Mr. Lobos and the General
Excerpt from "Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War"
Mr. Lobos sat across from Dr. Vidal who was listening to the sounds of the General's heart as the General, reclining on a leather lounge while recovering from plastic surgery to lift his droopy eyelids and pin back his ears, smoked a cigar. They were in the General's sitting room where photographs of the General filled every inch of every wall even though some had been taken before he'd had implants added to his thinning black hair. In each he was pictured next to an unholy parade of minor dignitaries and "tenth-tier" Pan National politicians from all over the place. The presence of women in the photographs was scarce but all of them were blonde.
Published on LatinoLA: October 28, 2011
The photograph in the most prominent position, the one you couldn't miss even if you wanted to, was of the General with his idol General Noriega holding a live lobster waving its claws. It was signed, "To my forever compadre. From the man you look up to." Clearly it had been taken before Noriega had been sent off to prison in the United States. But the General's two most important possessions, the ones that he never let out of his sight, were in glass jars sitting right beside him on a low table handcrafted by Bernardo deVille. The smaller one contained the Kind Predecessor's heart. The other was full of human ears.
"So... Lobos. Are you happy?" the General asked as he puffed on his cigar and blew smoke in the doctor's face. Mr. Lobos ignored the question.
"My mother's convinced you're already dead."
The General smiled. "Good. I never liked my sister."
The doctor released the blood pressure pump on the General's arm then unwrapped the cuff and shook his head. "Her conviction may come true."
The General peeked at the doctor from his reconstructed eyes and whispered coyly. "More fellatio... is that what you recommend?" The doctor pretended to be busy writing things down but the General started to laugh which triggered a fit of serious coughing.
"You might want to give up the Cubans," the doctor cautioned.
"The Cubans... that's very funny," the General wheezed between bouts of breathlessness. Then he picked up a heavy medical book sitting next to him on the lounge and slammed it down on the doctor's withered thigh.
There was a tense moment of silence and then Dr. Vidal laughed. Not at all the response the General was seeking.
"What's so damned funny?" the General gasped.
"I'm paralyzed, General, I don't feel a thing."
"Pity," the General pouted darkly and put the book on the table with the jars. The doctor waited until the General relit his cigar then grabbed the General's arm and gave it a thorough perusal.
"What now?" the General demanded sternly but the doctor didn't answer.
"I consider this is an invasion!" The General's voice went up an octave.
"It's time to test your blood," Dr. Vidal reminded matter of factly. The General inhaled sharply and panicked.
"Blood? You never mentioned anything about blood!"
"Don't be such a baby. We do this every month." Dr. Vidal had already bound the General's arm with rubber tubing and the needle was poised to insert a shunt.
"Wait!" the General cried out, surprised by the doctor's strength and speed but Dr. Vidal just grinned.
"Why prolong the anticipation?" Then he jammed the needle into the General's arm, deliberately missing the vein.
"Oh my God!" the General cried out from his stiff, new, plastic surgery face.
"I am so sorry," the doctor seemed sincerely contrite as he withdrew the needle then plunged the shunt into a vital vein.
"Stop! Please," the General whimpered and started to tremble then sank low on the lounge.
Mr. Lobos looked out into the garden from the open window and wondered if Ebba was all right.
"I can't stand it," the General whined but Dr. Vidal didn't say a word, just kept filling one tube after another with the General's blood, tube after tube, seven altogether.
"Considering your condition be grateful you have it to give," the doctor commented dryly.
"What condition?" the General cowered, feigned innocence, pretended not to know what the doctor was talking about.
"The one you've got," Dr. Vidal answered curtly.
Mr. Lobos smiled at the General knowingly, which made the General mad but there wasn't much he could do about it.
"Someday I'll kill you," the General said hoarsely to Dr. Vidal.
"No you won't," the doctor replied as he pulled the needle out of the General's arm and waved it in his face.
"No one but me knows how to keep you alive."
This was a fact. The General was suffering from the advanced stages of something severe he'd picked up from some woman or other in the days when he was Minister of Public Relations and traveled from one country to another. Worse than the unfortunate reoccurring symptoms, Dr. Vidal had made the General tell him, in graphic detail, what vile things he'd done to contract the disease.
"Until I find someone to replace you," the General snarled.
"Then hurry," Dr. Vidal said and opened a tiny vial of something powdery and white, poured it into a glass of orange juice and stirred it with his thumb.
Mr. Lobos sneezed three times in a row not bothering to cover his face. The General ducked, covered his head with his arm and shouted, "You worthless son-of-my-sister! You know how susceptible I am." While in this position and before the General could stop him, Mr. Lobos picked the small jar containing the Kind Predecessor's heart off the table and held it up to the light.
"Put that down!" the General bellowed. He stood up to grab the jar out of his nephew's hand but his knees buckled so he sat back down whether he wanted to or not. Dr. Vidal handed the General the glass of orange juice.
"You forgot this," he said. Trembling and fearful, the General gulped it down as Mr. Lobos walked to the window tossing the jar from one hand to the other with a rhythmic snap, snap, snap.
"Stop that!" the General roared and stuck out his hand. "I want you to give me back my heart!" But Mr. Lobos just continued the rhythmic snap, snap, snap.
"It's not your heart," Mr. Lobos said. "You took it, remember? You took your Predecessor's heart. Then you tried to take his wife, but she shot herself instead."
"She did not," the General shouted.
Mr. Lobos wasn't listening. "Then to get even, you took the body parts of her children, and then other people's childrenÔÇª"
"You should talk about taking children!" the General interrupted.
Mr. Lobos looked at the General darkly and tossed the jar up in the air, caught it with one hand. The General gasped. Mr. Lobos smiled and tossed the jar a little higher.
"Stop!" The General shouted. Mr. Lobos caught it and tossed the jar higher. "Lobos!" the General shouted again.
Mr. Lobos looked at his uncle and threw the jar even higher, let it fall free through the air.
"No! Oh, my God... Don't!" he pleaded.
"That's what people cry as their children are ripped out of their arms and taken away..."
"I'm not the one that does that!" the General lied again.
The jar was falling fast, fast, fast to the floor.
"What about all those ears in the jar? Who do they belong to?"
"Stop!" The General's ragged scream pierced the air.
At the very last minute, just as the jar was about to hit the floor Mr. Lobos reached out and caught it, held it in front of his uncle's distorted new face.
"Uncle General, you've manufactured a mess." Hoping to get his heart back the General nodded foolishly. He looked so pathetic Mr. Lobos could hardly stand the sight of him, but fixed him with a lethal stare. Then he held up the jar and shook it.
"Maybe I should feed it to the dogs."
That did it. Nephew or not, Mr. Lobos had stepped over the line. The General was so enraged he opened the drawer in the low table and pulled out his gun, pointed it at Mr. Lobos but was having terrible trouble holding it steady.
"You shit son of my sister! I'll kill you!" he yelled. Mr. Lobos smiled and started tossing the jar back and forth all over again... snap, snap, snapÔÇª
"Same thing you did to my father?"
Back and forth...Snap, snap, snap...
"The whole story, everything included on the ten o'clock news right before Daniella Perez's telanovela." Mr. Lobos continued, tossing the jar. Snap, snap, snap.
"Dog food or the ten o'clock night news? Dog food or the news..."
"Enough!" the General interrupted. His fury was so intense that his grip gave way and he dropped the gun. Then his whole body collapsed into an unconscious heap. Dr. Vidal looked at Mr. Lobos and smiled thinly.
"I always give him something to relax."
"Thoughtful," Mr. Lobos nodded.
Then he slipped the jar with the heart into his pocket, helped Dr. Vidal pack up his case and collect all seven vials of the General's blood. As he wheeled the doctor out of the room, he was whistling, "I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise," slightly off key.
Ms. Tewkesbury has written for stage, television and screen. Her work has been honored by the Writer's Guild, The Golden Globes, The British Academy Awards, Los Angeles Critics and Academy Awards.