The dictator is drinking alone, watching Shane and weeping into a glass of whiskey.
Well, not entirely alone. His Special Guard is there, of course, dressed in grey and scarlet uniforms with matching marching band hats. But the Guard doesn’t count as company. They’re an extension of him, an extra set of senses always at the ready. Just another eight hims.
The dictator is fiftyish, fattish, short. He sits in a giant wingback chair with oaken arms carved to look like antlers and cattle hide stretched over the frame. The dictator is obsessed with the American West, and he spends afternoons watching his collection of Western DVDs on his 72 inch flatscreen TV.
When the Americans come to meet with him, he likes to shame them by drinking straight whiskey while they politely ask for a brandy and soda. The dictator understands that American men no longer have any balls, like when they used to herd cattle and hang men from trees. Now they drink like little girls, with tiny sips, nervousness written all over their milky faces.
The dictator despises the Americans. They are nothing like cowboys. They are big, yes, but stupid and loud and vain. They no longer wear hats, and their eyes are watery, evasive, shifty. They talk too much. And American women—he hates the American women most of all. They are taller than him, with big feet and big hands. He’s not sure that they don’t have big cocks, too, hidden beneath those voluminous slacks.
He shakes his head in disgust at the thought, and watches Shane climb up onto his horse. The dictator is the Number One National Champion of Riding, although he has never actually been on a horse. He is terrified of live animals. He is also the Number One National Champion of Fishing, Wrestling, Golf, Racquetball, Archery, Volleyball, Shooting, and General Fitness Excellence.
The dictator’s son walks into the room. General Comrade Father, he says, what the shit are you crying for?
I’m not crying, you ungrateful prick, says the dictator, pausing the DVD. I’m drinking whiskey, and it burns my throat and makes my eyes water.
So why are you drinking it? He’s the youngest son, the idiot, and the one that will probably succeed him if the military has its way. Do you want something else? I can get you something else. But first, General Comrade Father, can I have some money?
The dictator sighs, loudly, pointedly. He is long-suffering. I just gave you money, he says. What the hell do you need more for? Prostitutes? Vodka? Coffee? Guns? What?
Prostitutes, says the son brightly, as if it were a multiple choice question. The dictator nods at the Guardsman to his right. Get him some cash, he says. And get him out of my sight before I blow his testicles off with my new Tokarev.
The dictator collects Russian weapons, particularly World War II-era pistols. He practices with them regularly from his balcony. When someone gets shot, if they’re not mortally wounded, they’re supposed to fall down on their knees and thank the heavens that the General Great Leader is such an excellent marksman. If they’re mortally wounded they’re supposed to just lay there quietly and die.
Once the dictator’s son has gone to his prostitutes, the dictator hits the pause button to resume the movie. Shane is telling Joey to grow up strong, to take care of his parents. The dictator picks up his glass and tilts it sideways, watches the liquid slosh around and coat the sides like amber.
The truth is, the dictator is bored and sad. The truth is, the dictator is crying, and not because the whiskey burns. He’s crying because he knows Joey will never see Shane again, will grow up without a hero, will grow up weak and restless and wanting. He’s weeping because Shane has gone into the mountains for good.
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