For 75-year-old Eleanor Cornstarch, June 17 began like any other socially-distanced Wednesday. A day of gardening and reading, feeding the cats, and basking in what promised to be glorious summery Ithaca weather. Staying on top of pruning her rose bushes and putting out the recycling counted as priorities on the agenda. She made a mental note to share that she had seen an Eastern Meadowlark at the next birdwatchers' zoom meeting. The idyll was shattered, however, at 8:38 AM when her medical alert necklace emitted a sequence of beeps that Eleanor recognized immediately. She was being activated.

With an agility that would have astounded her grandchildren, Secret Antifa Agent Cornstarch dropped her rose clippers and cartwheeled from her garden to the back of her house. She quickly scanned the backyard before ducking through the kitchen door. At last! All the training, the decades in deep cover, keeping her true identity secret from her own was all finally going to be worthwhile. 

Pawing through yesterday's mail, Eleanor found the AARP envelope with the members-only life insurance quote on the outside. Carefully tearing open the top, she spilled the contents on the kitchen counter: a plane ticket From Ithaca, New York to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a debit card, and what appeared to be a blank sheet of paper. Her flight would leave at 10:47 that morning, giving her 25 minutes before what would look like an Uber driver appeared in front of the house. This is when the training pays off. She closed the blinds and took the sheet to her stove. Holding it precisely 8 centimeters over the gas flame on burner one set at level three, words began to appear. In large print.

Mission: Priority Alpha. Attend Trump campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 20:00 hours June 19. Imperative that provocateur status remains secret. Scan police communications to block out equipment. If confronted, fall harder than pushed.

Agent Cornstarch read through the message until it was memorized, then stuffed the paper in her mouth, and began to chew. While speed was of the essence, a cool head was of even more critical importance. She'd been through the protocol a thousand times in her head. This was a culture war, and there had already been casualties. Sloppiness was not an option.

She walked four steps to the pantry. With the push of a button on top of the door jamb, one wall of shelves slid to the right with a hiss, revealing an equipment closet. Wasting no time, she selected a titanium walker with military-grade tennis balls on the legs, a sensible Kevlar cardigan, tactical Velcro orthotic Skechers, and a color-coded weekly pill organizer. She also retrieved a small duffel bag that for years had been packed and ready to go for a day that might never come.

But the day had come and it was here. She picked up her large-button phone and typed in a series of numbers that sent a pre-scripted message to her granddaughter, asking her to feed the cats and take in the mail. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The likely scenarios at the rally had been gamed out in countless different ways, but all the meticulous calculations of a vast, secret organization depended on her, and she'd never felt more alive.

She took a last look around the kitchen. A car horn beeped twice. It was destiny calling.

(1) comment

John Gregoire

Good writing. You should write novels. Say, what year did Cornstarch graduate Cornell-'65? I think I remember her from the SDS meetings.

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