“Give me the best men you have! They have to be the absolute best. Our client is practically royalty!”
I remember saying those exact words. I couldn’t have been clearer. And yet, I found myself on the phone with some numskull telling me, “Well, the best of the best weren’t available… so we got the best of the mediocre.”
It would have to do. There wasn’t much time left. 15 minutes maybe. Sweat beaded on my forehead. My hands shook and teeth rattled like I was being electrocuted. The anticipation was so much worse than the ordeal. Is this why they relieved me of duty? Or is this what happens to a man who hasn’t organized an operation in 30 years?
I checked the balloons for proper firmness and the streamers for proper stretch. Outside, the mount whinnied impatiently. In the bushes, in the trees, behind swing sets, I could see 50 pairs of silent eyes… watching… waiting. I knew what they wanted, and they were about to get it.
Tires screeched out front. I crept along the side of the house to confirm they had arrived, without giving away my position, just in case we had unexpected company. It was them. Good. A white sprinter van at the curb disgorged 10… no 15 men, way more than should’ve been able to fit.
My walkie talkie crackled and said, “Target spotted at 9 o’clock.” “Copy that” I replied.”
I sprinted in a crouch as best as I could and finished with a roll to stand near the leader of the troupe.
“Get in position! Target coming in hot. GO! GO! GO!” I yelled in a whisper. The men ran past me, each carrying their gear, all in different uniforms. This looked like it was going to be a disaster already. The leader walked up to me, toe to toe, nose to nose.
“These are my men gadammit! I’ll give the orders around here.”
“This is my operation. If anything goes wrong, whose head do you think is going on the chopping block? Huh?”
“Nothing is going to happen, Sir.”
“You better make gadam sure, son. Now get in there.”
I snuck back in the house and peered through the bottom corner of the window. A forest green sedan parked in the driveway.
I radioed the team, “Target has arrived. Are all systems for Operation ‘Go-Go’ go?
There was a long silence before my Eyes on the Roof responded, “Negative. Prospero the Peachy is not set up.”
“Did not read you. Please repeat!” I hissed
“I repeat. Prospero the Peachy is not set up.”
Oh no. Everything rested on Prospero. That’s why I always plan contingencies. I snuck over to the master bedroom and released the dog. It followed a trail of food to it’s empty bowl. It would need to be fed, and that would buy us time.
I snaked out of the window from the master bedroom. Prospero was only a few yards run from me.
“It’s this damn cannon. It won’t cock back so I can’t load it!”
I grabbed the cannon and fiddled with it for just a second. With a little jiggle it cocked back. Damn Prospero. What an idiot!
I could see it all in slow motion. The door knob to the back door twisted and the door opened. The screen door was pushed aside.
“Operation Go-Go Go!” I yelled into the radio and to the men around me.
A little girl stepped out. Prospero’s cannon erupted and 10 pounds of confetti rained down on the back yard. The men on the sides fired their streamer guns in all directions. The 50 boys and girls yelled, “SURPRISE!”
Little Mia’s eyes popped out of their sockets in surprise. “DADDY!” She squealed. She came running up to me and I picked her up and gave her a big hug. The backyard erupted into chaos as everyone started running around and laughing and playing. She was buried in my chest with a smile as wide as her face.
“Look” I said. “Want to ride a pony?” pointing to the pony I rented for the day.
“You’re the best daddy ever.” she said.
Mommy walked up to me. “You organized all this?”
“Sure did.” I said. “Think the clowns did good? I know they’re not the best.”
“They did fine. You, on the other hand, did wonderful.”