(This is a short story that I wrote several years ago for a Flash Fiction group that I participate in on Facebook.)
The General stood on the hill and gazed out. The distant memories of that early morning still played out in front of him. Absently, he pulled at his short beard as the sun broke the horizon and began to flood the plain with morning. The shadows of the many tombstones stretched out, as if reaching to him in supplication.
He reached up hesitantly and gingerly rubbed his temple, exploring the gaping hole that peered out of the side of his head like an extra eye. He then dropped his hand reluctantly to just above his heart, catching his fingernail in the jagged cloth rimmed opening there. The blood was long dried and blown away in the breeze, but he could still feel the sting of defeat, death and then dishonor.
“Damnable heathens.” The General stated it as if it were a matter of fact and then drew in a deep breath, or at least the semblance of a breath. The ghost of a breath… the ghost of a ghost breath.
The endless trickle of visitors had already started for the morning. People in their colorful clothes, inappropriate short pants, and worriless lives. He made his way past the white grave markers and through the surrounding fence towards the curious, that familiar feeling of anger and impotence building up in him.
The red skinned boy made puppy eyes at the pretty blonde white skinned girl, and she pretended not to notice or show how thrilled it made her feel. The General could tell though. He had always been a good judge of people and what they were thinking.
The boy was in the midst of a constant stream of words spilling from his mouth in nervousness or excitement. The General smiled to himself and started to move closer to see if he could place the Indian dialect that the boy was directing at the girl. “No, no, I swear – I read it on Wikipedia. I’m serious, it’s true.”
The General scratched his chin in thought – it sounded like a mix of Pidgin English and Cherokee.
“Are you sure?” The girl smiled over at the boy. The General understood what the girl said clearly, but he would have to pay closer attention to the boy. “That just seems really weird, you know, because of what happened here and all…”
The boy pressed on once he was given an opening by the girl, just like a real warrior. “I’m not saying it makes any sense, the guy was crazy right? To attack an enemy at home with all of their fighters nearby and outnumbering them? He was insane.” The General understood that and nodded his head in agreement – tactically there would be some minor advantage, but only if the commander knew exactly what he was doing and had the loyalty and trust of all of his men. “But it is what I read and there seems to be some truth to it. Custer married an Indian woman and had two kids.”
The General started coughing, a hacking liquid cough deep in his chest. The boy and girl grew very still, fright showing clearly in their eyes. They looked around cautiously and then reached for each other’s hands and quickly hurried away, giggling to each other and brushing their shoulders together.
“Clueless and ignorant injun child,” the General called out after the fleeing boy and girl. “It was the right strategy, but the men were not committed to what victory would take!!!”
His piercing gaze shifted from the ghostly field and looked off even further. “And her name was Monah… That is, her name was Monaseetah… She was the daughter of a chief. We were not married, though, I submitted myself to her family’s barbarous traditions.”
The General walked amongst the other visitors forlornly, his mind racing over his life – or what stood as a memory of his life from when he lived.
“I did not know there was a second child…”
An older gentleman, in a woolen type of knitted jacket, glasses and a long pipe was speaking animatedly to a group of followers. The general made his way over to see what the hullabaloo was all about.
“Certainly, that is what he is called in the movies – but that doesn’t make it so. He received a brevet promotion during the war of the states to a Brigadier, but it was only a temporary promotion.”
The General felt that old familiar queasy feeling deep down in his belly at this. He hated this discussion with a passion. He knew what his rank was, better than anyone, but he earned the honorific, and there were so many times it could have been made permanent if not for the whimsical fickleness of the political halls of power.
“After the war, his original rank was re-instated and upon his death here at Little Big Horn – or as the native Americans prefer to speak of it, the battle of Greasy Grassy Creek – he carried the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.”
The General pushed his chest out and the old fire burned in his eyes. “I lived and died a General. The other ranks given to me my lesser men, are of no consequence. I was born a General and leader of soldiers, and how ever long this infernal purgatory lasts, I will remain such.”
“Plus, there is suspicion that the deceased Colonel fancied boys.”
The good General quickly made his departure.
The day had grown long and was quickly working its way to its natural conclusion. He liked the winter months better here; less visitors to torment him in his loneliness. The cold and snow posed no adverse affects on him, and the fields had a different shape, obscuring the familiar lay of the land that sat forever in his memory.
The numbers of visitors were starting to thin out. The orange of the pending sunset on the horizon was starting to work its way into his eyes.
“Scotty!! Lisa!! Please be careful over there!!” The young lady called after the over energetic kids. She seemed a bit frazzled, but not completely defeated. Her hair hung down across her face and her voice was a bit scratchy. Her short pants rode low on her shapely hips only exposing the pale white skin of her calves. Her delicate hands peeked out of an oversized striped shirt, and a day pack rested comfortably across her back held in place by padded shoulder harnesses.
The General nodded his head and pushed his hat back on his head in appreciation. One thing hadn’t changed in the more than a century that he had stood his post – women were still by far the fairer sex. He could almost feel the soft breeze of adolescent anticipation across his incorporeal loins as she chased after the children.
“Billy!! Lisa won’t let me have any candy!!” The young male, Scotty, turned petulantly to the young lady and stamped his feet. The young lady barked out a laugh that would warm the cockles of the most frozen heart. The General couldn’t help but wish he could smell that lovely frazzled mane of hair as she reached up and pulled it back from her face to reveal the soft point of a straggled goatee, not unlike his own, and a cheek covered in pubescent pustules.
The General stumbled back – his ghostly heart racing with the memory of battlefield adrenaline, shame, fear and hidden nights with his lost Monah. “Damnable heathens all of them,” he swore as he pulled his jacket straight and strode purposefully away while trying not to think of unexposed calves and thin delicate hands.
He made his way back to the top of his favored hill. The daylight visitors were almost all gone now and the sun was burying itself away in to the distant earth far away for the night. The nighttime visitors would be here soon.
He stared off to the west and wondered where his men had gone and why he was the only one left here. And he then girded himself for the long night of watching over his own grave in wait for the rising of a morning star that never came.