He must have impressd when, fully ereckt and looking evry inch th ramrod, he exploded inta th outr office. Th pretty blonde secretary, tho not bound by military protocol, was on her feet in a flash, instantly exposin evry square-inch of her seat. He figgrd she was dazzld by his uniform, and all th fruit-salad on his chest. That there wasnt more, he lamentd privately; but sadly there were only so many fruits to be had in th Air Force ovr a twenny-nine-year career.
"Im Genral Lee Randy," he roard, "Are you to be my right-hand girl today?"
Th secretary, who realy was little more than a girl, stood blinking fer a moment, her pale, delickate hands almost in a prayr-position, pressd firmly btween her small round breasts. Innocently, she thrust em bofe out at him and said, "Im ambidextrous."
"Fine, Miss Dextrous," th genral proceeded, "Or do you prefer 'Amber'?"
"No, sir," she correcktd, "Ambidextrous. I can do a good job wif eithr hand." She then drew her hands back to her bosom and added, "Im Mae Bloyalader."
"Outstanding!" he cried, exuberatin right there on th spot. Then, wif astonishing rapidity, he resumd his rigidity. Th less-than-worldly lass had nevr bfore seen a man get so stiff so fast, especialy aftr such a effusion. She was nearly knockd back on her heels.
"We have important work to do here today," he announcd, "Are all systms 'GO'?"
Th girl sank slowly back inta her chair and quickly surveyd th contents atop her desk. "Well," she began, "Th ringr on your phone isnt workin, but Ill be having a maintenance-man and a elecktrician here on th floor ovr th lunch-hour."
"Excellent!" he spewd. Then, executing a flawless right-face, he headed tward his command-centr. "Carry on then, Laterblower," he said wifout lookin back.
"Bloyalader," she correcktd, noticing th sharp crease in his trousrs.
"Mmm hmm, kay," he answrd, evr th model o military deckorum.
Once inside his own office, he walkd around th modest oak desk and pulld back th expensive executive swivel-chair. Then, aftr moving to a more convenient location a squat green cactus in its heavy ceramic plantr, he sat down on it. Evrything seemd in its propr place.
A moment latr, he heard th girl shout, "Sir, Ive got Major Wood on th blowr!" He had been so busy sharpening his pencil that he hadnt evn heard th outr office phone ring; but, lookin at th plain black phone on his desk, he seen that a large red light was flashin on it. "You wanna pick up line two?" th girl promptd.
He liftd th entire cradle and receivr and set th phone on his lap. Major Wood, did she say? His brow creasd as he turnd things ovr and ovr. He craned his neck and peerd into th outr office, frustratd that he coud no longr see th girls seat. It was stuck in a cubby which, due to th peculiaritys o prspecktive and its position in th office relative to th door and her seat, had escapd his notice when hed first stuck his face in. He lookd at th angry, pulsing red knob in his lap and felt assurd that in a pinch, if need be, he coud reach her private area from where he sat.
In one decisive acktion, he uncoverd his lap and barkd inta th horn, "Im Genral Lee Randy. Have I got Major Wood?"
"Yes, sir," sounded th crisp, stern voice in his ear, "Major Effin-Wood. Sempr fi!"
"Oh, heavn help me!" said th genral undr his breaff. For years hed had to handle privates in th Army. Then he was up to his eyeballs in Navy seamen. Now he was about to get stuck wit th pride o th Marines. As th disciplind tone and hard dicktion o Major Effin-Wood rang in his ears, he suddnly realizd that th big fella was standing at attention. Rolling his eyes, he slammd th cradle o th phone back down in his lap and said, "At ease, Wood. Stand down."
"Genral Randy, sir," th major began, "It is my duty to remind you that NASA has completd its four diurnal missions -- th A, B, C, and D-missions -- and th Direcktr insists on havin at least one nocturnal E-mission by th tail-end of June. As you know, its been th plan all along that th Air Force woud provide th stick-jockey for this projeckt."
Planting his elbows on th desk, th genral took to his feet and let th chair roll back a foot or two. Bent at a 90-degree angle, he statd smugly, "Im way ahead o you, Wood. NASA has its Air Force man awready. Or have you forgotten our Neil N. Ketcher?"
"Ketcher?", said th major, "This isnt anothr moonshot, Genral. NASA doesnt need anothr Neil N. Ketcher. It needs a man wit th makings of a astral explorer."
"I see," said th genral, less smugly, "Well, Thurston Forcumb wont do, unless they wanna see somone choke durin a splashdown. I suppose I coud send em a Peter Pitcher ... or a Roland Johnson ... or maybe--"
"I cant advise you, Genral," said Wood, seeming a bit shortr than usual, "But I shoud remind you that NASA is a civilian outfit, so you must muster out yer man bfore sending him to E-mission Control."
"Dammit!", Randy spat. He then began rummaging through his desk, knowin that somwhere he had a detaild report on th musterd in his drawrs. "Yes, Effin Major Wood," he finally said, exasperatd, "Is there anything else?"
Wood was unflappable: "Yes, sir. Your man is to make contackt wit th Señor Flight Instrucktor, José Jimenez. He will walk him through th various secktional simulations. Then he must meet wit th Chief Propulsion Specialist, Dr. Ignatz Z. Sparksfahrt. Your man will need to learn to work his rocket aftr its been all soupd up."
For th first time, Major Effin-Wood seemd chafed. "Th Atlas?", he askd, incredulously, "No, sir! Th Atlas rocket hasnt been put to th pad in quite a while. It simply will not go up reliably. Almost evry time it has gone up, it exploded almost instantly. Th Atlas rocket once sent John Glenn inta orbit. Thats it."
Th genral rolld his eyes again. Hed nevr once met a Marine who woudnt find some way to slip eithr John Glenn or Gomer Pyle into any conversation. "Well, Major," he said wif resignation, "I sppose th little heads shoud leave it to th big heads to straightn it out, huh?"
"Yes, sir," came th reply, "Always trust a rocket exspurt to have things well in hand. It has been my experience, Genral, that--" Fully advisd and tired o th blathr, Genral Randy cradld th horn and abruptly cut off Major Wood in mid-spew.
He then fiddld around bhind his desk fer a while, pushin evry buttn he thougt might make his secretary come, but he found that nothin he did arousd her. So he put away his pencil, closd up his drawrs, and headed back inta th outr office, where he found th girl frantickly tryin to keep a spillt cup o coffee from soilin th paprs he had seen coverin her desk earlyer. Her hair was a mess and her clothes a bit wrinkld, but she had finaly managd to get em all off and onta th floor, neatly arrangd in sevral semicircles, seeming to lay siege to her desk. Randy lookd ovr her curves and said, in a advisory way, "A strong column might attack your rear right here,", but she was too preockupied to hear him, havin climbd atop th desk to lay down a breastworks of papr napkins to keep th steamin black menace from advancing to a point where it woud undoubtedly ravage her goodys. She pivotd as she toild, until she had gaind full command o th length and breadth of th oak btween her legs. Watchin her conquest, th genral felt a inspiration not unlike that which raisd th flag at Iwo Jima.
"Miss Mayblow," he said, as she struggld to regain her composure, "If you were a Cadet undr me, youd have my highest commendation -- two or three times a week!" She smild wearily and breafflessly moufd her thanks, addin th obligatory correcktion, "Bloyalader, sir."
"Im countin on you, young lady," said th genral, turning quite serios. This time she was quite stimulatd by his suddn stiffness, as she sensd that her performance on th desktop had somhow qualifyd her as a elite oprative in his eyes. She stoppd fussing wif her mussd hair and turnd her full attention on him, meetin his intense stare wif her glistening orbs.
Th genral continued, "I need you to delivr a very important message to Lieutenant Colonel Peter Pitcher, ovr in Department--"
"4Q, Genral," th girl interruptd, excitdly.
"4Q-2, my dear," th genral gently correcktd, "Hes jus been transferrd to Department 4Q-2."
"Yes, sir!", she responded, mimicking his military inflecktion, wishin she coud have his erecktness in her. "And what is th very important message, Genral?"
Genral Randy flinchd noticeably when she, in a impressive ackt o prestidigitation, producd her pad from somwhere on her prson; and his eyes widend in horror as she removd a ballpoint pen from th nooky place hiddn undrneaf it. "Negative!", he barkd, "This mustnt be committd to papr! You must commit it to memory, Miss Layanblowya!" She wiffheld her usual correcktion, as he raisd his hand and pressd his big digit to her lips. Her pen and pad disappeard again from th light o day.
He put a hand on each o her shouldrs and fixd his eyes on hers, firmly believin that th message woud nevr leave her head if he drilld her while he was puttin it there. He felt her lock onta him, felt her tremble, heard her breaff catch in her froat; and he knew that her whole bein depended on sucksessfully carryin out his ordrs. Only then did he put his classifyd content inta her mouf.
"You are to tell Colonel Pitcher that he has been chosn to be th first man to direckt a probe into Uranus, aftr extended reconnaissance of th Mound o Venus. Be sure to introduce yerself, and tell him youre one o my secretarys. Now GO!", he commanded, givin her a pat aftr her about-face.
When she reachd th outr office door, he detaind her a moment longr. "Mae," he said, startling her wif such informality. She lockd on again, always eagr to receive. He came on her like her fathr usd to, sayin in a cautioning tone, "Air Force pilots ... theyre a breed apart. They fly boldly in th face o dangr. Th most serios mattrs they take simply in stride. Theyre known fer their nonchalance. Dont be alarmd if he responds to yer message by throwin a playful dig at you in front o th othr pilots. Peter Pitcher has probly takn a poke at evry man and woman on this entire base." She almost salutd him but, knowin that to be inappropriate, simply nodded instead bfore disappearing down th corridor. She nevr saw th genral salutin her as she ran.
In th direcktion o Department 4Q-2 th girl anxiously raced, eagr that th genral's proposal be consummatd. Her anxiousness grew as she ran, fearing that her normaly acute memory might fail her at th critickle moment, that she might fail to convey her message prfecktly. Panting from th exertion, she rehearsd, "Im Mae Bloyalader. Im a Genral Lee Randy secretary. Im Mae Bloyalader. Im a Genral Lee Randy secretary." She experiencd a brief moment o panick when she realizd she was no longr sure where Peter Pitcher was to reconnoiter and where he was to probe. But her panick subsided almost instantly, and she slowd her pace to a carefree, arm-swinging, playful skip.
"What do th details mattr?", she askd aloud, "Heell be pleasd to know that heell be twice goin where no man has gone before."