Setting: A Hiking Trail
Object: A car battery
We had 48 hours to complete a 1,000-word story. This is my entry:
The Disavowed Agent
“I think you were wrong about the target,” I pulled my binoculars away from my face and turned to my partner, “He hasn’t been spotted since the initial sighting.”
He stared at me, and I rolled my eyes in return.
“Of course I’m ready.”
I’d been training for this moment for years. He just couldn’t admit he might be wrong, even though we both desperately wanted him to be right.
But, the hiking trail was quiet and the looming trees were starting to block out the remaining light. I stood from my makeshift seat on the abandoned car battery and reached for my partner. I swung the stuffed tiger by his lengthy limbs, ready to attach him to his spot on my backpack and abandon the mission for the night.
He insisted on staying longer though.
“Fine.” I plopped back onto the car battery, propped him next to me and unzipped my backpack. “I need a drink. Are there any juice boxes left?”
That night had started out like any other and I had high hopes for the mission when we set out a few hours earlier.
“This is Agent Noah Parks reporting for duty with my partner, Stripes, recording mission details.” Stripes made a good best friend because he didn’t say much of anything, and he made an even better partner because of his listening and surveillance skills. He kept my observations safe and always seemed to catch things I missed. Like the man on the trail that day. Stripes was the one that pointed out how familiar he looked.
I opened the bedroom door and stepped out into the hall, reporting my findings to Stripes as I did.
“Dwelling is empty. Female occupant is at work for the remainder of the day.” I passed the kitchen. There was a note on the table, but I didn’t need to read it to know what it said. Dinner in the freezer, warm up for five minutes.
“Dwelling is secure,” I said as I pulled the front door shut behind me, locked it, and shoved the key in my pocket. On either side of our house, cars were pulling into driveways, neighbors were greeting neighbors, work days were ending, kids were playing. I ignored them. I didn’t have time to play. My day was just beginning. I was ok with the hours I had to put in. When you found your true calling, you couldn’t deny it, and mine was practically handed to me the day I discovered why he left.
I went into the garage through the side entrance and lifted the main door by hand. The fading evening light revealed the concrete floor, my bike, and then my viewing area as the door rumbled up its rails. I’d set up the old TV and VCR out here to watch the tapes my mom had tried to throw away. Dad left when I was four, but when I was five, Mom decided she just couldn’t stand to look at the stupid tapes he loved to watch so much. So, she boxed them up and set them on the curb. Stripes and I rescued them. We stayed up all night watching movies about secret agents and the CIA. By the next morning, I knew why my dad had left.
My mom said he’d left because he was a quitter. Now I knew he was just protecting us. Life as a secret agent was way too dangerous for a woman and a kid and so, even though it hurt him, he left. “We’d still be miserable if he stayed,” she’d said, tossing my frozen chicken nuggets into the microwave and punching the buttons. That’s what she said, but I knew what she meant.
I threw my leg over my bike, made sure my backpack and Stripes were both secure, and took off down the street. At 7-years-old, it felt like all my training had led to this moment.
“5:10pm,” I recorded, “Regular surveillance of town still on hold to pursue new mission.”
Stripes had spotted the target a few weeks ago on one of our routine sweeps of the trails surrounding the town. I’d been doubtful, but he’d insisted the target matched his description. I was starting to forget his face, but Stripes had been the last one to see him.
I could still hear him whispering his code name for me, “Night, Tiger. Sleep tight…” as he tucked his final gift in next to me. The next day, he was gone and I had Stripes. But, I knew he’d be back. Once I knew his secret, I decided that when he came back to check on us, I’d be ready to go with him. And I was. Sure, Mom would miss me, but maybe she wouldn’t have to work so hard if I wasn’t around. And even though dad hadn’t, I’d find a way to send some money.
“6:45pm,” I glared at Stripes, “Still waiting for target.”
It was getting late. We would need to go soon.
There were no snacks left and I was starting to think about whatever frozen meal was waiting for me at home.
“Are you sure it was him?” I asked Stripes. He stared.
“Ok! I’m sorry but…Wait. Someone’s coming.”
They called out. It was a man.
I jumped up.
A figure scaled the hill.
“I have the target in sight…” I whispered shakily. I reached down and grabbed Stripes. “Confirm identity. Is it him?” The man turned and my heart skipped. It was him. I threw my backpack over my shoulder and stepped forward, ready to reveal myself, when he turned again, calling to someone behind him.
“C’mon, Tiger! You can do it.”
I froze. My heart stopped. A smaller figure emerged over the hill. The boy was beaming up at the man.
“You did it!” He reached down and scooped him up, “Great job, Tiger!”
I stepped back into the woods and Stripes slid from my grip.
“Mission aborted,” I whispered.