Friday, August 02, 2019

"THE GENERAL" (fiction)

She didn't have good hair nor a pretty face neither.  But she was sturdy, shapely, and full of energy.  Most of all, she had an efficient brain.  Since her job was her priority, the military was a good place for her.  She enjoyed the hierarchical organizing of who should go where with what equipment, the basic deployment questions, how to keep everyone fed, dressed and rested, what to say that would reassure and even inspire them.  Because of all this she rose through the ranks.

The general was somewhat similar, always doing his job well, and being careful not to buck authority or overreach.  Thus, he had also risen to a high rank and was presented with ever more difficult tasks.  At the same time he was aging -- not a lot, but a little, and feeling the effects of rich food, potent alcohol, and uneasy nights.  Things didn't click through his brain the way they used to.  He looked at his "rail head" -- what they called a long face back home -- and regretted for the zillionth time that his eyes were too close together.  

There were too many committees, so he didn't get enough exercise.  As his wife confronted her own aging, she didn't maintain her looks as much as she had, didn't pay attention to him even as much as she had even when there were children, and sometimes seemed a stranger because they were separated by his job so much.  Now she had her own pursuits -- he didn't even know what they were for sure.  She wasn't like some wives -- angry and confrontive.  She was just missing in action.

When the competent officer was assigned to him as an assistant, she was old-fashioned enough to understand that the secretary always runs the boss, compensating for him and prompting him to remember what he ought to do right away.  They became attuned to each other more and more until she was almost doing part of his job for him.  He thought he was delegating.  She thought he was losing efficiency.

There were conferences in fine hotels.  No cost because they were government work and because they wore uniforms, which suited her.  She was not the type that was well-presented in glamour gowns.  It wouldn't have impact on many of the males attending anyway.  Most of the women dressed up to impress each other but the men were boot-camp preoccupied with polishing buttons and shoes, being "proper", and uniforms were part of their identity.

It was hard to say what the length of a workday was.  When an emergency broke into one of these conferences, it didn't matter whether it was night or day because it was likely to be on the other side of the globe, an entirely different part of the light/dark cycles.  As much as combatants in the field, they grew used to being interrupted and redirected.  Personal moments had to seized as they could be.

In her testimony years later, she told about a series of slightly over-intimate moments, when the general would knock on her door because he needed her for something about work, but then react as well to being in a potentially illicit setting, as had been exploited by so many media stories.  He didn't go too far.  In fact, much of their behavior was scripted by old military movies during war when behavior outside the norm was justified by potential deaths and losses.  Anyway, she wore tailored cotton pajamas to bed rather than lingerie.

The last time, she reported, there was a knock on her door quite late.  The hotel door didn't have a peephole for checking who was there, nor did she ask for identification by speaking through the door.  She didn't use the security chain.  She had no concern about danger.  It was a quiet, well-run place and things had been a little, well, hairy in the last meeting of the day, but no real concern,  simply prompting some conspiratorial glances at her boss, alongside her at the table so she could slip him notes.

The general knew he was being considered for a higher position, really about as high as he could expect to go in his career.  What he didn't know was that the politicians who tried to own the military liked him because they sensed weakness, worry, an inability to defend his own ideas as much as he ought to.  He would be easily controlled.  These were same things that she tried to tamp down with praise and reassurance.  That's what he needed when he tapped on her door.

He didn't notice that she wasn't welcoming.  She didn't show emotion most of the time, so he didn't really look for confirmation of what he assumed she would want.  She had supported him as much as his wife had in their early marriage, as much as his mother had when she tried to make him an achiever.  He assumed this meant she loved him as they had.  He pulled her to sit by him on the bed.

There wasn't time for her to wonder why he wasn't carrying papers he wanted to talk about or to think whether she ought to let him sit so close.  He was pressing against her, almost pleading.  He'd been "inappropriate" in the past but she didn't think of herself as that kind of girl and didn't get that kind of behavior from anyone else except maybe the occasional over-hopeful lesbian, easily turned away.  She tried to think of something that would bring him back to what she considered to be reality.  She told him he was "not her type," knowing too late that it implied that she would be compliant if he WERE her type.

He demanded to know what was her type?  Instantly, she flashed a mental picture of a black man, powerful, potent, and confident.  It was meant to be a put-down.  "A black man." she said aloud.  It was again the wrong thing to say.  He took offense, tried to show his version of the same stereotype, which was exaggerated and known only from man-talk.  He took it as a provocation.  Now he pushed against her to the point of ejaculation --  not quite technically rape because there was no penetration.

Hard to explain on national TV.

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