Zephy sat in the window, his tail swishing back and forth. If his Great uncle Aeolus was going to come today, it would be in the early morning. Trouble was, the school bus also came early in the morning. The race of life or death by torture would be decided soon, and Zephy just couldn’t stand the waiting.
If his uncle arrived before the school bus, there was a good chance that he Zephy, would spend the day with his world famous uncle; none other than Colonel Aeolus Emory Gryphon, commander of the most decorated combat squadron in the Air Force.
Zephy had a large box filled with nothing but really cool postcards from all over the world where the Colonel and his squadron had flown, or the Colonel had personally traveled to. Buried deep like treasure were two large goldish coins called “Chips”, which commanders have and pass out as thank you tokens to other military personal of lower rank as a physical acknowledgement. One of the coins that Zephy had was from his uncle, but the other was one that his uncle had received, specifically for Zephy, from the President of the United States.
Zephy thought it was pretty cool that his uncle and the President of the United States were friends, and uncle Aeolus had been to the White House on many occasions; but he thought it was even more cool that his uncle had thanked the President for the chip, but told him that he would be passing it on to his nephew Zephy. The President had told him to keep that one, and gave him another one specifically for Zephy, telling him that he and his nephew were welcome at the White House any time. It just made Zephy’s tail twitch even harder to think about some day that he and his uncle might go to Washington DC together.
But today, he would just settle for his uncle to get there before the bus.
“Zephy, your breakfast is getting cold.” His mother called. “Come on dear; you need to be ready for the school bus when it gets here.”
“Boy!” Zephy thought to himself; even his mother was conspiring to send him to school today instead of getting the day off to spend with his uncle.
With a final yearning look out of the window, he slid off the window seat and with silent lion` s feet, padded his way to the kitchen for his pancakes and eggs. He really did like the maple syrup, but it just wasn’t what he had his heart set on today.
As he sat up to the table with his lion paws dangling inches from the floor and slowly waving back and forth as he chewed, he thought about the email he had gotten from his uncle, sent from the USS Lincoln aircraft carrier as it was steaming its way back across the Atlantic Ocean. Uncle Aeolus had said that they were about four to six days away from the base and were “cutting squares in the ocean”, meaning that a ship runs north for say four hours, turns east and runs for four hours, then turns south and continues the same routine till they are back to where they started, and then start the process all over again. It is called a “Boxed Track” and it is a way to patrol an area of the ocean, but more importantly it tests the crew’s ability to navigate and operate as a cohesive team. Uncle Aeolus says it is the same with the fighter wing.
He specifically said that he was about 99% sure he would arrive ashore with enough time to come see Zephy and his family on the next Tuesday, and that was today. He hadn’t called, to say he wasn’t coming, but he hadn’t shown up yet either. This was just wrong, he moped as he slowly pushed his pancakes around with his fork. His mother watched him sadly over her shoulder as she washed some dishes. As the little twinkle flared in her eye and her cheeks pulled back in a blocked smile, her wing raised to block Zephy from seeing.
“You’d better hurry up and finish Zephy, the bus will be here in five minutes.” It was all she could do to keep her smile out of her voice. “And, you know I don’t have the car today, so I can’t drive you to school if you miss the bus.” She snuck a peek over her wing.
Just then Zephy’s dad came out of his parents’ bedroom as he straightened his tie and pulled on his jacket.
“Dad” Zephy began, “Uncle Aeolus said he would be here today, but he’s not; and the bus is coming.”
As his dad leaned over and gave his mom a peck on the cheek, he turned and addressed his son’s concerns. “Son, he said he would try, and that is not the same as absolute. He’s a very busy man and has a great deal of responsibility.” He lifted his head and cocked it, “and speaking of responsibility, I hear a certain large yellow vehicle coming up the hill, and you don’t have your boots on mister.” As he bent over to peck the top of the small head, he found himself kissing air and the front door opening.
“I’m coming !” Zephy yelled as his right boot slipped over his paw, with the left already standing ready. “Bye dad, bye mom, love you.” And the door slammed shut followed by the mushy slapping sound of yellow galoshes running down the walkway to the end of the driveway and the waiting school bus.
At the edge of the walk and lawn, Zephy stopped to look back. His mother and father stood in the large dining room window waving goodbye. His mother put her fore claw to her beak and blew him a kiss. Zephy turned and ran the rest of the way to the bus and climbed aboard.
“Do you think he suspected?” The deep voice rumbled from the bedroom door.
The two parents stood transfixed as they watched the school bus door close and the bus slowly start to pull away. The boy in the fifth seat back was waving his claw at them and they waved back. “I think you actually pulled this mission off this time Colonel.” Zephy’s dad muttered out of the side of his mouth as he knew just what kind of eagle-eye his son had. Slowly the bus disappeared down the road and was finally hidden by the large over growth of Jacaranda trees.
Turning, the two parents chuckled with the Colonel as they finally could let down their guard.
“Where did you park the car?”
“Car? Not today, I absconded with an official command SUV. We’re talking lights, siren and the whole nine yards. I parked it behind the old barn.” The Colonel laughed at the extent he had gone to for his favorite person on earth, his nephew. “It goes with the airplane I brought this year.”
Taking her apron off, the boy’s mom poured some more coffee for all of them. “We have about thirty minutes before they start the track back from the farm loop. We can cut them off right in front of the school for maximum “Wow” factor,” she said as she handed the mug with the wings for a handle to her Dear Mother` s favorite, youngest brother. “And from here it’s only a few minutes’ drive; so sit down and enjoy your coffee . . . it’s going to be a long day.”
“That kid is getting harder and harder to fool. But he still doesn’t understand that “early” means any time after midnight, and I’m usually hitting 40,000 feet before dawn is creeping across the desert sands. My guess is that would be long before he’s awake.” Chuckling the Colonel sipped on his cup of steaming Joe. “OK, let’s plan this assault mission.”
Nodding the three sat.
The inside of the school bus was abuzz with the usual morning noise of boisterous kids. The driver kept smiling at odd times, as he searched his rearview mirrors. It wasn’t often since his days that he had served in the first Desert Storm that he was in on a secret mission; especially one that he got to play an important part in. The last long slope that ran the last two miles to the school was sliding by too quickly as he looked behind and saw nothing.
Suddenly in the side street he saw a large black SUV with blacked out windows. As he approached the cross of the side street, the SUV flashed his headlights twice; the game was on. The driver looked up into the large mirror that showed him every child on the bus; none were the wiser to what was about to happen.
Suddenly from out of the side street, the black SUV with blacked out window lit up with red and blue flashing lights and a siren as it came barreling out of the street and turned in pursuit of the bus. The bus, with perfect timing learned in the cockpit of an F-15 flying drag to the Colonel’s jet, pulled over just shy of the sidewalk it would usually pull up to. The SUV with the siren blaring and lights flashing attracted the attention of every school child, teacher and even administrators, as it pulled nose into the curb in front of the bus. But no one jumped out.
The siren wound down to silence and nobody moved.
The loud speaker on the SUV squawked, “Attention in the bus”
Everyone looked at the bus, “If there is a person turning six years old today, and his name is Zephy; then come out with your hands up.”
As the driver side door of the SUV opened and the uniformed pilot stepped out, he continued on the loud speaker, “Because, I have a big birthday hug and it will require a hands up to hug back.”
He figured he would wait until after lunch to tell the kid about the WWII T-6 fighter plane waiting out at the airport for their fun in the afternoon. But for right now, he knew he would have to brace himself to receive the incoming missile that was rapidly flying out of the bus.
The Colonel smirked; it warmed the cockles of his heart to be a favorite Uncle on the kid’s birthday.