Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. No money being made.
Note: During the week of the 11th of September the radio station I was listening to at work played Red Skelton explaining the 'Pledge of Allegiance'. Anyway, I thought it would make a pretty good story. I hope that you do as well.
Comments: This story makes reference to the horrible events of September 11, 2001.
"Forget it!" Chris told his boss. "We're in the middle of a big case and can't go making social visits!"
"It's not a social visit!" Orrin Travis pointed out. "It's a public service. The President wants us to reassure the public that they're safe and encourage them to get on with their lives."
"Why us?" the black clad leader of Team Seven questioned. "Why not make Sanderson's team do it? Hell, they're not doing anything anyway."
"This is one of the perks of being the top rated ATF teams in the country," Orrin explained. "It'll only take an hour. Two at the most . . ."
"I suppose we'll have to make a speech?"
"I only need one of you . . ."
"Then why do all of us have to go?"
"Unity," Chris repeated with a shake of his head. Then looked over at his team, who for once were being quiet. "I'll need a volunteer . . ."
"I'll do it," Ezra quickly spoke up.
"Josiah? How about it?" Chris asked ignoring the Southerner's offer. "Nathan?"
"Excuse me!" Ezra exclaimed before either man could say anything.
"Why can't Ezra . . ."
"I guess if push comes to shove Buck could do it," Chris said cutting Josiah off. "Or JD."
"What about Vin?" Orrin asked.
"Vin? Speak in front of a crowd?" Chris mocked. "The only time Vin feels comfortable speaking in front a crowd is when he had a gun in his hand."
"It's not his fault he gets nervous," Ezra came to the sharpshooter's defense.
"Nervous? Hell, he damn near hyperventilated the last time he tried . . ."
"I did not!"
"Fine, then you can do it now."
"The hell I will," Vin quickly told him. "Ezra wants to do it. So why won't you let him?"
"'Cause we only have an hour!"
"What's that's suppose to mean?" Ezra piped up.
"These kids are already confused and scared," Chris told him. "Listening to you would probably send them over the edge."
"I resend that Mr. Larabee," the Southerner said in a quiet tone.
"Ezra would never do anything to hurt those children," Vin quickly added.
"Ezra has a way with children and would never do anything to the matter worse," Josiah stated.
"Why not?" The three men pushed.
"You talk to damned much!" Chris finally said. "If I have to do this then I just want to get in and get out. We can't do that if Ezra talks." He sighed as the Southerner got to his feet and walked over to the window, turning his back on the rest of the room.
"Well, now Ezra can be a little long winded at times," Buck stated.
"Since you have such a way with children, Chris, why don't you do it?" Josiah prompted.
"I don't want to do it," Chris all but spat.
Orrin Travis shook his head in exasperation. "It's a good thing you men are so good at your jobs or else I'd fire the lot of you," he told them. "Ezra just try and keep it short," Orrin said then held up a hand to forestall Chris's protest. "It's either him or you?"
Chris threw his hands in the air and stalked from the room.
"Well, now that that's settled I'll see you boys in the morning," the Judge told them then left.
A couple of hours later the seven men sat at the conference table discussing their current case. Chris looked at his men and asked, "Are there any questions?" After answering the usual ones about times and locations the team leader glanced at his undercover agent and waited. Ezra always had questions. Important questions. But the man never said a word. He just sat there as if biding his time.
"Ezra?" he asked. The Southerner just looked at him and waited. "Don't you have anything to say?"
"No?" Chris couldn't believe this. This couldn't be good, he thought. A quiet Ezra was even dangerous than a talkative Ezra. Talkative? Oh, hell, Chris swore under his breath, as he suddenly realized what this was all about. "Look Ezra about this morning . . ."
"Think nothing of it Mr. Larabee," Ezra told him as he got to his feet. "Now if you'll excuse me," he said then calmly walked from the room.
"Aww hell," Chris swore and threw his pencil on the table in disgust. "Where are you two going?"
"With Ezra," Josiah and Vin both said.
Early the next morning found Orrin Travis, his daughter-in-law, and five members of Team Seven waiting out front of one of the local elementary schools.
"Where the hell are Ezra and Vin?" Chris growled.
"Watch your mouth," Mary warned.
"Don't worry, they'll be here," JD reassured him.
"Yeah, they still have fifteen minutes," Josiah pointed out just as a shiny black Jag pulled up.
"See I told ya so."
They all stared in shock as Vin stepped from the car and not Ezra.
"Morning fellas, Mrs. Travis," Vin said in greeting as neared them.
Chris rushed toward him and demanded, "Where the he . . . heck is Ezra?"
"Inside," Vin told him. "I ran to the store and got us some coffee. The stuff they have here tastes like sh . . . bad."
Josiah smiled and slapped Chris on the shoulder, "Come on brother, let's get this over with."
Sure enough when they stepped into the gym they spotted Ezra surrounded by a bunch of children, Billy Travis included. As they got closer, they saw that the Southerner was showing them some card tricks.
Upon spotting them Ezra excused himself and joined them on the stage. "You have no idea how much I need this," he said as he took the offered coffee. Taking a large sip he sighed then looked at Vin and smiled. "If you weren't a man, I'd kiss you."
Vin laughed and said, "If you weren't a man I'd let you."
They were all asked to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ezra watched as the children reluctantly got to their feet and then mumble their way through the pledge. With a sad shake of his head he sat back down and wondered if these children had any idea how lucky they were.
Vin turned as Chris elbowed him. "What?" he mouthed. He rolled his eyes as Chris motioned toward Ezra. Vin then nudged the Southerner.
The undercover man looked at his boss and raised one eyebrow inquiry.
"Remember . . . short and sweet."
Ezra understood him perfectly, but frowned at Chris as if he didn't.
"Short and sweet," was whispered a little louder.
Still Ezra frowned.
Vin suddenly found himself shoved forward as Chris reached behind him and tried to grab the undercover man.
Ezra calmly got to his feet as his name was announced by the principal. Then with an irritating wink at his boss walked up to the podium. He introduced himself, his teammates and then explained a little bit about what it was they did.
"My teammates and I were asked here today to reassure you that in spite of the horrible events that occurred in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York City that life does go on. That each of us can indeed go about our lives as we did before," he told them. "Now that I've done that I'd like to speak to you about one other thing and then I'll turn the microphone over to someone else."
"This morning as you recited The Pledge of Allegiance I noticed that the majority of you just stood there and I found myself wondering if anyone had ever taken the time too explained just what you are pledging," Ezra noticed that most of the children shook their heads no. "I see that no one has, so please allow me . . ."
I - Meaning you; an individual; a committee of one.
PLEDGE - Dedicate all of my worldly goods as to give without self-pity.
ALLEGIANCE - My love and my devotion.
TO THE FLAG - Our standard; 'Old Glory'; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everyone's job. Yours and mine.
UNTIED - That means that we have all come together.
STATES OF AMERICA - Individual communities that have united into fifty great states. Fifty individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.
AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS - Republic - a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
ONE NATION UNDER GOD - One Nation - meaning, so blessed by God.
INDIVISIBLE - Incapable of being divided.
WITH LIBERTY - Which Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.
AND JUSTICE - The principles, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.
FOR ALL - For all - which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.
Ezra paused to let what he'd just said to sink in for just a second then continued, "Now, I asked that you please stand and once again recite with me the 'Pledge of Allegiance.'"
The children stood and with clear voices said, "'I pledge allegiance to the flay of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'"
Ezra looked out over the children and with a proud smile said, "Thank you." He then handed the microphone back to a very impressed principle.
"Thank you, Mr. Standish," the principle said. "Let's give him a hand."
Ezra smiled and waved his hand then sat back down.
"Way to go, Ez," Vin leaned over and whispered.
After a couple over more speakers the principle thanked them all for coming and they were free to go.
The Southerner quickly got to his feet and headed for the door.
"He would have made a hell of a politician," the Judge said.
"Scary ani't it," Buck added with a smile.
"Not bad for a long-winded fellow that talks to damned much," Vin commented as they watched children and teachers alike stop and speak with Ezra.
Chris shook his head as both Vin and Josiah headed toward the undercover agent. In spite of the hard time he had given Ezra about talking too much Chris had always admired the Southerner for his gift of gab. The team leader knew if it weren't for Ezra, Buck, and JD then the rest of them could probably go for days without saying a word.
With a sigh he bid the judge and Mary goodbye and made his way toward his agents. Stepping up to Ezra he grabbed his hand and said, "You did good Ezra. I'm sorry I doubted you."
"Thank you," Ezra replied with a smile.
"When you get through with your fan club we'll go get an early lunch," Chris told him. Than sat in one of the vacant chairs to enjoy the show.
"Ezra does have a way about him, don't he," Nathan said as he sat down beside him.
"I never would have taken Ezra to be much of a patriot, but I'm glad I was wrong," Buck said.
"What he said, made me even prouder to be an American," JD added.
Almost forty-five minutes later Ezra managed to shake everyone's hand and answer the children's question and with a sigh him, Vin, and Josiah stepped up in front of the other four.
"You finally done?" Chris asked with a smile.
"I certainly hope so," Ezra said.
"Let's get the hell outta here before any more come," Vin suggested and began pushing the Southerner toward the door.
"So what's for lunch?" Josiah asked as they all headed for the door.