out of my stunned silence and pulled the door shut, opening it again.
“But no names, I’m only turning myself in—” He waggled a finger, then locked me in (the latch was on my side) and yelled from outside, “And Boris and Fred!”