DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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The Jury's Still Out

The Reverend Yung Sung Ghuune surveyed the crowd of thousands that had started to congregate around the Reflecting Pool. A number of people had spread out quilts and comforters in the grass, where they sprawled, ate fried chicken or hamburgers, and guzzled carbonated drinks. He hoped none of them were drinking beer. Musty smells of last year’s leaves still molding on the ground mixed with the greasy scents of chicken and popcorn wafted up to the podium, where the reverend inhaled them. Then, he felt power surge through him. Plus, the energy flowing from the eyes of audience members below also empowered him, even the energy flowing from the non-Unis. This evening, many of the people below weren’t Unis, he could tell from their eyes. The typical Americans who squinted toward the future, who scowled often and hated their brothers, sent an angry look with their eyes. That was good, though, because if his message intrigued them, they would watch the Unis and see how their eyes held life, hope, and belief in world peace and unification. Of course, he knew their eyes contained this message because he’d etched that vision into their brains’ electrodes with the semantics he carefully selected. Word choice held the key to almost everything. (And of course, he’d used harsher measures to create that look of gratitude in the tough cases.)

But word choice was paramount. For instance, last year, he’d strived to reach the John Birchers, the New Left, and Right-wingers who might have considered the Church “hocus-pocus.” He’d hit them with, “We will fight the evils of Communism,” and in a rich, full-throated voice, he’d declared, “Communism is a sham.” For weeks thereafter, hundreds of requests for Uni literature hit the headquarters, and even a complimentary letter from a former U.S. President, a strong Right-Winger, arrived.

“It is so refreshing,” the ex-President had written, ”to see a religious leader more concerned with protecting our nation from an escalating threat in in thumping citizens on the head with bibles to ‘save their souls.’ What better way to save a soul that to protect it from a creed that puts the state before the individual? You are to be commended most highly, Reverend Ghuune, for putting your country first in Uni hearts, and indeed, in the hearts of your countrymen.”

Indeed, the reverend was touched. He was even more touched by what the former President attached to his correspondence: a check for $25,000. Nonetheless, the reverend was not so naive to consider this an endorsement to carry on a Communist witch hunt, as a U.S. senator had done many years before. O no! That would not serve the Movement’s purpose. For the Movement must unite the world, he knew it. That was its raison d’etre, even in presently Communist countries.

And Yung, of course, headed the Movement. Thus, he realized, he’d become the Spiritual Father of the World. So this evening, he remembered his status and responsibility when he scanned the crowd that wavered in front of him. He watched it flicker with energy from thousands of people, these animalistic creatures who needed his guidance. They needed him as their captain to steer them to The Truth. Yes, it was good he’d drawn so many new faces. But he would not rest upon his laurels. Instead, he would remain continually diligent. He’d be continually on the lookout for words and ploys to draw new listeners. He knew the movement--like capitalism--must continue to expand or it would fold up into nothingness.

Suddenly, he spotted the auburn-haired woman who had written a feature for The Lines last fall. Somehow, she was down below with Francois LaSonde’s wife. The woman was both a reporter and a poet. Yung thought that was a suspicious combination, perhaps even schizophrenic. On the other hand, as he glanced at the woman, he noted how she, like Mrs. LaSonde, was very attractive. Even if attractive women sometimes unnerved him, he had also grown to realize how often, they could be more easily controlled than their less-gainly sisters, especially during middle age, when they became overly concerned about losing their looks and their sex appeal. Yunu had clued him in on that reality.

Many times, however, Mrs. LaSonde had unnerved him. It seemed the importance of his Treatise on Appearances had eluded her. In fact, she didn’t seem to heed it in the least. Yes, Mrs. LaSonde was definitely a problem, especially because her husband had become such an asset to The Lines, and thus, to the Movement. He scanned the crowd once more, and then, he glanced again at the group in the cherry grove, it seemed the poet had bent over someone on the ground, a woman with long, curly black hair. The reverend squinted. It was Mrs. LaSonde lying there. Why? he wondered, more shocked to see her attend one of his rallies than to discover her in a lateral position. He scratched the back of his left wrist and squinted again. Francois LaSonde had some explaining to do.

Interestingly, while these thoughts rushed through the reverend’s brains, Francois LaSonde and Ralph Rosen stepped onto the podium. The reverend relaxed his face into his standard smile and nodded at the men. They nodded back. He motioned for them to approach him. When they did, the reverend pressed one of his palms on Francois’s back and drew him closer. “Your wife is here,” he whispered and nodded in Lynette’s direction. By then, she had pulled herself up to a sitting position.

Francois said nothing at first. He looked into the reverend’s eyes. The reverend was certain Francois was searching for his response to Lynette’s surprise appearance. But the reverend knew how to keep his mind hidden. He merely stared at the editor, who now slipped his hands into the hip pockets of his white tuxedo. He seemed to stare at his buckskins. “I’ve been working on her, Reverend Father. Truly I have.”

“That is good,” the reverend replied. “Like the others who doubted me, she is likely coming around. But, remember, her frame of mind is now in a very vulnerable state. She needs you to guide her. And you must be subtle. Plus, you must remember to keep the Movement first. You cannot afford to fall into Satan’s romantic delusions--he could use your love for your wife to sway you from the Truth. After my speech, you go to her. You guide her spirit.”

Still staring at his shoes, Francois nodded. “Yes, Father. What words shall I give her?”

The Reverend Yung Sung Ghuune smiled. He felt energy flow from his eyes like lasers. He felt the power well up in him. “You will know what to say,” he replied. “Remember, center your thoughts on the Movement.”

The reverend turned from his editor and advertising representative, spread his arms wide, walked down-stage, and bowed to the crowd, which now whooped, whistled, and applauded. He grinned when he gripped the microphone. He cleared his throat before he drew the mike to his lips. “Welcome, children.”

Upstage behind the reverend, Francois shuffled with Ralph back to the group of white-tuxedoed staffers. He glanced once more in the direction of the cherry grove then looked back at Ralph. “Father saw her,” he whispered. “We truly must trail her now. I’ll put Miss Fieldspot on double-duty. And perhaps we can hire an assistant for her.”

Ralph wrinkled his brow. “Why?”

“It’s possible that she’s coming around to the Uni way.” Francois sighed and shook his head. “But she might be up to something.” He sighed again and looked back at the crowd. “O my pigeon, why are you so stubborn?” he said to the wind then he glanced at Ralph. Because Ralph refused to put a tracer on his wife, then, he, Francois, had done so. Miss Fieldspot had been tailing them both. Obviously, Shirley had been a bad influence on his sweet pigeon.

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