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The General Will Have His Flowers

Barry Basden

They will decorate the lampposts in the family housing area, fastened exactly 12 feet off the ground to frustrate vandals. Normally the post engineer would handle such a high priority job, but he'd recently been fired for something that went wrong with the plumbing in the General's quarters, something unforeseen, but nevertheless.

So the General's aide passed the order to my colonel, who passed it along to me, a lowly civilian. Naturally I hired a firm from off post. We're nothing if not good neighbors at our foreign garrisons. The workers didn't understand much English, but they had the flowers up by the weekend and I must admit they looked lovely in the days before a bomb went off near the main gate. Then, of course, the flowers were forgotten and died of thirst while the Infantry Corps loaded up and headed for its embarkation port on the Mediterranean coast. The General led the way, sitting tall and splendidly outfitted in his staff car.

My colonel tried his best not to go. He'd had his fill in the First Gulf War, or maybe it was the Second. Anyway, he wanted nothing to do with this deployment, hoping to remain behind as one of those support soldiers commonly referred to as REMFs—Rear Echelon Motherfuckers—by combat troops. But the General would have none of it and off they rode, every swinging dick, as they say.

It was a brilliant cloudless morning, ideal for a parade. They canceled classes and nonessential duty for the occasion, and I watched from the curb with wives, school children, secretaries, clerks, and of course the REMFs. The band played patriotic songs and we all waved little flags until the last vehicle was out of sight.

Then I went back to work. I still had to get something done about all those dead flowers.

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