DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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In a Field Far Away

The Reverend Yung Sung Ghuune was a man with a vision. In fact, he’d had two of them. One had been induced by whiffs of poppy fumes. But the other, he was sure, was not. It was certainly from God, he contended. Born in 1920 in the tiny, khaki-green and soggy, rural province of Pyungan, Bukedo, the reverend wandered rice paddies as a boy, and like other young Taoists seeking life’s meaning, he poked into bamboo shoots to watch slugs mate and pulled off grasshopper legs to watch the insects struggle to hop without their crucial appendages. But little Yung was not just a run-of-the-mill Taoist: Although his ancestors consisted primarily of Taoists—with a few rebellious Confucians and Buddhists, the reverend’s parents had converted to Presbyterianism. From the time he was seven, little Yung trekked with his parents to the rickety, thatched church where a soft-spoken minister with a bald spot in the middle of his crown, warned the bedraggled Koreans of the nature of sin, but also spoke of the love that could redeem them.

Indeed, that was little Yung’s first introduction to Jesus the Christ.

Little Yung thought he’d met Him again on an Easter Sunday, shortly after the young Korean had masturbated with a bamboo shoot when he’d fantasized images of his young, curvy English teacher beckoning him onto her straw mattress. At that time, sixteen-year-old Yung lay back on the soggy paddies and exhaled loudly into the wind. He smelled the sweet essence of poppies that blew in from the north. While the flowers’ perfume wove through his neurons, little Yung saw a Vision of Jesus floating down on a cloud. He recognized the Son of God from an illustration in the Bible his father and mother had received as a gift from the bald-headed minister. But Yung’s vision varied a bit from the illustration. Although the face and beard emulated the drawing in the Bible, the Jesus in Yung’s vision wore a full-length white, perhaps linen, robe with long red, blue and violet streamers attached to its shoulders. And the skin of the Jesus in Yung’s vision had a blue cast to it. Yung wondered if the holy man might be cold.

High-pitched, off-key voices created a cacophonic sound with lyrics that sounded akin to “Hallelujah.” The sound was too loud. In fact, it blasted against Yung’s ears while the cloud hovered just above the rice fields. Jesus danced upon the cloud, streamers flying into whirling rainbows.

Indeed, Yung was awed by this. Quickly stuffing his penis into his pants--a pair of American-made, denim jeans that the Presbyterian minister had given him—little Yung then jammed the zipper on the fly while he gaped at Jesus twirling. Then, the young Korean blushed. His yellowish face glowed orange, and sweat exploded from the large pores in his chubby neck. Not knowing how else to respond to the Vision, Yung bowed, thereby covering the mishap below his waist. “Forgive me, Master,” he squeaked in a high-pitched voice that had lagged behind his other organs in their chase toward manhood.

The Jesus of Yung’s vision stopped whirling and stomped his right foot. He frowned. “You, Yung Sung Ghuune, Have been called by your Lord into service.” The Vision’s voice, resembling a reverberating gong, echoed authority.

Yung jerked and stood erect. “Me?” he squeaked.

The Vision nodded.

“B-b-but, wh-what,” Yung stammered, “can I do?”

With his bluish fingers, the Jesus of the Vision rubbed his beard. “As you’ve already read in Revelation.” He hesitated and squinted at Yung, who was far behind in his Bible readings. Then the Vision cleared his throat. “I’m coming back to this planet. And I need you to prep it for me, see, much like John the B. did, you know, the first time.” The Vision began twirling again.

Yung still gaped and fumbled with his fly. His fingers cramped while he tried to give the Vision his full attention. But of course, he couldn’t. Then, the sweat on his neck gushed into rivulets as he tugged the persnickety metal guide. He tried backing it up on the runner, but it refused to budge. Besides, the young Korean was also addled by the Vision’s words. Why would the Lord pick him, a Korean convert, for missionary work? And why would He come to him now, at all times? The Presbyterian minister had arranged a scholarship for Yung to attend a university in the United States. The young Korean had planned to study electrical engineering, an auspicious field. After all, Yung’s main ambition was to find a pretty wife with whom he could grow rich and have sex. Surely, the Vision knew that. Now, why was the Lord trying to mess up Yung’s agenda for happiness?

With his fingers till fidgeting, Yung gawked at the Vision. “What exactly, Lord, do you want me to do?” While the words nearly jammed in his throat, the Korean’s voice trilled almost into nothingness.

The Vision quit dancing and stared at Yung. “You will be Lord of the Second Advent.” His voice and face were solemn. He didn’t move, and He spoke and stared without expression.

Yung quit fiddling with his zipper and stared at the Vision. He knit his dark brows and threw the holy man the blankest expression he could muster.

The Vision sighed. “That means, Yung, it is your duty to restore the Kingdom of God upon earth.”

Yung nearly fell face-first into the paddies. Kingdom of Heaven on earth? Such an order. He had neither an idea what the Vision meant, nor one about how he could manage the request. Nonetheless, he said nothing, but just kept staring at the Vision. Then, just as Yung was about to cough up a high-pitched, “How?” the Vision levitated into the clouds, rising with the speed of a UFO. Staring at the cloud carrying the holy man, who’d resumed his dance, Yung lifted his right hand to salute, then changed his mind and waved. Afterwards, he sighed deeply. Well, Yung thought, if Jesus can’t provide more direction than that, He can’t hold me responsible for failing to carry-out orders. Then the young Korean looked lovingly at the bamboo shoot and resumed his previous activities.

Two year later, Yung attended the University of California at Berkeley on a scholarship and had become a normal engineering student. That is, until his senior year. Then, the Vision began reappearing in his dreams about twice a month. Under his sheets, Yung would thrash, awake in a cold sweat, and then lie awake hours. Each time the Vision popped up, Yung couldn’t understand why—or what exactly He wanted. Nor could he understand why the Vision would appear in his dreams—whirling dervish-like—precisely two days before a tough exam. Yung worried about flunking out. In fact, he’d worried himself almost into a nervous breakdown—the cuticles around his fingernails bled from his gnawing on them, and his hair had been dropping out by the handfuls. In fact, Yung had grown nearly as bald as the Presbyterian minister who’d helped the Korean procure the scholarship.

Finally, one day, when Yung was toddling off to town to buy a toupee so he wouldn’t repulse the co-eds he avidly pursued, the Vision appeared in his path. It was the first time he’d seen the Vision during the day since the day long before in the rice paddies.

That day, the Vision didn’t dance. He stood, arms crossed, jaw tucked in firmly, and He spoke without smiling. When He squinted, He shot a laser-like light into Yung’s chest. The hot light stunned him.

“You know your mission, Yung. Why have you been trying to cop out?”

The Korean shrugged then stared at his belt buckle. He wished he were naked so he could contemplate his navel before dealing again with the Vision. Finally, with eyes half-mast, Yung looked back at the holy man. “Jeez, I need this degree before anyone will listen to me.” He knit together his brows. “How can I do what you need if I can’t get a decent-paying job?”

The Vision rolled His eyes and shook His head. “O ye of little faith.” He sighed.

“My GPA’s sliding,” Yung squeaked. The words caught in his throat and swelled his neck till the pain brought tears. “I’ll flunk out.”

The Vision sighed loudly again. “I see. Time for ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ right?”

Yung trembled. “I . . . I guess.”

“Gotcha.” The Vision crossed his arms. “Okay, I’ll send you answers telepathically to spin you through finals. In exchange, I get a commitment date.”

Yung’s throat relaxed, he quit trembling, and smiled. “And grad school?”

The Vision pursed his lips. “You should be in business school.” He sighed again. “Okay. I’ll toss in grad school—with an ‘A’ GPA even. But today, we set a date for your ministry to start. And there will be no reneging, or you won’t like what happens.”

Yung nodded, and the Vision produced a contract specifying that he would start his ministry during his twenty-sixth year. Yung had few qualms about that. He figured by then, he’d have had a chance to work a couple of years and save for his era of frugal preaching, maybe slap a down-payment on a ranch-style, California house and pay half the mortgage. He calculated away, then signed the paper. Suddenly, he shot the Vision a perplexed look—in fact, his eyebrows merged into one wavering line across his forehead. “What exactly,” he asked, “do you want me to say?”

The Vision grinned. Casting a glance toward the lower stratosphere, He rubbed His beard, then a stare from his glowing eyes bored into Yung. Yung’s chest warmed. “Tell folks that Dad goofed—well, don’t say that exactly. Tell them, though, that I wasn’t meant to die. Satan merely sneaked in while Abba was napping. Actually, I was born to get married and raise a fine Jewish family. So when I return, that’s what I’m going to do.” The holy man grinned again.

Yung gawked, knotted both fists, rubbed his eyes, and trembled. “Tell them what?”

Nonetheless, Yung had signed on the line, albeit not with his blood, although it might as well have been. His devout parents had taught him to never back out of a commitment, especially a written one. And especially to supernatural beings. So, once he finished graduate school, Yung started preaching. He averred Jesus was returning to live on earth as a happy papa, and that God’s purpose had been from the beginning to unite all humankind into marriages so folks could procreate. Thus, marriage was not only a union with a mate, but with God. Hmmm, it has a nice ring to it, Yung often thought. Then, things got hairy.

Korean officials and the Christian churches posted in Korea during 1946 weren’t exactly prepared for Yung’s prophecies. So one rainy night, when heavy fog hugged the brushes, Korean police arrested Yung as he preached to rag-wrapped beggars who’d clapped, roared, and howled on a Seoul street corner. Thus, afterwards, Yung labored eight years in concentration camps. Then the Korean government became involved with the war. After his oppressors let up, he founded the Uni Movement in May 1952. With the war tying up state officials, they ignored Yung. But the press didn’t. And how Yung loved the fourth estate.

Flashing cameras energized him: he preached flowing messages, and for some reason, his voice no longer squeaked. “God intended us for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth,” Yung proclaimed, “and not solely for a future existence in some heavenly sphere.”

Suddenly, it seemed everyone flocked to his rallies, including a delicate, black-eyed girl with long hair and breasts the size of mangos, who caught his eye. Her name was Yunu. After he’d convinced her that God had told him to wed her, they married, and she began writing his sermons. By 1959, the movement spread to the freedom-of-religion paradigms, the Americans in the United States.

By that time, Yung’s original prophecies, edited by Yunu, had expanded to enough principles to fill a pamphlet. No, the Vision hadn’t returned to him. Nonetheless, Yung figured he could add a few lines here and there that he thought sounded good for an interesting religious platform. He was also a bit peeved that no matter how long and hard he’d prayed as he’d tilled the soil in the filthy concentration camp, the Vision had never landed His cloud there.

In fact, one night, Yung had cried and sweated for more than an hour. He’d wrung his hands and fell prostrate near a pile of simmering cinders at the edge of the camp. But he’d received no answer--no vision, not even a still, soft voice from the sky.

“Lord, Lord,” he’d pleaded. “Rescue me. Deliver me from this suffering.” Then he’d coughed after inhaling bits of ash flying from the burning pile. And he didn’t smell the sweet scent of a lotus that accompanied the Vision’s appearances. Instead, the odor of scorched rice and rotted potatoes filled his nostrils. He coughed again. That night, Yung had felt so abandoned, he’d nearly abandoned his mission.

But the next day, two prisoners bowed when Yung strolled past them. Yung nodded and walked on. Then, with their rags and long beards flying, the two men scurried after him and held out bowls of rice, extra servings they’d stolen from a sleepy guard. “Take our offering,” they’d cried. “Take this, o Man of God!” Yung stopped and turned around. The two bedraggled prisoners fell to their knees and placed the rice bowls in front of them. “O Holy One, take all we have to give,” they’d said in unison, their blackened teeth rattling.

Yung grew to like this new identity in the camp—it made him feel cuddly inside—and he began writing his religious creed. He sat at a wobbly table and swatted at the lice on his straw mat. “If it was good enough for Paul,” he’d muttered, “it’s good enough for me.” And thus, he scribbled his ideas, and he hoped he’d centered them on the Vision’s wishes. During his prison stay, he’d written more than a hundred pages. But after his release, he’d found little time to jot down more thoughts: He met Yunu. And Yunu had studied political science at the university in Seoul. Her insights, he figured, might help him develop his theories.

Late one night, when Yung sat in his study and tried to put together his pamphlet, he stopped and watched a spider weave a castle in corner. He’d been struggling for more than three hours. He wished he could work as diligently as the arachnid. Her non-stop weaving frustrated him. Yung twitched his nose, sipped yucca water, and scratched his head. Then glanced across the room at Yunu, who sat, lotus position, on a couch and read an English translation of The Prince. She seemed engrossed in it.

“Yunu,” he called. “What shall I do about sex?”

She blinked then lifted her almond-shaped eyelids slowly. “You need it again? Three times a day is not sufficient?”

Actually, Yung hadn’t considered the double-entendre he’d just blurted out. But when Yunu raised her eyelids so sexily and seductively shifted her weight from one delicately curved hip to the other, it turned him on.

Afterwards, when he lay and watched Yunu slide her sleek calves into cotton slacks, Yung said, “When I asked about sex, I was actually wondering what rules we should instigate for The Devout Principality.”

Yunu shook her head and stifled a laugh. “You never miss an opportunity.” She smiled. “But that is a good trait for a leader.” Looking at him, she tilted her head to her right. “Why do you want to bring in sex?”

Yung drew together his eyebrows. “Well, uh, all religions talk about it.”

She shook her head again. “Yes. Everybody wants sex. All the men, all the women, all the time. Now—how will you use this—this animal urge?”

“Huh?”

Pursing her lips, she went on. “We must use it. You have relied upon Fortune for your religious success. So far, fortune has been kind. And people like you because you are a ‘nice guy’ and not too . . .” She paused and looked over Yung’s moon-shaped face and bulbous belly. “You are not, uh, overly-handsome, not like some pretty boy movie star. This makes the average man identify with you.”

Yung stared at his navel, which sat like sinkhole collecting sweaty lint in his mound of flesh. He picked out the lint and sniffed it. It smelled like curdled milk. He sighed. Even his wife did not think him handsome. Some day, he thought, all women would revere his body. After all, he was built like Buddha.

Yunu seemed to see his disappointment: when she continued, her honey sweet voice grew even softer. “Macchiavelli says, ‘He who depends least upon Fortune sustains himself longest.’ Yung, it is time you used your mind to build your religion, your state.”

When Yunu spoke such language, Yung became perplexed. First of all, he’d had no plans to build a religion—or a state—for that matter. He was just trying to fulfill his part of a bargain, to be a spokesman. But he realized then he couldn’t tell Yunu that. She had big plans for him, and she’d set up a vision about moving to America, to California at that. He knew they’d have to build a solvent congregation before they could afford such a move. So Yung said nothing.

Yunu ran a finger across Yung’s belly. “Now, think: How can you use man’s insatiable drive?”

He coughed then glanced from his belly back to Yunu. “Offer him women if he brings in more money, more members?”

“Perhaps.” Yunu frowned. “But you need to put him under your power. How might you do that?”

Yung shrugged.

“Why not restrict sex? That will make him want it more. That will force him to focus upon pleasing you—and the church—instead of some woman, right?”

Yung smiled. Perhaps his wise wife had something here. Power. He liked the word. It had a nice ring to it. It, too, made him feel cuddly inside.



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