The Pentagon Monster

It only seems appropriate for October to offer a story about the creation of a monster.

Frank Shelley had sat at this briefing-room table many times before, but it was the first time, as he waited his turn to speak, that he had wondered what the square footage of it was.

Eight hundred and twenty square feet he estimated to himself as he fiddled with his tie and rubbed his clean-shaven chin.

Nothing but Colonels and Generals sat around the table with the exception of Frank and his boss and his boss’ boss. One after the other, the officers extolled the virtues of the MAX 409 Ultra-Mobile Rocket Launcher. Frank’s job was to make sure that the numbers were correct; that the system, the howitzer, the cannon, or in this case the MAX 409 Ultra-Mobile Rocket Launcher, functioned in the manner that their designers said they would function. The numbers never lied, although Colonels were known to stretch the truth now and then. Frank almost always gave the final report and almost no one ever listened because whatever numbers Frank presented were never as persuasive as which Congressional district was home to the factory that would build the weapon system.

It was finally Frank’s turn to speak, which he dutifully did as everyone else at the table snapped open brief cases and prepared to leave.

“Anyone with any final questions?” asked the Colonel in charge almost rhetorically.

“I have one,” answered Frank. The brief case snapping ceased immediately.

“Mr. Shelley?”

“Where’s the design for the ammunition trailer that needs to accompany the MAX 409 Ultra-Mobile Rocket Launcher?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The MAX 409 Ultra-Mobile Rocket Launcher has 18 tubes that fire at a rate of .5 seconds per tube and the unit carries a maximum of 72 rockets assuming that it’s fully loaded to start. The self-loading process takes 7 seconds between firings which means that the MAX 409 Ultra-Mobile Rocket Launcher will be out of ammunition and therefore, useless on the battlefield in 57 seconds. That is unless there’s an ammunition trailer that hitches to it from which additional rockets may be drawn.”

The Colonel who had asked for any final questions responded by staring sternly at Frank at which point the General sitting to his right, rose and leaned over the table.

“Mr. Shelley, your job is not to question the capability of one of the finest weapon systems ever to be presented to this committee. It is merely to present the numbers. Now if there are no further questions, this meeting is adjourned.”

There were no further questions.

“Well, Frank, you almost gave Colonel Graves a stroke,” said Frank’s boss’ boss as they drove back to their offices.

That Friday afternoon, a letter was delivered from the General to Frank’s boss’ boss, who gave it to Frank’s boss, who walked it down to Frank’s office. The letter “encouraged” Frank’s boss’ boss to remove Frank from the final report which would go to the Congress, and to replace “an obvious trouble maker with a team player.”

“What!” said Frank bolting straight up in his cubicle as he read it. “But the numbers are what the numbers are! How can anyone justify spending—it’s not my fault that they didn’t—’troublemaker’? I’ve double and triple checked every number that I ever—”

“Don’t take it personally, Frank. They had their minds made up before we ever went to that meeting. Heck, watching Graves’ face turn red made it the best meeting that I’ve been to in 15 years. And don’t worry about it over the weekend; you know they like to deliver bad news on a Friday so you’ll stew about it for the next two days. I’ll see you Monday.”

Frank was indeed a “stewer.” He stewed over his numbers and he stewed over his reports; he even stood in the supermarket and stewed over which toothpaste to buy. All the way home, he stewed over that word “troublemaker” as it echoed around in his head and flashed before his eyes. He stewed all weekend and was still stewing when he went to bed on Sunday night.

He arose shortly after midnight and headed to the bathroom. He didn’t even need to turn on the light as the glow from a full moon lit the way. He glanced out the window and the moon caught his full attention. He stared at it and in that moment, a transformation took place. Aloud he growled something about the General and about the General’s mother, finished in the bathroom, and went back to bed.

Around 10:15 on Monday morning, Frank’s boss tossed out a “Hi, Frank” as he walked past Frank’s cubicle while looking over papers in a red folder. Something caught his eye, however, and he backed up.

“Nice shirt. You going to a luau after work or something?”

“No. That letter clearly indicated that I needed to change my ways. Well, I changed ’em.”

Frank didn’t smile as he said this, but his boss did.

“You didn’t shave this morning either, did you?”


Frank did not in fact, attend a luau after work, but he did run out and buy 9 more Hawaiian shirts. He remained true to the numbers and continued to double and triple check every one. After all, they had always been true to him. From then on, however, Frank always asked a question or two or three,much to the consternation of everyone around the big conference table.

As for the MAX 409 Ultra-Mobile Rocket Launcher, the joke that Captains and Lieutenant Colonels began passing around the Pentagon that started with “Who stars in the latest Gone in 60 Seconds movie?” was overheard by Colonels and Generals and certain Congressional liaisons and they didn’t find it funny. The system never did receive a hearing in the Senate and the plans for its manufacture were quietly buried, never to rise again.

 For a pdf copy of this story simply e-mail me at agisriel at!


About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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16 Responses to The Pentagon Monster

  1. Don Hoover says:

    It has taken a full day to absorb this story about Frank, however in some ways I can relate to him. At meetings that I attend at work, we are asked for input on how to improve how we do things. When good suggestions are made, they seem to fall on deaf ears. Their minds are already made up, by saying “we will surely look into this”. By the time the next meeting rolls around, it is the same story. Hang in there Frank, your not alone, and nice job once again Austin!


    • Austin Gisriel says:

      Thanks, Don. School administrators like to say, “It’s a done deal.” They also loved to gather “our input” and if it agrees with what they already wanted to do that was a bonus and if went against what they wanted to do, they ignored it.


  2. al says:

    “War is a Racket” quoted from MG Smedley Butler USMC. Two time Medal of Honor recipient. Great read Austin.


    • Austin Gisriel says:

      Thanks for telling me the great story on which it is based! You’ve certainly seen first-hand how war is, indeed, a racket.


  3. Bonnie Lane says:

    We need more Frank Shelleys, Austin! Boy-Oh-Boy… we ever! Great story!


  4. Still waiting for an exact measurement of the table.


  5. Nick Wisda says:

    I was waiting to see if there was more to the story. You left me wanting to read more and see what happened to Frank. I liked his new style.


    • Austin Gisriel says:

      Always leave ’em wanting more! Well, Frank works for the government, so he can’t be fired, we know that. Because you want to know more, it’s possible that Frank will reappear in this blog, somewhere down the line.


  6. Don Hoover says:

    Going to a meeting at work tomorrow, where once again will present suggestions on how to improve operations. I am pretty sure I know what the end result will be, but can you send Frank Shelley in for back up?


  7. Cindy Everly says:

    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.


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