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The Apotheosis of Deacon J

by Chuck Von Nordheim

 

Through skeeter-cams I watch schoolgirls in ankle length dresses hop patterns in the afternoon sun on the shifting play grids I generate.

Deacon J, Deacon J,

Don’t you know crime don’t pay?

Committed sin one dark night,

Now your brain’s a traffic light.

 

I am man with a problem.” This one did not sweat or tremble as he stood before Kaufman; instead, a smirk creased the corners of his lips. He was sandwiched between a testosterone amped pair of Kaufman’s clones — one redhead, one blond. “A problem you can resolve to our mutual benefit.”

 “You’re here because you’re a cheat,” Kaufman said. “One who didn’t bother to make sure cards up his sleeve matched the deck in play.”

The cross-shaped tie tack scanned as 100% Iridium. The manner said old money. A tobacco baron or orange prince, Kaufman thought, a district elder in charge of snakes and banjos.

“To get your attention,” the card cheat said. “Your secretary refused me an appointment and your attorney wouldn’t talk to me.”

Kaufman raised a pinkie. Big Red guided the cheat’s sinewy wrist toward a desktop concavity; the grip tightened and a data-bead dropped. The Confederacy’s elect avoided taking the Number of the Beast this way — by encoding data on a bead versus an embedded chip. Betwixt such niceties, Kaufman thought, heaven and hell are balanced: sprinkling or immersion, Patriarch or Pope, clone download or one body.

Kaufman surfed through the info stream with his ocular implant, underscoring the following: Elias Johnson — anointed deacon, title to a county sized tract of high producing hectares, J.D. from College of the Prophet, two silvers in the All-Confederacy Samson quintuplathon, covenant marriage to the former Mary Crawford with a hyperlink detailing her lineage, daughter by caesarian.

“Deacon Johnson,” Kaufman said, “Our prohibitions against cheating are clearly posted throughout the casino. So are the penalties.”

Kaufman clapped his hands. One of the cavernous office’s few furnishings was a rosewood table on which an assortment of knives gleamed. In the center was an oak butcher block with stains that matched the rosewood. Big Red and Blondie hustled Johnson toward it.

“Thumb slices still satisfy?” Johnson asked. “I’d think you’d get fewer jollies from clone pies than a ward boozehound gets from his thimbleful of communion wine.”

Kaufman crooked a finger. Johnson was returned. “I say now, for the sake of any recorders, that I have no idea what are talking about.”

“You put Chef Fritz at risk of developing personal hobbies when you jacked up his brain wattage so he could do a soufflé. His need for coin resulted in an affidavit stating that transplants done in your clinic are not always motivated by medical need.”

“My staff has special visas from the Memphis Office of the Prophet; since they were not decanted here they do not violate your laws. My occasional indulgence in their regard is no different than you biting a fingernail.”

“I am no here to render judgment,” Herr Kaufman. “I am here to make an offer — an exchange of a commodity in return for a service.”

“I’m listening. Although, for the sake of any recorders, I point out that I do so only out of politeness to a likely madman.”

“I offer full body donation, subject, of course, to certain terms and conditions.”

Kaufman waved a finger across his throat. “Throw him out,” he said, “With vigor. We’ll take our fines out in bruises instead of the usual ounce of flesh.”

• • •

My pain receptors were left intact, left intact because sin cannot go unpunished and punishment must fit the crime. Each week all adult congregants within my zone must visit a What Did Jesus Feel? booth. This week: 9,771,150 lashes, 325, 705 crowns of thorns, 325,705 crucifixions, including spear in the side. Some sadistic bitches/bastards are repeat visitors.

• • •

Before the bully boys could move, Johnson slipped their grasp with a wrist twist and side kicked each in the mastoid. Big Red and Blondie collapsed into groaning heap.

“I’d be picking teeth off the floor if I had tried a direct attack,” Johnson said. “It is the peripheral approach wherein lies success.”

“There’s nothing to discuss,” Kaufman toed a panic button. Where were number three and four? Was another talk about on-duty incest needed? “The Disciples respect the borders of my Sodom only so long as I do not openly crap on doctrinal centerpieces and kickbacks are plentiful.”

Two albino Kaufman variants burst into the room with humming needle guns. Johnson back flipped above the whirring metal barbs, landing in their midst and expeditiously pinched off respective carotids.

“There are wall-mounted stun guns, trap doors, and gas,” Kaufman said.

“I’m all for exercise,” Johnson added the albinos to the pile started by Big Red and Blondie, “But we should go over my prospectus before I work up a sweat.”

“Your Prophet’s prime anathema regarded clonal continuation,” Tasty you are, but tempt me not, Kaufman thought. “Full body transfer is the prep step.”

“Signing in blood didn’t give Mephistopheles contractual leverage,” The deacon’s lips curled with his superior smirk. “It’s legalese that frees dark desires.”

“The Confederacy needs fear of death to lubricate its fascism.” Kaufman pressed a hidden indent. He had waited years to try this feature. “Clonal immortality is one centerpiece that I will not crap on, openly or otherwise.”

A pendulum mounted blade scythed toward the space occupied by Johnson. The hinge of his knees quickly ratcheted to the 90-degree perpendicular; the glistening razor nicked Johnson’s cruciform tie tack at the nadir of its swing and then whickered away.

Kaufman shrugged apologetically, “You were in perfect position.”

Johnson snapped upright, “You will find it equally hard to resist when I explain your likewise perfect legal position.”

Kaufman weighed his options. He had more bodyguards — but his best were down. Guns and gas might prove effective, but they posed risk to him. “In order to spare my cadre further pummeling, I’ll listen to your blasphemy. However, I note for the sake of any recorders, that I do so under duress.”

“Excuse the overly rhetorical presentation — old law school habit.”

“Fire away, counselor. I forgive you your misspent youth.”

“Point one: Pleasure Island Casino exists apart, and yet is woven into, the tapestry of the Christian Confederacy.”

Kaufman nodded, “It’s a pre-existing freehold based on a grant from the now Un-Tied States of America to the Green River Choctaw that matrilinearly devolved to me.”

“Point two: Aside from kickbacks to key apostles, your sole obligation within this construct is fealty to the Commandments of the Congress of the Faithful.”

“I don’t need a tutorial on legal framework of my operating license.”

“The unexplored is reached by way of the known. Now: You and Congress?”

“Their annual edicts bind me,” Kaufman said as if doing a dull recitation for a stern teacher, “A gross of river rock is set aside for stoning. Sadly, my constabulary is deplorably inept at gathering evidence of sorcery, adultery, and buggery.”

Johnson held up three fingers, “Said edicts also extend Deuteronomic guidelines, allowing prosecutors to seize full bodily capital for capital crimes. Criminals cede their full bodies to the state.”

“Yes, a life for a life.” Kaufman licked his lips — visions of barbecued deacon ribs danced in his head. “But the unlikely overlap of a snooper system meltdown and a homicide is needed.”

“Your maintenance staff is as deplorably inept as your police department, true?”

“And you…?”

“I am a man with a problem,” Johnson said. “My problem is my wife.”

“I say now, for the sake of any recorders, that I reject your abhorrent proposal.” Kaufman motioned Johnson back until he stood on a tile with an X. “And that it would make me vomit to hear more details.”

The trapdoor beneath Johnson flapped open when Kaufman picked up an antique telephone. The chute whisked Johnson to the office of Kaufman’s attorney.

Kaufman spoke to his attorney over the phone, “A package just arrived. Obtain rights to it, subject to all terms and conditions that cannot be avoided.”

• • •

I am pharaoh’s electronic Joseph, doling largess from his larders. Petitions for sustenance flow in; cargo cubes stuffed with soy steaks and pseudo-asparagus flow out. Occasionally, an answer to a true prayer is tucked into a cube’s corner: scented candles, a fifth of Courvoisier, a Kama Sutra. Once, a cube arrived with a dress of contraband silk that glowed with a luster that matched the brightness of a young girl’s smile.

I was not blame for the moon. The decision by pastor’s son to approach the orphan in the sparkly dress was his. The inexplicable technical quirks that caused the dance eradication sensors to overload — you got me.

• • •

You are a man with a problem and the problem is your wife. One last time, you cloak disgust with a clownish smile. You enter with a heart-shaped box under your arm.

“For me?” her voice lilts and her lids flutter like a coquette. Her hand shakes and her mouth drools like an addict.

You are a son whose father traded your freedom for family connections. “You’ll learn to love her,” dad said, “she’s in the Prophet’s bloodline.” What your father loved was the tax exempt status she bestowed.

She shoves your candy stuffed hand to her mouth. Her tongue and lips are slick against your palm as she gobbles with the voracious hunger of a starved dog. The air is pungent with the scent of melted chocolate.

Your body is your temple; her body is a trash dump. Maybe she’s a gymnast you’d thought when you saw the legs fasting had made willow thin; now quivering redwoods creased and fissured with infected stretch marks and gaping cellulite.

Her fingers fumble at the catches of your pants. She stokes your limpness with the same hunger. Outside: a hydraulic response. Inside: numb disgust.

You are the daddy of a sweet kindergartner who ran before she could walk. Now her walk is a waddle; you watch as she eats milkshakes and Moon Pies with her mother, but nothing can be said against a daughter of the Prophet. You must save her.

You push away the slurping mouth. You plug the gaping maw with a mint chew before your rejection of her blubbery favors can register. Her eyes roll back in pleasure.

When her eyes close, you grab heaping handfuls of candy from the box and shove them down her throat in great mashed lumps of chocolate. She struggles against your strong arms; sticky, half-congealed caramel percolates between your strongly clamped fingers. Perhaps there is fear in her bugged-out eyes; perhaps there is haughty demand.

You sit on the edge of the bed next to the cooling body and wait.

Your freedom was traded away; to get it back, you gave up all you have and all you are, subject to certain terms and conditions agreed to by a Kraut cannibal.

Smiling, you raise chocolate stained hands when the two albino Kaufman copies crash through the door with humming guns.

• • •

Orphan oversight is among my tasks. Within my zone, my maintenance mice tend the scabbed knees of 627 parentless lads and lassies and my skeeter-bots buzz the bullies who torment them.

My programming forbids favorites, but I have one. Daily at the 324 Jennings address my nanny voice sings out: Time for crunches, time to run. Weekly, cargo cubes arrive with sweet grapes and crisp celery for lips that have not tasted milkshake or Moon Pie since first grade.

I am Jeff City Control, but the bit of cerebellum that is my central matrix was Deacon Elias Johnson. My streetlamps light her way as she jogs through the dew-drenched morning. Her fiancé, the pastor’s son, is in-step behind. This is my daughter in whom I am well pleased.

 

 

Chuck Von Nordheim - The author writes: When I was a boy I met Edmond Hamilton in a bookstore in Lancaster, California while I was deciding which paperback with a Richard Corben cover I was going to buy with the quarters I'd saved by skipping school lunches. Ed and I debated whether it would be more interesting to visit Caspak or Barsoom; he also said some things that made think about, for the first time, how the structure of story affected my attitude toward it. I didn’t know then that this was the guy who had invented Batman’s best villains or who had written some of the most rocking science fiction of the '30s. When his wife walked in, he gave me a copy of a book he said I'd enjoy; I didn’t notice until I got home that Leigh Brackett had inscribed “Keep Dreaming” followed by two exclamation points on the title page of that copy of “Ginger Star.” I suppose all my work, in a way, is an attempt to live up to that demand.


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ISSUE #18

October 2008

FICTION