“Our mission, should we choose to accept it. . .”
The words blast from the speakers of my time machine. I had assembled it in my Maryland beachside backyard with the help of a few friends from the Wallops Island Flight Facility recruited for weekend duty on my fantasy project.
My friend Harry and myself hop onboard the high tech sedan as I set the controls of my DeLorean-look-a-like for the 1960s to transport us to an adventure in Televisionland, or at least the way we imagined it had existed in our teen years.
In our minds, we relived an episode of The Man From Uncle starring Robert Vaughn and David McCollum. In reality, the contraption took us back to the area where many of our childhood adventures began. There we expected to meet up with our high school buddy Juan.
“Rewind your mind, Harry, almost 60 years ago, to your parents’ Geneva Street house, the setting of the temporary headquarters for THRUSH, the evil, video-invented empire attempting to take over the world.”
Harry: “It’s all coming back to me now, but I’m not so sure I want to remember one of the most embarrassing times of my adolescence.”
Me (Joe, director of our Mission Control) : “Not too often one gets to take on the role of a television spy. This will be fun.”
Whoosh, our DeLorean zooms into the atmosphere--or wherever time machines zoom when they cross the line into the realms of the past of teens as remembered by two baby boomers.
Back before the wars between cultures, the Covid-19 pandemic, pre-Hurricane Sandy, to the time of Woodstock and the Vietnam War.
With a resounding thud we land in the backyard of the humble Elizabethport, NJ home of Harry and his parents.
Back to the lives of three teens wrapped up in a world of Man From U.N.C.L.E. vs. THRUSH, the trio fascinated by adventures existing only on the video tube, depicting an epic struggle for the soul of the free world.
But, to our teen heroes. In the 1960s there were no barriers to their participation in the TV spy game.
The time machine lands during the junior year at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey’s third largest city for our intrepid imaginary spy team.
During a conference of the trio in the school cafeteria the high school-aged Harry boasts to his two buddies, “You guys from U.N.C.L.E. don’t have a chance against the vast power of THRUSH. I have all the plans for the takeover of Western civilization locked away in my gym bag and THRUSH and the evil empire will rule the world.”
Meanwhile, high school-aged Joe confides to his fellow U.N.C.L.E. agent Juan, “This guy really believes this stuff. I wonder if this is more than a television series game to him. How can we explode his fantasy? This could turn into one of the funniest gags in the history of high school.
“You know, he transports his plans for global domination in a black gym bag identical to mine. What if I left my school books at home and went to his house and switched the bags before making our escape with his make believe secret documents?”
“He’ll never forgive us,” says high school-aged Juan, “but it sounds like a coup for the good guys--ha! ha! ha!”
The next day, after Harry discovers the switch, high school-aged Joe and Juan arrange a summit meeting among their pretend-world agents to negotiate a truce between the two fictitious spy networks and agree to meet Mr. THRUSH at his house.
Looking down from our present-time outpost in our time machine, I say to Harry, “As you know, the switch came off without a hitch. You really lost your cool and didn’t speak to us for several weeks after that.”
“You guys lucked out. I could have dragged you into the principal’s office and brought the wrath of God, or, more likely, the school authorities, down upon you. This little trip down Memory Lane has been nice, but time to throw your Time Machine thingy thrusters into reverse and travel back to the real world.”
We revved up the engines of the DeLorean and travelled back to face our real evils such as the so-called culture wars, the aftermath of the Corona virus and smoky clouds of noxious fumes descending on us from wildfires in the forests of Canada.
“Nice little adventure,” Harry said. “Too bad Juan couldn’t share it with us.”
Juan followed me to college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. but dropped out in our junior year, after almost losing his life in a car accident on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania. He had driven there to visit a high school girl he met at a math conference on the RU campus.
A country plastic surgeon did an emergency patch job on the injuries to Juan’s face. The rumors said that his psyche never recovered. During the heart of the Vietnam War, he supposedly joined the Marines, a total surprise to those of us who never expected him to go anywhere near the armed forces.
We heard Juan flunked out of basic training at Parris Island and died at a much younger age than we thought someone whose life had held so much promise should have.
Harry went on to a distinguished career with the US State Department, serving with distinction in Latin America and the Caribbean. Guess this extended in a twisted way the ambitions of someone who had pretended to be a disciple of the evil empire of THRUSH.
He is retired and living in Virginia and we often visit with each other via telephone or in person at occasional high school reunions in New Jersey.
As for me, I am retired after a 30-plus-year career editing community news and reporting on local government in suburban New Jersey. I live in Berlin, MD and write fiction and science fiction. Sometimes my stories focus on the misadventures of overimaginative high schoolers of the 1960s.