The Brick: 1. Honesty
↑ that's a permalink! visit the full archive
"The Brick" is a serial novel, updated weekly. For more information, please go here.
Interview with General Dennis, two star. Headquarters wing, Bldg. 1, Fort Bliss, TX.
The general removes his glasses and studies the packet his current aide handed him before we walked down the carpeted hallway to this small conference room. A big screen television fills one wall.
The packet is all about me.
The general licks his thumb and index finger and uses the saliva to turn a page.
Looks up at me. Slate-blue eyes.
"So, Brian," he says. He sets the packet down. "Tell me about yourself."
I am interviewing for the position of general's aide.
Sidekick, if you will.
I begin to explain.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was a general's aide. In Norman Mailer's famous WWII novel The Naked and the Dead there is a large section devoted to a second lieutenant named Hearn who is a general's aide but is later waxed by a Japanese heavy machine gun. In Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato, the platoon murders their lieutenant by tossing a grenade after him as he shimmies into a Vietnamese tunnel.
I was born in California, Southern. I have a tendency to abuse the terms Yeah and Man.
I am a child of McDonald's and Wal*Mart.
I spent my youth in slavery to fast food and retail. I have been a gas station attendant, fry cook, janitor, stock boy, cashier, shift manager, line cook, store cop and salesman in a Bath & Body store with a rich and bored female clientele who adored the word "moisturizing."
I was the customers' bitch for far too long.
I found redemption in Basic Training, ROTC, Airborne and Air Assault schools. I love to jump out of things that fly. I love to crawl in ditches. I love to eat food from foil pouches. I savor the plastic handle of my M16A2.
Unlike most officers I enjoy fiction and the legalization debate. I am dating a local girl named Amparo.
The general nods. He looks like John Larroquette.
Loyalty is the trait I respect most in peers. This leads into interesting moral territory. I will never sell out a friend, although I fully expect the military to betray me someday.
We fight for our buddies, not the flag, after all.
I have served in Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Fort Bliss, TX, Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and Camp Rilea, OR. I hold a B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of California-Irvine.
Yes, I find Irvine a relaxing place. I find urban planning fascinating.
The general approves, chuckling. He straightens his glasses. He looks like Cormac McCarthy but a little younger.
"For this position, Brian," he says, "you might have to go to my house on a regular basis, say, to pick up a uniform or important papers. You might have to work very closely with my wife. Would you have a problem with this?"
No problem whatsoever, sir.
He opens the packet, closes it.
"You wouldn't be here if your boss didn't already think you're the best, Brian," he tells me. "You should know that."
I am noncommittal.
"But here's the clincher, and I want you to be honest. I have to know this one thing."
"Yes, sir," I say.
"All right. I want you to tell me if you've ever used drugs."
"What do you mean by drugs, sir?"
He waves a hand. "You know: methamphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazapines, opiates, psychedelics, Whipits, glue, hash, heroine, crack, whatever. You know what I mean."
I watch him. "Right, sir."
He looks like J. Edgar Hoover with very black eyebrows.
Gah! I can't lie: I've signed paperwork. He may have that very paperwork in the inane manilla packet lying between us. I lean forward in my seat.
I blink, then go for it.
"Sir," I say. "I've experimented with marijuana. It was in high school. I regret it. I've learned to do better."
He nods. He looks strangely like Ted Kennedy. His jowls roll on his camouflage collar as he moves his head.
The general offers his hand to shake. I take it firmly.
"I admire honesty, Brian," he tells me. "Honesty will never steer you wrong. Remember that."
His icy eyes bore into mine. "Congratulations," the general says. "You've got the job."
I thank the general for this opportunity.
James Stegall rocks the serial text house