General Jefferson Davis of The Virginia National Guard sat down at his desk and stared at the mountain of paperwork. He had so much to do but his mind was troubled. His daughter's announcement the night before that she was going to marry a man of color, the first woman of her family to do so since The Civil War had upset his wife greatly. She was afraid the family would lose its long history of influence in the state. His phone buzzed and he picked it up.
"Yes?" he snapped.
The voice of his aide, Major Lee, came on the line. "Sir," he announced, "Governor Jackson is on the line. He wishes to speak with you immediately!"
The General sighed. He knew what the Governor wanted. "Put him on!" he snapped.
In a moment the Governor's deep authoritarian voice was heard. "Jeff," it began, "before you say it I know, our resources are stretched to their limit. You don't want to call up any more reserves. But we HAVE to supply more troops and equipment for Iraq. President Bush is having people call daily. Virginia cannot be the state that fails in the glorious effort."
The General sighed. "I'll do what I can, Henry," he assured, "you know that. I wish all this pressure wasn't being put on us. The federal government should know we're doing our best."
"They do, Jeff, they do!" the Governor assured. "These are just desperate times. Got to get going. How's the family taking the announcement?"
"The wife's very unhappy," the General answered. "But I rather admire Martin and I think he would make her a good husband. It's just time for the old ways to end. If it is my daughter's wish to marry this fine young man I will support her."
"As I knew you would!" the Governor answered. "I'll let you get back to work."
There was a click and the General hung up the phone and began looking through the papers. In a few minutes he picked the phone back up. "Lee!" he snapped, "Where in the hell is Major Rogerson's report? I need it right now!"
"Major Rogerson is in the hospital, sir," the aide answered. "I don't know exactly what the problem is."
"Damn!" the General snapped. "Call down there, see if you can get ahold of him. Get an oral report. That will give me enough to work with."
"It will probably be easier sir, and quicker," the aide answered, "for me to walk over there and talk to him personally."
"Very good!" the General snapped. "Just get the information."
"I've got a couple things here," the aide continued, "just as soon as I can finish them I'll rush right over there. Oh! There's someone here to see you.....Ambassador O'Donnell. He says he must see you immediately."
Davis was bewildered. Why would the English Ambassador to The U.N. need to see him? "Well, send him in!" the General answered.
The aide brought the distinguished looking Ambassador in and then departed. "How may I help you, Ambassador?" the General asked.
The Ambassador opened a travel case and took out a faded envelope. "I was supposed to deliver this yesterday," he remarked. "My family has held it for many years. We have never read it. But it was very clear that it was to be given to you. I apologize for the delay. I would be most interested in knowing what is in the letter if it is not too personal."
The bewildered General took the letter, examined it, opened it, and began to read. A few minutes later he leaped to his feet, yanked open his draw, pulled out a side arm, and hurried out of the office. The startled Ambassador took up pursuit.
"Where's Lee?" the General screamed.
"He left for the hospital, sir!" a female secretary answered.
"Get me a vehicle!" the General snapped. "Send it to the hospital's emergency entrance. I'll be waiting there. Hurry!"
As the secretary reached for the phone the General burst out the door with the Ambassador in hot pursuit.