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For All Nails #127: "Local Hero Comes Home"

by Dan McDonald

Confederation Simmonsway S56
16 July 1974

Terry was happy to be sitting on a nice comfortable civilian autobus seat. Normally after a flight they'd walk to quarters, or ride in the back of a wooden-benched company loke. Terry was thinking about how best to submit his mildly controversial drawing to Jack-and-Stripes when his commanding officer, Lieutenant James E. Bruce, sat down across the aisle from him. He was doing this with all of the crew, and it was Terry's turn.

"Henning, are you planning on serving our your stint?"

"Permission to speak freely, sir," Terry looked and felt tired.

"Granted," replied Lt. Bruce.

"Not that I don't have respect for my country, but I," he hesitated, "I really miss Sonya ... you know, my girl."

Lt. Bruce smiled, knowing not only Terry's answer, but his reasons for taking the offered early honorable discharge. Shocked his conclusion had come so quickly, Bruce thought of another topic, so as not to shortchange his Photo specialist.

"What do you plan on doing, when you get back to ... North City?"

"WEST North City, sir," Terry said with as little outrage as he could manage. West North City was Vandalian, not Manitoban, dammit! He continued, "I'd like to go to art school. Since I'll be honorably discharged, I'll receive my full tuition credits."

Lt. Bruce again looked surprised, "Given that drawing of yours, I don't think you need art school. You ever think about working for a newspaper? If you stayed on, I'd personally recommend you for a transfer to Jack-and-Stripes."

Terry was surprised, figuring Lt. Bruce's reaction would be closer to that of Capt. Gilmore. Bruce saw this reaction on Terry's face, and continued.

"Terry, Captain Gilmore is a fascinating woman, but I happen to agree with you, and I think readers of Jack-and-Stripes, and even the civilian papers, should see this.

"You may have noticed, I can read people as well as you read photographs..."

Terry realized that Lt. James E. Bruce read EVERYTHING as well as Terry read photographs, which was why he was a professional intelligence officer.

"I got the same sense of duality talking with the officers," Lt. Bruce continued. "I was playing one at chess who obviously believes the 'Scorpions in a Bottle' rhetoric of Señors Hermión and Mercator. (He was easy to beat, by the way.) The one who told me of their President's decision seemed very at ease about the whole affair once he had his President's orders.

"I think if 'El Popo' gets his way, there will be a peace on our continent not felt since the Diffusion. And between you and me, Corporal, I like that. The world's a big enough mess without a hostile Mexico."

"At least you'll still have a job, sir," smiled Terry.

"Yes, I sure will. And don't worry about folks like Captain Gilmore. She's been though a lot. Growing up without a father can do horrible things to a man, and apparently to a woman as well. Again, between you and me, Corporal, I fancy Captain Gilmore, and not just because she's one of the Sweet Six."

Lt. Bruce would say no more on the subject, especially to someone who was one step removed from being help, but he thought about how she held herself with all the dignity her title required. Were she not so bitter about her father, and both Stapletons, she might fit in wonderfully at Chantilly Oaks -- the Bruce family estate in Virginia. He remembered the shooting incident -- he was in the same class as Gilmore -- and the look of revulsion on both women's faces at the elder Stapleton.

"Take care, Corporal," he said, before moving to Cardiff, who was two rows back.

Salt of the Earth, that one... Bruce thought, We need more folks like him, and more appreciation of what they do. Lt. James Bruce had seen enough data in his two years of doing intelligence to recognize what happened if you took the little people for granted.

West North City Courier
20 July 1974
"Local Hero Returns Home"

Corporal Terry Henning, RCNAAF Ret., has returned to West North City after his harrowing 48 hours in the hands of the United States Army Air Corps, following the defection of Alexandra Stapleton.

Upon arriving at Samuel Baker field in North City, the first thing Henning did was propose to his schoolyard sweetheart, Sonya Rassmussen. After a highly tearful acceptance, the newly engaged couple took a few questions from the press.

When asked about his treatment by the Mexicans, Henning said, "My drawing for Jack-and-Stripes says it all. We were treated well, and they were pretty down-home folks." ...

Managing Editor's Office, West North City Courier
19 September 1974

"Good show, old chap! I for one am glad to see free elections and a good housecleaning over there," said Wilford Young, whose accent and use of "over there" instead of "down there" pegged him as neither Vandalian nor Manitoban.

"Yes Mr. Young. We're tired of duck-kicking politicians." replied Joe Osterman, whose accent and use of "duck-kicking" pegged him as even less Vandalian or Manitoban than the Managing Editor.

"Hah!" laughed Young, "I love your colorful expressions. Right-oh then, I'll get Terry in here."

He punched his speakerphone, "Karla, get Terry Henning in here."

A minute passed and Terry's red-haired head poked in the office door.

"Oh my goodness, I didn't mean to interrupt, sir," he said, two years of RCNAAF discipline still fresh on his tongue.

"Come in, Terry. I was just explaining to Sen-Yore," Young enjoyed saying that way-too-much, "Osterman that corporate policy is to not release articles, photographs, or artwork without consulting the writer, photographer, or artist."

Osterman stood up and reached out to shake Terry's hand. Terry shook firmly, leaving ink-and-pencil stains on Joe's hand.

"Mr. Henning. I represent the political party of Presidente Moctezuma," the Spanish 'Presidente' slipping out too quickly for Osterman to get another giggle out of the Managing Editor. He continued.

"We'd like to publish your cartoon that appeared in this paper and in your military newspaper showing the President strangling the head of corruption."

"It's actually the head of Aggression, Fear, and Treachery, sir," replied Terry. "You aren't going to change it at all, are you?"

Osterman was worried about this. He had his orders, and they were to get the drawing, alteration rights were a secondary concern, but Osterman and others felt that altering the text on the heads would send a better message.

"Not without your and Mr. Young's permission," he said resignedly. The sooner I can get out of this God-forsaken hielocaja the better, he thought. FN1

"As long as you don't change anything... go ahead," Terry looked around, as if for listening devices, and continued, "I hope you guys win your fight with Mercator. Sonya and I were thinking about spending a day or two in Lafayette, while we're on our honeymoon next spring."

"You must be a music fan, 'cause there's nada else in Lafayette. You should visit Baja. Though if you do, you won't come back," Osterman smiled, thinking about the difference in climate.

Terry turned to his boss again, "May I go back now? I have to finish the Skinner piece before deadline."

"Go right ahead Terry, and thank you for your generosity."

Osterman reached into a vein of local-schmoozing normally reserved for candidates, "It's very down-home of you, and I'm sure the President will appreciate it."

Terry smiled bashfully, and walked with a spring back to his drawing table.

Forward to #128: En Vivo de Martinica.

Forward to 17 July 1974: The African Queen.

Return to For All Nails.