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The warehouse was spacious and high-ceiling with giant orange beams twenty feet apart, supporting a galvanized roof. The air hung heavy, cool and dead. From giant, unenclosed wall woofers an electronic cacophony of ruptured bongo drums and rusty xylophones rang out "HAPPY BIRTHDAY."
Suddenly, they clicked silent, then tweeted twice in a digitally mastered voice: "Welcome to Moammar's Giant Outlet." While the quasi-music returned, I inspected the superlarge selection. The shelves were stacked to the ceiling, loaded with everything imaginable, and more.
Destructively curious, I looked for the really big stuff, like the M-80's or Cherry Bombs Uncle Izzy used to bring from Clark City on the 4th. I knew they were rightfully banned in Kansas and Missouri, but figured the law might be more permissive in deep dixie. I didn't see any big stuff on display, though; maybe it was kept in an explosion-proof vault.
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I decided that if my host just happened to have the big stuff, I could say I needed a whole carload to take home, but even a $1000 coupon wasn't enough to pay for it.
Grabbing some firecrackers and roman candles I strolled up front, toward the register. If the joker fell for my ploy, I could claim I needed to visit the nearest bank for some more shekels. As I approached the counter, an oil-soaked pebble stuck to the bottom of my already game boot and clicked errantly on the well-buffed concrete.
The pre-Versailles cash register sat on a granite countertop chiseled with hieroglyphic imagery. While the crooked-shouldered clerk tallied me up on a small calculator, I served myself a bag of cigarette loads and listened to the humming of the air-handling units on the roof.
The clerk's face was pockmarked purple and splotched with black zits of unshaved bristle. His greasy hair hung in a long poodle-cut from under a nastily stained skullcap, once white, now neapolitan. A baggy grey t-shirt hung from his gaunt shoulders, half-tucked into matching baggy grey gabardine slacks, sans pockets. Short yellow suspenders w/sepia fleurs-de-lis held the sack-like trousers above his pear-shaped midsection. Angular, long-nailed fingers shook painfully as this sad example of natural selection-gone-awry punched his solar calculator.
To pass the time, I asked politely if he was Moammar.
He answered weakly. "I wish. I'm Yassir and your bill comes to about sixteen bucks, sir."
When he saw my $1000 coupon, he scratched his head and changed his passive tune. "Well my good buddy, welcome to the birthday party." Counting out my change, $986 in Monopoly money, he sneered. "Today's your lucky day, daddyo. You can redeem this money at the party in the back vault. We got girls, drugs, and rock 'n roll, just for the occasion."
I told him that that sounded great. "But I was wondering if you have any of the really big stuff?"
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He peered about the otherwise empty establishment, then whispered. "Really big stuff?? You said the magic phrase, cousin. No one told me you was into munitions too."
"Oh sure. As a matter of fact, I need a whole carload of the really big stuff to smuggle back to bleeding Kansas."
His sandy eyes dialated as he cranked the music up. "So no one can hear us. The walls have ears."
After shuffling off to padlock the door, he scurried back and dragged a heavy steamer trunk from under the counter. Sadness soaked my soul as he opened the velvet-lined brown container and pointed nervously at its olive-drab contents.
His hands shook horribly as he turned the music down and whispering with cold-coffee breath. "Grenades, mines, booby traps, plastic explosives, automatic rifles; the works. Whatever your cause requires."
He boasted they were only his samples. Moammar's main inventory was supposedly locked in back, under the party vault. The outlet even made plastic guns. He claimed to have stockpiles of nerve gas, vials of germ tissue, plus a couple kilo-containers of plutonium out in the trunk of his BMW. "We got our own calutrons downstairs."
Casually, I told him I needed twenty cannisters of nerve gas.
He said I was just the customer he'd been waiting for. "Cousin, I got you covered, if you got $20,000 cash or $40,000 in food stamps."
I told him to put the mate'riel away, that I'd drive my Caddie back to the Dalton Bank and have my cause transfer funds in gold bullion.
"Hey no problem, my long lost cousin, gold bullion's easy to turn into more drugs and party girls, and maybe send a little bit back for the Phillistine Liberty Organization, of course."
As we walked tensely toward the door, I promised I'd party for days with him and his girl friends, as soon as I got back with the appropriate funds. After he unlocked the entrance, I told him I'd be back "in a flash."
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As we stepped outside, he sighed. "Excellent, cousin."
While I limped backwards to my car, he unsheathed a wrinkled pack of Camels from his sweaty sleeve and I asked why there was a gas pump on the roof.
Skittishly lighting his filterless cigarette, he snickered. "For the Pyrocopters."
I told him to be careful with the cigarette and tossed my fireworks into the Seville, just as a slow-speed rotor approached from the northwest, beating its way over the treetops and hovering above the roof. The pregnant helicopter was shiny chartreuse with strange markings on its big underbelly. I yelled through the prop wash, asking what the glitzy logo stood for.
Over the engine noise, Yassir clicked his heels together and snapped to attention. "The almighty SwizzleStick!"
Quickly, I slid past my pyrotechnic toys and inserted the ignition key, warning the myopic merchant to be careful with his cigarette.
He yelled from a funnel of glowing ashes. "My place is 100% exP.L.O.sion-proof."
"But I bet this oil spilled everywhere isn't!" I shouted.
"Don't worry, if I die for his cause, Allah will welcome me."
Backing out, I purposely gouged my front bumper into two of his Bavarian quarter panels.
My ex-cousin shrieked his displeasure. "Hey asshole, you just fucked up my favorite car!"
The chopper's engine shut down and I heard rapid footsteps scramble across the gravel roof. Paused in the center of the clearing, I watched an old, uniformed ogre with curly red hair and matching epaulets lead several plainclothes thugs from the establishment. After bludgeoning my estranged cousin with a pair of chrome pistols, the obese bastard directed his sidekicks to drag Yassir inside.
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But not before I bellow a final salutation. "Hey cousin-schmucks, I'll be right back for the big blast!!"
Giving the lost souls the high sign (not to mention the finger), I exited Moammar's oasis slowly, then barrelled over the sideroad toward the interstate, confident I had run across M. Pyre/Hista again. Spotting an emergency call box about a mile away, on the other side of the freeway, I parked on the shoulder. As I staggered through the deep-gullied median, I wondered what made Yassir think he knew what Allah's cause really was.
Crossing three on-coming lanes of high-speed traffic, I knew Allah's cause certainly wasn't illicit weaponry, sex, drugs, and probably not pot metal rock 'n roll. I lifted the receiver and convinced the dispatcher I had a national emergency, to connect me with the nearest FBI office. An eighteen-wheeler splashed me with wet soot while the phone rang on. Finally, a Ms. Orwell answered at the "New FBI." I told her I wanted to report illegal trafficking in firearms.
She couldn't help, though, because I couldn't remember my Social Security Number. "Sorry, sir, but..."
I hung up and had the dispatcher connect me with the ATF office in Atlanta. A vanload of Braves' fans doused me with icy brew just as the phone rang once and a military voice answered. "Atlanta Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms."
I wiped the cold beer head from my brow onto sleeve. "I'm reporting what I believe to be a capital offence, an attempt to traffic in illegal small arms and conventional exP.L.O.sives; not to mention chemical, biological and potentially nuclear weaponry; by the operators of Moammar's Giant Factory Outlet on I-75, precisely one kilometer south of Dalton. They even have calutrons in the basement." Suddenly, the call station shook; the ground trembled forebodingly. Asking the ATF to hold on, I turned to my far left. A giant funnel of fire and debris rose above where I assumed Moammar's Outlet once was.
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Following a moment of silence, the game soldier at the ATF identified himself as Gunnery Sergeant Paré, ret., and said that if I was in a combat zone, his department was at my disposal. I told the Gunny to get a detachment to Moammar's joint before it was too late, that I thought it was burning down from a careless cigarette, with all the evidence.
Paré said he had me covered. "Stéla's been monitoring our entire conversation. She'll dispatch a strategic crew to Dalton on the double."
After Stéla informed me she was activating a tape recorder, I gave Paré all the details, including the BMW's trunkpile of plutonium. When I described the Pyrocopter's SwizzleStick logo, Stéla shreiked and disconnected her extension.
Clearing his throat, the retired sergeant gave me the lowdown. "That's the heinous mark of the Supreme Order of the SwizzleStick." After Paré praised my public awareness, we exchanged good wishes and hung up.
Sharp pangs drilled into my left knee cap as I staggered back across the highway and climbed into the Caddie.
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Inhaling the climate-controlled luxury, I took pencil and paper from my shaving bag and scribbled down a monochromic facsimile of the Pyrocopter's grizzly logo:
Stuffing the sketch in my wallet for future reference, I examined the fireworks I'd acquired for free, if not for a little aggravation. I pushed a cigarette load into one of my three remaining cigarettes and decided to call Menachem for the lowdown on the SOS.
As mom's canoe lumbered back onto the interstate, I glanced at the gas gauge and guestimated the guzzler could make Atlanta without stopping for a fill-up. I was proud of myself; just a month before I was lucky to struggle from my sweat-stained couch once a week. Rubbing my shoulder, I wondered whether Yassir, Moammar, Ayatollah, M. Pyre, or any of the other confused souls who inflicted immeasurable pain on their fellow beings in the name of God really considered themselves liberators. Why couldn't they learn how to care and share instead of covet and kill?
While philosophizing on how the intent and consequences of a specific act are more important than any generalized label or dogma, I kept an eye out for a cheap motel, wanting to save what little money I had for the craps table. I was supposed to escort my parents on a cruise to the Bahamas after I helped them get moved into their new condo in Boynton Beach. While I'd laid alone on my Kansas couch, I played with a pair of dimestore dice, pretending to break the bank, over and over. It was designed to take my mind off the pain of denullification, but it didn't.
One of my first returning pains was the realization of how dangerous the world had grown. Proportionately, there were probably no more misfits than ever; as if said percentage wasn't enough. But with all the hi-tech toys around, one demented soul with the right weaponry could destroy the lives of countless others, not to mention the superpower threat of global annihilation. We live together, or we die together.
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Just as I decided to get my own house in order before moving onto international affairs, a low budget, very American, motel came into view. Unable though to find an off-ramp, I continued along my semi-merry way, looking forward to the warm hospitality of a friendly southern community.
Presently, I came upon a vast city I wasn't prepared for. As the freeway lowered me into the bowels of the metropolis, six lanes shrunk to one and three-quarters. My pupils constricted on the broken-windowed skyscrapers which dominated crumpling brick remnants from the past. There were no working traffic signals; people scurried across Whitney Street at will. Little black boys looked at me, ran up to the car, and made nasty faces; so did little white boys.
Would the citizens of Soviet Georgia be so freedom-minded if they knew what went on in American Georgia? Conversely, would the citizens of Atlanta be more hospitable if they knew how repressive the Soviet lifestyle was?
Sadly, I caught sight of the nasty hookers who populated the littered sidewalks. The girls wore less than mini-skirts: garter belts and webbed stockings with gaping holes. Several displayed their ravaged crotches before I could look away.
I wondered how these sad souls figured in the grand scheme of things, whether decadence was the necessary downside of an incentive-based economy. It didn't have to be, I thought.
Returning to my more immediate surroundings, I spotted the on-ramp to the freeway. But six greasy razorheads blocked my passage. Rolling to a gentle halt, I pushed in the cigarette lighter as four of the anemic thugs rushed me, fluorishing baseball bats and broom sticks like the hyped-up lunatics they were. Figuring they weren't coming for batting practice with dad or to sweep mother's rugs, I poked three roman candles out the sunroof, but aimed them well over the lunicides' scabby heads.
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I brushed the lighter across all three wicks and giant fireballs belched into the early evening sky, washing the area in an awesome array of red, white, and blue olympic light. Like skittish rats at the onset of an electric storm, the rascist thugs dropped their weapons and scattered.
Shifting into low, I nailed it and shot onto the highway, simultaneously lighting a cigarette, as best I could. Exploding, it threw tobacco and paper shreds all over my poor mother's car. I'd forgotten about the cigarette and I laughed at myself for a few seconds.
Continuing on toward the suburbs, I reconsidered the plight of the people I'd passed by, wondering if they could ever realize that polished cars, fancy houses, and bountiful drugs meant nothing, that family, companionship, fruitful labor and learning were the true values of life. I was beginning to sound as corny as a Kansas preacher, but I was sure that Parnosah, meaningful labor which generated challenge and satisfaction, was the key, not just a thankless job to earn money to purchase pleasure from the local bar and/or pusher. Reeducation and restructuring were the only solutions, I concluded, pulling onto the gravel parking lot of THE WHITE HOUSE. In the graffitied East Portico of the low budget establishment, I showed the portly proprietor one of my remaining MOTION VIDEO business cards. He let me a Presidential Sleeper for the corporate rate of $9.96 (in lieu of the $10.00 tourist rate). After signing a yellow legal pad, I consumed a double order of Polk Sausage and a Coolidge Cola in the Reagan Lounge before using the Nixon Phonebooth to ring up Kingdom City.
Ména was working on the Dead Sea Scrolls, so I got right to the point, telling him that I thought I'd just encountered the joker Hista. Ména confirmed Hista had been wearing his greasy hair blood-red since the fall of the third reich.
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After giving Ména the details of how Hista tried seducing me with drugs and partygirls just two hours before, I told Ména how M. Pyre/Hista set me up in Tennessee years before.
I asked my mentor the abvious question. "If it's a personal vendetta or something, why'd he leave me alone for twenty years?"
Menachem sighed. "Your drugged Ohla was no great threat to his kind, David."
Rather than pursue the issue at present, I described the SOS logo to him and asked if he could check on the Empire Express's SOS tag.
He said he would. "Don't forget the password Ha-Tikvah when you visit Morningstar in Boca Raton."
I asked Ména to give Judy my regards and told him I'd call back after I saw Morningstar. I climped on up to the third tier of the South Balcony.
The conventional knob and lock on my Presidential Sleeper had been replaced with a hasp and padlock. After unlatching and removing the Yale lock, I entered, closed the door, and fixed the padlock onto an identical hasp on the inside. A rain-soaked blanket, smelling of mildew and dead roaches, served as a curtain over the broken picture window. Covering my nose with a fresh t-shirt, I walked over and turned on the light, a shadeless lamp fashioned from an empty bottle of Southern Comfort.
Tossing my bag of clothes on the stained mattress, I noticed the other bed was fitted with a disposable Sani-Sleep sheet. My gut ached from too much Polk Sausage and I belched freely as I dropped onto the papered mattress, nearly breaking my hip. In excruciating pain, I puffed desperately on my second-to-last cigarette, speculating whether bashing my hip on the hard mattress was punishment for eating pork, for belching in a public facility, or possibly for craving nicotine enough to break an agreement with a good friend. Or was I simply being warned to spend my gambling money on a more comfortable bed next time?
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Gagging on my melodramatic wonderings, I stubbed out the cigarette in a melted dixie cup. My hand accidently knocked the sticky lamp and its loose bulb flickered out. But an overlarge Kennedy Liquor sign pulsed orange and green neon through the wet blanket covering the window. I cursed both the mildewed blanket and the damn lights, for they reminded me of Formington, the smell of formaldehyde and meatloaf I never adjusted to, the conduct lights I never understood.
Still angered at that which I could never change, I wasn't able to sleep. My eyes closed, but not my memory.
The 60s were entering their last phase, but it was only my first night at Formington. In a round sleeping room, over fifty beds were cloistered recklessly around a square nursing station. There were no windows and it would have been adequately dark if it hadn't been for those three bulbs flashing over the nursing station. Their red, green, and yellow light bled across the beds as I struggled to stretch the blanket over my head. I needed to get some sleep; maybe morning would bring hope.
Shuffling to my side, though, a stodgy nurse tugged on the shrunken blanket. "Mr. Daniels, we need to keep that blanket off our head. We don't want to suffocate and have the local press say we've committed suicide, now do we?"
I inhaled her bawdy perfume and agreed. "No, of course not, nurse. But I was wondering why those colored lights keep flashing up there."
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The stocky nurse cocked her head. "Weren't we told when we were committed this afternoon? We must have simply forgotten, musn't we have?"
I told her that must be it, that I must have forgotten, and she went on to explain the conduct lights to me. "When the green light flashes toward the lounge door we can watch silent TV and listen to the phonograph. The yellow light toward the fire door flashes for five minutes before mealtime to announce the opening of our cafeteria down in the basement twenty minutes after the red light quits flashing over the med's booth. All three lights above your nursing station flash alternately all night long to remind us that more medicine is always available, in case we can't sleep."
When I said I wasn't sure I understood, she said I wasn't suppposed to. "An ex-patient designed the system."
I told her my name and she told me hers, Blanche Barnes, Babs for short. "But you can call me Big Brandy if you want to pretend I'm your girlfriend."
When I thanked Nurse Brandy for her kindness, she told me I shouldn't be so quick to thank anyone, that I was in no Hebrew School Dormitory.
"Client Daniels, just in case you haven't noticed, this is the Missouri State Mental Hospital. If we behave ourselves and do as we're told, maybe someday we'll get to go home on a weekend pass." Tugging at her massive brassiere, she thrust her hefty shoulders back proudly. "I used to be a patient here, myself. Now I'm a psychiatric specialist. So you can see this is no Dachau. Some of us do leave alive and perform quite well in the outside world. Sleep well, tomorrow is another day."
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As she shuffled off into the pulsating conduct lights, they seemed more unnerving than ever. I attempted to pull the short blanket over my shoulders, but refrained from plowing my head under the pillow. So began my long-term friendship with Nurse Brandy, who later found gainful employment at the Goodtime Grill in Merriam, Kansas.
Since I wasn't still at the Form (I was in the White House now), I went ahead and put the nylon pillow over my head and turned toward the interior north wall of my Presidential Sleeper.
As soon as my lids dropped shut, the harsh throbbing of the liquor sign dissolved and I sailed off to sun-dappled softness.
Lifting skyward, my face washes in the warm light of life. Soft winds filter through thick foilage and my breathing becomes free. Cleared of fatigue, I feel the magical warmth of Fela's awesome beauty against me. Gracefully, she stands in the diffuseness, her flawless skin now shadowed by two female forms who've swept to her side.
The gilded one to my left speaks. "I'm Sola, sister of Wisdom."
Then the angel to my right. "And I'm Sidra, sister of Love."
I tell them I'm David and rise into their family.
Smiling proudly, Fela splays the girls' hair with supple fingers and says she'll leave her daughters in my care while she visits the horizon. "Before we travel to Freedom Sound, let your spirit mingle with blood of my blood and Ohlaé of our Mohla."
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I smile and she moves away, towards majestic mountains, her gentle curves rising and falling as fluidly as the seasons move one to the other. After she melts into golden sunlight, I walk beside the sisters. My nostrils fill with the freshness of winter wheat still in the ground. Our arms brushing, I tell my angelic companions their mother seems so youthful.
Sola answers easily. "Our Reohlaen flesh is replenished by your growing spirit, our Mohla."
Telling her sister not be so serious, Sidra giggles. "This time is for knowing fun."
"But Sidra, I....
"But nothin' Girl!" Screams came from out in the Hoover Hallway. "You best behave me!"
Wide awake, my head flipped toward the mildewed window; and the hip I'd just bashed on the mattress hurt horribly as I struggled to my feet. Hearing two more blood-thirsty screams from the other side, I staggered toward the door, my toes still throbbing from kicking my Chevy two days before.
I started to unshackle the makeshift hatch, but the disturbance died out. Standing there, I felt ready to checkout anyway. What a chore nighttime had become, I thought, just as a soft rap sounded from the other side. I asked who was there.
A delicate, durable voice answered succinctly. "Nightmaid. Checkout time."
I inserted the key and jiggled it, to no avail. It wouldn't turn. I told the nightmaid to hold on a minute. "I can't open the padlock."
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She told me not to worry. "No sweat sonny, I'll hammer the hinges out on my side."
Four light blows later, my door squeaked open from the wrong side. An undersized old lady came toddling in, decked out in a cheap blonde wig and black plastic sunglasses.
Back at the bed, I shook the lamp and it flickered on. "Checkout time? It's still the middle of the night."
She squeaked her reply. "Sorry. 2:30AM's checkout time for all Presidential Sleepers. The convoy comes down the New Lincoln Highway at 3:00AM sharp. Been makin' the new run for about 45 years, so they tells me anywho. Rules is rules, 'less you want to pay for another six hours at twice the Lincoln Trucker rate."
After gathering my things, I limped toward the door and told her she better get it fixed before someone complained to the health department. She replied by asking if I'd left my cane out in the hall. I told her I didn't have one, not yet.
She sighed. "Well - go ahead and take that cane out there. It's just been sittin' there waitin' all night."
That's a strange coincidence, I thought.
Apparently reading my mind, the old lady said it was no coincidence, that it was destiny. She blew her nose on a neatly folded dust cloth. "Part of the grand scheme of things. That cane's previous owner probably thinks he left it there by accident. But he didn't. It was providence, meant to be. Left specially for you."
Sure enough, I found a lonesome cane right outside my sleeper. It was basic, a hooked stick of unfinished pine with tan rubber tip, the sort hospitals might dispense for free, or so I guessed, noticing match-scratchings and butt-burns all up and down one side of it.
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Just after I told the lady I'd donate it to the Salvation Army when I finished with it, sirens began wailing down in the lot. Two paramedic wagons raced away to the interstate and I asked the olstess if someone was sick.
She sighed sadly. "Not in the legal sense." Then she went on to tell me a brother-sister team, pimp and whore, had toppled down the Ford Staircase from too much cheap wine.
I told the dainty curmudgeon I was always sorry to hear when anyone is hurt.
She crumpled up my disposable paper sheet, blowing her nose on it. "You sound like a Yankee. Huh, sonny?"
Freely, I admitted my home state. "I'm from Kansas."
"Well goodness gracious, I got a twin sister who lives in Kansas. Lenexa, I believe the place is called. Matter of fact, she was hotroddin' her Superstock Dodge through Georgia some time ago and helped find me this here employment. Ain't much, but work's hard to come by when you're a hyper-centenarian."
I told the geriatric sweetie that I also lived in Lenexa and asked what her sister's name was.
She told me that Florence Smith, her twin, was much prettier and smarter than she was. "And she's the most efficient librarian west of the Mississippi." The talkative nightmaid finally introduced herself as Betty Smith. "They call me B.S. for short." She ordered me to give Florence her regards and advised me not to dare forget about destiny and the grand scheme of things. I told her I wasn't sure I agreed with her, but to take care. As I turned toward the still disjointed door, she swung her mop and slapped the cane out from under me.
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"You sit right back down, sonny, while I give you a lessonage on destiny." Smiling crisply, she perched her weathered chin atop her midget mop handle. "See this here mop?"
I told her I was listening and sat down carefully on the naked bed.
She shook her little finger at me with gusto. "My sis' Florence calls this theory that covers everything 'MOP', for Mohla, Ohla, and Pohla. Now let's you and me start from the bottom up. Pohla's your personal conscious mind, Ohla's your own subconscious, and Mohla is our mass or collective subconscious."
I told her I'd heard the rhymatic lingo before. "Are you the Fela that Menachem mentioned?"
She got all flustered. "Why sonny, I know I ain't exactly no Jeannette Harlow, but do I really look like a fella?"
I apologized for the misunderstanding and told her to go on.
"Like I said, sure you heard of the terms before, on one subconcious level or another. MOP is simply POM spelled in reverse."
I tried to keep from yawning. "POM?"
"Primary Omnizoid of Materialization; and it's what brought you here to this place to learn more, not some silly old man in a robe."
I asked how she knew Menachem was old and wore a robe, but she evaded the issue with her own question, just like a seasoned politician. "Sonny, you ever have a question, desire, or need you'd been pondering and then all of sudden out of nowhere someone answers it for you without you askin'? Sure you have. Our Ohlaé, pluraél of Ohla, communicate in a timeless world all their own, via the collective Mohla, and, of course, our Ohla indirectly influences our Pohla. Your Ohla knew you'd be needin' a cane, so it talked it over with Mr. Bumphrey's Ohla. And Gola's Reohla, which just happens to include our Mohla, made the decision you'd be needin' the cane more'n Bumpy. So Bumpy's Ohla made his Pohla forget to take it with him and your Ohla talked to my Ohla via our Mohla which told my Ohla/Pohla to come right in here and tell you someone left that darn cane out there."
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I sort of understood and asked if Carl Jung didn't originate the idea of a collective subconscious
B.S. snarled. "Sure he did. But the silly ol' kraut thought it was just some kind of static memory passed on through the genes. He didn't know it was a living awareness, an ever changing consciousness."
When I told her the theory sounded plausible, she jabbed me in the shoulder with her damp mophead. "Darn straight it does, David!"
I asked her how she knew my name, and she said my Ohla had our Mohla tell her Ohla/Pohla to tell my Pohla. She returned my recently claimed cane and I asked if she was sure she didn't just look on the registration tablet down in the East Portico, or that Ména didn't send her.
Her reply was well-seasoned. "Oh double-fiddlesticks!"
I stood up, leaning heavily on the cane to get the feel of it, and told Betty she was too fragile to be working in the White House. "Ride with me to Boynton Beach and I'm sure you can find an easier, more lucrative position with one of my parents' wealthy friends."
She claimed she was happy at the place. "Sure I could use some extra gamblin' money, but I'd rather work for poor people that appreciate me than slave for the rich who like to look down on them that ain't so fortunate."
I walked towards the door, telling her I was sure some wealthy people were nice.
She said there were some. "Those few that share."
Strolling lopsidedly out into the beer-puddled hallway, I told Betty I'd tell her sister Florence she said hello.
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Finally, she started to mop my ex-Presidential Sleeper, but continued to talk. "If sister Florence ain't up at the library, you can find her cruisin' the back roads of Kansas in her brand-new neon casino on wheels - The Hound Dog. And what a magnificent machine the dog is." She cleared her throat. "So I hears anywho."
I promised to keep an eye out for it if she promised to take care of herself. After B.S. agreed, she told me to nickname my cane so I wouldn't forget it somewhere, then went back to work. Soberly, I limped out into and down the humid hall.
Betty poked her head out and bellowed for all to hear. "Hey, why not call your cane Moses, David?"
I waved and carefully descended both flights of the Ford Staircase, successfully. The cane helped greatly as I made my way over the gravel lot to mother's now-hubcapless Cadillac. I didn't bother reporting the theft to the police, figuring they had better things to do than search for inherently worthless wheel covers.
With my adopted cane Moses laid out lengthwise across the dash, I was back on the interstate and well away from the Atlanta suburbs, by about 3:00AM. I always liked driving at night. I had the road to myself; it wasn't lonely though. People were everywhere, sleeping.
I decided Betty's MOP theory might have some merit, inasmuch as Menachem had used the same terms and I held his wisdom in very high regard. Fela and her daughters mentioned the terms, too. But they were in a dream I had after visiting Menachem. All night I tried to remember Mr. Sam's Cosmic Flow Chart - but still couldn't.
Near dawn, crossing the SUNSHINE STATELINE, I entered the turnpike and the thought came to me that the twin-sisters Betty and Florence Smith were the same sweet soul. Certainly, whoever they were, when their humble times arrived, they'd have wonderful worlds reserved in Canaan.
end chap 7
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