WEIRD SOUP VII: "THE GENERAL"
"Of his forthcoming war, the General says: 'My forthcoming war will be radically different in tone to any of my previous ones. We will sit down on Perspex chairs and discuss my forthcoming war days in advance. My forthcoming war will alter many people's perceptions of what a war can achieve. It will be a friendly war. A war with scruples. Nobody will disagree about this war. Small children will even laugh about my forthcoming war. They are already selling themselves to fund my forthcoming war. My forthcoming war will put smiles back on innocent faces. My forthcoming war will be great entertainment value for all involved in it. Nobody will be injured in my forthcoming war. My forthcoming war will be good for everybody concerned.'"
by HP Tinker
COPYRIGHT © 2003, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The General is not a happy man.
The General usually finds some small solace in the twilight of evening, somewhere between sundown and nightfall, relaxing at home with his wife, drinking a succession of fine wines, watching snuff videos of former opponents meeting remarkably violent deaths. The General is not a violent man, however, and does not approve of violence. The General only hits his mistress once or twice a year, usually at Christmas. Out of respect for the sanctity of the marriage doctrine, the General never hits his own wife.
A casual observation generally attributed to the General: "Other people tend to get in my way in hypermarkets, even if they are only slightly crowded..."
When in mixed company, the General often drinks more than he should, more than his advisors believe to be advisable. Luckily, the General is not a miserable drunk. At parties and wakes, he likes to entertain lady friends with uncanny impressions of Brett Easton Ellis and Jay McInerny. Rarely being wrong in the company of others, the General enjoys such occasions. ("I believe in the inherent right of every human being to express exactly the same opinion as me," he insists, frenetically.)
Despite his increasingly hectic political schedule, the General manages to maintain an avid interest in new age homeopathy.
The General generally receives one or two small compliments each year, occasionally more, often less. These, he prints up on large coloured card and posts to all potentially interested parties: former high school analysts... imprisoned mistresses... despised ex-Generals... estranged half-cousins... random strangers... semi-retired Politics teachers... childhood piano tuners... under-age men he's encountered in bars... at night, the General lies awake in a cold sweat, thinking about these people, wondering: do they like me? do they like me? do they like me?
The General stores a collection of small whips high on his walls, for personal use.
The major turning point in the life of the General occurred in 1985, during the transmission of Live Aid, when he achieved "a moment of clarity" for the very first time. ("It was the very first time," he recalls, wiping a tear from his eye, "that I achieved 'a moment of clarity'").
The General does not like Mondays, preferring instead Wednesdays and Saturdays in particular.
The General maintains mixed feelings about the status quo: "On the one side, I quite like it," he muses. "But on the other, I don't..."
At major political rallies, the General uses idiot boards, whenever possible. The General tells vast, impressionable crowds: "I don't fight these battles for my own enjoyment. No! I fight them for you. I don't win these medals for my own self-satisfaction. No! Far from it! I win them for you guys!" The General keeps all his medals permanently pinned to his overcoat. On Tuesdays, the General polishes them meticulously, always in descending order. (The General purchases these medals from wartime memorabilia junk stores for small fees. Later, he awards them to himself during lavish televised State rituals.)
The General possesses a string of teenage-related drug convictions.
Most afternoons, the General sits alone in a quiet side-street bar, drinking shiny bottled beer, reading Prozac Nation at high speed, trying to make sense of a senseless world. He wears khaki even when off-duty and often regards his hands, which seem oddly disproportionate to the rest of his body, like huge untenable terracotta plant pots. He observes a flurry of activity in the street, some people he doesn't recognise, some over-sized white girls in under-sized hot pants: "I am 33," thinks the General mournfully, hat pulled down over his eyes, suddenly weighted by an immense sorrow, almost like pain.
Yes, the General does cry, but only silently, and when alone.
Yes, often he weeps uncontrollably, but again only silently, and when alone...
The General's most prized possession is a signed colour photograph of Pol Pot.
The General is frequently dissatisfied with the performance level of his own consciousness, but doesn't like to talk about it all that much. He listens to A Flock of Seagulls on headphones, thinking about his bondage mistress in Tokyo instead. Later, quite alone, the General watches Dil Hi To Hai (1963) because he is suffering from a minor viral complaint and physically can't reach the remote control.
Am I bohemian enough? the General wonders.
The General possesses no known sense of humour: "We're genuinely baffled," his genuinely baffled experts admit. "We've studied him since The Smiths split in 1987 and are still unable to detect one..." Few people knock on the General's door as a consequence, unless delivering parcels which require the signature of a consenting adult.
Due to a contemptuous indifference to his own affairs, his own affairs, both complex and numerous, are seldom understood by himself. The General employs other people, usually professionals, to do that for him. Many problems that at first appear insoluble to the General are often quickly resolved by the imposition of shackles on the bare ankles of those who are causing the problems in the first place. The General once got out of a particularly difficult difficulty by the sawing off of over a hundred young people's heads.
The General deplores bad language of any kind.
The General has a human side, not often glimpsed by the public, or colleagues, or friends, or close family members, or his wife:
- The General frequently sends flowers and fruit baskets to other Generals who are sick.
- The General is a militant vegetarian and has been for nearly three months, preparing all his own meals on the George Foreman Lean Mean Low-Fat Grilling Machine.
- The General is also very happily married. Several months after the contract was penned, the General started to find a certain admiration was growing for his heiress wife's better qualities: her ill-shaven cheeks, buck-toothed smile, misguided nightwear, persistent odour of wet dog, numerous childhood neuroses...
The General has a famed proclivity for buxom Aryan girls with blonde facial hair.
The General is studying a painting he does not understand: Magritte's Le chef-d'oeuvre ou les mystères de l'horizon: "Art is a beautiful, redemptive force," the General argues, "and should, wherever possible, suggest some possible improvement upon the reality you find yourself up to your neck in..."
Between battles, the General is re-reading The Color Purple, close to tears.
"I am not a vain man," announces the General at 3 am, studying himself in a full-length mirror, sipping Chianti in just his velvet underpants, left hand tenderly massaging his boulder sacks... the General lives in an intricate warren of bedrooms, guest rooms, state rooms, function rooms, kitchens, chapels, theatres, galleries, stables, conservatories, passages, staircases, terraces. Some are abandoned and uninhabitable; others sumptuous and luminous. Many seem without definite purpose or name or coherent design principle. Together they form a mysterious labyrinth he can wander through, dusting and hoovering the narrow passageways as he goes about his business, as if in search of some unknown land: "It's my wife's palace," the General tells guests, coughing.
The General finds all continental cheeses potentially nauseating.
The General's wife comes to him early one morning holding a bronze figurine like a trophy, or blunt instrument. "I have opened the closet door," she tells him, trembling quietly in her thin blue night gown. "I have seen inside... I have seen inside..."
"Now now, come away, my darling," says the General, anxiously. "There is nothing in there... nothing to concern your pretty little head at least..."
The General does not like the Major.
The General smokes Belgian marijuana in the smoking room and thinks about his wife. "She's so beautiful," he tells himself. "Too beautiful. And I am just a worm... a mere worm... a filthy, rotten, miserable worm..." Later, whacked out on Belgian marijuana, the General languishes beneath the shadow of a disused skyscraper, pondering the perpetual swelling of his right trouser. The General leads a rich interior life, masturbating compulsively as a result, usually while listening to a selection of Deacon Blue's greatest hits.
Secretly, the General envies the moustaches of other Generals, viewing their motives for growing them with the utmost suspicion.
"You're too power hungry," the Major tells the General. "Too narcissistic. Too wound up in yourself. You exude all the sensitivity of a wild elephant in must."
"Being a General hasn't won me any pissing contests or gained me one lick of power," the General snaps back.
"But you're always fighting the wrong kind of battles," retorts the Major. "And losing them..."
"I'll admit that once I did fight for the forces of darkness," says the General. "But that was back in the late 80s and early 90s. I'm a different kind of General now."
"A leopard never changes its spots," points out the Major.
"Maybe," squints the General, through embittered eyes, "but I'm not a leopard... I'm a General..."
The General is resentful of the Major's internationally renowned interrogation techniques and bowler hat. (Why does he always wear that bowler hat? wonders the General, when he is alone. What could it possibly mean? What could its deeper significance be?) "You are an arse!" the General informs the Major, storming out of the barracks. The next day, the General relents and relaxes his stance and magnanimously reinstates the Major onto his Christmas card list.
For the third consecutive year, The General's candid five-volume memoir, Conversations With Myself, will again be published next year...
Privately, the General has always wanted to conduct his own reign of terror, but doesn't quite know how to go about it: "Ironically, I don't actually believe in violence," the General tells the 263rd Bi-Monthly General & Majors' Convention. "Except when necessary... then I'm all for it... and I'll crush anybody who stands in my way..." The General organises each Bi-Monthly General & Majors' Convention himself and holds them at his wife's palace, charging an unusually high entrance fee. Following the premiere of Smokey And The Bandit XVII comes the General's keynote speech of evening, Coke is Bad / Crack is Good, which degenerates almost immediately into a boisterous melee with the General having to fight off over 200 other Generals using a tall stool. "They smashed all our windows and pissed over the upholstery and threw several antique chairs at my head," recalls The General afterwards, a little misty-eyed. "Outside, they even destroyed a year's worth of ornamental gardening... including the near priceless water feature... my wife was absolutely furious..."
At weekends, the General whittles an effigy of Erica Jong out of used matchsticks in his private quarters.
The General has recently registered himself as a charity and now accepts all major credit card donations. Mostly the General uses all the money he has acquired to stockpile weapons of mass distraction, keeping them securely fastened in a tea chest along with old love letters and 80s pornography. When funds for bigger, better weapons run low, he nervously wires his dad in the Hamptons.
The General is index-linked.
Occasionally, when he has nothing much better to do, the General's mind does turn to tortuous thoughts of his own mortality. (Here is how the General would most like to die: peacefully, on a crisp spring morning in February, simultaneously undressing two French girls whilst stripping an elderly priest of his tattered cassock...)
"One day I will grow a moustache of my own..." the General promises himself during a particularly intense moment of profound inner darkness...
The General personally oversees the torture and persecution of potential opponents with a great pride and exacting attention to detail. The General doesn't exactly get involved himself; he has henchmen who do that sort of thing for him. However, the General is always quick to lavish praise upon any notable new rival: "That way," he observes, "the schmucks don't suspect you of being up to anything..." In the War Room, he plots their downfalls, one by one, all by himself. Some he sets up via convoluted honey traps. Some he pays off with sacks of cash. Others he quietly bundles into the back of unmarked limousines, never to be heard of again. After their deaths and disappearances and resignations, the General issues six-page statements of sympathy in the press. At their funerals, the General recites Christina Rossetti and expels real tears which have artificially generated for him by interns.
Should I wear a hat today? ponders the General, chewing on a bone of ham.
During weekly target practise, the General prepares for his forthcoming war by shooting wildly and erratically in all directions, totally missing the target, any target, every target. In recent months, the General has developed a tendency to shoot himself in the foot. First the left, then the right. Then the left again, then the right again. Repeatedly. Over and over. Again and again...
"So what did you want to be," his analyst asks him, "when you were a boy, long before you ever thought of being a General?"
"I wanted to be... " murmurs the General, clenching his eyes shut, trying to remember. "I wanted to be... I wanted to be... I wanted to be... I wanted to be... I wanted to be..."
That evening, the General is waving a loaded gun in a crowded bar. He's just met a charismatic man who bears a striking resemblance to Henry Miller. "Usually I only kiss ladies," says the General. "But in your case, I'll make one hell of an exception..."
The General is not currently sexually active.
Of his forthcoming war, the General says: "My forthcoming war will be radically different in tone to any of my previous ones. We will sit down on Perspex chairs and discuss my forthcoming war days in advance. My forthcoming war will alter many people's perceptions of what a war can achieve. It will be a friendly war. A war with scruples. Nobody will disagree about this war. Small children will even laugh about my forthcoming war. They are already selling themselves to fund my forthcoming war. My forthcoming war will put smiles back on innocent faces. My forthcoming war will be great entertainment value for all involved in it. Nobody will be injured in my forthcoming war. My forthcoming war will be good for everybody concerned. The vernacular of war, however, is not my concern..." In the 2 weeks prior to the forthcoming war, the General hurriedly writes a book, called: My Forthcoming War. The General sends advance copies of My Forthcoming War to all his opponents, via email attachment. "Look at my plans," goads the General, grinning like a retard. "Study them closely. You will never cope with their high level cunning. They are pure and faultless. Man, am I going to kick some godforsaken bony ass..."
The General's battle plans invariably fail...
"Nuts," curses the General to himself, after his latest setback. "Too many defeats. Too many scars that never heal. Every cause I fight rapidly turning into a lost one..."
Long after the battle is over, the General surveys the field, tours the wounded in a minibus, kisses the cheeks of a young limbless soldier: "I am not a trained doctor," the General tells him. "So may I suggest you consider acquiring some professional help with your injuries...?"
Tired of fighting, tired of losing, the General resigns in a fit of pique.
Two hours later he's on the phone again, demanding his old position back. The next day he's making preparations for renewed hostilities: a fresh batch of air strikes, several innovative media attacks, one or two brand new strategies... "It is imperative that this mother fucking War Room be redecorated at once," he screams, slamming the receiver down...
The General is reported to have a smaller than average penis.
The General is, in actual fact, not a General at all.