- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
- All the Possibilities
- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
CHAPTER 21 - GENERAL DREEDLE
(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 21 - GENERAL DREEDLE
Colonel Cathcart was not thinking anything at all about the chaplain, but was tangled
up in a brand-new, menacing problem of his own: *Yossarian!*
*Yossarian!* The mere sound of that execrable, ugly name made his blood run cold
and his breath come in labored gasps. The chaplain's first mention of the name
*Yossarian!* had tolled deep in his memory like a portentous gong. As soon as the
latch of the door had clicked shut, the whole humiliating recollection of the naked
man in formation came cascading down upon him in a mortifying, choking flood of
stinging details. He began to perspire and tremble. There was a sinister and unlikely
coincidence exposed that was too diabolical in implication to be anything less than the
most hideous of omens. The name of the man who had stood naked in ranks that day
to receive his Distinguished Flying Cross from General Dreedle had also been -
*Yossarian!* And now it was a man named Yossarian who was threatening to make
trouble over the sixty missions he had just ordered the men in his group to fly.
Colonel Cathcart wondered gloomily if it was the same Yossarian.
He climbed to his feet with an air of intolerable woe and began moving about his
office. He felt himself in the presence of the mysterious. The naked man in
formation, he conceded cheerlessly, had been a real black eye for him. So had the
tampering with the bomb line before the mission to Bologna and the seven-day delay
in destroying the bridge at Ferrara, even though destroying the bridge at Ferrara
finally, he remembered with glee, had been a real feather in his cap, although losing a
plane there the second time around, he recalled in dejection, had been another black
eye, even though he had won another real feather in his cap by getting a medal
approved for the bombardier who had gotten him the real black eye in the first place
by going around over the target twice. That bombardier's name, he remembered
suddenly with another stupefying shock, had also been *Yossarian!* Now there were
*three!* His viscous eyes bulged with astonishment and he whipped himself around in
alarm to see what was taking place behind him. A moment ago there had been no
Yossarians in his life; now they were multiplying like hobgoblins. He tried to make
himself grow calm. Yossarian was not a common name; perhaps there were not really
three Yossarians but only two Yossarians, or maybe even only one Yossarian - *but
that really *made no difference!* The colonel was still in grave peril. Intuition warned
him that he was drawing close to some immense and inscrutable cosmic climax, and his
broad, meaty, towering frame tingled from head to toe at the thought that
Yossarian, whoever he would eventually turn out to be,
was destined to serve as his nemesis.
Colonel Cathcart was not superstitious, but he did believe in omens, and he sat right
back down behind his desk and made a cryptic notation on his memorandum pad to
look into the whole suspicious business of the Yossarians right away. He wrote his
reminder to himself in a heavy and decisive hand, amplifying it sharply with a series
of coded punctuation marks and underlining the whole message twice, so that it read:
Yossarian! ! ! (?)!
The colonel sat back when he had finished and was extremely pleased with himself
for the prompt action he had just taken to meet this sinister crisis. *Yossarian* -
the very sight of the name made him shudder. There were so many esses in it. It just
had to be subversive. It was like the word *subversive* itself. It was like *seditious*
and *insidious* too, and like *socialist, suspicious, fascist* and *Communist*. It was
an odious, alien, distasteful name, that just did not inspire confidence. It was not at
all like such clean, crisp, honest, American names as Cathcart, Peckem and Dreedle.
Colonel Cathcart rose slowly and began drifting about his office again. Almost
unconsciously, he picked up a plum tomato from the top of one of the bushels and
took a voracious bite. He made a wry face at once and threw the rest of the plum
tomato into his waste-basket. The colonel did not like plum tomatoes, not even when
they were his own, and these were not even his own. These had been purchased in
different market places all over Pianosa by Colonel Korn under various identities,
moved up to the colonel's farmhouse in the hills in the dead of night, and transported
down to Group Headquarters the next morning for sale to Milo, who paid Colonel
Cathcart and Colonel Korn premium prices for them. Colonel Cathcart often wondered
if what they were doing with the plum tomatoes was legal, but Colonel Korn said it
was, and he tried not to brood about it too often. He had no way of knowing whether
or not the house in the hills was legal, either, since Colonel Korn had made all the
arrangements. Colonel Cathcart did not know if he owned the house or rented it,
from whom he had acquired it or how much, if anything, it was costing. Colonel Korn
was the lawyer, and if Colonel Korn assured him that fraud, extortion, currency
manipulation, embezzlement, income tax evasion and black-market speculations were
legal, Colonel Cathcart was in no position to disagree with him.
All Colonel Cathcart knew about his house in the hills was that he had such a house
and hated it. He was never so bored as when spending there the two or three days
every other week necessary to sustain the illusion that his damp and drafty stone
farmhouse in the hills was a golden palace of carnal delights. Officers' clubs
everywhere pulsated with blurred but knowing accounts of lavish, hushed-up drinking
and sex orgies there and of secret, intimate nights of ecstasy with the most
beautiful, the most tantalizing, the most readily aroused and most easily satisfied
Italian courtesans, film actresses, models and countesses.
No such private nights of ecstasy or hushed-up drinking and sex orgies ever
occurred. They might have occurred if either General Dreedle or General Peckem had
once evinced an interest in taking part in orgies with him, but neither ever did, and
the colonel was certainly not going to waste his time and energy making love to
beautiful women unless there was something in it for him.
The colonel dreaded his dank lonely nights at his farmhouse and the dull, uneventful
days. He had much more fun back at Group, browbeating everyone he wasn't afraid
of. However, as Colonel Korn kept reminding him, there was not much glamour in
having a farmhouse in the hills if he never used it. He drove off to his farmhouse
each time in a mood of self-pity. He carried a shotgun in his jeep and spent the
monotonous hours there shooting it at birds and at the plum tomatoes that did grow
there in untended rows and were too much trouble to harvest.
Among those officers of inferior rank toward whom Colonel Cathcart still deemed it
prudent to show respect, he included Major - de Coverley, even though he did not
want to and was not sure he even had to. Major - de Coverley was as great a mystery
to him as he was to Major Major and to everyone else who ever took notice of him.
Colonel Cathcart had no idea whether to look up or look down in his attitude toward
Major - de Coverley. Major - de Coverley was only a major, even though he was ages
older than Colonel Cathcart; at the same time, so many other people treated Major -
de Coverley with such profound and fearful veneration that Colonel Cathcart had a
hunch they might know something. Major - de Coverley was an ominous,
incomprehensible presence who kept him constantly on edge and of whom even Colonel
Korn tended to be wary. Everyone was afraid of him, and no one knew why. No one
even knew Major - de Coverley's first name, because no one had ever had the
temerity to ask him. Colonel Cathcart knew that Major - de Coverley was away and he
rejoiced in his absence until it occurred to him that Major - de Coverley might be
away somewhere conspiring against him, and then he wished that Major - de Coverley
were back in his squadron where he belonged so that he could be watched.
In a little while Colonel Cathcart's arches began to ache from pacing back and forth
so much. He sat down behind his desk again and resolved to embark upon a mature
and systematic evaluation of the entire military situation. With the businesslike air
of a man who knows how to get things done, he found a large white pad, drew a
straight line down the middle and crossed it near the top, dividing the page into two
blank columns of equal width. He rested a moment in critical rumination. Then he
huddled over his desk, and at the head of the left column, in a cramped and finicky
hand, he wrote, *'Black Eyes!!!'* At the top of the right column he wrote, *'Feathers
in My Cap!!! !!'* He leaned back once more to inspect his chart admiringly from an
After a few seconds of solemn deliberation, he licked the tip of his pencil carefully
and wrote under *'Black Eyes!!!,'* after intent intervals:
Bologna (bomb line moved on map during)
Naked man information (after Avignon)
Then he added:
Food poisoning (during Bologna)
Moaning (epidemic of during Avignon briefing)
Then he added:
Chaplain (hanging around officers' club every night)
He decided to be charitable about the chaplain, even though he did not like him, and
under *'Feathers in My Cap!!! !!'* he wrote:
Chaplain (hanging around officers' club every night)
The two chaplain entries, therefore, neutralized each other. Alongside *'Ferrara'*
and *'Naked man in formation (after Avignon)'* he then wrote:
Alongside *'Bologna (bomb line moved on map during)', 'Food poisoning *(during
Bologna)'* and *'Moaning (epidemic of during Avignon briefing)'* he wrote in a bold,
Those entries labeled '?' were the ones he wanted to investigate immediately to
determine if Yossarian had played any part in them.
Suddenly his arm began to shake, and he was unable to write any more. He rose to his
feet in terror, feeling sticky and fat, and rushed to the open window to gulp in fresh
air. His gaze fell on the skeet-range, and he reeled away with a sharp cry of distress,
his wild and feverish eyes scanning the walls of his office frantically as though they
were swarming with Yossarians.
Nobody loved him. General Dreedle hated him, although General Peckem liked him,
although he couldn't be sure, since Colonel Cargill, General Peckem's aide,
undoubtedly had ambitions of his own and was probably sabotaging him with General
Peckem at every opportunity. The only good colonel, he decided, was a dead colonel,
except for himself. The only colonel he trusted was Colonel Moodus, and even he had
an in with his father-in-law. Milo, of course, had been the big feather in his cap,
although having his group bombed by Milo's planes had probably been a terrible black
eye for him, even though Milo had ultimately stilled all protest by disclosing the huge
net profit the syndicate had realized on the deal with the enemy and convincing
everyone that bombing his own men and planes had therefore really been a
commendable and very lucrative blow on the side of private enterprise. The colonel
was insecure about Milo because other colonels were trying to lure him away, and
Colonel Cathcart still had that lousy Big Chief White Halfoat in his group who that
lousy, lazy Captain Black claimed was the one really responsible for the bomb line's
being moved during the Big Siege of Bologna. Colonel Cathcart liked Big Chief White
Halfoat because Big Chief White Halfoat kept punching that lousy Colonel Moodus in
the nose every time he got drunk and Colonel Moodus was around. He wished that Big
Chief White Halfoat would begin punching Colonel Korn in his fat face, too. Colonel
Korn was a lousy smart aleck. Someone at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters
had it in for him and sent back every report he wrote with a blistering rebuke, and
Colonel Korn had bribed a clever mail clerk there named Wintergreen to try to find
out who it was. Losing the plane over Ferrara the second time around had not done
him any good, he had to admit, and neither had having that other plane disappear
inside that cloud - *that was one he hadn't even written down!* He tried to recall,
longingly, if Yossarian had been lost in that plane in the cloud and realized that
Yossarian could not possibly have been lost in that plane in the cloud if he was still
around now raising such a big stink about having to fly a lousy five missions more.
Maybe sixty missions were too many for the men to fly, Colonel Cathcart reasoned, if
Yossarian objected to flying them, but he then remembered that forcing his men to
fly more missions than everyone else was the most tangible achievement he had going
for him. As Colonel Korn often remarked, the war was crawling with group
commanders who were merely doing their duty, and it required just some sort of
dramatic gesture like making his group fly more combat missions than any other
bomber group to spotlight his unique qualities of leadership.
Certainly none of the generals seemed to object to what he was doing, although as
far as he could detect they weren't particularly impressed either, which made him
suspect that perhaps sixty combat missions were not nearly enough and that he
ought to increase the number at once to seventy, eighty, a hundred, or even two
hundred, three hundred, or six thousand!
Certainly he would be much better off under somebody suave like General Peckem
than he was under somebody boorish and insensitive like General Dreedle, because
General Peckem had the discernment, the intelligence and the Ivy League background
to appreciate and enjoy him at his full value, although General Peckem had never
given the slightest indication that he appreciated or enjoyed him at all. Colonel
Cathcart felt perceptive enough to realize that visible signals of recognition were
never necessary between sophisticated, self-assured people like himself and General
Peckem who could warm to each other from a distance with innate mutual
understanding. It was enough that they were of like kind, and he knew it was only a
matter of waiting discreetly for preferment until the right time, although it rotted
Colonel Cathcart's self-esteem to observe that General Peckem never deliberately
sought him out and that he labored no harder to impress Colonel Cathcart with his
epigrams and erudition than he did to impress anyone else in earshot, even enlisted
men. Either Colonel Cathcart wasn't getting through to General Peckem or General
Peckem was not the scintillating, discriminating, intellectual, forward-looking
personality he pretended to be and it was really General Dreedle who was sensitive,
charming, brilliant and sophisticated and under whom he would certainly be much
better off, and suddenly Colonel Cathcart had absolutely no conception of how
strongly he stood with anyone and began banging on his buzzer with his fist for
Colonel Korn to come running into his office and assure him that everybody loved him,
that Yossarian was a figment of his imagination, and that he was making wonderful
progress in the splendid and valiant campaign he was waging to become a general.
Actually, Colonel Cathcart did not have a chance in hell of becoming a general. For one
thing, there was ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, who also wanted to be a general and who
always distorted, destroyed, rejected or misdirected any correspondence by, for or
about Colonel Cathcart that might do him credit. For another, there already was a
general, General Dreedle who knew that General Peckem was after his job but did not
know how to stop him.
General Dreedle, the wing commander, was a blunt, chunky, barrel-chested man in his
early fifties. His nose was squat and red, and he had lumpy white, bunched-up eyelids
circling his small gray eyes like haloes of bacon fat. He had a nurse and a son-in-law,
and he was prone to long, ponderous silences when he had not been drinking too much.
General Dreedle had wasted too much of his time in the Army doing his job well, and
now it was too late. New power alignments had coalesced without him and he was at a
loss to cope with them.
At unguarded moments his hard and sullen face slipped into a somber, preoccupied
look of defeat and frustration. General Dreedle drank a great deal. His moods were
arbitrary and unpredictable. 'War is hell,' he declared frequently, drunk or sober,
and he really meant it, although that did not prevent him from making a good living
out of it or from taking his son-in-law into the business with him, even though the
two bickered constantly.
'That bastard,' General Dreedle would complain about his son-in-law with a
contemptuous grunt to anyone who happened to be standing beside him at the curve
of the bar of the officers' club. 'Everything he's got he owes to me. I made him,
that lousy son of a bitch! He hasn't got brains enough to get ahead on his own.'
'He thinks he knows everything,' Colonel Moodus would retort in a sulking tone to his
own audience at the other end of the bar.
'He can't take criticism and he won't listen to advice.'
'All he can do is give advice,' General Dreedle would observe with a rasping snort.
'If it wasn't for me, he'd still be a corporal.'
General Dreedle was always accompanied by both Colonel Moodus and his nurse, who
was as delectable a piece of ass as anyone who saw her had ever laid eyes on. General
Dreedle's nurse was chubby, short and blonde. She had plump dimpled cheeks, happy
blue eyes, and neat curly turned-up hair. She smiled at everyone and never spoke at
all unless she was spoken to. Her bosom was lush and her complexion clear. She was
irresistible, and men edged away from her carefully. She was succulent, sweet, docile
and dumb, and she drove everyone crazy but General Dreedle.
'You should see her naked,' General Dreedle chortled with croupy relish, while his
nurse stood smiling proudly right at his shoulder. 'Back at Wing she's got a uniform
in my room made of purple silk that's so tight her nipples stand out like bing cherries.
Milo got me the fabric. There isn't even room enough for panties or a brassiŠre
underneath. I make her wear it some nights when Moodus is around just to drive him
crazy.' General Dreedle laughed hoarsely. 'You should see what goes on inside that
blouse of hers every time she shifts her weight. She drives him out of his mind. The
first time I catch him putting a hand on her or any other woman I'll bust the horny
bastard right down to private and put him on K .P. for a year.'
'He keeps her around just to drive me crazy,' Colonel Moodus accused aggrievedly at
the other end of the bar. 'Back at Wing she's got a uniform made out of purple silk
that's so tight her nipples stand out like bing cherries.
There isn't even room for panties or a brassiŠre underneath. You should hear that
rustle every time she shifts her weight. The first time I make a pass at her or any
other girl he'll bust me right down to private and put me on K.P. for a year.
She drives me out of my mind.'
'He hasn't gotten laid since we shipped overseas,' confided General Dreedle, and his
square grizzled head bobbed with sadistic laughter at the fiendish idea. 'That's one
of the reasons I never let him out of my sight, just so he can't get to a woman. Can
you imagine what that poor son of a bitch is going through?'
'I haven't been to bed with a woman since we shipped overseas,' Colonel Moodus
whimpered tearfully. 'Can you imagine what I'm going through?'
General Dreedle could be as intransigent with anyone else when displeased as he was
with Colonel Moodus. He had no taste for sham, tact or pretension, and his credo as a
professional soldier was unified and concise: he believed that the young men who took
orders from him should be willing to give up their lives for the ideals, aspirations and
idiosyncrasies of the old men he took orders from. The officers and enlisted men in
his command had identity for him only as military quantities. All he asked was that
they do their work; beyond that, they were free to do whatever they pleased. They
were free, as Colonel Cathcart was free, to force their men to fly sixty missions if
they chose, and they were free, as Yossarian had been free, to stand in formation
naked if they wanted to, although General Dreedle's granite jaw swung open at the
sight and he went striding dictatorially right down the line to make certain that
there really was a man wearing nothing but moccasins waiting at attention in ranks to
receive a medal from him. General Dreedle was speechless. Colonel Cathcart began to
faint when he spied Yossarian, and Colonel Korn stepped up behind him and squeezed
his arm in a strong grip. The silence was grotesque. A steady warm wind flowed in
from the beach, and an old cart filled with dirty straw rumbled into view on the main
road, drawn by a black donkey and driven by a farmer in a flopping hat and faded
brown work clothes who paid no attention to the formal military ceremony taking
place in the small field on his right.
At last General Dreedle spoke. 'Get back in the car,' he snapped over his shoulder to
his nurse, who had followed him down the line. The nurse toddled away with a smile
toward his brown staff car, parked about twenty yards away at the edge of the
rectangular clearing. General Dreedle waited in austere silence until the car door
slammed and then demanded, 'Which one is this?'
Colonel Moodus checked his roster. 'This one is Yossarian, Dad.
He gets a Distinguished Flying Cross.'
'Well, I'll be damned,' mumbled General Dreedle, and his ruddy monolithic face
softened with amusement. 'Why aren't you wearing clothes, Yossarian?'
'I don't want to.'
'What do you mean you don't want to? Why the hell don't you want to?'
'I just don't want to, sir.'
'Why isn't he wearing clothes?' General Dreedle demanded over
his shoulder of Colonel Cathcart.
'He's talking to you,' Colonel Korn whispered over Colonel Cathcart's shoulder from
behind, jabbing his elbow sharply into Colonel Cathcart's back.
'Why isn't he wearing clothes?' Colonel Cathcart demanded of Colonel Korn with a
look of acute pain, tenderly nursing the spot where Colonel Korn had just jabbed him.
'Why isn't he wearing clothes?' Colonel Korn demanded of Captain Piltchard and
'A man was killed in his plane over Avignon last week and bled all over him,'
Captain Wren replied. 'He swears he's never going to wear a uniform again.'
'A man was killed in his plane over Avignon last week and bled all over him,' Colonel
Korn reported directly to General Dreedle. 'His uniform hasn't come back from the
'Where are his other uniforms?'
'They're in the laundry, too.'
'What about his underwear?' General Dreedle demanded.
'All his underwear's in the laundry, too,' answered Colonel Korn.
'That sounds like a lot of crap to me,' General Dreedle declared.
'It is a lot of crap, sir,' Yossarian said.
'Don't you worry, sir,' Colonel Cathcart promised General Dreedle with a threatening
look at Yossarian. 'You have my personal word for it that this man will be severely
'What the hell do I care if he's punished or not?' General Dreedle replied with
surprise and irritation. 'He's just won a medal. If he wants to receive it without any
clothes on, what the hell business is it of yours?'
'Those are my sentiments exactly, sir!' Colonel Cathcart echoed with resounding
enthusiasm and mopped his brow with a damp white handkerchief. 'But would you say
that, sir, even in the light of General Peckem's recent memorandum on the subject of
appropriate military attire in combat areas?'
'Peckem?' General Dreedle's face clouded.
'Yes, sir, sir,' said Colonel Cathcart obsequiously. 'General Peckem even recommends
that we send our men into combat in full-dress uniform so they'll make a good
impression on the enemy when they're shot down.'
'Peckem?' repeated General Dreedle, still squinting with bewilderment.
'Just what the hell does Peckem have to do with it?'
Colonel Korn jabbed Colonel Cathcart sharply again in the back with his elbow.
'Absolutely nothing, sir!' Colonel Cathcart responded sprucely, wincing in extreme
pain and gingerly rubbing the spot where Colonel Korn had just jabbed him again.
'And that's exactly why I decided to take absolutely no action at all until I
first had an opportunity to discuss it with you. Shall we ignore it completely, sir?'
General Dreedle ignored him completely, turning away from him in baleful scorn to
hand Yossarian his medal in its case.
'Get my girl back from the car,' he commanded Colonel Moodus crabbily, and waited
in one spot with his scowling face down until his nurse had rejoined him.
'Get word to the office right away to kill that directive I just issued ordering the
men to wear neckties on the combat missions,' Colonel Cathcart whispered to Colonel
Korn urgently out of the corner of his mouth.
'I told you not to do it,' Colonel Korn snickered. 'But you just wouldn't listen to me.'
'Shhhh!' Colonel Cathcart cautioned. 'Goddammit, Korn, what did you do to my back?'
Colonel Korn snickered again.
General Dreedle's nurse always followed General Dreedle everywhere he went, even
into the briefing room just before the mission to Avignon, where she stood with her
asinine smile at the side of the platform and bloomed like a fertile oasis at General
Dreedle's shoulder in her pink-and-green uniform. Yossarian looked at her and fell in
love, desperately. His spirits sank, leaving him empty inside and numb. He sat gazing
in clammy want at her full red lips and dimpled cheeks as he listened to Major Danby
describe in a monotonous, didactic male drone the heavy concentrations of flak
awaiting them at Avignon, and he moaned in deep despair suddenly at the thought
that he might never see again this lovely woman to whom he had never spoken a word
and whom he now loved so pathetically. He throbbed and ached with sorrow, fear and
desire as he stared at her; she was so beautiful. He worshiped the ground she stood
on. He licked his parched, thirsting lips with a sticky tongue and moaned in misery
again, loudly enough this time to attract the startled, searching glances of the men
sitting around him on the rows of crude wooden benches in their chocolate-colored
coveralls and stitched white parachute harnesses.
Nately turned to him quickly with alarm. 'What is it?' he whispered.
'What's the matter?'
Yossarian did not hear him. He was sick with lust and mesmerized with regret.
General Dreedle's nurse was only a little chubby, and his senses were stuffed to
congestion with the yellow radiance of her hair and the unfelt pressure of her soft
short fingers, with the rounded, untasted wealth of her nubile breasts in her Armypink shirt that was opened wide at the throat and with the rolling, ripened, triangular
confluences of her belly and thighs in her tight, slick forest-green gabardine
officer's pants. He drank her in insatiably from head to painted toenail. He never
wanted to lose her. 'Oooooooooooooh,' he moaned again, and this time the whole room
rippled at his quavering, drawn-out cry. A wave of startled uneasiness broke over the
officers on the dais, and even Major Danby, who had begun synchronizing the
watches, was distracted momentarily as he counted out the seconds and almost had
to begin again. Nately followed Yossarian's transfixed gaze down the long frame
auditorium until he came to General Dreedle's nurse. He blanched with trepidation
when he guessed what was troubling Yossarian.
'Cut it out, will you?' Nately warned in a fierce whisper.
'Ooooooooooooooooooooh,' Yossarian moaned a fourth time, this time loudly enough
for everyone to hear him distinctly.
'Are you crazy?' Nately hissed vehemently. 'You'll get into trouble.'
Dunbar answered Yossarian from the opposite end of the room.
Nately recognized Dunbar's voice. The situation was now out of control, and he
turned away with a small moan. 'Ooh.'
'Ooooooooooooooooooooh,' Dunbar moaned back at him.
'Ooooooooooooooooooooh,' Nately moaned out loud in exasperation when he realized
that he had just moaned.
'Ooooooooooooooooooooh,' Dunbar moaned back at him again.
'Ooooooooooooooooooooh,' someone entirely new chimed in from another section of
the room, and Nately's hair stood on end.
Yossarian and Dunbar both replied while Nately cringed and hunted about futilely for
some hole in which to hide and take Yossarian with him. A sprinkling of people were
smothering laughter. An elfin impulse possessed Nately and he moaned intentionally
the next time there was a lull. Another new voice answered. The flavor of
disobedience was titillating, and Nately moaned deliberately again, the next time he
could squeeze one in edgewise. Still another new voice echoed him. The room was
boiling irrepressibly into bedlam. An eerie hubbub of voices was rising. Feet were
scuffled, and things began to drop from people's fingers - pencils, computers, map
cases, clattering steel flak helmets. A number of men who were not moaning were now
giggling openly, and there was no telling how far the unorganized insurrection of
moaning might have gone if General Dreedle himself had not come forward to quell it,
stepping out determinedly in the center of the platform directly in front of Major
Danby, who, with his earnest, persevering head down, was still concentrating on his
wrist watch and saying, 'twenty-five seconds twenty fifteen' General Dreedle's
great, red domineering face was gnarled with perplexity and oaken with awesome
'That will be all, men,' he ordered tersely, his eyes glaring with disapproval and his
square jaw firm, and that's all there was. 'I run a fighting outfit,' he told them
sternly, when the room had grown absolutely quiet and the men on the benches were
all cowering sheepishly, 'and there'll be no more moaning in this group as long as I'm
in command. Is that clear?'
It was clear to everybody but Major Danby, who was still concentrating on his wrist
watch and counting down the seconds aloud. 'four three two one time!' called out
Major Danby, and raised his eyes triumphantly to discover that no one had been
listening to him and that he would have to begin all over again.
'Ooooh,' he moaned in frustration.
*'What was that?'* roared General Dreedle incredulously, and whirled around in a
murderous rage upon Major Danby, who staggered back in terrified confusion and
began to quail and perspire. *'Who is this man?'*
'M-major Danby, sir,' Colonel Cathcart stammered. 'My group operations officer.'
'Take him out and shoot him,' ordered General Dreedle.
'I said take him out and shoot him. Can't you hear?'
'Yes, sir!' Colonel Cathcart responded smartly, swallowing hard, and turned in a brisk
manner to his chauffeur and his meteorologist. 'Take Major Danby out and shoot
'S-sir?' his chauffeur and his meteorologist stammered.
'I said take Major Danby out and shoot him,' Colonel Cathcart snapped.
'Can't you hear?'
The two young lieutenants nodded lumpishly and gaped at each other in stunned and
flaccid reluctance, each waiting for the other to initiate the procedure of taking
Major Danby outside and shooting him. Neither had ever taken Major Danby outside
and shot him before. They inched their way dubiously toward Major Danby from
opposite sides. Major Danby was white with fear. His legs collapsed suddenly and he
began to fall, and the two young lieutenants sprang forward and seized him under
both arms to save him from slumping to the floor. Now that they had Major Danby,
the rest seemed easy, but there were no guns. Major Danby began to cry. Colonel
Cathcart wanted to rush to his side and comfort him, but did not want to look like a
sissy in front of General Dreedle. He remembered that Appleby and Havermeyer
always brought their .45 automatics on the missions, and he began to scan the rows
of men in search of them.
As soon as Major Danby began to cry, Colonel Moodus, who had been vacillating
wretchedly on the sidelines, could restrain himself no longer and stepped out
diffidently toward General Dreedle with a sickly air of self-sacrifice. 'I think you'd
better wait a minute, Dad,' he suggested hesitantly.
'I don't think you *can* shoot him.'
General Dreedle was infuriated by his intervention. 'Who the hell says I can't?' he
thundered pugnaciously in a voice loud enough to rattle the whole building. Colonel
Moodus, his face flushing with embarrassment, bent close to whisper into his ear.
'Why the hell can't I?' General Dreedle bellowed. Colonel Moodus whispered some
more. 'You mean I can't shoot anyone I want to?' General Dreedle demanded with
uncompromising indignation. He pricked up his ears with interest as Colonel Moodus
continued whispering. 'Is that a fact?' he inquired, his rage tamed by curiosity.
'Yes, Dad. I'm afraid it is.'
'I guess you think you're pretty goddam smart, don't you?' General Dreedle lashed
out at Colonel Moodus suddenly.
Colonel Moodus turned crimson again. 'No, Dad, it isn't -'
'All right, let the insubordinate son of a bitch go,' General Dreedle snarled, turning
bitterly away from his son-in-law and barking peevishly at Colonel Cathcart's
chauffeur and Colonel Cathcart's meteorologist. 'But get him out of this building and
keep him out. And let's continue this goddam briefing before the war ends. I've
never seen so much incompetence.'
Colonel Cathcart nodded lamely at General Dreedle and signaled his men hurriedly to
push Major Danby outside the building. As soon as Major Danby had been pushed
outside, though, there was no one to continue the briefing. Everyone gawked at
everyone else in oafish surprise. General Dreedle turned purple with rage as nothing
happened. Colonel Cathcart had no idea what to do. He was about to begin moaning
aloud when Colonel Korn came to the rescue by stepping forward and taking control.
Colonel Cathcart sighed with enormous, tearful relief, almost overwhelmed with
'Now, men, we're going to synchronize our watches,' Colonel Korn began promptly in a
sharp, commanding manner, rolling his eyes flirtatiously in General Dreedle's
direction. 'We're going to synchronize our watches one time and one time only, and if
it doesn't come off in that one time, General Dreedle and I are going to want to know
why. Is that clear?' He fluttered his eyes toward General Dreedle again to make sure
his plug had registered. 'Now set your watches for nine-eighteen.'
Colonel Korn synchronized their watches without a single hitch and moved ahead with
confidence. He gave the men the colors of the day and reviewed the weather
conditions with an agile, flashy versatility, casting sidelong, simpering looks at
General Dreedle every few seconds to draw increased encouragement from the
excellent impression he saw he was making.
Preening and pruning himself effulgendy and strutting vaingloriously about the
platform as he picked up momentum, he gave the men the colors of the day again and
shifted nimbly into a rousing pep talk on the importance of the bridge at Avignon to
the war effort and the obligation of each man on the mission to place love of country
above love of life. When his inspiring dissertation was finished, he gave the men the
colors of the day still one more time, stressed the angle of approach and reviewed
the weather conditions again. Colonel Korn felt himself at the full height of his
powers. He *belonged* in the spotlight.
Comprehension dawned slowly on Colonel Cathcart; when it came, he was struck dumb.
His face grew longer and longer as he enviously watched Colonel Korn's treachery
continue, and he was almost afraid to listen when General Dreedle moved up beside
him and, in a whisper blustery enough to be heard throughout the room, demanded,
'Who is that man?'
Colonel Cathcart answered with wan foreboding, and General Dreedle then cupped his
hand over his mouth and whispered something that made Colonel Cathcart's face glow
with immense joy. Colonel Korn saw and quivered with uncontainable rapture. Had he
just been promoted in the field by General Dreedle to full colonel? He could not
endure the suspense. With a masterful flourish, he brought the briefing to a close
and turned expectantly to receive ardent congratulations from General Dreedle - who
was already striding out of the building without a glance backward, trailing his nurse
and Colonel Moodus behind him. Colonel Korn was stunned by this disappointing sight,
but only for an instant. His eyes found Colonel Cathcart, who was still standing erect
in a grinning trance, and he rushed over jubilantly and began pulling on his arm.
'What'd he say about me?' he demanded excitedly in a fervor of proud and blissful
anticipation. 'What did General Dreedle say?'
'He wanted to know who you were.'
'I know that. I know that. But what'd he say about me? What'd he say?'
'You make him sick.'
Back to Table of content
- Terry Pratchett
- Darren Shan
- Samantha Young
- Gav Thorpe
- Pamela Palmer
- Gene Wolfe
- F. Paul Wilson
- Amanda Maxlyn
- Jodi Ellen Malpas
- Jill Shalvis
- Susan Hill
- Sherrilyn Kenyon
- Megan Shepherd
- Colleen Gleason
- Kylie Scott
- Courtney Summers
- Elizabeth Kostova
- Yanna Lee
- Tobias S. Buckell
- Jennifer Estep
- Georgia Cates
- Emma Chase
- J.C. Reed
- C.J. Ellisson
- Brent Weeks
- Kendare Blake
- Sam Sykes
- Meg Cabot
- Nicole Peeler
- Philip Athans
- Lauren Kate
- S.D. Perry
- Max Brooks
- Fritz Leiber
- MaryJanice Davidson
- James S.A. Corey
- R.K. Lilley
- Molly McAdams
- Robert McCammon
- Katja Millay