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57. FRIEND OF THE FAITH

June 29, 2008

Vulnerability

Fifty witches hats. Forty nine hard and crumpled black. One unworn white.

Pulling on that white one and preparing to put a new lung into this patient’s body. She needs it badly. Can I do this? It’s definitely my job; I have to do it.

The angriest shout “I need you here right now McGuire. This one’s got a bullet in the brain.”

“Two minutes. I’ll have her all sewn up in two minutes.”

Bellowing “NO”, bellowing “NO”. “Here NOW.”

“Listen you idiot, you keep moving me to a different case before I’m finished. I can’t complete anything. He can wait two minutes.”

No breath in this headlock. “YOU listen. I decide priority. You cut ‘em and stitch ‘em. If you can’t handle that simple fact you can fuck off and I’ll get another butcher in.”

Humiliating. How can good work be done under this bullying regime?

“I have to pee”.

“Piss in your pants, there are lives to be saved. You put you own comfort before these poor creatures?”

So there’s a squelch of piss and shit at the end when they snap us smiling arm-in-arm for the news.

“See boy, we’re heroes. You do what you do and I do what I do and everything turns out fine. Compartmentalize. Specialize.”

I hate him. I’m livid. But is he right? My way’s been a dead end. This might be my last white hat; the others are charcoaled. If there’s a balance how would I find it? How would I articulate it to this dragon?

Anger juice pressed into all parts of McGuire’s drunken, slumbered body. He mumbled and moved in distress and disquiet.

The clogging rage dissipated as a familiar old figure appeared with his turban, beard and white robes. “Ah ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” This is much better. This man is always warm and encouraging.

McGuire, having satiated himself with Layla scenes, had also become attuned to the warp, woof and characters of Baha’i life. He found the style and substance of the message soothing, especially as delivered by the man standing before him, the charismatic son of the prophet-founder Baha’u’llah. Layla and Sholeh, they were the exceptional fruits of these exhortations. “Even without miracles these are better people than me. But I could help in other ways.” He was awed by them and their exotic religious background and that emotional response was cleansing.

So, it was intensely upsetting and annihilating when the tender prophet approached, glowering, and growled “You are not a hero”.

This troubling shock woke him up. He was ill at ease on his couch. Half six. Got-to-get-up time. McGuire was too sick to move. No option but to sleep it off and be late today. He closed down all Stream communicates and, burrowing into the couch, purred and moaned, hoping to soothe the nausea. A few hot throbs and he was unconscious again.

On the warmest, white sand beach, Layla and Sholeh and their million Baha’i friends, all vibrantly crafted, laughed and played with uninhibited authenticity. Not gaunt. They were enjoying good food and each other’s company without a wall of grog bottles. Their good health and unblemished bodies uplifted his spirits. Crunching his carcass through the sand, each person recognized him with such delight and embraced him with such a wholesome welcome that he contracted to a crying pinhead within a furnace of unworthiness. And that small point wailed:

Just the image of a red, raw devil

Alarms me to trouble

That unaccompanied

In the dark

His horrible laugh

Might cause my death

Dreamy McGuire lamented the contrast. Why couldn’t his upbringing have brainwashed him with their positive belief in humanity instead of fear? With these people around, there may be hope after all. If he ever had kids.

Recovery

Waking again at eight, his bladder needed to be emptied. And, as he couldn’t let go on the couch, he forced himself to slouch along on the bathroom trail.

“Can see shit circles unaided by any brown lenses. Full of phlegm and snot, that brain rot. Thought “this is not living” and got it all out in an ice-cold shower. Now, that is past.”

This is a replay, this is a replay of Master McGuire’s transformation from decay to well-being as he stood flush to a polished black mirror. A sluggish sickness loitered in his sinuses and liver but his ailing body had been gifted the freedom to recover; he’d pledged to quit the grog until further notice. Being sober, he felt, was necessary if he was to implement his decision to rescue the One World Warrior and, no doubt, steer the planet straight.

Along with the familiar New York morning din, this regal decision helped put a lid on his overnight angst. He was pursuing a purpose he could be proud of. And, though he’d never join the religion, rubbing up against this fantastic Baha’i world would be akin to watching a spiritual water feature.

How ironic that it was his widely-disapproved of business acumen rather than any po-faced piety, gleaming gentleness or bleating heart entropy that had brought him to this point where even the supposed supernatural sought association.

“You see, truly great business is perfectly constructive. You need to deploy and optimize a wide variety of skills and resources. You need great gut instinct as well as assiduously navigating risk management methodologies. Maybe break a few eggs but that’s just tough commercial love. Layla, she recognized that when you really need to get things done, my experience and flexibility trumps any priest, politician or pen-pusher; they’re just Johnny one notes.”

His reflection agreed.

“This is it Mark. I’ve found it. Some meaning in my life.”

He gave himself a clap before folding his arms over his inhaled chest. He felt healthier already; couch spectator to preened participator. Whilst the world’s bobbing heads read second-hand religious books and sat at the feet of gurus, he would partner with the prophets.

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