DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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Blazing a Trail, Maybe

While strolling through the art stacks, Lynette noted a title, David by the Blind Michelangelo. She smiled, deciding that the book must support rumors about Michelangelo’s homosexuality: If he were blind when he sculpted David, certainly his sense of touch was more acute—and he would have needed to be well-acquainted with the contours of a young man’s physique. But she’d never read any article or feature about the sculptor’s blindness and wondered how that fact could have eluded her. She stopped, spun around, and returned to the book. Then she laughed. Apparently, she was the blind artist. Light reflecting off the book jacket had distorted the letters in the title the first time she spotted it. The title was actually David by the Hand of Michelangelo. She sighed. So much for theories. A times like these, she wondered if she’d become more than a little paranoid. The idea that the reverend had changed Francois into a homosexual had often come into her mind. Before joining the Movement, her husband had almost always initiated the physical contact between the two of them. No more. Then, today, she noticed that his wrists flopped limply while he talked.

She finally found the pottery books she sought, pulled one out, and flipped through its pages. She licked her lips and drew her fingers through her hair while she studied each photo. She’d decided the hollow structure she’d sculpt to encase the volatile chemicals had to be spectacular. It also had to appear to be an innocuous work of art. She grinned. Perhaps she’d mold it into a vase with erotic scenes that emulated Buddhist reliefs of men wooing women with enlarged breasts and genitals, scenes that Eastern mystics had carved three-thousand years ago. Then, she reconsidered: If the piece were that overtly sexual, the Unies wouldn’t allow it into the building. Getting past the gates, even with Sophia’s press card, had been arduous enough. Plus, she had to inform Francois she was in the city, which deviated from her plan.

She and Sophia had accompanied Shirley to The Lines headquarters, where they’d confronted the nasty receptionist who’d earlier denied Shirley entry to Ralph’s office.

“You can’t see them!” the receptionist had snapped and crossed both her arms and her legs. “They’re not in.”

Lynette crossed her arms, too. “When will they return?”

“I have no idea.” The receptionist wriggled her nose, then turned away from the three women and stared at her computer monitor. Lynette saw the receptionist’s irises and pupils morph into the same faraway focus—the glazed stare—of the other Unis. Although the last time Lynette had seen Francois, he hadn’t yet succumbed to the standard Uni facial expression, she worried that his eyes might have changed within the past three months. Certainly, the tone of his voice was different when she’d last talked with him, merely the week before. It sounded as hollow and distant as the Uni stare appeared. It was as if he’d focused on something—or someone—else when he’d talked. And he didn’t call her “flower” or “pigeon” even once.

“You may leave a message,” the receptionist had rattled in a monotone.

“We’ve left messages for them all morning,” Shirley snapped, spraying Lynette with spit. “And Ralph always calls me back. I’m his wife.”

The receptionist turned stiffly and glared at Shirley. “Did Father select you for him?”

Shirley’s chest swelled. She squinted, and her face pulsed red. Lynette stretched to cover her friend’s mouth, but was too late. Shirley popped out, “No!”

The receptionist grimaced. “Then you are not truly a Blessed couple.” Her voice was clipped.

“What do you know, you little bit—?” Lynette smothered Shirley’s mouth, wrapped an arm around her, and swooped her back from the counter. While she shuttled her back into the lobby, Sophia distracted the receptionist by flashing her press card and explaining about her meeting with Francois for the feature.

“Hush, now. You’ll give us away.” Lynette whispered.

Shirley kept sputtering, and Lynette knew her words would draw stares. Finally, she calmed her friend by suggesting the two of them investigate the building’s structure. “ After all, that’s how we’ll get back at the biased imbeciles. Perhaps another hallway leads into their offices,” she speculated. “Most of the buildings in this city sit over underground passage-ways that form a network across the entire Metro DC. Francois told me so.”

With Lynette leading, the two women began their search. They twisted doorknobs on offices, and searched for stairwells, but they could find no other passages into the office except for the front entry-way that the receptionist guarded. After scouting around for about fifteen minutes, they returned into the reception area and met up with Sophia.

There, Shirley became defiant again. “I’m staying right here,” she said and crossed her arms, “until Ralph returns.” She glared at the receptionist, who again focused on her computer screen.

“Please be seated in the lobby,” the receptionist said without looking away from the monitor.

“I will wait here—or at his desk!”

“That is impossible, M’am. We don’t—”

“No, it isn’t!” Shirley’s face festered red again, and Lynette grabbed her right arm, Sophia her left, and together, they toted a screaming, quivering Shirley back into the lobby.

“Hush, now,” Sophia whispered. “Don’t make a scene. You’ll come back with me later when I talk with Francois.” She rubbed Shirley’s neck.

Lynette dabbed Shirley’s forehead with a handkerchief and suggested they go shopping again—or at least, walk around outside. But Shirley insisted she remain in the building to wait for her husband. That was when she and Sophia decided their time would be better spent in the library, where they could research anonymously and plan the attack.

After all the hassle, Lynette now worried that by the time they organized their plan, it might be too late. Perhaps by then, Francois would be beyond salvation. With that fear spurring her onward, she flipped faster through the pages of sculpture and pottery books. She’d gone through three of them and was about to give up—nothing she saw seemed to inspire her creation, when she saw a strange book on a table.

Its red cover and photograph drew her attention, as did its title: Mushrooms of North America. She picked it up, thumbed through it, and sighed. It reminded her of the French-spiced mushrooms Francois had often saute-ed for their breakfasts. The vegetables’ shapes had always intrigued her. She considered them erotic. She ran her fingers over the cover then thumbed through a few pages and stopped at the photo of a bright, red fungus with white warts. “Amanita Muscaria,” she read aloud. She stared at the globe-shaped plant with the tall stem for a long while. That was it, she decided. The bomb’s casing would be a sculpture of a giant Amanita Muscaria.

As she whirled around to search for Sophia and show her the amazing find, she saw Miss Fieldspot poking her nose into stacks about fifteen feet away. Lynette ground her teeth and shivered. Did the woman have a clone? She wondered, then she closed her eyes a few seconds, and drew in a long breath. When she opened them, miraculously, the librarian had vanished. For a few minutes, Lynette wondered if she had been hallucinating the snoopy woman with the horn-rimmed glasses and knot of gray hair on the top of her head. Perhaps the stress of being separated from Francois was finally getting to her. Perhaps she was indeed losing her mind—or perhaps, at the least, she was undergoing a merely mediocre nervous breakdown. She inhaled deeply again, then searched through the stacks for Sophia. When she also noticed that Fieldspot was nowhere in the library, goose bumps popped up on her nape. She wondered again how the librarian could appear and disappear so rapidly—and so completely. Thus, although Lynette smiled when she found Sophia and showed her the Amanita Muscaria, she felt as if she were on the verge of tears. It took all of her energy to keep her wrists steady as she pointed to the mushroom inside the book.

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