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The General

January 21, 2010

General Sash was a hundred and four years old. He lived with his granddaughter, Sally Poker Sash, who was sixty-two years and old and who prayed every night on her knees that he would live until her graduation from college….

She meant to stand on that platform in August with the General sitting in his wheel chair on the stage behind her and she meant to hold her head very high as if she were saying, “See him! See him! My kin, all you upstarts! Glorious upright old man standing for the old traditions! Dignity! Honor! Courage! See him!” One night in her sleep she screamed, “See him! See him!” and turned her head and found him sitting in his wheel chair behind her with a terrible expression on his face and with all his clothes off except the general’s hat and she had waked up and had not dared to go back to sleep again that night.

For his part, the General would not have consented even to attend her graduation if she had not promised to see to it that he sit on the stage. He liked to sit on any stage. He considered that he was still a very handsome man. When he had been able to stand up, he had measured five feet four inches of pure game cock. He had white hair that reached to his shoulders behind and he would not wear teeth because he thought his profile was more striking without them. When he put on his full-dress general’s uniform, he knew well enough that there was nothing to match him anywhere.

-from A Late Encounter with the Enemy, by Flannery O’Connor

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