Chapter 35- Hard Wind

Another city.

I stood on the balcony.
The crowd stared up at me.
Their unspoken need whipped me like a hard wind.
I felt like a flag

Robert King/ Journal

     Another city.

    We were on the road again. My interlude with Carolyn was over much too soon but at least it accomplished something. I was still far from the house and slippers but at least she had decided to join the tour and we could sneak away occasionally, ostensibly on business.
    The tuxedo and diamond's crowd mobbed the center. Marilyn, with her usual crazed enthusiasm, supervised the care and feeding of our 1,500 guests. Dominique was somewhere whipping up business as her, by now, ever present alter-ego Martine stalked her shadow. Except for the ever present contingent of GLORYGIRLS® that guarded access to me during every public occasion I was alone. As usual, I was looking for Carolyn.
    I finally saw her. In the midst of a boisterous group she pressed the flesh, laughed, gently caressed people’s arms, and, skillfully made friends. Carolyn loved parties. She was good with groups. Unlike Dominique who, although irresistible one on one, tended toward intimidation when in a crowd, Carolyn was careful to spend a minute with everyone. She gave even the least significant or the most unpleasant person a little bit of herself.
    I watched as she said something to the nasty little troll with the sour smile and the half frame reading glasses from WOMAN MAGAZINE. I had overheard her earlier in the evening on the hidden mike, as she told Dominique how little she approved of me and how much she questioned my motives.
    “Honestly Dominique,” she had whined, “Your organization is in the fore front of women’s betterment. Your hiring policies focus on women. Every woman I have spoken to that’s a member of your organization is successful and self empowered. What purpose does King serve? The idea that he, not you is the figure-head and, in essence, represents everything you stand for is disquieting.”
    She huffed indignantly.
    “Believe me Dominique, I’m not alone in feeling that way. It reminds me of the old PLAYBOY shtick.”
    “King is a sensitive man Magda.” Dominique said as she patiently preached the party line. “He is quite content to live in a world where women are empowered. He is often embarrassed because he is, as he says, ‘in the minority in his attitudes toward women’. He has often said how embarrassed he is when what he strives for is represented so poorly by others of his gender. However, he needs no support from them, or you. Within the church King is well loved. We protect our own.”
    “Oh my God! I can’t believe you actually mean that.”
    “Oh, but I do. He spent much of his youth in the study of societal attitudes in order to discover ways to overcome the obstacles these outmoded patterns of gender bias signify. These discoveries are the basis of our philosophy.”
    “I see.” She sneered. “Still, it’s irksome to those of us, professional women like myself, who celebrate our own empowerment, an empowerment that has very little to do with men.”
    “Perhaps that is your problem Magda. You just need a good fuck.”

    Another city.
    The sound stage was a cacophony of ringing telephones. The click and clatter of voices competed with the insistent clamor of the calls. Tiered rows of desks formed a backdrop to the two plush arm chairs where the interviewer and I sat. Behind them, bright eyed women in tropical flavored dresses trolled the sea of anonymous callers who were trying to get connected on THE GLORYLINE®. Hand gestures punctuated their seductive weave of words.
    The GLORYLINE® was a new scam of SATISFACTION®. Similar to the standard SATISFACTION line it was a world-wide number that anyone who was a member of THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF GLORY® could access, after they logged in with their GLORYCARD. GLORYLINE® differed from SATISFACTION in that it only provided an opportunity, for a price, to talk personally with the ‘feel good God’.
    I was studying my script.
    “...Everybody gets treated individually, with respect. After all, isn’t that the responsibility of a good shepherd? That’s one commitment that was established early.”
    I yawned.
    “There’s a miasma of fear, doubt, and lack of confidence that holds people back from attaining their highest potential...blah, blah, blah.”
    “Ready King.”
    I tossed the notes on the floor.
    The lights were bright hot.
    The red light went on. The monitor prompter scrolled.
    “Tonight,” the announcers fatherly, velvet voice caressed the air, “we are pleased to have Robert King with us. Robert King, as most of you probably know, is the spiritual leader of THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF GLORY®. In the last decade the UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF GLORY® has had a phenomenal surge of growth in its membership. It continues to attract converts and allegiance from a broad spectrum of people due to a variety of reasons: dissatisfaction with outmoded or corrupt government and moral philosophies, desire for self improvement, frustration with the status quo, career enhancement. Whatever the reasons, the facts are that the membership growth of the WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GLORY® during it’s short existence has been no less than phenomenal.”
    “Tell me King, what do you think is the main reason for your popularity across such a broad spectrum of society. Why does what you offer connect so well with the needs of the people?’
    “Because we spend a lot of money on market surveys?”
    The camera crew and the small cadre of black clad GLORYGIRLS® broke into sycophantic laughter.
    The announcer finally stopped chuckling, a moment after everyone else did.
    “I understand that you’re the trouble maker in the group.”
    “Yah, that’s me. The brat of the family.”
    “So, how does that jibe with the traditional role of church leaders. The stolid, respectable elder statesman tradition.”
    “Well, I’m not of that tradition. I’m just a kid compared to most of those people you speak of. All of them are people I know, naturally. Us religious leaders have to keep abreast of the latest inter-faith marketing surveys and profit return on investment so we know what’s hot and what’s not. I don’t take it all as seriously as most of them do, just like I don’t use the same hairdresser. Besides, how much pomposity can one person waste time on in one lifetime? It’s a lot of work. I’m still frisky, God help me if I ever turn into one of those silver haired pompadours. Life is hard enough without your religion making it harder, or less relevant.”
    “Isn’t religion traditionally more of a discipline?”
    “Perhaps but that kind of discipline is outdated. It’s a sound bite world. Discipline should be focused on things that make sense.”
    “Such as?”
    “Such as the ability to better feed and manage your life dreams. Such as getting clear of the past, and...oh...let’s see...such as having a great life.”
    “Do you believe in everlasting life. In heaven?”
    “Heaven, or Hell is whatever you make it, right now. Anybody that tells me that my faith should be in things that might never happen is wasting their time. I’ve listened to too much crap about paying now for hamburgers bye and bye. Life is too short. What we do is give people the tools they need to do what they want to do now. If we do that and there is life after death, our members should be as prepared for success there as we want them to be here. If we can’t do that what profit is there in it for any body?”
    “You have been a rebel most of your life haven’t you? How does it feel to be part of the establishment?”
    “I’d rather be described as a seeker after truth. This is no different. Things change. One minute you’re on the outside, the next you’re on the inside- wheels within wheels.”
    “Still,” he pressed the point, “it must be exciting, this phenomenal success, especially at your age. You’re 44 now right?’
    “Yep. Getting on.”
    “Well, I must say, I wish I was getting on quite as well. You must be doing something right.”
    “No doubt.”

    Another city.

    "Our new concept in GLORYCENTERS® came about as a result of the world wide economic collapse which first became critical in the third world countries. Suddenly we found that we could buy incredible real estate at give away prices. As we had more discretionary cash flow than a lot of countries we were quick to take advantage of the opportunity.
    The event was a special, very exclusive grand opening of the first of our new GLORY MEGA-CENTERS. Our selected guests were some very big spenders.
    The center dominated a jewel-like, secluded valley surrounded by a brutally beautiful mountain range, guarded by miles of impassable desert. It had 20 foot walls of jagged stone, concertina wire, sensors and alarms at all the egress and entry points, and a huge arsenal of guns to protect us from the have-nots. On the helipad, 10 gleaming, black, Sky Commanders sat at ready. Their bored pilots compared war stories and waited for their elite passengers to return.
    A private army of machine gun carrying, dark skinned, female troops patrolled the perimeter of the vast property. Their immaculately tailored black uniforms and peaked caps brandished solid silver buttons and GLORY logos. Designed by Dominique they were reminiscent of the SS uniforms she admired so much.
    The center itself was gargantuan, over 781,000 square feet of space under roof. It sprawled over nearly 2 acres, with another 20 acres devoted to gardens. It was a fitting palace for a bandit King, or, in this case, the UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF GLORY.
    Thanks to Dominique’s meticulous sense of design, beautiful, museum quality furnishings and rare art from all over the world blended flawlessly into a tasteful stage set for our latest scam.
    Besides the obvious there was also everything else the clients with special tastes needed to make themselves happy. For those interested in facts and figures, SATISFACTION even provides a tasteful brochure documented with photographs that described the architectural details and the plunder within.
    This is what the thousand years Reich set out to be, but their timing was off.

    Robert King/JOURNAL

    “Thank you all for coming to our little party. I hope you enjoyed the flight in and will stay around long enough to enjoy the other treats that we take as part of what life should provide for those who deserve the best.”
    “If you ally with us you can think of this and the numerous other centers like it around the world as your own private club. Maybe some of you are old enough to remember the old Playboy clubs. Well, this fraternal organization will never go out of style or go out of business because of lack of capitol! Our assets, as you can see by example here, are soon going to be the resources of the entire world economy. Now meditate on that for a moment. I’ll explain it all better as we get farther into things. That’s just a teaser.”

    Another city.
    The buildings along the expressway leading into the city were in ruins. Everywhere signs of economic collapse assailed the eye. Empty factories with broken windows and crowds of vagrants lined the thoroughfares, as if waiting for the second coming.
    Heavily armed squads of GLORYGIRLS® in armored smoke grey limos led and brought up the rear of our ever burgeoning assault caravan. They were there to protect us against the ever present possibility of car jacking as well as to jazz up our public image.
    We exited onto the street leading to the center and stopped for the traffic light. For some reason I lowered the window. The air was poisonous. I started to close it. A car stopped next to my limo. In the back seat a small girl with glistening blonde hair, wearing a white dress, stared at me. Her eyes were the most incredibly intense shade of blue I had ever seen.
    I shivered.
    The light changed. She was gone.

    Another city.
    “Perhaps some you are of the philosophy ‘better to rule in Hell than serve in heaven,' well, that’s not going to work any more. We are all in this together. There’s no other way for things to work any more. Devolution has gone too far. The world as you knew it is gone.”
        “THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF GLORY works. We help people be the best that they can be.”

Another city.
    “I’m sure some of you know about our treatment programs, especially those that involve addiction psychosis. This is the same problem on a global scale. The addiction of devolution has destroyed too many hopes and dreams. Too few fat cats have gotten their piece of pie at the expense of everybody else. Join with us and you have the opportunity to get a little practical faith in your life. Being born again isn’t as embarrassingly pointless as some of the more traditional religions have made it. Jesus hasn’t done anything but tell people there will be pie in the sky bye and bye if we’ll just be ‘good,' and poor, now. The Moslems have turned God into some kind of fanatical blood thirsty murderer of anybody that doesn’t agree with them. the Buddhists are out to lunch and the Jews are busy trying to out Hitler Hitler so what’s left? Let me give you a hint. The UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF GLORY. ”
    “Cut. That was great King. It’s time for a break.”

    Another city.
    In the lobby Marilyn ran up to me. Her face was flushed.
    “I can’t fucking believe it!”
“Believe what Marilyn?” I asked.
    She giggled uncontrollably for a moment, stomped her feet in place and finally yelled, "Fuck!" She caught her breath.
    “Some fat broad with about fifty pounds of diamonds around her neck just offered me $5,000.00 if I would steal a pair of your dirty underwear for her.”
    “What did you say?”
    “No! What do you think I said?”
    “You should have told her you’d do it for fifteen and then we could split it. Better yet, for twenty we’ll throw in a pair of Dominique's as well and she can have an orgy. What a deal, right?”
    “Oh God King! You’re disgusting!” She paused for a moment. “Do you really think she’d pay that much?”
    “You never know until you try.” I said. “You’d be amazed how much money we used to gross for Dominique's dirty underwear back in the good old days. We had a special section devoted to the production of dirty laundry.”
    She giggled.

    Another city.
    I stood on the balcony. The crowd stared up at me. Their unspoken need whipped me like a hard wind.
    I felt like a flag.

Hard Wind