The Union Forever

“The goal here will be a pincers movement, coming down from the north with the Fifth Army and circling to the rear, and moving up and over from the south by Belgrade with the Ninth, so we’ll eventually encircle the whole territory. Now, if all goes well, we should have this…”

“General Horlen?”

“…wrapped up by, er — yes, Rayner? What is it?”

“That’s the whole Ninth Army?”

“Well…”

“Because, you know, south of Belgrade, they’ve got half their tank divisions.”

“I realize that, Rayner.”

“So, well, I’m saying, you’ll probably want the entire Ninth. Maybe even some reserves, in case they form a wedge.”

“Yes? What of it?”

“Not to put too fine a point on it, General, but half those guys are on layoff. They haven’t worked in six weeks.”

“Obviously, Rayner, we’ll have to recall them.”

“I don’t know if you can expect them to be ready to come back to work just like that.”

“Surely you can have a word.”

“I’ll do my best. A little notice is always appreciated.”

“We do what we can, Rayner.”

“I realize that, sir. ‘Scuse me for butting in. Go on with your thought.”

“I’ve completely lost my place.”

“The timetable. You were going to give us the timetable.”

“Oh, of course. Thank you, Rayner. As I was saying, if all goes well and the weather is on our side, we should wrap this up in about five weeks: say, the end of May.”

“Five weeks?”

“Yes.”

“That’s a pretty optimistic projection, sir, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“What’s your point, Rayner?”

“No point at all, General. As long as you pay the overtime, my boys will give you one hell of a show. We’ll get the job in on time.”

Overtime? Honestly, Rayner. This is a major offensive. If it succeeds, it’ll benefit all of us. I’m sure you can appreciate that.”

“Those are nice words, sir. Luckily, we’ve got a contract, so we don’t have to just take your word for it.”

“Oh, come on.”

“You’ve got enough paperwork to deal with, General. I don’t want to have to file a grievance.”

“Fine. Fine. You’ll get the overtime. Have the men put in the requisitions and Betty will sign off on them. Now if there’s nothing else, I want to get the maps up and…”

“Actually, there is one other thing.”

“This isn’t about the hazard pay, is it?”

“Minesweeping is dangerous work, General. You wouldn’t want to have to do it yourself.”

“Really, Rayner, if this could only wait until the next collective bargaining session, it would make my life so much easier.”

“Can’t help you, sir. I’d love to but I can’t. These guys have seniority, you know that.”

“Time and a half.”

“Double time, chief. You know better than to lowball me.”

“You know, the people who laid those mines weren’t even union men.”

“That’s why we find the things so easy, General. You get what you pay for.”

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