I was confused. Eb Griper’s old Studebaker pick-up truck was in the coffee shop parking lot but I couldn’t find Eb inside.
Finally I saw a vaguely familiar character wearing sunglasses. It looked like Eb but he was wearing a beret instead of his seed corn cap.
I was pretty sure it was my cranky old buddy.
"Eb?" I asked. "Is that you?"
"Shhhhh…" he whispered. "Don’t blow my cover."
I slid into the booth and asked softly, "What in the world are you up to, Eb? Why the sunglasses and beret?"
"I’m hiding from the NSA."
"You’re what from whom?"
"The NSA – you know, the National Security Agency. They’re the spooks that have been monitoring cell phone calls."
"But you’re a good guy… sort of…" I said. "Why are you hiding from the NSA?"
Eb continued to whisper. "I can’t talk about it."
"For pity sake, Eb," I said, "the NSA isn’t looking for good old farm boys like you. You’re not a terrorist."
"Not anymore," Eb whispered.
"You mean you were a terrorist at one time?"
"Well, sort of… in high school."
"I can’t believe the NSA is interested in your high school antics," I said. "What in the world did you do and why is it an issue now?"
Eb scanned the entire coffee shop and leaned forward. "Well," he began, "a couple of months ago I called my cousin Marvin on my cell phone and we got to talking about the time we set off a cherry bomb in a toilet in the boys’ locker room." "That’s hardly terrorism."
"That’s what Marvin and I thought then. But it created quite a ruckus and no one ever found out that Marvin and I were the culprits. I don’t want to get found out now."
"Come on, Eb. So you set off a loud firecracker in a school toilet. What? Did it make a loud noise?"
Eb stared at the booth table with a look of shame on his face. After a few seconds he continued, "Yeah, it made a loud noise, but that wasn’t the problem?
"So what was the problem?"
"Well, Marvin and I didn’t know that Miss Prudence, our high school principal, was sitting on the throne in her personal restroom at the time."
"And when the cherry bomb went off it blew water out of Miss Prudence’s toilet bowl and all over her bottom… and her underwear… and her shoes… and her rest room."
I had to stifle a laugh. "So did you and your cousin get in trouble?"
"No, Miss Prudence never figured out that it was me and Marvin who did it. And because no one confessed she made our class skip the senior trip to Des Moines."
"Seems like a tempest in a teapot to me," I opined.
"Don’t you understand?" Eb whined. "If the NSA listened in on that phone call between me and Marvin we could be found out."
"And the problem with that would be…"
"Think about it, stupid," Eb demanded. "First of all, I would lose my status as a respected citizen…"
I couldn’t stifle this laugh.
Eb scowled and continued, "…and Marvin and I would be despised at our next class reunion. We were responsible for the class not getting its senior trip!"
"Now you think about it," I said. "You’ve been out of school for what? Sixty years?"
"You’ve been out of school for 59 years. Do you think many of your classmates will even remember that you didn’t get a senior trip… to Des Moines?"
"I don’t know."
"Besides, you and Marvin ought to be proud that you have escaped detection all these years. That was a pretty good trick."
Eb cracked a slight smile. "Yeah, we thought it was… at the time."
"See, I wouldn’t worry about it. Forget the NSA."
Eb let out a sigh of relief. "So," he asked, "did you ever do anything stupid in high school?"
I shifted uncomfortably in the booth. "Sure has been hot lately…"
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at email@example.com. ©2013 by Huisman Communications.)