Thursday, January 30, 2020

Hopscotch (fiction)

The mood around the sand-table was dour.

Two, four-by-eight foot sheets of plywood had been put atop sawhorses to create the hasty table. One sheet ran the long way in the East-West direction while the other ran the long way North-South. The two tables formed a T that had rotated ninety degrees in the counterclockwise direction.

The cheap plywood had many knots and Gimp ordered that the tops of the sheets be painted a light color so the knots did not distract from the “real” information. The minion slapping together the table didn’t have enough of any one color so he combined some white, latex ceiling paint and a pale blue from a bedroom.

The scale was two-inches-to-the-mile. It spanned 72 miles East-West from Brighton (not much information) to west of Amish-land. The eastern 2/3 of the map comprised of a 24 mile wide  swath of land in the North-South direction. This was the 40 mile long corridor the invaders were assuredly going to use in their invasion of Capiche and, incidentally, Delta Township.

Relative troop strengths were depicted by stacks of pennies, one penny for every hundred fighters. Livingston County had ten stacks of five pennies in alignment with Benicio’s information of the high-end of what they could field. Delta Township, Benicio’s domain, had two stacks of five pennies. Capiche had a single penny.

Features that might complicate the opposing force’s advance were represented by strings (for streams) and handfuls of roofing nails for native resistance hotspots.

The reason for the group’s ill humor was that Livingston County pretty much had a clear, unopposed shot at Capiche. There were several probable cells of native resistance along the Red Cedar river which ran along the northern edge of the attack corridor. Invading forces would be idiots to press along the northern line.

But everything south of those cells-of-resistance was wide open. And the 500 pound anaconda in the room was I-96. It was almost inconceivable that the aggressors would not convoy forty miles west on I-96, right to the northern edge of Capiche.

“I don’t want to make this sound any worse than it is” Gimp said, gesturing at the table “but we have to assume that Chernovsky and Spackle were compromised and that the opposing forces have exact knowledge of our weapons and tactics.”

If possible, the group’s mood sunk even lower.

Even Miguel and Wilder, normally the most cheerful of men, were heavily weighed by emotion. Janelle had not been nearly as stoic as Sally Straeder and Dysen Spackle. Maybe it was hormonal due to her miscarried baby. Maybe it was because she saw Chernovsky as her one shot at the brass ring of happiness. By normal, pre-Ebola standards, Janelle was not a beautiful woman.

Janelle’s meltdown had been epic. It had been loud and kinetic and lubricated by gallons of tears.

Janelle was in the tool shop today. Everybody agreed that normal routines were best for pulling Janelle through her grief. Milo stayed close to her, just in case Janelle‘s grief returned and she decided to do something stupid and permanent.

The men and women continued to stare at the table.

“You know” Wilder said after clearing his throat “this is a lot like fighting at sea.”

If anybody else had made that off-the-wall comment, there would have been scoffing. Gimp said “Explain yourself.”

“Battles at sea, at least in the old days, were almost by accident.” Wilder said. “The sea is huge, night is dark and fog is everywhere.”

“Opposing forces could pass within twenty miles of each other and not know.” Wilder said. “Most battles were close to ports or narrow straights where traffic had no choice but to go.”

“So we know they will leave Howell” Gimp said, pointing at the east end of the table “and we know they will probably insert here” pointing at I-96 which ran along Lansing’s southern underbelly.

“That really doesn’t help us much.” Gimp said, almost apologetically. “It is not like we can do much on the Howell end of things.

“Ideally,” Tomanica said “if we had the manpower, you would like to make them fight for every mile up I-96. Set up ambushes and improvised explosive devices. Make them stop and contest every ambush.”

“But we just don’t have the bodies. Once they flow around the ambushers...well, it becomes a suicide mission. And after a while they will just sweep for IED or leave I-96. Then we are stuck with our forces out-of-position to defend Capiche.” Tomanica finished.

The more mathematically proficient did the math in their heads. If each ambush diabled 10% of the opposing force, and if there was room for four, solid ambush sites, then 65% of the opposing force would still get through. 65% of 5000 is still more than 3000. Livingston County could still crush Capiche like a bug.

“Do we have any Navy guys in Capiche?” Wilder asked.

“Yeah, a few.” Tomanica admitted. “Old Tom, the guy you always see fishing by the Columbia Road bridge, for instance.”

“Would it take long to get him here?” Wilder asked.

Tomanica shrugged. It was almost lunch time and everybody could use a break anyway. “Sure, we can send for him and anybody else we can think of.”

An hour and a half later the men and women were back around the table. There were three additional men; Navy men.

“Are any of you guys familiar with MacArthur’s strategy in the South Pacific in World War II?” Wilder asked, hopefully.

“Oh, hell yeah!” Old Tom said.

Wilder furrowed his brows as if he couldn’t quite remember. “I seem to remember something about him bypassing Japanese bases, leaving viable, enemy fighting units in his rear. That can’t be possible, can it?”

Old Tom cackled. “Damned straight it was possible. MacArthur called it ‘let them die on the vine.’ They couldn’t do diddly-shit without logistics. MacArthur went around them and clobbered their logistics train.”

“I know this isn’t the Coral Sea” Wilder said pointing at the sand table. “But how would MacArthur have handled this?”

Old Tom looked at the table. Then he moved around so he was standing at the “west” end looking east (that is, east looked like it was north). “It looks almost exactly like the Coral Sea from here...” Old Tom contradicted Wilder.

"You chop their logistical support and they will be on their knees. It ain't like they can order shift from Amazon and have it delivered by UPS, is it?"



  1. It is said that amateurs talk strategy while professionals talk logistics. These guys are beginning to think like pros.

  2. Tooth to tail... And George is right!

  3. For the want of a nail, a horse was lost . . . for the want of a horse, a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon was lost . . .


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