Loser's Guide to Life
General Guelphe was so fond of chilies that he used to carry a selection of them in his luggage, claiming that foreign food was very bland. He was sometimes accused of being a vain man, but other than the small indulgence of trimming his moustache at odd moments—an almost unconscious habit—he gave no sign of it.
His father had been a civil engineer, but the family suffered financial ruin after a string of unfortunate investments. The young Guelphe was removed from military academy and went to work in a machine shop at the age of fourteen. Despite this end to his formal education, the general retained a life-long admiration for poetry, and was something of an expert on his beloved Calderón. He was largely indifferent to music, an odd thing in so cultured a man, but he had a weakness for light opera, which may have had something to do with his tolerance of a certain amount of buffoonery among the men and his own relishing of simple jokes. For example, if there were a particularly cruel task to be performed, he would say, “something for Miguel to do”, Miguel being a dull-witted young man from Antxoa who could look on any act of carnage, no matter how bestial, with an amused demeanor.
It was after such a display that Alfonso was moved to ask at a staff meeting, “What are we doing? Where are we? Argentina? Mexico? What year is it? 1890? 1928? What? Are we Mexicans? Or what?”
The others looked at him as if dreaming, or trying to remember the words to a popular song, and then returned to their battle plans. He no longer existed.