DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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Running from the Trail, Maybe

A poster of the same fat Asian man who waved at crowds in the poster dominating the decor of the campus office where Rich had hid Cavale also hung over a banister in the sparsely decorated communal house, a two-story colonial on the edge of the town. The man seemed to be suddenly ubiquitous. In fact, Cavale noticed that the house’s decor seemed to center around the funny-looking Asian man. Along with posters, several photographs of the man and a large family appeared on the living room mantle, on tables in the dining and living rooms, on a kitchen counter, and on dressers and chests of drawers in each of the bedrooms. Obviously, the residents were living frugally with huge, plywood spools, some still wrapped with cable wire, serving as coffee tables and concrete bricks wedged between two by four’s for bookcases, and thin, threadbare curtains. Nonetheless, expensive frames encased each of the photos, which sat on crocheted doilies. Here and there, printed quotations, such as “Give no thought to the past,” “Be Blessed,” and “Tomorrow will take care of itself” festooned the refrigerator and walls. Each quote contained a byline from the Reverend Yung Sung Ghuune. Cavale assumed he must be the man in the photo and decided the household must be some sort of shrine to him. It spooked her a bit, but not so much she felt like leaving.

Instead, she sipped orange juice while she sat cross-legged on a rag rug with frayed edges and stared out a window. The huge fields and gray skies created a scene similar to that on Jason’s farm, but this setting smelled far more intriguing. She could barely smell the alfalfa, which had started to annoy her, because strong scents of curry, Patchouli oil, and sandlewood incense wafted throughout the place. Even the white tapers Rich had lit emitted an exotic, foreign odor.

She rapped her fingers on one of her thighs and shifted her weight from one hip to the other. At least, here she didn’t feel quite as on edge as she had at the farm house. There, too often she felt as if she were being watched by some surveillance camera. Then, after the interlude with Jason, living there had become almost as uncomfortable as living with her aunt. Here, at least for the moment, she felt relaxed. It didn’t matter what anyone thought of her. Of course, at present, only Rich and she occupied the household.

“What’s ya staring at, Beautiful?” Rich quipped and bounced across the creaking floor. Cavale had noticed how Rich didn’t truly walk anywhere, he sprang. She wondered what gave him so much energy, and she also worried that he might be trying to put the moves on her, too. Now, he slid his fingers around the glass of orange juice, pulled it away from her and sipped from it. “Thanks. Hope you don’t mind sharing. We do that a lot here. What out there intrigued you so much?”

She shrugged, glanced at him then looked back outside. “Me? Nothing. The trees. The street. The sky. The horizon. A few birds. Nothing.”

“You’re right. They—and everything in this physical, material world—are nothing, meaningless, compared to our mission.”

She looked back at him and squinted. His pupils widened as he stared at her, then beyond her, as if he were focusing on the banister behind and above her head. Then, Rich grinned.

“Our kingdom is within.” He drew his hands to his chest.

Cavale exhaled loudly then shrugged. “Sounds like Sunday School.” She sighed again. “I meant there’s nothing out there—in particular—that I was staring at.”

Rich touched one of her cheeks. “Please don’t take offense. You looked so enchanted, so enthralled, that I thought you were having ‘Sunday School’ sort of thoughts. Mystical, you know?”

Cavale tossed back her head and laughed. “Mystical? In Sunday School? Not in any church I’ve attended. Everyone there seemed pretty locked into the material world, especially the preacher when he passed around the basket. And the regular church-goers, you know, the singers, the organists, seemed so caught up in gossip and jealousy, the whole church idea just turned me off.”

“So it wasn’t a very spiritual experience?”

“Not at all.” Cavale frowned. “Why? What does it matter?”

“Oh, it matters so much.” He frowned. It was the first time Cavale had seen him frown. “It’s so sad that so many American religions leave people feeling that way. Perhaps you haven’t found the right one?”

“I don’t think that’s it.” Cavale shrugged. “Probably, it’s that I’m not cut out for this small town or pastoral life. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if even Manhattan’s a bit small. It does have a college, and I mean, I hated living with my aunt. But Boulder does have a lot more going on.”

“It’s more cosmopolitan, I’m sure.” Rich sat on the floor just in front of her. “I’ve lived around here all my life. And I was pretty bored—until I joined the Movement. Now, my life has a purpose.”

Cavale shrugged. “I might be more of a city girl.”

“You like cities?”

She nodded. “Absolutely.” She smiled but didn’t look at him.

“Big cities?”

“Absolutely.”

“New York?”

She sighed. “Haven’t been there. But I’ve read about it so much in magazines and seen it as the backdrop in TV shows and movies, it’s as if I’ve visited it. The place sounds exciting.”

“Washington D.C.?”

She sighed again. “I’d like to see it some day—the Smithsonian, the Capitol building, the White House, all that.”

Rich stretched out his arms, knotted his fists then released them. “We’re holding our convention there next March.” He grinned broadly. “And some of us are gathering there for a special announcement the Holy Father will make in about a week.”

Cavale looked back at him. For the first time, she noticed his right eyebrow was higher than his left. Definitely right-brained, she thought. Perhaps he was a singer. She smiled. “So?”

“It’d be cool if you’d come.”

“I see. I join up and I get a free trip to D.C.?” She grimaced. “Or do I have to pay for it, too?”

“Well.” Rich pursed his lips. “Not quite. I mean, to join the Universality Church, you’d have to commit yourself to the cause—and give up your worldly possessions and life style.”

She laughed again. “I have no possessions, except for what I’m wearing and what’s in my bag.” She hadn’t told him about her savings, and certainly, she decided, he didn’t need to know about her finances now. She looked back at him. “But I’m not sure about this life style change.”

“You’re wise to consider everything.” Rich smiled and rubbed one of her forearms. “Actually, each of us may bring a guest, a person who isn’t a member but is interested in our religion. You could ride in with us next week to see what you think about The Reverend and the World-Saver Movement.”

“Ah ha.” Cavale leaned back against one of spool coffee tables. “I’ll give it some thought. But next week is too early.” She smiled. “I’ll think about the March convention, though. A lot can happen in five months.”

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