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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What I’m Reading: Not Stephen King


You, sir, are a scoundrel and a cheat. And what is more, you are a coward. Afraid to trust the merits of your own work, you attempted to trade on a similarity of names. And I while I don’t know if the cover design was yours or the Magic Pen Designs named on the copyright page, I’m sure it was no accident that your cover apes the style of books written by the more famous Stephen King. Stephen R. King (yes, you duped me. I didn’t notice that initial until I’d returned home from the library) you are no Stephen King.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Love Leads to Truth

Last Sunday the pastor at the United Methodist church I attend (Pastor Chad) was out of town for the UMC annual conference. He asked me to fill in for him.  I did - but I forgot to post a copy of the sermon here on the old blog.

Love Leads to Truth

As the co-director of the Newton Community Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s play – The Crucible – I have spent the last several weeks, the last couple of months thinking about the Puritans and the Salem witch trials of 1692.  I have also been thinking about the events that inspired Miller to write the play – the red scare, the communist menace, the House Un-American Activities Committee and the outrageous accusations of Senator Joseph McCarthy.  I’ve been thinking about truth and lies – but since we closed last weekend, you’ve missed your chance to see our production of the play, and I’m glad to be done – mostly done thinking about these things.

But before I move on altogether…

“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, and the Roman prefect’s question has been alternately described through the centuries as either the sincere question of an earnest seeker of wisdom or (more frequently) as the smug, cynical question of a weary skeptic who has grown tired of competing truth claims.  But the question remains: What is truth?

What is truth and how can we know it? In an age of fact checkers and, what is truth?  In a time when our president has made over 10,000 false or misleading statements in his time in office – so far [i]– what is truth and how can we know it? Facts are ignored. Lies are spread.  And the witticism that has been attributed to at least a dozen different individuals seems true – “A lie will go around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.”

Before leaving his disciples, Jesus said to them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the father, and he will send another companion who will be with your forever. This companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him because he lives with you and will be with you.” John 14:15 – 17

So we, as followers of Jesus, have this Spirit of Truth to live in us and to be with us forever and yet Christians often seem as blind to the truth as the rest of the world who neither sees nor recognizes that spirit.  In the history of the Church we have multiplied examples of Christians both telling and believing lies and falsehoods of all kinds. Even with the Spirit that will guide us in all truth (John 16:13), the Spirit who is truth (1 John 5:6), we seem as susceptible and prone to untruth as anyone else.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So how can we recognize and agree upon the truth as Christians, as Methodists, as members of St. Luke UMC?

Lately I’ve been wondering if the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exodus 20: 16) might mean something more than simply, “don’t tell lies.” I recognize of course that the 9th commandment is specifically about false testimony in a legal setting (Freedman 139) but what if we thought of bearing false witness as that carrying around of lies and falsehoods? What it we thought of it as including those untruths that we are unwilling to release?

It can be difficult to let go of those untruths – particularly when they either flatter or embellish our opinion of ourselves or when it mocks and distorts our enemies. Our pride and our vanity can blind us to the untrue things we believe about ourselves. We are blind to the thousand justifications and excuses that we make for our own shortcomings. And we nurse and rehearse the slanders and mischaracterizations of our enemies. The things we like to believe about them may have begun as slight exaggerations or rhetorical hyperbole for effect, but we go over them again and again, like picking at a sore that just won’t heal, until it becomes infected and inflamed; they become the lies and false witnesses that we bear with us everywhere we go.

What if “thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor,” means that we should release these falsehoods? This would require a rigorous self-examination that we often find too difficult and unpleasant. But can the Spirit of Truth be said to inhabit us now and forever if we are clinging to and embracing those lies and calumnies? Can the spirit of truth guide us into all truth if we are bearing these false testimonies against our neighbors in our hearts?

Today, on this Pentecost Sunday –we celebrate the unity of the early church, gathered together in one accord (Acts 2:1) in the mighty wind and burning fire of the Holy Spirit. And if we want that same unity of the Spirit- the spirit of truth- we must give up our treasured falsehoods.

Before Jesus left his disciples he gave them a promise that another Comforter would come for them – but he prefaced that promise with a condition and a command. “If you love me you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father and he will send you another companion.” But what commandment?  A few sentences before this he said to them, “I give you a new commandment: love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” (John 13: 34-35)

Love leads to truth, or it at least opens us up to be able to receive it. If we will love each other – and even love our enemies – we will not want to believe all the horrible, untrue things we’ve been told, and that we tell ourselves. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

“Teach us to utter living words of truth which all may hear
the language all may understand when love speaks loud and clear
till every age and race and clime shall blend their creeds in one
and earth shall form one family by whom thy will is done.”

O Spirit of the Living God, Thou Light and Fire Divine- by Henry Hallam Tweed

Freedman, David Noel.  The Nine Commandments: Uncovering the Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible. Doubleday. New York, NY. 2000.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Catmint and Peony

I cut some flowers from my garden this afternoon.

Catmint and Peony by Jeff Carter on

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

I Am Myself

There are voices, offstage voices
singing ancient hymns in shifting key
while all the ice of the invisible world
is gathering here in my heart
in my clamoring heart.

Yet I am myself, I think
myself – blushing and dreaming
of vacant cathedrals.
I am myself.

The Lord, our God, made earth and sky
as we lay sleeping in ditches,
drunk and half-witted. I did drink,
aye, and dance, yes
but I did not sell myself.
I am penniless, not brainless.
Not yet.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Crucible

Our local community theater group will soon be putting on a production of Arthur Miller’s - The Crucible. You are all invited to come see it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Day Full of Wonder

Yesterday was an ordinary day, full of wonder and of weird. Perfectly ordinary in every way.

I saw that the great steel rings encircling me were banded with iridescent rainbows. I asked the angel carrying these rings through the air, “How came this to be? What causes this?”  “The Trees. They are responsible,” he told me, but I knew that he meant The Chemists.

I considered my age, but did not act it.

I saw rivers of rust racing upward from the middle of the floor. They were there on the other side as well.

I looked for someone who was not there.

I watched this not too solid, blue flesh be washed away, renewed. This happened more than once, and I rejoiced each time.

I ate cheese.

I said, “I am not so old.” But no one heard me. And I didn’t believe me.

I sent undeliverable messages into the void. They returned to me the same.

I deciphered a coded map to an unwanted treasure. I watched as the X was marked and the hole was dug. It was promptly refilled.

I instructed some in the ways and means of revolution. All they needed was power and a way to control it – and isn’t that true of all revolutions?

I went in search of lost and forgotten scrolls. I went into neglected corners and haunted ruins I found a few of the scrolls, but only a few.

I hid myself from the hovering, red eye – the eye that seeks to crush and to kill. I slunk into the recesses and hid behind the columns until it passed.

I hijacked a battery and pushed buttons for brass.

I drew the summoning digit with chalk and waited for them that look within.

I reminded myself to not be anxious, but did not heed the reminder. My lip was shredded. Still, for a moment I felt a shower of sparks down my neck and spine, and I was not afraid. I held the light.

Yesterday was an ordinary day, full of wonder and of weird. Perfectly ordinary in every way.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Whose Head Is This and Whose Title?

15 Then the Evangelicals went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the government, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me one of your coins..” And they brought him one. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “President Trump..” Then he said to them, “Give to God the things that belong to God, and pay your taxes, but don’t give this clown anything; he’s a liar and a cheat..” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Mother of My Children and Those Children

Photo taken at the MN Zoo in a rare moment when all three were smiling at the same time.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

2019 Backyard Garden

My backyard garden is planted for 2019. The garden is expanded this year to about 25’ x 40’.

This year it includes:
Bee Balm
Atomic Cosmic Tomatoes
Cherokee Green Beefsteak Tomatoes
Taxi OG Yellow Beefsteak Tomatoes
No name Tomatoes
Pole Beans
Green Beans
Hot Peppers
Rouge d’Hiver -red Romain lettuce
Mixed color Orach
Purple Haze Carrots
and Hops (three varieties)

Saturday, May 4, 2019

A Busy and Productive Day.

It has been a busy and productive day, so much accomplished, so many tasks completed. I feel good. And just what all did  I do today? Well, let me tell you:

I began the day by dreaming of zombies in the workplace, of barricaded doors and axes in soft skulls.

I awoke and dressed and walked 0.6 miles to get nowhere- or rather, nothing- or rather to not get what I wanted. I bought coffee and doughnuts instead. Disappointing, yes. But still- has coffee, so not terrible.

I then cut the heads off of a thousand lions. One by one, I cut them down. Later I will drink their blood.

I angered a swarm of bees. Not a good idea.

I gave the earth a haircut.

I pruned three small wolves. Later there may be beer, but tomorrow I will cook and eat them with friends.

I sat a while to read- to reread, I should say (and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reread this story)  to read the story of a misunderstood not-monster living in the not-then, not-yet ruins of a French gothic cathedral.

I spoke bad Russian to an artificially intelligent owl. I try to do this every day.

I ate wine-soaked cheese then went out in search of still more food.

I dozed on the couch with my young bride (who insists that she cannot be more than than twenty-seven, and that her baby cannot be graduating from high school in a few days).

I caused it to rain upon the earth- or at least my small part of it.

I discovered errant golf balls on the roof and opened clogged water ways.

I ate earth apples.

All this and there are still several good hours (and one bad hour) left in the day.

Monday, April 29, 2019


It sprung up from the ground in the middle of the night, smooth polished stone without waning. It towered over the people who stood starring up at in from the courthouse square like a threat. Like an ultimatum. The people gathered there could not decide whether they should bow or cower. The obelisk undid them all.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Dead Prayers in the Far West Corner

J. saw the shadows in the far west corner of the factory even though no one else in the plant would ever speak of them. He saw the twisting shadows in the strange recesses of the far west corner every time he used the forklift to move a load of wire cable or steel platforms from the receiving area to the assembly floor. He saw that the shadows moved – and not just the movement of shadows as the sun moved across the sky, or the forklift’s headlamps swung across the wall; the shadows in the far west corner moved on their own. Strange behavior for shadows, especially since shadows really don’t even have behavior. In the few months that J. had worked in factory, he’d never had opportunity to look closely at the shadows. He drove past them as he moved pallets or hauled away dumpsters of trash, but he never stopped to explore. He wasn’t paid to explore.

On this particular day – it was a Wednesday, he remembered, he always felt the most tired on Wednesdays, and according to the watch board in the break room it had been 66 days since the last recordable time-loss accident – he was moving a crate of industrial hoses for the blast booth when he drove past the far west corner and he stopped. J. put the forks down and shifted into park. J. stared at the twisting, tenebrous void.

Slowly he realized that he couldn’t hear the roar of the blast booth any longer, nor the hum of the grit vacuums. He couldn’t hear the crackle and pop of the welder’s torches or the warning sirens of the cranes in motion overhead. Even the blatty rumble of the forklift’s diesel engine seemed muted and shushed. The factory was quiet, but not silent.

The shadows twisted in front of him, receding deeper into the corner from whence came the murmur of voices – chanting. Chanting prayers. Prayers in some forgotten language. A dead language. Dead prayers in the shadowy, dark corner of the factory.

Lulled by the soft syllables of the chanting, J. felt sleepy. Dizzy. Faint. But still the foreign tones drew him in; they called him. And though he could not understand their dulcet words, they filled him with ominous, incomprehensible, irresistible dread. “I’m drowning,” he thought. “I’m drowning, and she’s watching me. Watching me from the shore. She is watching me drown.” The rhythm of his internal soliloquy gradually assumed the cadence of the unseen chanters in the shadows.

And then

the horn that signaled lunch break broke his reverie. J. realized with a start that he’d sat with the forklift idling for at least 15 minutes. And he still hadn’t delivered the hoses to the blast booth. He knew he’d have to work double quick after lunch to get caught up. He also discovered that he was, from helmet to steel-toe boots, coated with a fine pink powder. This powder he would later have chemically analyzed and the analysis would show it to be some sort of anhydrous crystal residue.  

Abstract Work Photography:Ocean

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Annual Palm Sunday Parade

It is the annual Palm Sunday Parade, and we have come to see the sights. We’ve come early to secure the best spot, in the grass, in the shade. We’ve brought our collapsible chairs, our umbrellas, opera glasses, and a cooler of beverages. It’s a great day for a parade.  The sun is up. The wind is down. It’s not too cold – winter has only recently lost its grip on the land, and it’s not too warm, the sun has not yet reached its summer intensity. It is a great day for the annual Palm Sunday Parade.

And here they come – the rope-bearers, the knotters who lead the procession with ropes. Their brothers will follow, as we know, at the end of the parade as well, to tie the whole thing together. And yes, it’s official.We can hear the blowing of the horns of the altar.  The parade has begun!

There’s Herold, the herald, ringing a bell, followed by the Daughters of Zion throwing candy.

Now come the Freemasons, wearing caps with two-headed eagles, and splendid aprons with golden embroidery. They are throwing, not candy, but small stones. These are unwanted, rejected stones. Don’t confuse them with the bonbons thrown by the Daughters of Zion. You’ll break your teeth.

Next in line is the All Star Bethany High School Marching Band, playing a selection of songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Bethany High School Marching Band is a crowd favorite. What they lack in precision and skill, they make up in volume.

And here is a strange entry: four creatures walking, or flying as it were, side by side. There is a golden, shimmering Man dressed all in white, and beside him a Lion as large as a truck. Next to the Lion is great Ox with six-foot long horns. Flying next to the Ox, is an Eagle. It shrieks. We are forced to cover our ears. Its cry drowns out even the marching band.

Here comes my favorite. The Laborer’s Local Union 353. They’re holding a banner that reads “MONEY CHANGERS and BANKERS BEWARE!” 

Behind them are the bagpipers.  There are always bagpipers in a parade. Always.

Now come the Lord’s Prayers. They step in time reciting the prayer that our Lord taught us.

Here are the infants and nursing babes – with their prepared praise. It’s difficult to understand what they are saying, what with their mothers’ breasts still in their mouths, and all.  But we cheer for them, nonetheless.

We’re almost at the end now. The little children come next, shouting “Hosanna!” But they’re confused. They are mixed up. Why are they wearing last year’s Christmas pageant costumes?  They’re wearing angel robes and gold tinsel halos. “Hosanna in the Highest!”  Have we got our holiday’s confused? And what is this? What is this next strange sight? A group of men holding palm branches and lemons. Lemons?  The palm branches I understand, but … Lemons?

After the citrons have passed, there is a solitary figure. He’s wearing a tattered sweater and bow tie. He’s holding a pen. I don’t know what he’s doing here.

And now, of course, the man himself riding on a colt and on the foal of a colt, a bareback trick rider extraordinaire.

Our neighbors here on the parade grounds are starting to grumble about all of this. The candy and the chaos in the streets.  But before their complaints can get too loud, they are drowned out by a strange shouting coming from those scattered, discarded stones that the Freemasons tossed.

And that seems to be it. The parade has passed by. The final Knotters have bound the whole thing up. The parade is over and the crowd turns to leave. They pack up their chairs and round up their screaming children with bags of candy.  It’s time to go.  But wait. Wait.  Like a Marvel movie post-credit sequence, here comes one more entry in the parade. Blind beggars and lurching cripples, who look like they’ve crawled up out of dank ditches, struggle on in the wake of the great parade.  They may be late, but they know they will catch up with the Parade Marshal at the end.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Friday, March 22, 2019

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Monday, March 18, 2019

Invisible A

It wasn’t there. Not in the visible air, anyway. Nevertheless...

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Behind the Scenes with Tea

Tonight is the final performance of our local community theatre production of Mary Poppins. The stage crew celebrates with a bit of tea.

Backstage Roadster

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Do Not Use - Save

I found this desperate message hidden backstage at the local community theater. It expresses my current mood pretty well.

Struggling with Winter

I’m struggling to keep to blog current and active. I’m struggling to find time and energy to create new content for it. I’m just struggling, I guess.

Anyway, here are a couple of recent photographs I’ve taken.

Always winter...

Here Comes the Sun

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Message for Doctor Schnabel

Doctor Schnabel, hello? Oh… Doctor Schnabel, I’m sorry I missed you. I’m just calling to tell you that I’ve noticed something sorta’ weird.  Really weird, actually. I wanted to ask you about it. I would have come in for a consultation, but...well, whatever. I know you’re busy. It’s okay. Whatever. Perhaps I can just tell you about it, and you can get back to me whenever.

So, the thing is, I’ve noticed an increasing amount of ear wax in my ear. Ha. Ha. Of course in my ear, right? Where else would ear wax be?  So I’ve got all this ear wax building up. And it has a weird smell. Peppery, I suppose. Like Old books and pepper. I checked in Dr. Tarrec’s Demonic Signals and Sigils for Protection and Exorcism, but he says nothing…well, not nothing, but very little about ear wax. He says that clotted ear wax may indicate the approach of the demon Asmodeus, and I’m quoting here, “slowly moving through the planes of existence, slowly, not an instantaneous transition…” I’m not really sure what most of that means, Dr. Schnabel, but I am worried about what may be diableric activity in my ear canal.

You don’t think this could be related to the converging telluric comments I mentioned to you last week, do you? I told you about the strange patterns I’ve been seeing magnetic clouds of steel dust floating over the city, right? Dr. Curtis says… You know Dr.  Curtis, right? He says, ‘no.’ But whatever; he’s not an ear, nose, and throat doctor, like you. He’s only a doctor of philosophy. So what does he know, am I right? I mean, that’s Socrates, right?

But he says that it’s not a magnetic thing.

And, did I mention that there are blood stains on my pillowcase in the mornings? Though I’m not convinced that it’s my blood. I don’t know where the blood came from. I don’t know whose blood it might be. It could be mine, I suppose. But if it is mine, I might have to ask – “who’s been in my house? And why?”

I was at the grocery store yesterday, just picking up my weekly groceries… anyway, I started smelling something. I was all the way over in aisle eight – by the bread. Nowhere near the meat department, and I started noticing the smell of rotting meat. Then I realized something: That’s not the smell of rotting meat, it’s the smell of rotting me. That’s not something to worry about is it?

By the way, did you see that thing on television last night? About the tornados in California? And all the Satan worshipping celebrities that are setting their own houses on fire? The owls have been watching, of course. The fires, I mean. Why would owls be watching television, right?

Anyway, I really appreciate your help, Dr. Schnabel. Like I said, I’m sorry to have missed you. This is probably nothing – just the ear wax and the unidentified blood.  Oh, and the telluric currents of magnetic steel dust… Oh, and the smell of rotting me. Just that. So… I guess we’ll just let the lab work decide for us.

Only… only… It’s not one of those bacterial rumor infections is it? I’ve been reading abou-


Monday, January 7, 2019

Jesus Might Call President Trump a Mother%*@#er

Incoming freshman Representative, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) set Christian tongues a clucking last Thursday with her stated intent to “go in and impeach the motherfucker”  - referring with that vulgarity to to President Donald Trump. Many Christians shake their heads and wag their fingers, lamenting the decrease in decency, and the collapse of civility, and et centers

But me… I just wonder if Jesus himself might not have called President Trump a “motherfucker” or something similar.

Hear me out.

I know, of course, that Jesus’ admonition to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and the apostle Paul’s advice to “…let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth,” (Ephesians 4:29) would seem to negate any chance that Jesus might use such an uncouth epithet, but I still think there is a case to be made.

Look for instance at the fiery invective that Jesus used against his enemies, the Pharisees, in Matthew 23 – particularly verse 33:  “"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (NIV).  We’ve probably read this verse enough time to buff away the jagged edge of these words. So we need to remind ourselves just how uncivil Jesus was sometimes.

Here Jesus is describing his enemies as snakes, as the children of vipers. In the context of that culture and that time, Jesus was condemning them as disgusting and defiling children of the devil (that ancient serpent – Revelation 20:2). This is no polite ecumenical discourse. This is bitter polemic. This is nasty partisanship. This is abusive, ad hominem attack. It may not have been “motherfucker,” but it was just as nasty.

We like to keep our Jesus clean. We like to keep him out of the gutter – and to keep the gutter out of his mouth, but Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees was, at times, quite ugly. we tend to forget (willful, perhaps) that “[p]olite ecumenical dialogue among different religious groups is a happy modern invention (Meier 338).” And since the division between the two is often indistinguishable, it’s true of political discourse as well.

Would Jesus have called President Trump a Motherfucker? I don’t know. In Luke 13:23 he called Herod Antipas a “fox” (more specifically a “vixen”) – and it wasn’t because Jesus thought Herod was handsome or clever. It was a pointed, and insulting criticism on par with calling him a poser, jackass. 

Would Jesus call President Trump a Motherfucker? I don’t know – but I think a case can be made that he might.

Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew Vol. III: Companions and Competitors.  Doubleday. New York, New York. 2001.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Let’s Exorcise the Pentagon

I’d been working at Stella’s bowling alley (12 lanes - 24 hours) for about a year when David George came back. You might remember how he got us both fired from Alvin’s Speedy Lube and Parts after he convince me to help him disinter the body of President Lincoln. He’d gone into hiding after he tried - by his own self, mind you – to dig up the bones of Geronimo. I might not be bright, but I try to not make the same mistake twice. David George though, he gets an idea in his head and he can’t shake it loose till he’s tried, and usually failed. My therapist, Dr. Schnabel, says that’s an “ideomotor response.” Me, I don’t think David George’s an idiot, but he does get some weird ideas from time to time.

Anyway, after the trouble with Geronimo’s bones, David George disappeared for a while. Sheriff Jackson came round a couple of times to ask me if I’d seen him. If I had to guess, I’d say he went back home to Enid, Oklahoma but I didn’t say none of that to the sheriff.

Like I said, I was working at the bowling alley; I’d just finished fixing the pinsetter machine on lane eight. It’s funny: David George always said I wouldn’t know a wrench from a wrestling match, but I was doin’ all right there at the bowling alley. A steady job and regular paycheck and all. I was wiping the grease from my hands when Stella came into the back and said, “Go ahead and take your break, Judge. There’s a fella at the bar looking for you. Just be back in fifteen minutes. Trash needs emptied.”

“Holt,” he said as I sat down next to him. That’s me, by the way. Judge Allen Holt.  It’s my name, not a title. Like that actor guy. “Holt. How’s it hanging?”

“David George!” I said. “Man! I haven’t seen you since…” I looked around. Sherriff Jackson and his deputies bowled there sometimes. “I ain’t see you around since… you know,” I whispered.

“Yeah,” he grinned. “That was a bit of a mess, wasn’t it? But that’s all behind me now,” he said.

“No more trouble?”


“No more crazy plans?” Maybe I should have known better. He just sat there grinning, and I knew it would be something.

“Listen, Holt,” he said and leaned in real close to me.“You and I both know that whatever trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into, it’s still the black hearted politicians and dead heart stringers that are spreading blindness in the city.”

Now, I didn’t follow this too good. David George is always sayin’ stuff I don’t quite understand. But it ain’t the stuff I don’t understand that gets me in trouble usually. It’s the stuff I do understand – like what he said next.

“What we need to do is perform an exorcism at the Pentagon. If we want to save the country, we have to drive the devils out of the government – starting at the Pentagon.”

“Didn’t someone try that already?” I asked him. “One of them poet types back in the sixties…

“I don’t know anything about that, Holt.”

“Yeah. The poet and Doctor Spock.”

“From Star Trek? Judge Allen Holt, you don’t make no sense sometimes,” David George said. “This ain’t no hippy crap or science fiction garbage. What we’re going to do is perform an honest-to-God exorcism to drive the demons right out of the Pentagon. We’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it right, Holt. Honest-God, a real old school exorcism using one of the Latin texts from the Vatican.”

“But,” I interrupted, “we don’t read Latin. You know I barely read English so good.”

“This does present a problem,” he said, but David George never dwelled long with a problem. “But not an insurmountable one. There are plenty of other reliable texts we could use.”

“Where are we going to find a reliable exorcism ritual, David George?”

“That’s the easiest part of the whole thing, Holt.  My sister has one.”

“Your sister, Rosemary, has a copy of a workable exorcism ritual… in English?”

“Sure,” he grinned. He never stopped grinning when he had an idea. “She took a parapsychology course at the community college last summer.”

Now this is where I should have said no. I know that now. But there are natural fluctuations in all things – in ages and in wages. David George explained that there are unusual magnetic fields caused by strong currents of water near the Pentagon and that the push and flow of tidal adrenaline pools affected the course of national events. He said it was a sort of silent alarm, and that a truly silent alarm is heard by no one. He explained it all to me.  “Like Shakespeare said, ‘it’s easy to mistake a bush for a bear.’”

I don’t know what any of that meant.  But we did get that ritual book from his sister and we did hop a Greyhound bus for Washington D.C. And standing outside the Pentagon in the employee parking lot we did read it.  Out loud and everything.

And this is where you’ll ask me if the Pentagon building began to vibrate and turn orange?  Did evil emissions spiral up into the air in a swirling black vapor of death? Did ill-omened effluvium spill out over the walls? Did the world hear the silence of cancelled screams?

No. There was nothing. Nothing at all.  The security guards drove round to us in a little electric golf cart and told us to leave. So we left. Took the next bus home. Most of David George’s ideas are crazy and get us into trouble. But I couldn’t help hoping that this one would be different. I suppose the fact that we didn’t get arrested this time is different, but still it was disappointing.

Back home, I went to the Catholic church my mom used to drag me to and I asked the Father what it failed. “Father, why didn’t it work? Why couldn’t we drive the demons out of the Pentagon?”

He answered me: “The demons in the gospels responded to Jesus’ commands to be gone because they knew and believed, and what is more, they feared his power. You and your friend failed at the Pentagon because the demons that work inside that building neither know nor fear the power of Christ.”

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Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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