KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Flash Fiction: 875 words

The General

by Bill Mesce, Jr.

Sheri and I called him The General, this guy who used to walk his dog past our house every night. We had just moved in, were crashed out on the sofa, feet up on unpacked boxes, and we saw him go by the picture window.

“Ahh,” Sheri said, “The General is inspecting the new troops!”

The guy was, I dunno, in his 50s, I’d guess, but trim, not an ounce of fat on him. And straight-spined, shoulders squared, head up. He had a majestic looking face, with big, bushy eyebrows, and a thick head of gray-streaked hair combed straight back.

He was wearing green work twills. I never found out what he did for a living, but they were always spotless and pressed. Between his at-attention bearing and those green twills and that walking-the-parade-ground pace, yeah, The General—it fit.

You would figure a guy like that would be walking something like a German Shepherd or a Doberman. But out in front of him at the end of six feet of leash was this little dust bunny of a dog, couldn’t have been more than 10 inches high, probably didn’t weigh more than a pair of work shoes. But it did walk like him; head up and proud, its little, pointed schnozz sticking out of that fuzz-ball of a head, tail up like a pennant. You could barely see its little legs sticking out of all that fur, moving so fast to keep ahead of The General they were practically a blur, bipbipbipbip.

This was back when The Jersey Shore was big, so Sheri christened the dog Pouf because she said it looked like Snooki’s pouf had escaped.

After a couple of nights we noticed The General and Pouf always passed by about the same time, around 7:10. They were so regular, sometimes we would bet the over/under: “A Burger King run says he runs late.” “He comes in early, you’re going to Dairy Queen for me.”

They may have been a mismatch, and that commanding face never showed anything, but I know The General loved little Pouf. I was driving through the neighborhood one afternoon and saw him sitting on the front porch of his house (kept as immaculate as his twills). I could hear the Mister Softee truck heading down the street. The General sat with an ice cream cone for himself, and held another down low for Pouf.

About a year after we moved in, we had little Neecy. My wife, who’d grown up with a dog, said every kid should grow up with a dog, so she found an ad online and we bought this thing that was part Bichon Frise. It was small and cute, I guess, and friendly—well, too friendly—Cotton (because she looked like a cotton ball as a pup) would go off with anybody who so much as gave her a wave.

I started passing The General on his nightly walk while I was walking Cotton. That was the first time I ever saw his face show anything: a smile. I think. It could’ve been just a twitch it was that small.

“I joined the club,” I said, calling across the street.

He nodded, did his little twitch of a smile again, and walked on. The General approved.

We were in the house a couple of years when we noticed he and Pouf weren’t keeping such great time anymore. They were passing the window later, and Pouf’s little paws weren’t bipbipbip-ping so fast.

“I guess Pouf is getting old,” I said one night, as they slow-marched past.

Sheri didn’t say anything. She already knew how that story always ends. I figured it out later.

And then they didn’t pass by at all anymore.

“Maybe he just lets him out in the yard now,” I said.

I was taking the garbage out one night, and Cotton sat on the porch watching because she thought every time I went out the door it was time for a walk. I got the cans to the curb, turned around, and there was The General. In his hand were several coils of leash with an empty collar hanging from the end.

I nodded a hello and then pointed to the leash. “Did he get away? I’ll help you look for him.”

“No,” he said and then he didn’t have to say anything more.


He nodded. “I was going to put this out with the garbage. I thought...let me take the walk first.”

Now that we had Cotton, I understood. I saw him look over at her, saw that little twitch of a smile.

“She recognizes you,” I said. “Why don’t you go say hello.”

He looked unsure, so I gave him a nod to push him along. He sat on the top step and Cotton joined him. She didn’t jump on him the way she usually did when someone showed an interest, but just leaned against him. The General ruffled her ears, then bent toward her. Cotton bowed her head, and he rubbed his forehead against hers.

The General stood, made a gesture at me with the coiled leash: thank you.

I nodded back: you’re welcome.

Then he headed down the block and turned the corner on his way home.

Bill Mesce, Jr.
Issue 5, Spring 2016

is a college instructor and writer living in New Jersey. His most recent published works are No Rule that Isn’t a Dare: How Writers Connect with Readers (Serving House Books, February 2016); Idols, Icons, and Illusions: The Movies We Love—and Love to Hate—and the People Who Made Them (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 10 November 2015); and Inside the Rise of HBO: A Personal History of the Company that Transformed Television (McFarland, June 2015).

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