I thought my career as a spy was abruptly terminated when I was ten years old.
I was playing on my cousin's farm; I was throwing rocks at an old tricycle. My cousin was smashing rocks with a heavy sledge hammer. We weren't paying attention to each other, and we both went for the same rock. I reached it a fraction of a second before the hammer dropped.
The blow reduced my right index finger to a pulp that looked like cottage cheese and ketchup, one of Richard Nixon's favorite dishes. It was thus somewhat ironic that the loss of my trigger finger would later eliminate even the remote possibility that I could be forced to fight in Viet Nam. All I could think about at the time, though, was that my promising career as a secret agent was over.
I knew the Mattel Corporation manufactured and sold an Agent Zero-M briefcase. (Agent Zero-M was Mattel's reply to the competition's success marketing Agent 007 gear.) The briefcase contained everything a spy could need: a pistol with a silencer, a hidden camera (that really worked, even when concealed inside the briefcase!), and various other bits that I can't remember. The main attraction of the Agent Zero-M briefcase, though, was the secret button on the side. When pressed, it released the concealed pistol's trigger and fired a plastic bullet from a secret aperture on the side of the briefcase.
My parents, always supportive of my ambitious plans, bought me an Agent Zero-M briefcase. I was back business. It was everything I had hoped for, although I never used in my later espionage work. (As an aside, I should mention that my middle finger proved to be a more than adequate trigger finger.)
I was reminded of the incident when I visited a friend who really is a secret agent. He had four or five briefcases in the back of his car. The cases he opened were full with hidden cameras, bugging devices, tape recorders, and other surveillance equipment. I don't know what was in the others; there are a few questions one doesn't even ask a trusted friend.
He travels around the world investigating the crimes of some of the most ruthless and despicable people imaginable. I fear for his life. My days as a secret agent are clearly over; I have lost my nerve.