The ear-laden stalks of corn beat at me mercilessly as I ran through the row. I could feel the tassels and insects getting caught in my hair and clothes. I had no other route. The cornfield provided my best cover.
I paused momentarily to listen for sounds of pursuit. I couldn’t hear anything except for the sounds of Red-winged Blackbirds shrillingly proclaiming their territories. With relief, I cautiously proceeded at a slower pace.
I could feel the hot afternoon sun burning the top of my scalp that my crew cut failed to conceal. I looked down at the rich and moist soil that lay all around me with an idea in mind. I scooped a handful and rubbed it into my hair hoping that it would have a soothing effect on my scalding head. It did and I went on my way.
Earlier that morning, my team and I had been conducting a recon mission in hopes of locating the enemy stronghold. As anyone that understands the art of war knows, we were not to be seen and especially not to be caught.
We were only twenty minutes into our mission when we were ambushed coming out of the cornfield. Being the last man in our column, I was able to duck down and avoid detection. I watched silently as the rest of my team was rounded up and disarmed.
I was going to lay low and follow the captors from a safe distance until I had the chance to free my comrades. At least, this was my plan until I heard one of the enemies shout and point in my direction!
“Wait!” he yelled. “There’s one more out there!”
I didn’t hang around to see if his buddies heard him or not. I ran for my life! The one good thing about escaping through a cornfield is that your pursuers could hear you, but they couldn’t see you. With my speed, this was definitely in my advantage. I quickly outran and outmaneuvered my pursuers until I could no longer hear the breaking cornstalks.
So now I had to figure out what to do. Thanks to the soil I had rubbed into my scalp, my head felt much clearer and I was ready to think this through. This was a situation I had rehearsed in my mind and in my dreams a thousand times, but this was different in that it was real. I knew that if I weren’t careful, I wouldn’t be the hero I had pictured in those dreams.
I finally decided to continue with the recon mission in hopes of locating where my team would be held captive. I quickly and quietly doubled back through the cornfield, while stopping for numerous sound checks, and located the site of the ambush without mishap. It was easy to locate the dozen or so footprints in the soft soil that would lead me to my intended destination.
I followed their path for about five minutes through a new cornfield when I spotted two separate sets of tracks veering sharply to the right. I immediately crouched down and feared the worst. The enemy may have sent a couple of guys to double back and see if they were being followed. I looked at the tracks more closely and ruled that guess out. Both sets were running and took no care to cover their tracks. Cornstalks were ripped down and trampled, almost as if one set of tracks was pursuing the other set. I came to the conclusion that this was an escape attempt by one of my buddies.
I followed the escape route for about twenty yards to the location of the recapture. Another set of prints joined the first two and there were signs of a struggle. I then followed the three sets of prints as they rejoined the main body.
Suddenly I heard a noise and froze. With my breath held, I tried to locate the source of the sound. I heard it again. It sounded like a voice that wasn’t too far away. It was followed by a flurry of accompanying voices from the same location. It definitely wasn’t the sound of pursuit so I assumed I had found my destination.
I cautiously made my way towards the sounds and came upon a drainage ditch. I looked both ways and then low crawled across to the other side. With my head slowly lifting over the edge, I caught my first glimpse of where the sounds had come from. It was the base camp of the enemy, the stronghold we had been sent to recon.
The base camp was located at the edge of a town behind an old farmhouse that looked deserted. Just off to my right, I could see a cluster of trees that formed a ring around my captured comrades. Unfortunately, there were also about a dozen guards posted behind most of the trees. I needed a plan and I needed it quick.
The sun once more began its merciless burning on top of my scalp and I was finding it difficult to think. With my thought process muddled, I had to get away to a safer location to think this out. My comrades were depending on me to rescue them so the plan needed to be flawless.
I carefully slid back from my vantage point then froze. Have you ever had that feeling you were being watched? I was feeling that feeling now. I slowly turned my head to the left and saw her. I couldn’t believe that with the entire enemy around me, she would find me before they could!
I frantically shook my head back and forth and then put my finger to my lips while silently mouthing a “shhh!” I was hoping that she would understand, but I could see by the dumbfounded look on her face that I was about to be given away. I also figured that I was in a heck of a lot of trouble. I bolted forward even as her mouth was opening to yell at me.
“Johnny!” she yelled. “Johnny!” she again wailed at the top of her voice. “Johnny! You come here right now!”
I didn’t flinch. I kept running.
“I’m not kidding, Johnny!” she belted.
I had done the only thing I could do! I was running to free my buddies while the guards stood with their mouths agape at the awful shrieking voice behind me. I couldn’t have asked for a better distraction.
I was only ten feet from my goal when my comrades began to cheer me on. This was the heroic moment I had dreamed of my whole life! My lightning speed and unplanned distraction had caught the guards by surprise and this left me closer to my goal than they were. As I reached out my hand to free the first of my comrades, I saw the hope that was written all over his face. Then I watched the hope turn into surprise as I felt my foot snag on something and I began to fall.
“Arrrgh!” I yelled as I hit the ground. The guards began to jump all over me and I could hear their laughter, as well as my comrades’ laughter, fill the air. In fact, it almost sounded like my buddies were laughing the hardest. My most heroic moment quickly turned into my most humiliating moment and I began to look for a rock to crawl under.
“You should have seen your face, Johnny!” one of my soon to be ex-buddy’s pointed out between guffaws. “That was the funniest thing I’ve ever saw!”
Then they stopped laughing and all began to walk away from me like I had the plague or something. Heck, I thought, all I did was fall down and ruin the rest of my life. It was hardly contagious. Then I noticed they were all looking past me so I turned around to see what they were looking at. It was her again! I had quite forgotten about her.
“Just wait till your Dad comes home, Johnny!” my Mom shrieked. “We’ll just see if you ever run from me again, you naughty boy!”
With my humiliation now totally complete, I slowly walked home to the real enemy stronghold. I knew that my Dad would torture me with a spanking to teach me a lesson and that I would be held as a prisoner of war for at least a week. All I could hope for was some protection under the Geneva Convention while imprisoned.
One of these days my heroic moment will come, but until then, I would just have to be content with my dreams. Besides, real heroes didn’t get spankings.