We mobilize in the morning in Darby's backyard.
Everybody is late, including Darby. It takes us a
twenty minutes to round up lawn chairs to accommodate
everyone. And there still aren't enough, so Darby
sends his kids to the park three blocks down to fetch
picnic tables. After everyone is seated, Darby's son
throws a fit and says that his arms are tired and
he wants to be a conscientious objector. Darby leads
him inside the house. In a few minutes, he emerges
from the porch door, spots his daughter idling on the
swing set. He asks her if she wants to be a
conscientious objector, too, just like her older
brother, and she has the good sense to answer, "No,
Darby says the seriousness of the battle should
be felt at home.
Officers are elected over doughnuts. The results
disappointing. Apparently, a lot of the guys think
that a few years of pushing papers in the National
Guard qualifies a person for leadership in this sort
of thing. So Darby wins by a majority. Gerbin reads
the votes loudly, marking them on the chalkboard that
Darby's wife set up for tactical briefings. There are
twenty votes for Darby and only five votes for me. We
are the only two obvious candidates. All the rest of
the guys are actually pretty dense, even though they
have worked for years as dentists, managers,
consultants, etc., and have been fairly successful in
their fields. Darby is to be the General and I am to
be the Secretary General. I shake hands with him
amidst cheers and swear my loyalty. It's the polite
thing to do. Second in command, I suppose, is good
enough for now. The actual fighting will change
everything. True leadership has a way of shining out
"Well," says Darby, jovially, "let me get you a
"A tablet." He stares at me as if he were trying
think of a better way to say "tablet". "A tablet," he
says again. "You know. For the minutes."
I take him aside, so the troops can't hear. It's
never good to publicly undermine authority only a few
minutes into its appointment. "I don't think the
duties of the Secretary General are like an ordinary
secretary's," I tell him.
"Sure they are."
"No, I think it's a little different."
"Well, who's going to take the minutes, then?
Garrison? He misspelled his name on his own mailbox.
You're the only person literate enough."
I accept the chore, but do not appreciate it. I
somehow thought being a leader in an army would feel
more important. Darby has his daughter fetch me a
tablet and a pencil. In a few seconds, she runs out
the house and hands Darby a Garfield tablet and a
severely chewed up pencil stub. He hands these to me.
"Record it all," he says. "For the history books."
Miller says his wife could have the uniforms done
sometime next week. When some of the guys mumble
the wait, he reminds us of her dazzling work on the
costumes for last year's community Christmas play.
was even in the paper for it. We all agree that she
perfect for the job and vote to have her design and
stitch a flag while she's at it. On a napkin, Kurtan
scratches a shield-of-arms and a motto. He reads the
motto out loud. "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or
"That sounds wimpy," complains Rutgers.
"All right." Kurtan crosses that out and writes
something else. He holds the napkin up. "Raise a Hand
to Us," he reads, "and You'll Take Back a Bloody
"Hurrah!" the guys shout, amiably enough.
"Glorious!" shouts Darby.
Darby knows the guys like to have fun and horse
around a little, but he wants to get serious for a
second. He takes a drink of lemonade and clears his
throat a few times. "Listen, boys," he says, "I know
we're all excited. But we're going to be asking a lot
from each one of you. Nobody knows how far this thing
will go. Now I know that most of you guys had to ask
for some time off from work for this. And I know
you'll be losing those paychecks. Maybe even you're
lives. But the time has come to defend this ground,
defend this suburb, as if it were the last suburb on
earth." He points downward, to show us the earth he's
talking about. "Now, gentlemen," he says, "I want you
to bow your heads with me, so we can say a little
Everyone bows their head.
"Garrison, why don't you go ahead and say the
this time?" says Darby.
Garrison stutters. "Uh. I don't want to say it.
Harris say it."
"All right. Will you say the prayer?"
"I don't want to say it," says Harris.
"Oh, all right, I'll say it." Darby clears his
again. "Good Lord, we pray to you for swift victory on
"Where is the battlefield?" asks Marsh. He doesn't
understand figurative language. He's a pretty likable
guy, but has been divorced three times from the same
Darby ignores the question. "Now, Shamar," he says,
addressing a brown-skinned guy in the back row of the
army. "I know you're a Hindu, or something, and I
we have our differences, but we're in this together
now, and so I ask you to pray with us to the Good