Chapter 1 Her 1st Train Ride
I can’t believe it! Grandma actually said yes! We’re going to New York!
Oh, my stars, I didn’t see you standing there. I’m just so surprised that my grandma is letting me take the train all the way to New York by myself! Since Ma died, she took me in and raised me like her own daughter.
I love her to pieces, but I don’t think she realizes that times have changed since she raised my mom! My name’s MaryBelle Duncan, by the way. Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Anywho, if Grandma had her way, I’d still be using training wheels on my bicycle! She’s as protective as a mother hen and doesn’t let me do anything. But I’m 18 now and I want to head up north to meet my daddy’s kinfolk.
After Dad died, mom kinda kept her distance from her in-laws. There were stories about them never really accepting her, but she didn’t talk too much about it to me. Now that she’s gone, I’m trying to connect with both sides of my family.
Grandma wasn’t too keen on the idea, but never underestimate the power of persistent pleading.
She didn’t want to travel that far and was surprised when I told her I had already saved the money. Oh, she had lots of excuses but when I showed her our non-refundable tickets, there wasn’t much she could say. I turned her own motto against her: “Grandma doesn’t waste money!”
So here we are at the station about to take our very first train trip across the country!
Grandma could’ve written a 10-page book about what dangers to avoid. The first section began, “Be sure to hang onto your purse. A lady knows how to grip her belongings tightly without looking nervous.”
There were lots of chapters about travel safety, but she especially focused on watching out for bad men. “A girl as pretty as you,” she began, “can never let her guard down around strange men.” I never considered myself pretty, but I have to admit, she did have me nervous about that part of the trip…
Chapter 2 It’s for His Own Good
He tried to hide it, but I saw that look on Private Smith’s face.
Wow, you’re pretty stealthy. Not many people can sneak up on me. General Avis McGee, at your service.
That young fella’s going to thank me one day for all this extra training I’m giving him. What he sees as torture is really character-building. These new recruits come here “wet behind the ears” and feeling entitled.
They expect me to make men out of them when many haven’t even been trained as boys! Some of these jokers can’t understand the chain of command because they never learned structure in their own families. Most enlisted to get away from home.
Young Smith has potential but it’s undisciplined and unfocused. He’s like a mustang, one of those wild horses that need to be broken. And I’m just the officer to break him.
What he sees as grunt work is teaching him obedience and respect. He needs to learn everything has a place and purpose. And it never hurts to have someone to shine my shoes.
This trip will be good for him. He’ll get to see how other bases are run and maybe some of what I’m saying to the new recruits will sink into his thick skull. It certainly didn’t during his own orientation.
I’m all packed. Let’s see how fast he can get ready. Of course, I knew about this trip last week.
Let’s see how good a soldier this Private really is. He should always be ready to move. Because you never know when duty may call.
We’ve got plenty of time. But this will teach him the importance of being prompt. I always say, “if you’re not 10minutes early, you’re late.”
And there’s nothing quite like a train ride to teach some patience. These youngsters want everything right now. My second favorite quote is “Hurry up and wait!”
Chapter 3 Attention, Private!
Can’t believe it, here I am Johnny Smith, Private 1st Class in the army and all I am is a glorified butler!
Oh, hey, didn’t see you there. I don’t mean to complain. But this is getting ridiculous! “Your only assignment,” the Admiral says, “your only assignment is to do what I tell you!”
General Avis McGee really knows how to get under my skin! He thinks just ‘cuz he has 4 stars on his shoulder, he can order me around like his personal slave. Well, little does he know that I’ve got plans for him. I don’t know what, but I’ll get back at him, one way or another!
I thought by now, I’d at least be a lieutenant! I tell you; he’s so used to me running after him like a trained puppy, he’ll never promote me! But he doesn’t know I’ve got a mind behind these hard-working hands.
I actually spent this morning shining up his boots and he had the nerve to call me out for having mine all scuffed up. So, I wonder what evil he has in mind with his latest summons to his office…
I can’t stand the way he just starts into a conversation like we were already talking. “So, you know I have a presentation at West Point.” He said as I walked into his office.
I told him that I’d heard about it. I didn’t say that I’d heard about it because everyone will be so glad he’ll be out of our hair for the whole weekend! I tried to hide my enthusiasm.
My heart sank with his next words. “So, you’re already packed and ready to go? I can’t travel without my most trusted valet!” He always said that last word like he was giving me a compliment.
I mustered a smile and repeated the lines that were pounded into our heads the very first day. “A good soldier is always ready to move. You never know when duty may call.”
His nod was my dismissal. I shuffled out of his office and packed as quickly as possible. Our train would be leaving in 4 hours
Chapter 4 I’m a Rose Among 2 Thorns
If only Grandma could see me now!
I stepped into the cabin and saw the older man with lots of medals on his chest. The younger man was carrying all the baggage and looked awfully nervous. I don’t know military stuff, but it was pretty clear who was in charge.
They both nodded respectfully. The conductor’s words echoed in my ears. “You ladies should be safe with these two military men to protect you.”
The General assured us that we had nothing to worry about. He said he would take personal responsibility as if we were soldiers under his care. The look on the Private’s face was not comforting.
Maybe Grandma was right about strange men…
Chapter 5 Another Teaching Moment
You’d think this Private never saw a pretty girl before!
I had to speak up. He looked like he was about to put her on a platter and sop her up with a biscuit! The older lady with her, possibly her grandmother, saw it too and appreciated my stern gaze.
My gaze has been described as stern. It’s the look that shows I mean business. There will be no funny business on my watch.
I need to do something to break the spell. That’s the benefit of discipline and training. I can survey a situation and take the correct action.
Private Smith may not appreciate my stern words now, but he’ll appreciate them later.
Chapter 6 It’s Even Worse in Public
This trip just keeps getting worse and worse!
So, I rush and get packed in record time. Hustle all the General’s luggage and training materials to the station at breakneck speed. Only to discover we’re over 30minutes ahead of schedule!
The only good thing is the seating arrangement. We’re seated in the cabin with the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of pretty girls.
Maybe it’s the long boot camp, those terrible army rations, or just all the inhuman treatment from the General. But my jaw about hit the floor when she sat across from the General in the small compartment. I mustered a weak smile.
The old General couldn’t pass up the chance. “You did remember to pack an iron to press my shirts, didn’t you, Private?” I responded with a curt “Yessir” and I’m sure the pretty girl saw my face turn bright red…but a plan was already forming in my head.
Chapter 7 Way to Go, Granny!
Oh, my stars! I can’t believe it!
My Grandma gave me all the instructions, but she was the one who had to use them. When we went into that dark tunnel, I wondered what could happen, it was pitch black!
I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. But I could hear just fine. First, there was a “smoochie” sound, like a big ol’ sloppy kiss you see in the movie.
When we came out of that dark tunnel, that sophisticated General was rubbing his jaw and looking pretty embarrassed. He thought he was gonna steal a kiss from me but kissed my grandma instead. She had told me what to do if a guy ever got fresh with me...
Way to go, Grandma!
Chapter 8 He Got the Kiss, But I Got the Slap!
That Private’s in for it now!
This is what I mean by lack of discipline. The very first chance he got, Smith reaches over and kisses that young, pretty girl. Why she thought it was me, I’ll never know.
This is embarrassing! I don’t know which hurts worse, my face or my pride. And the disapproval of her grandmother's glare doesn’t help.
Look at Private Smith over there. He’s trying so hard to be innocent. I’ll deal with him once we back.
He thinks I treat him bad now, so I know he’ll spread this all over the base. He’ll be on kitchen patrol for 6 months! He got the kiss, but I got the slap!
Chapter 9 Not Too Bad…
Ah, the life of a lowly Private.
I don’t get a lot of medals or recognition. I may have to do a lot of grunt work. Sometimes, I feel like I’m the General’s personal butler.
He probably won’t speak to me anymore this trip. But that’s ok, I’ll enjoy the peace and quiet from all his bragging. And who knows, maybe I’ll get that pretty, young girl’s name and number.
She’s gotta think better of me now. Even her grandma is smiling at me. But it’s not over yet.
Not too bad, I kissed the back of my hand. Got to slap the General. And here comes another tunnel!