Friday, November 27, 2009

Edgar, The King of Kings

While still masticating the last of the second bagel he had eaten within the span of ten minutes, The Engineer spread a heaping mound of cream cheese on the third he intended to ingest.  "Not hungry?" he asked me with a toothy grin.

I wasn't.  Sitting in the green room, waiting to go on air, live in front of the whole country, my stomach was rebelling, along with my nervous system.  No matter how much I wished to impress that I was calm and perfectly in command of my faculties, my hands were beginning to shake like they had a mind of their own.

A page stuck her head into the green room to remind us that we would be going on in five minutes.  I looked at her like a suffering squirrel that had just been hit by a car, pleading with my eyes to be put out of my misery.  She recognized the look and directed my attention to the top shelf of a cabinet.  Scotch!

Stepping out into the studio of the Rachel Maddow Show, I tripped over a step leading to the stage but managed not to spill any of the contents of the MSNBC coffee mug.  The Engineer bound to the stage and took a seat at the desk across from Rachel with the exuberance of a little boy strapping into a carnival ride.  Seating myself, I took a long draw out of the mug summoning the courage of a hundred generations of musty highlanders.

A voice boomed out of the sound system announcing that we were going live in "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five," and went silent.  I conjured the best smile I could muster that came across as maniacal.  We were live.

After introducing us, Rachel got straight to the controversy that had been slowly suffocating us since stepping into the limelight.  "You made a comment in one of your blog posts, wherein you stated that The Lawyer and The Engineer are more popular than Jesus Christ."  As a result of that statement, we had received trash bags, and hard dives, full of hate mail, a large percentage of which wished The Engineer and I nothing short of an untimely and painful death.

"If I had said television is more popular than Jesus," I started, "I might have got away with it, but I just happened to be making a blog entry, as if I was talking to a friend, and I used the words "The Lawyer and The Engineer" as a remote thing, not as what I think - as The Lawyer and The Engineer, as the Engineer likes other people to see us. I just said 'we' are having more influence on our eleven followers at the time and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way."

Rachel asked, "Some of your blog followers have repeated your statements - 'I like the The Lawyer and The Engineer more than Jesus Christ.' What do you think about that?"

I braced myself with another swig from the mug, and said, "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to our fans. That we meant more to our fans than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for interpretive dance enthusiasts than for others. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this."

"But are you prepared to apologize?" Rachel asked.

"Wasn't what I said an apology," I said, my face turning crimson.  "I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologize if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."  I wasn't sorry, I just wanted the whole controversy to go away and to be in peace.

"Let's talk about another issue that has garnered a lot of negative attention.  You wrote on your blog that it was your future intention to write an article entitled, Why Conservatives Hate Homosexuals even though Half of Them Are."

"That was The Engineer's idea," I said attempting to deflect some of the controversy away from me.

"It was not my idea, you scrote," said The Engineer.

"Yes it was," I lied.

"Up yours, man," said The Engineer.

"Piss on yourself," I said.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," said Rachel encouraging us to bring it down a notch.  "The reason I ask about this, in part, is that I want to know where the two of you stand on the issue of gay marriage and gay civil rights."

"Well," said The Engineer.  "We have gay friends.  I don't know.  Whatever."

I chimed in, "They're here, they're queer, and we don't care."

"If," said The Engineer, "those people want the right to get married and divorced, more power to them.  Give it to them."  Rachel, the sharpest, lesbian wit on national television, contorted her face in a grimace.

"You have friends who are gay?  Those people?  Seriously?  That sounds like what bigots say who are being disingenuous," said Rachel.

"Here's the deal," said The Engineer.  "What we were really getting at with the quip about people hating homosexuals being gay themselves is this:  That any irrational hatred of any aspect, or expression of human behavior that poses no direct threat to a person's well being, though is perceived as such, is nothing but a repression of one's own sacral desires and inclinations, and the self loathing that fosters is projected externally.  The internal threat is externalized and made other--not the self.  Hatred of anything, not a real threat, is denial, and a hatred of self.  Homophobes are closet gays."

Rachel and I looked at each other approvingly.  "Wow.  Sounds good to me," I said.

A thousand miles away, in God's country, between the rural townships of Gotiebow and Bowlegs, the right Reverend Ezekiel Slanderson, the leader of the Southend Pentecostal Church of the Apocalypse, picked up the remote control and turned off his television set.  "Dear Lord," he muttered to himself picking up the phone to call his second in command.  "Daryl.  The Lord has spoken to me this evening.  The Lord told me that the end times are, at this moment, upon us, and the sinners are to be swept away in a fiery storm of God's wrath.  The Lord also told me that we have one last mission to undertake in his hallowed name.  Mobilize the flock.  And most importantly, Daryl, find out everything you can about two fag-loving sinners called The Lawyer and The Engineer."

All of our editors, with the exception of Edgar, had quit The Lawyer and The Engineer citing the unsustainability of working for free.  Edgar was different.  He had recently graduated from college--an English major--and was happy, given the state of the economy, to be an "intern" editor.  He had long hair that he kept in a pony tail, and a beard for the reason that he could not afford a hair cut, razors or shaving cream.  The Engineer and I were happy to have Edgar, the "intern" editor, working long hours, fetching coffee, running errands and generally doing the things for us that we didn't want to do for ourselves, for no remuneration beyond encouragement, food and the occasional pat on the head.  Edgar was a great sport.

There was a forceful knock at the door at the bottom of the stairway that led to the street below.  "Edgar," I said.  "Be a good fellow and go so if that is another delivery of tazers."  The only material benefit that fame had thus far brought us was that we had been sponsored by the same tazer company whose weapons we had been stunned by more than once, all chronicled here in The Absurd Adventures of The Lawyer and The Engineer.  We already had three boxes full of the damn things.

"Do it your self," suggested Edgar.

"I can't.  Look at me. I can't get up when I am holding a newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other," I said.  "Ask The Engineer, he's not doing anything."

"Sorry, Edgar," said The Engineer.  "I'm thinking."

Edgar smirked and made his way to the stairway muttering profanities under his breath.  He came back, the blood having rushed out of his face, holding a piece of paper in his trembling hand.  He held it to us.

"What is it?" asked The Engineer.  Edgar could only stammer in response.

"Give it to me," I said.  I read it out loud.  " And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.   And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.  God hates fags.  God hates Jews.  God hates The Lawyer and The Engineer."

"Geese, that's a little harsh, don't you think?" asked The Engineer.

"Who in the hell is this from?" I asked looking at the blank backside of the note.

"It's--it's those bat-shit nuts," said Edgar, "from--oh shit, I can't remember what they are called.  Ah!  The Southend Pentocostal Church of the Apocalypse.  God I hate those assholes."

"Well," I pointed out, "they don't make themselves very lovable, do they?  What I want to know is how they found us?"  I asked looking at The Engineer.  "There is no public record whatsoever that we have anything to do with this building.  Ah!" I said slapping my forehead.  "Unless they checked the county records to see what property we are paying taxes on."

"They are famous for peaceful demonstrations, no matter how offensive, but otherwise they operate like a terrorist organization, with cells in every city across the South and Midwest," said Edgar.

"How do you know so much about them?" I asked.  "You're not one of them?"

"Fuck no.  I hate those bastards.  I wish they would all die a slow, miserable death."  Edgar was shaking and looked like he would lose his mind.  "Guys, this has been a great resume builder for me, working for you, but I am afraid I will have to tender my one minute notice, now."

"Whoa, whoa, hold on," said The Engineer.  "You can't quit--or, I guess you can, about a tazer?  You want a tazer?"  Edgar shook his head in the negative.  "Two?" asked The Engineer, upping the ante.

"I don't want a fucking tazer!" Edgar exploded.  "I want money, and you two worthless jack-holes don't have any."

"Not much," I said modifying his assessment.

Our attention was suddenly captivated by the angry sound of a man yelling.  We sidled up to the windows over looking the typically quiet and empty street and saw a throng of white bread, unimaginatively dressed people.  The signs they held more than made up for their outward appearance of complete blandness.  The signs read, God hates this and God hates that; mostly Jews and homosexuals.  "That's the Reverend Slanderson," Edgar told us.   

The preacher stood before them giving them an Old Testament, looker room, pep rally.  He quoted nonsensical scripture breathlessly, interspersed with prophecy of the end of times and the second coming.  "This is the anointed moment!  That time we are blessed to see with our own eyes!  That Jesus will return and smote the sinners into eternal hell-fire and damnation!  And we, the chosen ones, after aiding God in his will to bring the sinners to their knees, and dash the life out of them, will be lifted up by the Angels of heaven, to be with and in the glory of the Almighty!  Amen!"  That was followed by more scriptural non sequiturs.

I couldn't resist any longer.  I opened the window and shouted at the children of the corn.  With all their eyes on me, I grabbed my crotch and hollered, "Here's your Almighty, fuck-nuts!"  The Engineer and Edgar ducked away from the window, praying to the great Santa Claus, sky god that they would live to see tomorrow.

The Reverend had a skeletal face, with nothing of the rosy meat of joy in his chin or cheeks.  His tight expressionless face gave way to the most sinister grin I have ever had the displeasure to witness.  Under one arm he had a Bible.  The other raised up, a bony, chilly white finger pointed straight at me.  He said, "Death is your mother."  I'm not sure what in the hell he meant by that, but I didn't like the tone of it.         

"Oh shit," said Edgar.  "Let's not screw around with these characters; just call the police."

"No, no, don't call the police," said The Engineer.  "There are a few problems with that.  We don't own, nor rent this building," he confessed to Edgar.  "We are squatters."

"I looked it up in county records," I said.  "The guy who owned this building has been dead for ten years.  We pay the taxes on it."

"And I," said The Engineer, "have all the utilities illegally hooked.  Most importantly, the police are exactly what those assholes want.  If the police come, then so do the media.  They love the attention, so let's no give it to them."  We were in agreement, and went about our day to the noxious sounds of Leviticus, Genesis, Ezekiel and Revelations disjointedly quoted in angry, white voices.  Occasionally I peeked my head out the window to try to engage in dialogue with the inbreds.

"Hey, crackers!  Help me out here.  What does this mean?" I asked and read from the Bible we had there at The Lawyer and The Engineer HQ.  "From Ezekiel, and I quote, 'I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; I let them become defiled through their gifts--the sacrifice of every firstborn--that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD!"

"Sinner," one yelled to me.  "Faggot," screamed another.  "Jew!" bellowed a third.

"I don't know about the sinner part, for sure, but I'm sorry to disappoint you.  I'm not a Jew, nor a homosexual."  They booed and hissed me.  "I'm sorry, that's just the way it is and I can't help it.  Another passage I need help with.  Explain this shit from Deuteronomy: 'You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud.  However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit, or the coney.'  No coneys, with delicious cheese, chili, onions and mustard?  That's my definition of hell."

Slanderson, not to be out done in the nonsensical quoting of Biblical scripture department, fired off:  "The sun will darken," and with those words, a cold front with clouds finally moved in, obscuring the sun, just as it had been forecasted by the local weatherman that morning.  The creepy old bastard of a reverend continued, "and the moon will not give its light--"  It happened to be a new moon The Engineer stated.  "The stars will fall from the sky--"  I queried whether there was supposed to be any meteor showers that evening.  Edgar and The Engineer shrugged.  "And the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  They will see the Son of Man on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all of these things have happened," he hollered, the cage of his chest heaving up and down under neath his shirt. 

"Do you suppose," I asked Edgar and The Engineer, "they believe the second coming is upon us?"

"Ask them," said The Engineer.

"Hey!  Reverend Skeletor!  When's the rapture?"

"Soon," he answered up.  "Before the day is over, faggot!"

It was then that I had noticed Edgar was looking queasier with each passing moment.  I also took note that he bore and uncanny resemblance to a famous biblical character.  "Edgar," I said.

"What," he said, a little jumpy.

"Undo your pony tail for a moment, please."


"Just do it, damn it," I persuaded.

Edgar let down his hair.  "Fuck me running," I said.  "Look at that.  Who does Edgar look like?"  The Engineer puzzled over Edgar but could not see the similarity at first.  "It's Jesus H. Christ, in our midst."  And he did look just like him, or at least the simile of the Northern European Jesus that had been shoved into the eye sockets of white, God-fearing children since time immemorial.  Edgar had deep blue, shaming eyes, like the ones your mother looked at you with the first time she caught you masturbating in the bathroom.  He also had a long, sad and humorless face, to go with the beard--it was a perfect match.  "Behold," I proclaimed, "The Son of God!"

"Would you like to play the part of Jesus in a little passion play this afternoon?" I asked Edgar.

"Oh no.  No, no, no.  Fuck you," he responded.

"Wa, ha, ha, ha," laughed The Engineer.  "No, Edgar, you have to.  This is going to be too good."

"And if I refuse?" asked Edgar.

"Then you are fired," said The Engineer and I in unison.

"Then, I quit," said Edgar walking towards the stairway.

"We'll pay you," I said.

Edgar stopped and turned.  "Pay me what?  Chinese take out?  Screw you."

"Um," the Engineer said, "twenty-five dollars."

"Get serious," said Edgar.

"Fine," I said.  "Fifty."  Edgar thought it over, and then shook his head.  "Okay.  One-hundred, and that's our final offer."

"Where is it?  Put the cash on the barrel," said Edgar.  I pulled out my check book, of a closed account, and wrote and endorsed it to his order.  On the memo line I wrote, "For services faithfully rendered unto the governor of the universe."  Ripping the check free, I handed it to him.  Edgar looked it over and said, "To tell you the truth, I don't think I could do what I think you are thinking for a million dollars."

"Why?" asked The Engineer.

"Guys," said Edgar.  "I'm Jewish."

"So what?  Jesus was a Jew.  And you don't look it."  I said.

"Oh, because I don't have dark hair and skin and a big nose?"

"Well, yeah," said The Engineer.  "They'll think you are Jesus."

"Damn it," grimaced Edgar.  "I-I," he paused, "I'm also gay."

"All the better," I said gleefully rubbing my hands together with the serendipity of it all. 

After a quick rehearsal, we huddled at the back door that let out to the alley behind head quarters.  "Just in case," said The Engineer, handing Edgar a tazer.

"How do I use this?" asked Edgar.

"It's all ready to go.  Just aim and pull the trigger if it comes to that," said The Engineer.  Edgar put it in the front pocket of his jeans underneath the brown robe that we had fashioned for him from an old, dusty curtain.

"Now go forth," I summoned, "and may the peace of the Lord be with you."

"You guys suck," said Edgar as he walked down the alley and out of view.

Back at our perch, over looking the premodern  imbeciles below, Edgar emerged from around the corner with his arms uplifted.  One of the flock saw him and went silent.  Then two more, and three, began to tremble with ecstasy at the sight and comfort that the world had finally come to an end.  "He hath returned!" shouted one.  "Behold, our Savior!" screamed another.  The rest began to froth and babble in tongues.

The Reverend approached Edgar, our Lord, and dropped to his knees in front of him.  "Dear Lord, Christ Almighty--you have returned.  We are your servants.  Bid us your command, Son of God."

Edgar looked them over, and shot a glance up at The Engineer and I, our heads peeking over the window seal above.  We nodded to him, encouraging him on.  "Kneel before your Lord," hollered Edgar, his voice cracking.  The flock dropped to their knees, some laying out flat on their bellies in the street.  There was a long pause as Edgar was obviously wondering what to say next.

The Reverend, holding his Bible in front him, his thin lips twitching, asked him again, "What is your command, O Lord?  What would you have us know and do on this day that the sinners, faggots and Jews will be swept into the flames of hell?"

Edgar spoke, thus:  "You shall do God's bidding on Earth, as he does in heaven."  Edgar took a deep breath, and let it rip.  "I am the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.  I am love!  I command you to love your brother as I do.  Forgiveness is my sustenance.  And love for all of God's creatures is my gift.  And by all of God's creatures, I mean ALL people, no matter what religion they follow--or no religion at all; ALL men and women, whether they be Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, or homosexuals.  THAT IS MY COMMAND!"

Rising to his feet, the Reverend stood toe-to-toe with his Holy Majesty, and looked him in his twitching eyes.  The ancient Reverend began to shake with anger.  He held his Bible to the air and yelled, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction!"  We didn't like the sound of that, least of all Edgar.  The Reverend turned to his flock, and gave them an acidic frown that made my skin crawl.  Turning back to Edgar, the Reverend struck him across the head with his Bible.  "Damn you to hell!" thundered the old buzzard, and was about to strike Edgar again, but not before two prongs of tazer zapped him between the eyes.

Never losing his grasp on his Bible, Slanderson convulsed, "Ga-di-di-di-di-di," his teeth chattering as he dropped to the ground, and flopped around.

The flock was as figuratively stunned as their convulsing leader.  Edgar, unable to resist getting in one last juicy jab, lent over Slanderson and said, "You've just been tazered by a queer Jew, bitch."  Edgar stood and took stock of his predicament.  He was outnumbered by fifty.  Edgar pointed to the sky behind them and yelled, "Behold!"  Every last one of the dim-wits turned to see what it was.  Edgar tucked-tail and ran like his hair was on fire back for the alley.

With a twenty yard head start, the flock tore after him.  The Engineer and I hustled down to the back door with it cracked open, waiting for the arrival of the carpenter from Nazareth.  He came furiously high-stepping it, holding the bottom of his robe in his hand, and dove into the door to safety.  I shut and latched it as the faithful pounded on the other side demanding blood.  The Engineer reinforced the door with a two-by-four.  He ran to the front and did the same just as the flock began pounding and calling for our heads there.

"Oh shit," I said.  "This is bad.  You really pissed them off Edgar."  Our hearts were in our throat.  "How long are these doors going to last?" I asked the Engineer.  The Engineer shrugged.  "Fuck.  What in the hell are we going to do?  These bastards intend to kill us."

Edgar ran up the stairs to the main room.  "Where are you going?" I yelled up to him.  Edgar logged on to Facebook, Twitter, and began emailing with one hand, while furiously texting with the other.  His electronic dexterity was breath taking.  "What in the hell are you doing?" I asked.  "This is no time to be lolly-gagging and networking."

"Shut the fuck up," said Edgar.

"That's really no way to speak to your employers," said The Engineer, as the howling of the true believers grew more violent by the second, and the front and the back doors were being pummeled.

"There," said Edgar.  "It's our only hope," he said peering over the window seal.  Below us was a splintering crash.  They were in the stairway.  No sooner than The Engineer leaped to the door to the room and bolted that door shut, the anointed ones were hard at it, unhinging the one thing that was prolonging our lives.

The Engineer and I stood hard against the door, holding it to while more than one of the flock threw themselves against it from the other side, repeatedly, for the next five minutes.  "Crapping hell!" yelled The Engineer.  "We're goners, aren't we?  I'd say this door has about two minutes left."  I had the uneasy feeling that The Engineer's assessment of the structural integrity of the door was dead on.

"Ha!" guffawed Edgar.  "It worked.  They're here! They're here!" he said jumping up and down by the window, still in his robe.  We could hear the thunderous roar of motorcycles.  "Come look," said Edgar.

"But the door," I said.

"We're saved, We're saved," said Edgar.  I left The Engineer holding the fort, and ran to one of the windows.  At one end of the street there was a sortie of motorcycles mounted by men all decked out in black, leather chaps, pants, vests, boots, jackets, and halters connected by a chrome ring above the solar plexus.  At the other end there was about fifteen, shirtless hulks, pure muscle and all business, punching their fists in their hands.  Edgar yelled instructions to the bikers and body builders.

They took after the Pentecostals on the street, banging heads, flipping them in the air, head over ass.  Bikers came in the destroyed front door.  The pounding on the other side of the door that thinly separated us from being maimed stopped.  The Engineer stepped away from the door, puzzled.  Then there was a blood curdling scream, and desperate pleas were shouted, mixed with sadistic laughs, and more screaming.  We dared not to open the door for fear of what we might see.

In the street, the fallen were picking themselves up, scuttling about and trying to escape.  Two Pentecostals picked up the Reverend, the tazer darts still stuck to his forehead, and dragged him away.  One biker was beating another Pentecostal over the head with a God Hates Fags sign as he chased him down the street and out of view.

"We did it!" I celebrated.

Edgar looked at me, and asked, "What do you mean 'we'?"  With the exception of the occasional scream for mercy and the roar of motorcycle in the distance, things had quieted down considerably in the street.  The Engineer went down stairs and propped up the doors in their jams.

Looking out the window still intoxicated with bewilderment, I saw a police cruiser round the corner.  I stepped away from the window and out of sight.  Getting a glance a safe distance away from the window, I spied the cruiser moving along down the road and away.

Peace and quiet had finally returned after five hours of Biblical mayhem.  It was as eerie as it was relieving.

"Whew," said The Engineer.

"Wow," I said.

Edgar wiped perspiration from his forehead with his sleeve.

"Edgar," said The Engineer.

"Yeah," responded Edgar.

"How about being a good sport, and pop around the corner and get us some Chinese carry-out.  I'm famished," said The Engineer.

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