July 18, 2008

No need to ask who stood before him.

Mark McGuire, dreamily pondering the day’s business, ouched under the abrasive caress of a gruffly-spoken entrance.

“How’re yer going mate? You scrub up well.“

The startled Mark joyously lifted himself up and welcomed Joel with an embarrassing array of rubbing, nuzzling and quiet touching.

“Joel, it’s so great to have you here. Come on over and sit down. Have a drink? Oh no, you don’t, do you? And hey, neither do I!”

[Joel, fretfully amused by the unexpected affection and dithering of his host]:
“No, except for a brief splurge, I’ve given all that away. It’s good to see you too, Mark. It’s like meeting an old footy mate. Quite a welcome you’ve got there. That must be the business equivalent of a fabulous bedside manner.”

[Mark, in mock anguish]:
“Oh, sorry. I’m not usually so touchy-feely. This is so bizarre. I feel star-struck. As if you’ve jumped out from my favourite movie. I mean I know so much about you.”

[Joel, inclusively]:
“Well, I guess you’re very much part of the storyline now.”

[Mark, nervously drawing breath]:
“Indeed. It’s very exciting. I’ve never regarded myself as a One World Warrior enthusiast but having seen her up close… wow… she’s awe-inspiring. It’s such an honour… to have been picked from billions.

You and me, Joel, I feel we have a special connection. There must be something about us, yeah? I’m certain my whole life has been a preparation for this situation. But it must have been amazing to grow up with her and be her partner, right?”

[Joel, raising his eyes high to the right]:
“I struggle with that question, Mark. You’re asking the loser what it was like to play in such a memorable final.”

“No, you’re no loser. You must be really special. Out of all men she picked you. The whole purpose of this repository is to call out to you. You’re the new Joseph… … … [waving no] the virginity riddle… it doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore”

Joel seemed to be in sharp pain. Mark worried about him until the pained face passed.

[Joel, subdued]:
“Yes, it’s been extraordinary but I’ve been found wanting. I hope your relationship with her goes a lot better.

Look, you’ll understand that I was very embarrassed when the repository exposed my secret life. And not just sex and second wives but the way I abandoned her to follow my own adventures. Fack it… I’m glad it’s all out now. If, somehow, we can find Layla, it might go some way to making up for my inadequacies. I’m going to beg her to come back to Horsham with me and Catherine. I want to show her she can rely on me.

People who don’t know her have weird ideas about her. She’s not God. God is something she struggles with herself. It’s more like the universe takes a keen interest in her. What freaked me when we first went out in Horsham is that we’d walk along by the river and everything – leaves, wind, bugs, water – would turn and stare at her when she passed by. She never seemed to notice. I got used to it… it made me feel special to be living in a very different version of the world… maybe you are going through a similar phase. Now, I think maybe they were looking at me and wondering what she was doing with that selfish prick.”

“So, how would you explain what she does? If it’s not a God thing, could she be an alien of some sort?”

“I really don’t know and she didn’t either. And, yeah, we did talk about all those theories. Mind you, she did have one remarkable physical attribute that very few people knew about. She was more than twice as heavy as you’d expect – 150 kgs. I don’t know where the weight came from… whether it was bone or muscle density.”

“That’s amazing. I knew it… she must be part of an extra-terrestrial/human strain. That fits.”

“Maybe. One good thing about the repository is that it revealed she’s a direct descendant of the Baha’i prophet. Maybe there’s a prophet gene.”

“Joel, I was wondering… why did you get so involved with the Baha’i religion when Layla never did? It seems that’s what pulled you guys apart the most. Do you see that as a mistake now? Don’t get me wrong… I’ve a lot of respect for its teachings.”

“Yes, in hindsight it was a big mistake but easily made. Mark, the first two Baha’is I met were Layla Parkin and Sholeh Jackson. Why wouldn’t I look into it?… case closed. And Sholeh was a Baha’i till her death. And Layla never had any issue with Baha’is… just a little with what’s called the administration. It wasn’t the religion that was the problem; it was my over-indulgence in it. The spirit of the religion was to be inclusive and world embracing but I got bogged down in making sure the minutes were actioned.

You see, essentially, Layla represents the Baha’i Faith I fell in love with. Yeah, really. At the start they were exactly the same… shockingly beautiful and the solution to all the world’s problems. Over time, my identity became so tied to the nitty gritty and politics involved in being on committees that I effectively turned my back on Layla. Of course, bye-bye shocking beauty and so forth. It’s like that famous line where the guy says “what’s this?” and they say “That’s a frog” and he says “no, it’s a picture of a frog”.

I suppose you have to see the funny side. In the last year of high school sixteen of us turned up to a Baha’i fireside talk at her house. We expected a congregation but there was only her parents and a visitor there. She was upstairs… her mother called her down to make tea for us all. She said to me in a huff “what’s all this about?” I said “we’re interested” she said “yeah, right”. Then her mother asked her to chant a prayer in front of all of us. You could tell Layla thought we were pulling a fast one on her… Bluey Rourke had brought in half a kebab. But she chanted and, yeah, within a year half of St Brigid’s had become Baha’i. It was about the only time she was on the receiving end of a surreal experience.

We all wanted a Pippy. My wife, Catherine, was a Catholic. She thought she’d get her own Pippy to replace her guardian angel. We were all a bit naïve but at least it was a positive influence in our lives.

Hmmm, yeah… you know, for many years she’s been prone to severe depression. [puts hand up] I played a part in that. The miscarriages and hysterectomy didn’t help.

Around the time of federation she became increasing paranoid. She insisted that since I had come to Haifa I had joined a cabal and given them her secrets. We’ve not talked much in the last sixteen/seventeen years. Mark, I think I drove her mad.”

[Mark, empathetically]:
“Joel, relationships have ups and downs. My impression was that she still cares deeply for you.”

“Thank you.

Your performance yesterday was very impressive. You had World Fed on the back foot. And, yes, you gave my boys a bit of a serve too. Unfairly as it happens.”

“How so?”

“The Baha’i Faith didn’t ask Rezvani to talk to you. It was a man called Erfanian. He’s a House member but has no authority to act unilaterally on its behalf. He did it for family reasons. Rezvani shouldn’t have accepted his instructions. In fact, the House voted to discontinue further talks with you.”

“I’m very glad to hear that Joel… but how do you explain their attempt to discredit me and the repository yesterday? Was that this “House” or just another loner on a mission?”

“I was gone before that decision but I think that had to be the House. Although, my view is that they were manipulated into it by Enayati, another House member. He’s a very good man but very pushy when it comes to evangelizing the Faith. He’d see all this publicity and controversy as an opportunity to rally the troops and gain further share of mind.”

“Good for him. I like him already. Not afraid to ruffle a few feathers eh?

Listen Joel, they shouldn’t have tried to plot against me. Nobody every gets to hear the truth; it’s too complicated. My story brings the major facts together nicely. You know you’ve got your story spot on when the truth is less plausible.”

“Doesn’t bother me anymore. My religious career is finished I’m happy to say.”

“You can turn to me if you ever need any help on the outside. Maybe that’s one of the reasons she chose me… she knew I could help you guys out financially. You know she called me her hero – Spectacular Mark McGuire.”

Joel laughed uproariously… to Mark’s dismay.

“Nice one, Mark. But that’s definitely not the reason why she picked you.

She picked you because of her first love… Aussie Rules footy. Your name is full of references to it.

A ‘mark’ is when a footy player catches a kick. A ‘speccy’ is a spectacular high mark. You are definitely ‘speccy’ Mark… in your case ‘speccy’ is the high-flying speculation you deal in. She was being naughty. The first part of your surname is Melbourne’s most famous footy arena – the MCG. And your surname, McGuire, matches that of the most famous Collingwood president, Eddie McGuire. Collingwood is her favourite team and Eddie McGuire also doubled as a leading media person.

Yes, Mark, given the evidence, my story is the most plausible.”

Mark was crest-fallen that Layla could have cast her eye down a list of impresarios till she found one that aligned with her sporting preferences. But he decided to change his philosophy to cater for it.

[Mark, good-naturedly]:
“Touché again, Joel. From now I decree that the best story shall be the one that makes me feel most special regardless of how well it fits with the evidence.”

“Anyway, Mark, let’s get on with it. Where’s this noise I need to look at?”

“Of course. I’ll get Tony to set it up for you. Right now, I’m late for a meeting. Have to go… I bawled him out… the guy who called it… for not keeping me in the know. I won’t be long. Let’s have a little look-see if they are ready.”

McGuire brought up the meeting room camera on his screen.

[Joel, tottering back from the large screen]:
“Whoa Mark. That’s him. Look, that leak… I don’t know the extent of your orchestration… but that big guy with the red beard… he’s the Baha’i… the one who handed over the scenes. You know that already, right?”

[Mark, flabbergasted]:
“O! I really didn’t know. Could have been a hundred people. Man, what are the odds he’d be at this very meeting and you’d be here to point him out? See, Layla is making things click together.

Let’s have a little fun. You have to come with me to the meeting… just to see the look on his face. He knows you, yeah? ”

[Joel, apprehensive]:
“He sure does. He won’t be happy to see me. Actually, if you and me go in there together, he could get quite upset. And I don’t think either of us is in a position to fend him off.”

[Mark, finding the fear funny]:
“He’s a big teddy bear! This is my patch Joel. Just you watch. He’ll bow and scrape. Come with me. I’m so happy you are here.”

Thirstily, Mark kissed Joel on the mouth. No, he didn’t, it just sounds like that. Actually, Mark insisted Joel go out in front. But he did think about kisses and he did think Joel probably had to go on top.


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