The dug-up video had trended across the political hashtag spectrum for two whole days, and from there the story rolled, expectedly through the news with a refreshed vigor. Before the end of that week, Joseph had organized two more rallies; one in Mississippi, and one in East Texas. More and more, I felt my responsibilities as campaign manager fade away, but it seemed like Joseph was attempting to keep me in the loop nonetheless.
That Thursday, we departed the gates, pushing aside the crowd at the entrance of the Pastor’s manor with the help of the local sheriff. It was much like Tallahassee, with the family and the man in the big RV, and me trailing behind in my own car. Let me add that this particular journey was one of my first time out of my home state, save a high-school trip to Washington D.C. one year. Watching the back of the gaudy RV and its novelty license plate in front of me for much of the journey offered to me the revelation that had been building up inside me for some time; I was being led into the unknown, tailing something massive and ridiculous. Even more than that, there was no hope in turning back at that point.
After a few stops and several hours later, we arrived in the town where the rally was going to be held. It was fairly late when we finally settled in a place that would allow us to park the massive RV, and by that time, I realized that neither myself nor the family had put thought into where I was going to sleep. With no other apparent and cheap options, I made due in the back seat of my car that night. At the very least, they offered to let me use the shower in the RV the next morning.
The venue there in the medium-sized Mississippi town was a high-school football stadium. I had heard mumblings of Joseph practicing parts of a speech all that morning. At that same time, I managed to apply myself in researching the area’s demographics and economic standings so to provide a list of talking points for the Pastor- not that he chose to use them that afternoon. Instead, he chose to parade the presence of his trump card around, speak in bible verses, and praising the heavens. The crowd ate it up as expected, and we left with likely a good amount of new votes in our favor. Despite a few strange looks my way from some of the staff and attendees, I felt like the whole event went well.
In the times in between traveling, I caught Joseph conversing and confiding with the man. Let me go into detail- since that man’s arrival… unto us, he had not changed clothes, bathed, eaten, or likely slept, based on what I had seen. Even if this meant what Joseph and the others believed was true, it didn’t make me any less wary of him. The man spoke simply and yet fluently, although he seemed more content with listening most times. Wherever he was or whatever he was doing, I had yet found the charity to feel at ease around him the way the others did.
Despite Joseph’s assurance in both the campaign and the man, after the rally that weekend I began to suspect Joseph of being stuck silently in a moral bind. While the man’s true nature us was still something I had yet to be able to explain, no more divine- flashy, you might say- feats had been attempted by him. While something of the sort might have cemented the man as who he was claimed to be, I believed that Joseph was avoiding asking him to do such things for the crowds. Whether out of respect for the holy figure, or respect for his own faith, it was impossible to tell. Neither did the man confront me about my asking of him to turn water into wine.
That Saturday afternoon, we departed for the even longer journey to East Texas, not far from Houston. After the long haul and unnecessary strain on my again car, I was relieved to find that we had lodging arranged for us that night. At the same time, I was surprised to find that it was inside what could only be called a ‘megachurch,’ the likes of which I had only heard about in biting news reports on their questionable altruistic nature. Not unforeseen at that point was that the individual that had invited us was none other than the head pastor, a white man by the name of Peter Sim.
It seemed as if our host foresaw our exact time off arrival that night, although looking back it was likely the Pastor or his wife calling ahead. He was greeting the family outside the RV by the time I had jumped out of my car after them. It wasn’t long before he was knelt before the man, speaking lowly and kissing the man’s hands. I replaced such images in my head by taking in the church, it being as massive and as lavish as I expected. We were soon allowed to move to our rooms for the night inside of the church itself. They were dorm-style, but I was allowed my own space. In the one next door was the family, with the man himself of course.
The second morning church service the next day was partially dedicated to Joseph and the campaign. We were backstage while Pastor Sim went about what was likely his normal introduction, including passing around baskets that became quickly laden with tithes. Although I had no previous experience with the particular service, I felt it building toward introducing Joseph.
“You all are versed in the power of Jesus, and I know all you folk praise his presence every day. And you may have heard the news of his presence coming ever closer to us. You may have heard the name of the man who has facilitated that proximity, the intimate closeness of his graces. That man hopes to take that grace he has earned and use it to make this country- the United States of America- into the greatest country in the world, just as it should be- blessed by God himself. And today, I have brought that man- Joseph Cummings- here, and with him, the Son, in flesh and bone.”
The vast pews of people around the shiny wood of the center stage clapped and hummed with excitement. Joseph and the man pushed past the curtain and out to Pastor Sim. Joseph waived out to the crowd and took a stand beside the podium. He had no notes or direction from me at that point, as he was ready to say the same things he had already said plenty of times before.
After nearly a half-hour of grandstanding, introducing his wife and daughter, parading his holiness, and passing messages of hope, faith, and defeating the political opposition, Pastor Sim and Joseph began to wind down the service. I sneaked out early and went back to grab my phone charger from my car in the far back lot next to the RV. To my surprise, though, two dark sedans with tinted windows were parked to either side of the long vehicle. A man stepped out as I approached. I held still as more exited the cars, effectively keeping me from coming any closer.
“State your identity.” The first man, in dark suit and sunglasses, called out to me. I looked back for the door which had closed behind me.
“You’re not security with the church, are you?”
“No, sir, we’re with the secret service. I need to confirm your identity, now.”