Operation Secret Drop

by Taleese Walsh

Christmas Eve.

My whole family huddled together in the living room. We were making last-minute plans for our covert mission: Operation Secret Drop.

“OK,” Dad said, “let’s run through the mission one last time. At precisely 20 hundred hours, our whole family will pile into the car.”

Dad had served in the Air Force. He was really patriotic—and disciplined. Ever since I could remember, our family did everything by the 24-hour clock. It could be a real drag sometimes, but not tonight. Tonight was special. After all, a top-secret mission just couldn’t be authentic on civilian time.

“I’ll go through our checklist at the end of our briefing,” Dad continued. “Once we’re in the car, we’ll head down Main Street until we reach Shady Oak Estates, arriving at exactly 2007. Everybody still with me?”

He paused while we all nodded our heads in the affirmative

“Great.” Dad showed his approval. “Now this is where things become tricky. It’s imperative that we get this next part right or the whole mission will fail.”

The Objective
My brother, Justin, had on his most serious expression. He’s 14, four years older than I am. After school, he rides his bike to deliver the local Daily News Journal. Part of his route covers Shady Oak Estates. Dad had put Justin in charge of reconnaissance. Justin used his information to map out a covert route to our target, the Thorntons’ house.

Our mission was to reach their house, make our secret drop and hightail it out of there before they knew who’d hit them. Dad was right. Justin’s route was crucial.

The Thorntons moved to town when I was in second grade. They started going to our church and their son, Bruce, was in my Sunday school class. We had the same second-grade teacher at Forest Park Elementary School, too.

This year Bruce was the shortest boy in fourth grade, but he was also the fastest. I had tried for two whole years to beat him in a race, but the closest I had come was second. I plan to beat him one day.

Bruce’s dad, Mr. Thornton, was a roofer. Three months ago, he fell off a roof and hurt himself. He hasn’t been able to work since. Our church has been praying for him to get better. It was Mom’s idea to target the Thorntons.

Every year during initial planning stages for Operation Secret Drop, our family prays, asking God to show us whom to pick for our mission. This ear Mom said God put the Thorntons on her heart. We all thought it was a great idea. Besides, who could argue with Mom and God?

“Brian,” Dad called to me, “here’s where you need to get your command into ready position.”

“Yes, sir,” I barked back with my best salute.

“Once we hit Shady Oak Estates,” he continued, “I’ll turn off my headlights and park three houses down from the Thorntons. The time should be 2009. Brian, you and your team—Mom, that’s you and Justin—will sneak up to the Thorntons’ front porch and each drop a secret package. Stealth is paramount. You know that.”

We all nodded in agreement once again.

Dad went on: “Brian, once the packages are in place, direct your team back to the vehicle. According to our drills, that should be at 2012. I’ll be waiting in the vehicle. Once your team is back with me, I’ll drive to Walnut Avenue. That will position the vehicle in front of the MacKenzies’ house. They live right behind the Thorntons.”

Dad’s eyes rested on me. “Once you ring the doorbell, Brian, you’ll immediately race for all you’re worth through the Thorntons’ and MacKenzies’ backyards and into our waiting vehicle. As soon as you’re safely in, we’ll continue down Walnut and back onto Main Street. I’ll have the headlights on and we’ll merge with the rest of the holiday traffic. Time should now read 2016. Another seven minutes should find us back home with another mission accomplished. Any questions?”

All Checked Out
Dad conducted one last check.

“Good. Everybody’s clear then. Let’s run through the checklist. Emergency flashlights?”

“Check,” came the response from all family members.

“Full tank of gas?”

“Check,” Dad’s gruff voice resounded.

“Stopwatch?”

“Check,” again Dad’s voice called out.

“Secret package No. 1?”

“Check.” Mom’s gentle, but serious, voice this time.

Secret package one was Mom’s idea. She bought a turkey, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, green beans, dinner rolls, cauliflower, broccoli, stuffing and two pies for dessert. Everything for a real Christmas dinner. In Mom’s mind, Christmas just couldn’t be celebrated without a turkey.

“Secret package No. 2?”

“Check,” Justin called out.

Justin and I made sure our secret package contained what we knew would be important to Bruce and his little sister, Colleen: toys and presents.

Each week, we got an allowance. We could spend some, save some and give some. I was saving up for a new mountain bike that I had my eye on. Usually, I would use my spending money on my favorite candy, Nerds. But the most important part of my allowance was my giving money. Each week, Justin and I gave our tithe at Sunday school, and gave Mom and Dad a little extra to keep for our yearly Operation Secret Drop.

This year we had saved up a whopping $26 each. We had more fun buying presents for Bruce and Colleen than we did making our own Christmas lists. We couldn’t stop thinking about the looks on their faces when they opened the door.

“Secret package No. 3?”

“Check,” I called out.

Secret package No. 3 was Dad’s contribution, but I was in charge of it. It was the easiest to drop or lose—just an envelope. But inside was a gift card to the local Wal-Mart. “To help with necessities,” Dad had said.

“OK,” Dad added. “It’s 1945. Everybody hit the bathroom and meet back here in exactly 15 minutes for deployment.”

Dangerous Drop
Twenty hundred hours. We’re off.

Everything ran smoothly, and I didn’t feel nervous until Justin, Mom and I put the packages on the Thorntons’ front porch.

Mom and Justin had already headed back to the vehicle, when through the darkness I saw the single flash of our headlights. That was my signal.

All right, it was all up to me now. My heart was thumping through my chest. My finger pressed the doorbell, and I was off. I jumped down the steps and ran for all I was worth. Behind me, I could hear someone coming to answer the door.

I raced down the side of the house. Lights began to turn on behind me, as I sprinted through the MacKenzies’ backyard. My eyes watered as the cold wind whipped across my face. I just hoped that Bruce wouldn’t tear out of the house after me. I saw our vehicle in position and raced toward it.

Justin opened the car door, helped me with the seat belt and we were out of there.

“Way to go, troops!” Dad hollered.

Justin and I gave each other high fives. We zoomed back out on Main Street. Next thing we knew, we were safe and secure in our living room. Dad, still the commander, checked his watch: 2023.

“Right on schedule, team.” His voice rang with pride.

That night at the midnight Christmas Eve service, we all looked across to the other side of the church at the Thornton family. Of course, we didn’t want to be obvious about it. And we couldn’t all look at once. But it wasn’t hard to see the joyous expressions on their faces.

We’d never, ever give them a clue that we were God’s secret agents.

Yep. Mission accomplished! This was already the best Christmas ever.

This story first appeared in the December 2002 issue of Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2002 by Taleese Walsh. Illustration © Gary Locke.