There are times when people need to relax and let the world go on with its business. Such was the case with General Cansey and Colonel White who were seated at a table on the veranda of Colonel White’s magnificent countryside mansion enjoying the morning air, having coffee and conversing casually.
“Nice place you’ve got here, Colonel. Wouldn’t mind having something like it myself. Funny though. I wouldn’t have time to live in it if I had it. My duty as a commander comes before anything else.”
“Anything else, General?” Don’t you want to live for other things too?”
“Colonel, I remind you that nobody, not a single person has seen or done more living than myself. I’ve done more living than ten people put together. I’ve been in practically every country in the world. I’ve been through three wars, been wounded four different times, won the silver star in the Second World War and advised two Presidents. That’s only a sketch. Colonel, I have lived.”
“Yes, General. I suppose that’s why I never made general or even wanted to for that matter. I had a good life in the service, but I’ve got to have other things too. Of course, when my wife, Martha, died I had no choice. I had to retire because of my little girl. She needs her father. Martha’s death was horrible, but I was ready to retire anyway. I’ve got to have other things that the Army could not give me.”
“Military service matters the most, Colonel. In the Army you can see all and do all. In my younger days I thought like you, but now I know I was foolish. The Army is my life.”
The colonel thought to himself that his daughter filled a void that had for so long eluded him without really being conscious of it. He loved Michelle from the minute she was born, and his love for her never stopped. She was a spirit he could see, an angel he could touch and a harp he could hear.
Michelle needed her father when her mother passed away from cancer, and the colonel needed the light and innocence of Michelle even more. She was his salvation, his rescuer from a twenty-five military career that he was getting tired of.
When Michelle’s mother died the little girl was hurt deeply, but still she found good because her mother was going to Heaven. It was Michelle’s way to see good in everything and everybody.
“There’s my daughter. I’ll introduce you. “General this is my daughter, Michelle. And Michelle this is General Cansey.”
“I am honored to meet you, Sir.”
“The honor is all mine, Ma’am,” said the general who seemed to be impressed by Michelle’s politeness and courtesy.”
“Daddy, will you and the general walk in the woods with me. It is such a pretty day. Do you hear the birds, Daddy? They are telling us that the day is beautiful.”
“I hear them, Sweetheart.”
“I love to hear the birds sing and smell the trees and the grass under my feet.”
“Honey, I’d like to go with you, but I’m expecting your Uncle Jim to call from the train station to come and pick him up. Remember he is coming to visit us.”
“Oh, yes I forgot.”
“When Uncle Jim gets here, we’ll all go for a walk. OK?”
“General would you like to come walking in the woods with Bert and me?” Bert was Michelle’s little dog that had just come onto the scene.
The general hesitated momentarily as if he couldn’t see any point in pleasing a child then muttered,” Well I suppose I could. It’s the first day in a long time that I’ve been able to do a little hiking. Is it alright with you, Colonel?”
“Bye, Daddy. We’ll be back in a little while.”
As they disappeared into the life of the woods, if you were a hidden observer you would have seen a large man in a blue and red uniform with four stars on each shoulder, a man who merely by his size and apparel looked dignified and important.
Beside him you would have seen a little brown-haired girl with pig tails. She wore a white dress and pink shoes. In front of her was Bert on a leash held by Michelle. Bert was mixed colors of brown and black and white. He was not a pure bred anything but just a plain old dog that loved and protected Michelle. They were best friends. They did everything together. Bert slept with Michelle at night.
Surrounding the three figures you would have seen sunlight slashing through the trees leaving shadows in irregular forms. Also, your intuition would have told you that what looked like a beautiful spring day graced with peace and harmony would not turn out that way. Something was wrong or about to be wrong. What evil force no matter what its nature could be present on an otherwise perfect day?
Sometimes our perceptions and assumptions are wrong. Sometimes they aren’t. But now it’s probably best to set this anxiety aside while we feel and breathe the spring air. Amongst the trees the general and Michelle talked.
“How old are you, Michelle?”
“I’m almost eight, Sir”
“Oh, you’re almost grown up then.”
“No, Sir. Not yet. But someday I will be.”
“Michelle, when I was your age, I was marching down roads several miles a day preparing myself to be a general. It took a long time, but now I really am a general. What are you going to do when you grow up, Michelle?”
“I’m going to college and study music and all kinds of books.”
“Music and books have their place I suppose. Have you ever thought about being in the Army like your dad? I’ve seen some really good women officers in my day.”
“No, I want to learn music and books. Daddy says I should learn what I like best.”
“That’s why your father never made general, girl. He’s not dedicated enough or smart enough to know what’s best for him.”
“But Daddy is a good man. He loves me and takes care of me. He likes the birds and the trees and the grass just like me.”
“That’s another one of his problems. He doesn’t know how to handle his offspring. Kids need discipline. I don’t have any children, but if I did, they’d take care of themselves by the time they were your age. They’d have backbone.”
The general had begun shouting by then. His demeanor had changed, and he did not at all seem to appreciate the natural beauty around him. Bert started to bark.
“Shut that cur up.”
Michelle pulled on the leash slightly and in her own innocent way said, “Talk nice Bert. You don’t want to make the birds fly away.”
“That’s better,” said the general.”
“Bert doesn’t mean anything bad. Sometimes there are people he doesn’t like right away. But he’ll grow to like you. I know he will.”
“The only thing that dog is good for is to clean up garbage.”
“Bert is a good dog. He loves me, and he kisses me. See General.” The girl knelt to the grass. Bert came to her and licked her face with his red, rough tongue and looked happy.
“If that mutt every licked me I’d kill him.”
“Bert wouldn’t hurt you, General. He is a good dog.”
Bert snarled. Michelle told him he was scaring the birds. She could never tell him he was a bad dog. She loved Bert, and it was alarming her that he was upset.
“That dog is a killer. Get him away from me.”
Michelle tugged on Bert’s leash. Suddenly all was still except for an owl hooting far away.
“I love to hear the owls when they make their funny noises. Bert likes owls too.”
“That dumb dog can’t see or hear anything, girl. He’s mad. Look at him trying to get at me. Keep him away. Do you understand?”
“When Daddy comes walking with us Bert talks to the owls and the other birds. He’s a nice dog. I think he is not feeling well.”
“That dog is useless.”
Bert instinctively did not like the tone of the general’s voice. He turned toward the general, struggled against the leash and bit the general on the leg.
“That bastard dog bit me. I ought to kill him.”
The general kicked Bert and commenced beating him with a branch he broke off a tree. Bert whimpered and Michelle started crying hysterically. In trying to protect Michelle and defend himself Bert jumped up again and this time struck the general’s arm gnashing him several times. The general who was furious pulled his pistol out of its holster and in a fraction of a second brought the pistol in front of him and fired.
Michelle laid on top of Bert to protect him. In his rage the general had been too quick to fire, had not seen the girl over the dog and shot her. Blood was gushing from Michelle’s throat where the bullet struck her.
“God, girl. Why didn’t you move?”
Bert licked her face and throat and took off running to the mansion to get help. The general fired at the running dog until his pistol was empty of bullets without hitting Bert.
“God dammit, girl. You should have moved. You could see I was going to shoot that bastard dog.” But little Michelle was either unconscious or dead. Her eyes were closed. She did not move or make a sound.
The general picked her up roughly cursing to himself and started carrying her to the mansion. He did not walk fast nor did he fully understand what had happened. He was more concerned about his dog bites than he was Michelle.
The colonel heard the shots and rushed wildly through the woods meeting the General with Michelle in his arms.
“My God, General. Let me have her.”
The entire front of Michelle’s white dress was covered in blood, and her face looked lifeless. Her father pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it against Michelle’s throat trying to stop the bleeding. The colonel carried her into the mansion and placed her on the dining room table.
The butler saw what was happening and said, “I called 911. They are on the way, Sir.
The general selfishly said, “The doctor had better get here soon, Colonel. If that dog had rabies, it could kill me. It wasn’t my fault. She could see that I intended to shoot the dog. She should have moved away from that damn dog when she saw me pull my pistol out.”
Colonel White did not hear the general. He was not even aware the general was present as he was so engrossed in the welfare of his daughter.
The paramedics as well as a doctor came quickly. The doctor said, “Let’s put her on a bed or something lower than this table, so I can work with her enough for us to get her to the hospital.”
General Cansey in unbelievable arrogance hollered out, “Doc, her damn dog bit me. I could have rabies. Check that dog for rabies before you look after the girl. Colonel I am ordering you to kill that dog immediately.”
Doctor Morrison who was intensely engaged in saving Michelle’s young life and being upset with the general said, “General get out of here now and go to your own doctor for that. What I want to know is why and how you managed to almost kill an eight-year old child.”
“I could be dead before a rabies test is done. I’m an important man. Thousands of men rely on me. Doctor may I remind you that you are talking to a general officer.”
“General, leave. You are interfering with emergency medical care.”
The paramedics escorted the general out of the house when the colonel said in no uncertain terms, “General, get out of my house and don’t ever come back. What you have done to my daughter was reckless and criminal. I’ll deal with you later after the doctor and I have talked to the police. Your military career is over.”
Doctor Morrison worked with Michelle for several minutes when he stated, “She will live, Colonel. She is very weak because of blood loss, but she will make it. When we get her to the hospital, I will give her a blood transfusion, clean her up and close the wound. The projectile went through the side of her neck and did not hit any major arteries or bones.
As soon as she is conscious, I will order pain medication and a muscle relaxant until she becomes stable. Other than a scar I don’t think there will be any permanent physical damage. However, there will almost certainly be emotional and psychological trauma. After a few days when she is able physically, I will assign a psychologist and counselor to work with her. You can and should be there for those sessions.”
“I will be there doctor, and I think I should bring Bert. Given her kind and loving heart, Michelle will be more concerned about Bert than she will about herself.”
“I agree. Bringing her dog is a good idea.”
“We are ready to transport Michelle to the hospital now. You can follow the ambulance in your car. She is a lucky girl. One more inch to the left and the bullet would have hit the jugular vein in which case there would be so much blood loss so fast that we may have lost her. You did a good job of slowing the bleeding until we were able to pick up where you left off and save her.”
“Thank you, Doctor. She means everything to me.”
The general was waiting outside the house when he encountered the doctor. “Doctor may I remind you that I am an important man. I have thousands of men who rely on me. I am a general officer not just some klutz off the street. This whole thing was the dog’s and girl’s fault, not mine.”
“You are a conceited ignoramus.”
“I won’t stand for any more of this name calling.”
Dr. Morrison replied, “I delivered that precious little girl into the world eight years ago. I’ve known her for her whole life, and I’ve taken care of her every time she got sick or hurt.”
“I’m trying to tell you mister general officer that Michelle was born blind. She is blind, you pompous idiot. She couldn’t possibly have seen you and your gun. Can you not comprehend that?”
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