This is my contribution to this weeks Flash Friday Fiction. It is a tribute to strong women everywhere.
She was always threatening to punch someone in the face, but this time she meant it. She cocked her fist back and was prepared to wipe the smug smile off General Cox's face when Colonel Anderson grabbed her arm and held the big woman still.
General Cox's smile ratcheted up a few notches and crushed his fleshy cheeks against his piggy nose, "Miss Mackenzie, it gives me no great pleasure in converting your house into my headquarters, but these things must be done. Your house has been selected for it's proximity to the train station and the telegraph wire. I have orders to round up a regiment of men to join the Army of the Ohio and ship them south with all speed." His smile broadened to the point you could see his molars, "You do love your country don't you?"
Hattie Mackenzie spat out some of the ginger colored hair that had fallen into her mouth as she struggled against Colonel Anderson's grip, "You fat horse turd! You can't quarter yer troops in my house! The Constitution sez so! Let me go you-" She thrashed about but couldn't break free from Colonel Anderson.
"Miss Mackenzie, there will only be myself and Colonel Anderson, as well as a select few of my staff, who will be occupying your home. If you do not consent to this, you will be held as a traitor, and your house and property will be seized by the army." He put on a mock frown, "You wouldn't want that, would you?"
Hattie quit struggling and Colonel Anderson loosened his hold. "Alright, I knowed when I been trumped. But let me warn you General, this house is haunted. My papa, Sergeant Cathal Mackenzie of George Washington's own guard, still roams these halls. If he catches you, it'll be yer head! Yew can 'ave muh bed an' I'll sleep in the attic, but know thet doom and despair will follow you all the time yer 'ere!"
General Cox swept his arm over the large walnut desk and knocked several books and papers to the floor and sat his huge frame down in the mahogany chair with a plop. "I noticed that you have a couple of chicken coops in the back. For breakfast, Colonel Anderson and I will be having fresh eggs. I will have mine scrambled with lots of pepper," and with that, he dismissed her with a wave. Colonel Anderson nodded and shoved Hattie into the hall with a jerk.
She stomped up the stairs and shook her head. "I tried ta warn 'em," she muttered. She contemplated moving a heavy trunk in front of the door, but on second thought, she knew she would remain unmolested in the night and curled up on the hard, cold floor and drifted off to a deep sleep.
That night, the ropes of Hattie's bed groaned like never before under the weight of General Cox. Colonel Anderson was about to climb into bed when he noticed the shortage of real estate. "Perhaps I should sleep in the parlor General?" he suggested. "No need, no need," Cox muttered as he scooted over an inch or two, "There is room for both of us in this big bed. Kip down Colonel. Tomorrow is going to be a big day and we will both need our rest." Anderson shrugged and removed his sword and belt. His tall cavalry boots made a heavy thud against the floor before he stretched out and felt the warm press of the general against him. "Good night Anderson," Cox said in a throaty voice. "Good night sir," Anderson muttered uncomfortably and tried to adjust himself to his sliver of bed.
Anderson spent the night dreaming of going on a fishing trip with his father and falling out of the boat. He kept gasping for air and trying to fight his way to the surface of the water but unseen hands seemed to be holding him down. His fever climbed to one hundred and three and held steady.
General Cox tossed about and dreamed of a huge banquet held in his honor. The Governor and the President spoke and lauded him for his tireless efforts for the war while he gorged himself on pie and cake, but an old ghostly soldier kept poking him in the stomach with a blunt bayonet. He awoke often, crying out for guards or seconds of dessert.
Hattie Mackenzie slept like a log despite the cold, dusty floor. She dreamed of a solid connection of her fist with the General's jaw. Over and over again.
"Here's yer eggs," she said as she tossed the plate on the desk. General Cox looked up with red, swollen eyes and flashed a pathetic piggy smile in the grey light of dawn. "Thank you miss," he mumbled. The door opened suddenly and Colonel Anderson was framed by the first morning light. "General, there is a courier from General Breedlove for you," Anderson said with a tremble as his body shook from fever chills.
"By all means, (chomp, gulp, slurp) show him in!" General Cox said between bites as he shoveled the hot eggs into his gaping hole. "And Anderson, you are relieved of duty for today. Go back to bed. You look like a shit fence." Anderson nodded dumbly and backed out of the room after a slow clumsy salute.
"I'm Major Pritchert," said the short wiry courier as he strolled in. "General Breedlove sends his regards and instructs you move your headquarters to Zane's Trace as he will be bringing the regiment by canal boat to there. The General asks that all haste be made in relocating the recruitment center, as there are rumors that the rebel army is headed north and have already moved into Pennsylvania. In the General's own words, I need these men there yesterday!" Cox waived him to a seat and Pritchert settled into the padded armchair across from the desk and stretched his short legs out. He adjusted the long knife in his belt to make himself more comfortable and looked Cox in the eye. "Can I tell the General that you will be there by tomorrow, or the day after at the latest?" Pritchert cocked one eyebrow and slid a small packet of orders across the desk.
General Cox brushed the crumbs of egg and toast from his pointy beard onto his ample belly, glanced at the orders and nodded, "Give General Breedlove my compliments and tell him that I will join him as quickly as I can."
Hattie picked up Cox's dirty plate and turned to head out of the room when she was confronted by the obstacle of Pritchert's outstretched legs. Pritchert stood to let her by with a mumbled, "Pardon miss".
"You ever been to Zane's Trace Mr. Pritchert?" Hattie asked.
"I've just come from there," he said. The plate slipped from Hattie's hand and Pritchert made a grab for it before it fell to the floor. He turned to her and smiled as he tried to hand it back. Hattie's fist made an audible crack as she broke his nose and Pritchert melted to the floor. He held his busted face and tried to slow the bleeding.
"What the hell are you doing woman? You can't assault an officer like that! I will have you arrested!" The General was on his feet now.
"Arrest him General!" her boot landed solidly into Pritchert's ribs, "This son of a bitch is a damned rebel spy!" she spat.
"How do you know?" asked the flabbergasted General.
"Cause there ain't no canal at Zane's Trace! Besides, look at thet big pig sticker he's got in his belt. Ain't no Ahia boy would tote a knife like that. It'd be a hatchet instead. That there is what they call a 'Georgia Toothpick'. It's the kinda thing a swamper would carry. Look at them papers. I bet they're bullshit too!"
"Well I'll be jiggered..." was all the General could say as he looked up from the orders to Pritchert's prostrate body. The door opened and a disheveled Anderson poked his head in, "Everything all right sir? I heard a commotion..." he notice Pritchert on the floor writhing in pain.
"Colonel, clap this man in irons and get me a messenger. I need to send a note to General Breedlove immediately!" Anderson grabbed Pritchert by his collar and hoisted the little man to his feet. "You harlot! You whore!" Pritchert spat.
Hattie's boot caught him in the groin with enough force to lift him off of the floor and into Anderson's waiting arms. Pritchert went limp and his eyes rolled back into his head as he clasped his genitals. "You kick like a mule," he gasped. Anderson drug him away without a fight.
"I don't know why I bother ta help you, ya big turd. You ain't been nothin' but trouble since you come," Hattie shook her head and retrieved the fallen plate and fork and started for the kitchen. She paused at the door, "An for yer information, I do love muh country!" and with that, she was gone.
The General was scratching away with his quill pen when Anderson returned. "Give this to the messenger," he handed over the hastily scribbled note. "Also, take up a collection from the men to recompense Miss Mackenzie for the use of her home. Have the men set up my tent close to the road. We will no longer be using her house as headquarters."
"Yes sir!" Colonel Anderson executed a smart salute with a grin.