DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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Outside the Loop

Even if Cavale had been more than a bit intrigued by Oshi To, she was relieved that she didn’t meet his father. After hearing the reverend’s speech, Cavale wanted to hurry back to her hotel room and leave the state. The Reverend had disappointed her immensely, especially after Rich and Pearl had raved so much about the man. His rhetoric hadn’t impressed her, either. In fact, after seeing him, she wondered how anyone would consider him charismatic. She also worried about Rich, Pearl, and the others back at the commune—they were such warm, kind kids. But it appeared they’d become snared into a cult. And the reverend was hardly anyone’s Holy Father. A white tuxedo and Cadillac? His followers had contributed all their money for him to live like a king, and they had to work long hours and watch their pennies just to make ends meet. What a charlatan that pig was.

“What are you thinking, Beautiful?” Rich, obviously exhilarated by the sermon, bounced more energetically than usual. “I’ll be glad when we find out why your old friend was there. And I wish you could’ve met the Holy Father. Isn’t he radiant?”

Not wanting to hurt his feelings, Cavale pointed to the North Star. “Look. The night’s so clear. You can see Polaris. Did you know the slaves used it as a marker when they escaped to the north? In fact, the name of one of the nineteenth-century abolitionists’ underground newspapers was The North Star.”

Rich said nothing but looked up at the star.

“Now, that’s radiant,” Cavale continued. “Imagine how bright these stars would be if there were no lights down here.”

“It’s still early. It might be darker later.” Rich said nothing for a while then asked, “Do you want to stop for coffee?” When Rich took her hand, she withdrew it.

“I’m tired.” Cavale sighed. “And I think I need time alone.” She also wanted to read her Tarot cards again, especially after tonight’s disappointment. Not only did the reverend disappoint her, but she’d begun to resent him for the way he defrauded so many teens. And she didn’t let want Rich to know she was reading cards, especially after her encounter with Pearl.

About a month before the Unification Convention, Cavale had tried to connect with the spiritual world by engaging in reading cards. One night, when the Kansas wind blowing in through the open window felt good against her cheeks, and she felt a strange sense of excitement in the air, she’d sat cross-legged on the quilt covering her bed. In front of her, rows of Tarot cards were spread out in a Celtic cross. She kept getting The Hanged Man at the center of the spread and she couldn’t figure out why. Was it Jason? she wondered. Rich? She considered that the card could represent herself, too. Or perhaps, she reconsidered, the Reverend Ghuune. Pearl had described the old Korean as having a strange, bright aura around him, a strange, other-worldly light. But Cavale hadn’t perceived any such auras in the photographs she’d seen of the old man. In fact, she considered him a tad sloppy-looking. And no way could she see him emanating love. So perhaps the Korean preacher was a Hanged Man—a man whose words she couldn’t trust.

What’s more, she wondered how anyone could send out love vibrations. Once, she’d believed a boy who claimed he loved her. But the energy he sent was the same as many men later sent to her, the same energy Jason had emitted. She’d come to realize that such energy wasn’t love, not her vision of love anyway. She’d also come to wonder if talk of love weren’t merely a lot of hype. She wasn’t sure true, unselfish love existed anyway, except perhaps between a parent and a child. On the other hand, perhaps that wasn’t true love, either, but merely a sense of obligation, a sense of guilt, much like her aunt felt toward her.

At times, though, when she was a little girl, she’d thought her father had loved her. A memory that had dwindled to become almost as thin and elusive as cigarette smoke still sometimes wove through her brains, and that memory gave the idea of love credence. In the hazy vision, she sat on the front porch, cross-legged, in an old wicker chair. In the chair next to her, her mother sat, darning socks but also glancing up from her work now and then to smile at Cavale and her father, who played old Western songs on a harmonica. With her thin, childish voice Cavale sang, “From this valley you say you are going” and “You are my sunshine” to her father’s music. Her father tilted his head alternately right and left while he blew on the mouth harp. Occasionally, he winked at Cavale as if they shared a special secret. And even if the memory remained hazy, it returned to Cavale whenever she smelled junipers or when sunlight outlined a sofa or chair in a way similar to the way it did on the afternoons when she and her father performed their private shows in the old house just outside Colorado Springs. During those times when that memory returned, she’d wonder how her father could’ve exchanged that life for one in New York City, even if his wife had died.

She sighed. Her father’s relocation was, she decided, less ironic than her own. He, at least, moved there for a position on Madison Avenue. Here, her reasons for staying were less compelling. Nonetheless, something about the evening sun radiating across the Kansas fields reminded her of her early years in Colorado. Perhaps the rolling hills and wide, open skies gave her the same feeling as the landscape outside the Springs, she wasn’t sure. Nevertheless, those skies gave her a sense of being “home.”

She looked at the cards again, then lifted another one from the deck. It was The Lovers. She laughed, collected the cards, and stuffed them into their box. Then, she stretched her long, thin legs and leaned back against a pile of pillows. The Hanged Man, a man upside down, inside out. A man whose words, even actions “must be interpreted backwards—opposite from what they appeared to be,” or so the cards said. And The Lovers? She wondered who they were and how they could appear in her loveless life.

“Cavale?” It was Pearl’s voice, and Cavale smelled Patchouli oil. When Pearl shuffled into the room, her eyes seemed more filled with light than usual. Cavale watched the fleshy girl smile, then shift her weight from hip to hip before she sat demurely on the edge of the bed. One of her eyes twitched when she looked at Cavale.

“Are you excited about meeting the Holy Father?”

“I suppose.” Cavale smiled. Even though she hadn’t considered the upcoming meeting exciting, she didn’t want to hurt Pearl’s feelings, especially after she’d sacrificed her place for Cavale.

“Even from the pictures, can’t you see him glowing with love?”

“You’re more perceptive than I am.”

Pearl leaned across the bed and picked up Cavale’s box of cards. She read the packaging and frowned. “What’s this?”

“Tarot cards.” Cavale yawned. “Bought them at a psychic fair in Boulder.”

Pearl wrinkled her forehead, squinted, and frowned again. “So they’re fortune-telling cards from the occult world?”

“I suppose.” Cavale shrugged. “More of a game, really. Some people say you just read what’s already in your subconscious. They supposedly help you sort out your problems.”

“Oh, no.” Pearl shook her head. “This is not a game. These cards are dangerous.” Her shoulders quivered. “Evil spirits can enter them. Very risky.”

Cavale laughed. “Silly fish. You’re superstitious. It’s just a deck of cards with different drawings. They merely help you delve into your inner consciousness. Besides, sometimes, they tell the truth.”

“No. No.” Pearl widened her eyes and shook her head. Cavale had not seen her agitated like this. Then, Pearl stared into space at something beyond the top of Cavale’s head, and her eyes glazed-over. “The only truth is the Holy Father. And The Divine Principality.”

Cavale smiled. “I’ll put them away.” She took the deck from Pearl.

“Please, please don’t read them again.” Pearl grabbed each of Cavale’s arms and held them firmly. “Promise me. In fact, it’d be best if you burned them.”

Cavale forced a grin. “Maybe. Perhaps you’re right.” Although she had no intention of burning cards she’d paid for, she didn’t want to upset the girl. And she didn’t want Pearl to burn them. She rested a hand on one of Pearl’s hips. “Your reverend does seem to glow. Perhaps it’s because he’s charismatic.”

Pearl’s pupils grew larger and she stared into Cavale’s eyes. “But it’s more than that. Oh, so much more.” She lowered her voice to a husky whisper. “He’s the incarnation of Jesus Christ.”

“Really?” Cavale shook away from her and leaned back on the pillows. “Does he say so?” The image of The Reverend Yung Sung Ghuune hanging on a cross almost made her laugh. She thought of the movie, The Life of Brian and wanted to burst into “Look on the Sunny Side of Life.”

Pearl nodded. “That’s why we sense supernatural love flowing from him.”

“Tell me, how do you know it’s love? How do you define love?”

Pearl crossed her arms and glared at Cavale. “Of course, it’s love. Haven’t you felt love flowing from a person?”

Cavale looked away from her and slipped the deck into a drawer. “I’m not sure.” She’d been sure then that she wouldn’t burn her cards, at least, within the near future. Perhaps Pearl was the Hanged Man. Still, she wondered who The Lovers were.

Tonight, she wanted to read them once more to see if The Hanged Man appeared. And even if she now felt sorry for Rich and hated the way the reverend was using him, she didn’t want him interfering with her plans. “You know, a few of the others are meeting in that cafe near DuPont Circle. Why don’t you join them? You could talk about the reverend’s speech?”

“But don’t you--”

She shook her head. “Like I said, I’m too tired.”

Rich insisted he escort her to the hotel room, and once they arrived, it took ten minutes to convince him she was sure Jason hadn’t gotten him in trouble with the reverend. Finally, she dared him. “If you truly think you might be in trouble, wouldn’t it be good to talk with the others and see what they know about it? Or about Jason?”

After he left, she decided she was thirsty, so she went downstairs to the lobby. Normally, she would’ve just bought a Coke from a machine, but she heard a band that sounded much like Dave Mason performing in the lounge. She decided she buy her drink there and have the waitress add a twist of lime. She slipped into a corner booth. The place was dark and almost empty, but not far from her booth, a group of several people sat a table. Two women there were sang off-key with the band, and she saw that one of them was the woman who’d fainted at the rally. The other was the woman who’d helped her. A chubby woman in mink and a young boy also sat with them. And there was Jason sitting next to Oshi To. Suddenly, Jason stared at her. But now, she didn’t care if he saw her. Instead, she smiled and waved. Jason stood, whispered something to the woman next to him, and lumbered over to her booth.

“Cavale?” He grinned. “You look different.”

She smiled. “It’s been a while.”

“Surprised to see you here. You doin’ okay?”

She nodded. “How about you? Were you at the Reverend Yung Sung Ghuune’s rally?”

He averted his eyes, as if he were embarrassed. “Yeah. But we—me and the folks I was with—aren’t followers.”

“Really? But wasn’t one of them his son?”

Jason frowned. “How’d you know that?”

“I’ve been living with a group of his followers.”

“So have you joined?”

Cavale laughed. “Oh, no. Too loony, even for me. I mean, the kids are nice. They’ve been kind and so generous to me. But I think that reverend’s defrauding them.”

Jason glanced back at the table then at Cavale. “Can I talk with you a minute?”

“Sure.” She slid back in the booth, and he sat across from her.

“So what have you learned about this Church, or Movement, whatever it is?”

Jason packed a cigarette and lit it.

Cavale shook her head. “Whew! Does he ever have a scam going.”

He chuckled. “You’re right about that. Listen, those three woman are married to Unies, and boy—are they fed up with him. Their thoughts on that reverend would amaze you.”

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