Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | August 18, 2015

Another Work-in-Progress

To be completely candid, I’m not exactly sure where this one is going, at least at this moment.  I’ve shared this with several close friends and family and have several suggestions.

I liked the metaphor of the approaching storm and have already had lots of fun wondering what the president has in mind for the protagonist.

Stay tuned, as the radio and TV folks say.


A storm was coming.
I sat in my rocker on the farmhouse porch, watching. My dog, Teddy, knew something unusual was happening. He lifted his head and looked for the source of the sound. His ears, better; my eyes, better.
I stood up to get a clearer view as a convoy topped the ridge—moving too fast for the curving gravel driveway. A car with a light bar led three other vehicles. Blue lights flickered like lightning. Behind were, in line: a black Suburban, a black Town Car and an identical Suburban. They rolled in—dust-streaked thunderheads, and stopped in the circular drive down the steps and across the short brick walkway from where I stood.
The car with the flashing lights, a Virginia State Trooper’s. A man got out the driver’s side, pulled on his Smoky Bear hat and leaned on the top of the car, staring at me through shades.
Two men in dark suits emerged from each of the SUVs that formed bookends protecting the limo, buttoning their jackets over bulges as they stood. One of the four stepped, in a quick march, to the right rear door and pulled it open. He leaned in and then back. He damned near saluted.
I waited at the edge of the porch, neither going down the steps to greet my uninvited guests, nor retreating inside. Teddy stood beside me. He didn’t growl or wag his tail, but after watching my reaction, the hair on his back was no longer standing,
The late-November chill had me wearing an insulated hunting jacket to sit outdoors. The man who stepped from the limo pulled the lapels of a black cashmere overcoat close around his chest, hold a cane in his right hand. He glanced up at me, then down to the walkway, tapping the stick on the bricks, then on the boards of the steps. Facing me on the porch, he said,
“I’m Carlton Elbridge.”
He shifted his cane to his left hand, reaching out to shake mine. “Mr. Blair, your pictures don’t tell the whole story. In person, you look more the athlete than businessman. I hope you won’t be too unhappy with my unannounced visit. We were aware you’d be here and, for security reasons, didn’t call. I am the Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern affairs. The President asked me to talk with you. May we go inside”?
“Yes, come inside.”
I opened the door and held it for him. Without asking directions, he went into the living room, took off his overcoat and stood with his back to the fire. I followed him, but stopped before going through the door. Someone was behind me, a man in a tan trench coat. I felt his presence and when I faced him he said,
“This is the Secretary’s briefcase. He’ll need it. Call us when he’s ready to go.”
He went back to the leading Suburban.
My wife, Elizabeth, had heard us and had come from the kitchen. She was talking to Elbridge when I came in. She broke off her conversation with him and said,
“Alex, you’ve obviously met Mr. Elbridge. I’ll get everyone some coffee.”
Friendly and practical. She went in the kitchen. A quick, green-eyed glance over the shoulder asked, “What”?
“Mr. Elbridge, I’ve seen your name in the newspapers and your crew is impressive, but I’ve no way to identify you. I’m standing here holding a briefcase one of your men brought to the door. You told me within seconds of introducing yourself that, ‘The President…’ sent you. Sorry, but I need to see identification.”
“I wouldn’t feel you had good instincts if you’d failed to ask,” he said.
He pulled a cordovan leather folder from the left breast pocket of his suit and handed it to me. The wallet was a passport case. The passport: black—diplomatic. The picture: my guest. The full name, Clayton Armistead Elbridge. Title: Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs.
I waved toward the tan leather sofa, “ Please sit down, Mr. Elbridge, thank you for humoring me.” I put the briefcase on the coffee table.
Elizabeth came in with a tray and set it on the table opposite the briefcase. I sat in a stuffed chair that matched the sofa and faced Elbridge.
She focused on my eyes for two or three seconds then went out of the living room and down the hall. The door to her study thumped shut.
While standing, Elbridge had been only slightly shorter than me. I’m 6’ 2.” His handshake: firm, his hand: soft. The leg needing help from the walking stick was his left. His suit: more expensive than I’d buy, and I could afford whatever I wished. Grey hair, trimmed short over the ears and blue eyes, weary.
“Mr. Blair—Alex, if I may—I didn’t mislead you by any means. The President of the United States personally asked me to find you and ask you to do your country a service. I’m here to give you the outline of what we ask.”
A storm was coming. Static electricity before first rain drenches—before first thunder crashes, before first forked bolts reach from purple clouds to earth touched me then.
I should have paid attention.

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