Jul 18, 2012

Dear diary … the General

Dear diary, on Tuesday, working on Front Street near the Waterfront – it’s amazing how every country has a waterfront on or near a Front Street – I had to be up at the first spark of dawn to polish the shoes of an eighty-year-old gentleman and have his suits and uniforms steam-cleaned by hand and his hat buffed. He was a fussy old fart, had never married, but had medals and such to show that he had fought somewhere in a war. The problem I had with the general was that he thought he was still in the army and did things on the hour, marched rather than walked, and was fastidious down to the socks on his feet.

I wasn’t used to all this pomp and largely ignored the eccentricities, doing my work and wondering if someone can really be so steeped in the past. He reminded me of some of those old Englishmen who never married, didn’t know and didn’t want to know anything about women, and saluted in their sleep. Well, all this changed one drizzly afternoon on Front Street when I was busy ironing the general’s shirts and a piercing scream was heard outside. I was stunned by its shrillness and ran out where a group of women had already collected.

What’s going on, one woman asked. I don’t know, another one said. In the middle of the road the general stood with my boss’ six year old son who was returning from pre school. The boy saw me and ran up. The neighbor tried to get him to talk, but he wouldn’t say what was wrong. Another neighbor knew the phone number and called his mother to come home. While they waited for his mother the general who lived across the road swept away in his car. His mother arrived. I tried to tell her, but she was outraged. What happened, Willie, she asked. Did someone hurt you? No, he said. What then? What did you do all that screaming for?

Eventually, Willie had enough courage to speak. I was coming home from school. The general came out of his house and said he was looking for his dog and asked me to help him look for it. He said he would give me chocolate.
What then, his mother asked.
We looked and looked and we couldn’t find the dog and the general said perhaps we should look for the dog near the park.
For God’s sake, Willie, what happened?
Willie looked at her with tears in his eyes. The general touched me.
What do you mean he touched you? Speak up.
He gave me some chocolate. He told me to get in. And then he … touched me.
He touched you where?
On my willy.
His mother pulled his ear and dragged him into the house. Didn’t I teach you not to get into anyone’s car? Where’s that stiff son of a bitch, she shouted.
I put on my coat. It was five to five. Willie was crying on the bottom step of the stairs. His mother was on the phone calling his father.
Do you know what happened here, Arthur? Has anyone called you? That general you admire so much is a faggot!
I watched Willie. My heart broke. I kneeled down and held him. Tomorrow, Willie, after I finish at my other job, we’ll go out; just you and Annie. Would you like that?


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