An increasing amount of sweat dripped into the scout’s eyes as he spied the enemy’s position on the ridge. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature climbed. Hot or not, the weather be damned, this mission was life or death. He was their best scout, the one who could find a hole in the other side’s positions. They depended on him.
Focusing on the task at hand, he thought, As high ground goes, this rocky prominence is not that tall. Still, the face is too steep, impossible to climb. Our guys would get blistered. I gotta find another approach.
Moving a little further to the north and staying low behind some dog hobble, he found the high ground started to slope down. That incline would be a more manageable attack point. Then he saw activity. They’re digging in. From those positions they could hit anything we’d throw at them. I’ll have to find a gap somewhere.
Careful to avoid detection, he circled around behind the ridge. He found a path by which a small group could sneak up behind the entrenched positions. That would throw them a curve.
Then an unsettling thought crossed his mind. Why is this path unguarded? Is this a trap? An error on his part and the whole battle could be lost. He crept along, staying as close to cover as possible.
So far, the way seemed open. Moving in, he got close enough for a good read on the enemy’s numbers and weapons. His hopes of picking up some of their signs failed when he couldn’t make heads or tails of their jabbering.
All this has been too easy, a meatball. His fears returned. Are they letting me see what they want me to see? Is this a trick? If he were wrong, his men would be caught in a hot box. From what he saw, the enemy was short on ammo and food. Despite that, they were not going to quit. He would report that the back way offered the best chance to win. Returning to camp, he made his report.
“General, those people are dug in. They backstopped the north slope, but I got behind them. I could hear them talking, I was that close. From what I saw, they’re exhausted, about beaten, they have little food or ammo. They’re tired, like us. One more rally, this might all be over.”
Taking a breath he said, “If we come in from behind on that narrow path I found, we can break their defenses. They might have let me in to set us up, but it was open when I was there.”
Using a map, he pointed to the details of the positions, strength and the back way in. Thanked, then dismissed, he returned to his unit to await the order to attack. That heavy burden of being point man had now shifted from him and his observations to the General and his plan.
To his staff, the General said, “A frontal faint will begin at dawn. It should draw them to the edge of the ridge. Then we change up, we concentrate fire on the north slope’s approach. Next, we send in a force on that rear path, get them in a squeeze play.
Expect resistance, they wouldn’t leave that path open. It could be a trap. If we catch them from behind, we can strand their guys on the north slope and wind this up.” Orders were issued, the troops given their assignments. The only thing left was to green light the attack.
As he studied his map one more time, the General heard a voice coming through the open window. “Danny, come on, we’re ready. The guys are all here. The game starts at five, you’re pitching today. We’re counting on you for a lot of strikeouts. Warmups start soon.”
Looking out the attic window, he saw his team, sitting on their bikes, each player in their uniform. They had their gloves and balls loaded into backpacks and their bats laid across their handlebars. Everyone was ready to head to the park for the championship game. Danny was happy to see them, but he didn’t want anyone coming in. Leaning out the window, he yelled down, “I’m coming, be right out.”
He was a little too old to be playing with toy soldiers, but he still liked to. Dreaming up battles prepared him. It made him think three steps ahead and taught him how to avoid surprises. Applying that discipline to today’s baseball game, he worked out the types of pitches and plays the team needed.
His teammates were great, but they’d never do that. Instead, they relied on him to carry that heavy burden. Still, he didn’t want them to know about the soldiers. If they did, he’d lose their respect.
Looking back, surveying his paper mâché tabletop battlefield, he checked where he had placed each soldier. They would have to wait for his return before launching their attack. With one battle on hold, another about to start, he knew the outcome of each contest depended on his preparation and skill.
Danny grabbed his bat and glove. His arm felt strong, like it had lots of strikeouts in it today. Putting on his official 22nd Street Tigers cap, he bounded down the stairs to meet the guys.
The sounds of the boys’ voices and laughter filled the air as they peddled down the street toward the park. At the head of this fleet of bicycles, rode the team’s point man, Danny. Prepared, he was ready. He could now put down that heavy burden, face his opponents, and just have some fun.