FROM PAGE 48 (Gordon at 7):
By around noon, Cynthia is feeling much better. As a matter of fact, she’s high. She calls up Janice Marrsden and they decide to go see a movie together. The Exorcist is the one everyone’s talking about. Cynthia has already read the book. She usually sticks to Harlequin Romances—she goes through two or three a week; can’t get enough of them, for some reason. But most of them tell the same story: A young woman is possessed by a tall, handsome stranger. At some point Cynthia realized that a girl possessed by the devil is pretty much the same thing, only kinkier.
Janice drives over in her blue 1966 Mustang with Jimmy in the backseat. “Stan is off calming down some pissed-off farmer,” Janice announces. “Somebody painted a big sign on his barn that said, ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus.’”
“Never a dull moment when you’re married to the Chief of Police,” says Cynthia, feeling a giddy hilarity fueled by fifteen cigarettes and a second round of Demerol.
“Oh, it gets plenty dull, believe me…” says Janice. “Anyway, I couldn’t find a babysitter, so I thought I’d bring ol’ Jimmy-Toad along with us. The Swiss Family Robinson is showing at the same time on another screen. Why don’t you bring Gordon? We’ll make it a double date.”
A deep-lined frown creases Cynthia’s face as she thinks about Gordon tagging after them. Why can’t she be more like Janice, who takes Jimmy with her everywhere, like some dog she adores? But at least Jimmy is borderline normal, as far as little boys go. Gordon is always embarrassing her with his cutesy-pie intellectual observations. He runs around making jokes about Nikola Tesla—or some 15th-century monk that no one on God’s green earth has ever heard of—and then he expects everyone to laugh. She tells him no one likes a Mister Smarty-Pants. Sometimes she’d like to shoot the lippy little punk. But she knows that would be wrong.
FROM PAGES 99 – 103 (Gordon at 12):
Ever since Gordon’s mother found out she’s pregnant again, she’s been stamping around the house naked like some saggy-stomached Bantu fertility goddess. It’s kind of gross. She’s truly the only woman Gordon can’t imagine screwing. He takes one look at her cellulite-rippled thighs and the bear brown fur curling up from her vagina, and he thinks, How did I ever fit my damned head through there?
She’s usually dressed, thank God, by the time he gets home from the lumberyard in the evenings. His father has him working with the air conditioning crew after school. He crawls through attics and under houses routing air ducts, braving black widow spiders and asbestos dust for fifty cents below the minimum wage. He keeps hoping some horny housewife will greet him at her door wearing a pair of black fishnet stockings and a sexy negligée. The ensuing seduction scene runs through his head at three times normal speed (she unfastens his manly tool belt, lowers the zipper on his pants with her teeth, etc.). So far it hasn’t happened, but he’s still optimistic.
With the money he sets aside from the job, he plans to buy a used Corvette when he turns sixteen. He knows there’s something fundamentally ludicrous about owning such a car, and it will probably be an embarrassment to him by the time he’s ready to leave home and become a beatnik (he’s been reading a lot of Kerouac and Burroughs, lately). However, his father owned a Corvette before him—so they’ll have that in common—and Gordon is hoping it will help him meet girls. If a car really is a psychological extension of a man’s genitals, as he’s so often read, then his will be bulging, blue, and freaky-fast—with pinstripes that look like veins.
He’s hoping that a driver’s license will open up exciting new vistas for him. Lately, his days have a sameness that he finds a little disturbing. School, work, a quick yank in the shower, then it’s time for bed. Whole weeks go by that way. It makes him want to say, “Oh, come on…. That’s it?”
Today the monotony was broken up somewhat by an incident in journalism class. The class is taught by an affable, bearded, big-gutted man named Digger Olsen—a hippie who ate too much. He looks like a friendly bull walrus. He’s known around campus as “The Big O.” Gordon thinks he’s the greatest. Jimmy Marrsden and Gordon are taking the class together, finally getting to know each other again after six years of deliberate avoidance. Gordon is the Opinions Editor of the school newspaper, The Viking Voice; Jimmy is one of its photographers and the main darkroom technician. Together, they’ve been raising a mild sort of hell with the school’s administration—Jimmy taking bizarre photos of those in charge and Gordon writing subversive captions to go along with them. The other day, for example, a girl named Amanda Erickson was suspended from school for wearing a T-shirt that said, Life is a bed of roses, but watch out for the pricks. Jimmy took a picture of Amanda (T-shirt slogan prominently displayed) as she was being strong-armed by the assistant vice-principal—a pop-eyed Young Republican/Moral Majority type named Donald Witzkowski who took his job far too seriously. In this particular photo, Mr. Witzkowski had the countenance, Gordon thought, of a maddened trout. He chose to run the photo on his Opinions page with a caption that read: “Sanctimonious Fishman Gropes One of Our Fair Students” along with a fiery editorial denouncing the school’s dress code policy. That Amanda was just one rung above trailer trash (and had nice tits) was not the issue; it was her right to free speech that concerned Gordon. If Amanda ended up wanting to date him after the article came out, well… that was just a bonus. When the article did come out (despite The Big O’s serious misgivings), it caused an uproar. Students organized into protest groups, staged rallies, and today they came to school wearing T-shirts with the filthiest slogans they could think of. Some of these amounted to no more than rude concert T-shirts (Ted Nugent, Molly Hatchet, and Blue Oyster Cult were especially popular), but others were genuinely creative and obscene. Gordon was called into the vice-principal’s office during journalism class, where Donald Witzkowski met him along with a surprise guest: Sergeant Alphonse Garcia, of the Kingsburg Police Department.
The door closed behind them and Gordon was instructed to sit in a beige folding chair. As he sat “What’s this?” Sergeant Garcia asked abruptly, flinging the latest issue of The Viking Voice in Gordon’s face.
“That’s a newspaper,” Gordon said, stating the obvious. He let the loose pages fall at his feet.
“I know it’s a newspaper! I’m talking about what you wrote in it, dum-dum!”
“You mean my editorial?” asked Gordon, who was thinking that Sergeant Garcia looked like the homely younger brother of the character Eric Estrada played on that TV cop show, CHiPs. He also thought that dum-dum was not a particularly good phrase to use when you’re trying to appear more intelligent than the person you’re interrogating.
“Your ed-i-tor-rial…” Sergeant Garcia said in a mocking, namby-pamby voice. Gordon could tell that the sergeant desperately wanted one of those high-wattage hanging interrogation lamps to shine in his face, but he’d have to settle for the flickering, buzzing florescent lights overhead, making the room feel like the inside of a toothache, all hollowed out and grayish-green.
“It had something to do with freedom of speech,” Gordon said, trying to be helpful.
“Well, I think it stinks!” Sergeant Garcia yelled, slapping his fist into his palm right in front of Gordon’s face. It made Gordon flinch. He wondered if he was about to get beaten up, or hauled off to jail. Either way, it would make great fodder for his next Opinions piece.
“This man here,” Sergeant Garcia said, pointing to Mr. Witzkowski, “this guy, should sue you for slander!”
“I think libel is the word you want there,” said Gordon.
“Whatever! If it was up to me, I’d take you down to the river and drown you in a sack, you little smart aleck.”
“Why? Because I called him a fishman?”
“A sanctimonious fishman,” Mr. Witzkowski said, sanctimoniously.
“Well, I’m sorry about that,” Gordon said. “I just thought you were looking a little trout-like that day. How can I make it up to you?”
“You can’t make it up to me,” Mr. Witzkowski said. “You hurt my feelings.”
“Like I said, ‘I’m sorry…’”
“We’re going to suspend the holy hell out of you,” Sergeant Garcia promised.
But in the end, they didn’t. They were afraid of turning Gordon into a cause célèbre. After another twenty minutes of intimidation tactics, they sent Gordon back to class, where he immediately regaled The Big O and his fellow journalists with the tale of his persecution.
“They should’ve taken me with you,” Jimmy said. “I was the one who took the picture, after all.”
“Pictures don’t lie,” Mr. Olsen said; “only Gordon does.”
“But he did look like a fishman. Anyone could see that.”
“I think I’ll be exercising my veto power over your captions a little more strictly from here on out,” The Big O announced.
“God!” Gordon said, pretending to be offended. “What does the ‘O’ in The Big O stand for? Oppressor?”
“Orgasm!” Jimmy said a little too loudly, drawing the word out.
Mr. Olsen’s lightning-fast reaction took everyone by surprise. He grabbed Jimmy by the ear and marched him into the darkroom. The word orgasm, in the seventh grade, still had the power to shock. Everyone could hear Mr. Olsen lecturing Jimmy behind the closed darkroom door. For some reason, this cracked Gordon up. When the door opened again, Mr. Olsen came out looking sterner than anyone had ever seen him. Jimmy trailed behind him, pale and obviously shaken, but grinning behind the big man’s back to show that he was unrepentant.
So both Gordon and Jimmy emerged unbowed from their confrontations with authority that day. Each recognized in the other a certain clownish courage that eluded almost everyone else. And that was why Gordon made the decision that he and Jimmy could become friends again.
Getting ready for bed that night, Gordon wonders if he’ll live to regret that decision.
FROM PAGES 132 – 139 (Gordon at 12):
Four weeks later, Gordon finds himself cast adrift in the murky green aquarium dimness inside Lost Weekend Liquors, the store his father owns with Sammy Beaufont. He’s off by himself because the two men are having an argument—something about receipts and the lease. Gordon can’t make out what they’re saying exactly, standing as he is behind the thick glass door of the refrigerated wine vault. He can, however, see Sammy gesticulating wildly from behind the antique cash register on the mahogany desk near the front entrance. Sammy pauses from his outburst only long enough to unscrew the lid from a brown vitamin jar full of capsules containing dried seaweed, herbal extracts, and essential minerals. He’s told Gordon he eats the pills instead of food (tossing them back with great gulps of zinfandel), claiming they’ll keep him young and vital. So far the plan doesn’t seem to be working. Sammy is a short, fat man with bruised lizard skin bags under his eyes, a huge bony nose, and unruly black hair. He resembles no one so much as that famed ukulele-playing weirdo who’s always on television singing “Tip-Toe Through The Tulips.” Tiny Tim.
Gordon turns his attention to the wine bottles stacked like torpedoes in their neat wooden racks. He doesn’t know much about wine and has only vague notions of why such snobbery seems to be associated with the act of drinking it. Some of the bottles go for four hundred dollars or more. His father has bragged that he and Sammy have the best wine inventory in all of Fresno County. But Gordon wonders if there are enough wine connoisseurs in Fresno to keep the liquor store financially sound. Probably not, going by the snippets he’s heard from Mal and Sammy’s argument.
Stepping out of the wine vault, Gordon wanders the aisles toward the rear of the store, looking at all the upright liquor bottles in their myriad poisonous colors and forms. He can hear Sammy now, braying, “I don’t know what you want from me! Should I wear a sign and walk up and down the highway? Maybe I could play the kazoo or dance an Irish jig!” Mal says something back to him in a low tone, too quiet to be heard.
With no real experience of drinking alcoholic beverages, Gordon finds himself drawn to certain brands for purely aesthetic reasons. He likes the squat green roundness of the Tanqueray gin bottles and the somehow quintessentially Russian design of the Stolichnaya vodka labels. He imagines himself having his own fully stocked bar when he’s older, living in a modern bachelor pad, where he debonairly mixes drinks for nubile airline stewardesses and Communist nymphomaniacs like a young James Bond. Gordon makes a mental note to himself to learn how to drive a rocket-launching Aston-Martin. And an airplane and a speedboat while he’s at it, for quick getaways. His father could help him out there….
It occurs to Gordon that perhaps James Bond is more his father’s ideal of masculinity, rather than his own. Maybe he’s identifying with Mal a little too strongly these days because of all that Prednisone he’s been taking. The role of the suave spy who speeds around in sleek vehicles saving the world while having sex all the time fits Mal much better than it does Gordon, whose heroes have tended to be grumpy old wizards like Hermann Hesse and Carl Jung. However, there was a time when he was younger—around five or six—when Gordon’s daydreams cast him in a more heroic light.
Gordon recalls how he used to entertain fantasies of himself as an athletic teen hippie boy named Starhawk. Starhawk wore round-toed red leather boots and a pair of red underpants on the outside of his perfectly faded denim jeans. He also wore a magic denim jacket (embroidered with flowers and peace symbols) that possessed powers of invisibility, and he had a special pair of red, titanium-mesh gloves with which he could catch speeding bullets. His reflexes were so fast, in fact, that he once caught 63 bullets fired at him from the Tommy gun of the Schnozz Marauder—a villain based on Gordon’s wholly inexplicable childhood fear of the big-nosed vaudeville entertainer, Jimmy Durante. Starhawk’s confrontations with the Schnozz Marauder were often witnessed by a gorgeous, high-strung hippie girl with wavy blonde hair and a buxom body encased in sky blue tights—a girl whom Gordon, in his fantasies, referred to as Sis. To Gordon’s way of thinking at the time (the early 1970’s), calling someone Sis was the height of cool, and it didn’t necessarily mean they were related. Thus, after Starhawk defeated the Schnozz Marauder by grabbing the empty Tommy gun and bending it into a pretzel with his fists, he turned to the near-swooning hippie girl and said in his cool guy voice: “C’mon, Sis, let’s get out of here.” A snow-white unicorn with a silky mane suddenly appeared at Starhawk’s side and he gallantly helped Sis onto its bare back. Then they both galloped away toward more virtuous hippie adventures with Sis’s arms tightly encircling Starhawk’s chest and her head resting upon his shoulder, where she could nuzzle his ear and whisper, “Wow, Starhawk, that was, like, so cool! I can’t believe how strong and groovy you are! I dig you so much!”
Thinking about that particular fantasy now, Gordon would be inclined to identify Sis as his anima and the Schnozz Marauder as his yet-to-be-integrated shadow—but still, the whole thing strikes him as embarrassing in the extreme. Maybe James Bond isn’t such a bad role model, after all.
“Gordon! Let’s get going!” Mal shouts to him from across the store.
Startled, Gordon almost crashes into a rotating wire rack full of greeting cards celebrating the wisdom and hilarity of alcoholism and unchecked satyriasis. He quickly regains his equilibrium and heads toward the front of the store. Mal is already out in the parking lot. Sammy remains behind the mahogany desk, popping more seaweed capsules into his mouth and swilling from a crystal goblet brimming with wine. He gives Gordon a look of mock-exasperation and sighs, “Tell your father he needs more B-vitamins in his diet. And if anybody would listen to your old Uncle Sammy, I’d say it was time you got sent to bed with an airline stewardess. What do you say? Isn’t that right, Gordy?”
“Um, right!” says Gordon, thinking, God, what is he, a mind reader?
“Wine, women, and song!” Sammy says, hoisting his glass. “Nothing else in life matters.”
“Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll,” says Gordon, raising his fist in solidarity. And then he’s outside in the parking lot with his father.
“What was all that crap about?” Mal asks him as they walk to the car.
“Just Sammy being Sammy.…”
“Never put an alcoholic in charge of a liquor store,” Mal says, as if Gordon might be in danger of making just such a business error in the near future. Then he unlocks the Pinto and eases himself into the broken driver’s seat with a theatrical groan.
On the drive back to Kingsburg, Mal asks Gordon if he wants to stop by the airport for a quick flight in the Cessna. Remembering his vow to learn how to drive and fly, Gordon decides the time is right to press his father for flying instructions.
“Will you teach me how to fly today?” Gordon asks him.
“Sure, I’ll let you hold the co-pilot’s wheel, like always.”
“No, I mean really teach me. So I can start flying lessons this year.”
“Who said anything about flying lessons?”
“Grandma told me that Grandpa paid for your lessons starting when you turned thirteen.”
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?”
“I was hoping you’d let me do the same thing.” Gordon can sense his father’s resistance to the idea. “What? Don’t you want me to learn?”
“I’m not saying that. I just don’t think you’re ready yet.” Mal pretends to be paying more attention to the road than usual.
“Why not? You did it at my age. And I’ll bet I could pass the written part of the pilot’s exam, no problem.”
“I’m sure you could, too.” There’s no use arguing with him there. Gordon has an almost photographic memory at this point in his life. He’s proven it by having Mal and Cynthia read out loud from any random page in any book in the house while keeping it concealed from him. Usually by the second or third sentence, Gordon can tell them the book’s title and author and even the sentence’s approximate location on the page—and also what comes after it. He’s never wrong. “That’s not the issue,” says Mal.
“So what is it then?” Gordon asks. His voice rises a notch. “Why can’t I take flying lessons?”
“Look at you!” Mal says, suddenly furious. “You’re still just a shrimp! When I was your age I was almost six feet tall. And one heck of a lot more mature.”
Gordon feels as if he’s just been slapped. His father is angrier with him than he’s ever seen him before. And—aside from some possible fallout from the argument with Sammy—Gordon has no idea why.
“I just thought I’d ask…” Gordon says, backpedaling.
“Look, you may be book-smart, but that doesn’t mean you have good judgment—or even common sense.”
Mal’s fury has Gordon spooked. “Why are you getting so mad?” he asks.
The Pinto is now traveling at more than eighty miles per hour, a speed at which it begins to shudder with harmonic vibrations. Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, Mal reaches into the back seat and rummages around in the pile of crumpled Dairy Queen bags and soiled blueprints. He comes up with a magazine that Gordon recognizes from Mr. Olsen’s journalism class. It’s the scholastic edition of The Columbia Journalism Review, the most recent issue. Suddenly, Gordon knows why his father is upset. A queasy sensation slams into his body like a wave of cold, slimy water—Mal’s disappointment in him is that palpable.
Shaking the folded magazine at the side of Gordon’s head, Mal says with brutal vehemence, “What you did was so… asinine!”
A photograph of Gordon (pre-Prednisone) is on the magazine’s back cover, along with a reprint of his two-part editorial crusade against his school’s dress code policy—starting with Amanda Erickson’s suspension from school for wearing the wrong T-shirt and ending with Gordon’s confrontation with Sergeant Garcia in Mr. Witzkowski’s office. It’s there because Gordon has been singled out as the winner of The Columbia Journalism Review’s Annual Scholastic Journalism Award.
“How many people have read this, do you think?”
“Not many,” Gordon says. “It just goes around to the schools.”
“The Columbia Journalism Review?” Mal is livid. “Important people in New York read this magazine! I’ll bet Norman Mailer reads this magazine!”
“It’s not that big a deal. Really.”
But in a way, it is a big deal. When Mr. Olsen congratulated Gordon six weeks ago for being the youngest student to ever win the award, he told Gordon that it all but guaranteed he would get into any college of his choice, including Harvard, provided he kept his grades up in high school.
“Norman Mailer could be reading right this minute that my jackass son thinks he was raised by wolves!”
There it is. The reason for Mal’s fury. The joke that has suddenly come back to haunt Gordon. A joke written because, for some reason, he just couldn’t take the honor seriously.
The editorials were written in Gordon’s usual, joking style (“Sanctimonious Fishman Gropes One of Our Fair Students” etc.) and when The Columbia Journalism Review asked for a short bio to go along with the award’s announcement in their pages, Gordon gave them something written in the same general tone. In other words, he pushed his small town observations toward absurdity to make his life seem more interesting. And then he told an obvious, outrageous lie with that crack about being raised by wolves like Remus and his brother. But in his defense, Gordon felt that telling the world he had been suckled by a she-wolf contained a kind of poetic truth about what it was like to be raised by Cynthia Swannson in Kingsburg, California—a truth that straightforward journalism would always miss.
Gordon wants to tell his father about all this, but he’s so overcome with panic and nausea that he can’t think of a way to begin.
“You make me so embarrassed!” Mal rants. “You’re such a pompous little know-it-all! And look at you now, with your fat chipmunk cheeks and those stupid feathered bangs with all that hairspray! It looks like you’ve got something shellacked to your frickin’ forehead!”
Gordon has recently begun parting his hair down the middle and feathering it back on the sides in a lame imitation of Andy Gibb, the singing teen heartthrob all the girls in his class are going wild about this year. He’s been fortifying the look with his mother’s spray cans of Aqua-Net—probably too much of it, Gordon realizes now, as he touches the side of his head furthest from Mal and finds he can lift all the hair there in one stiff piece like a desiccated falcon’s wing.
“I was planning on taking you to Fathers and Sons Night at the Hoo-Hoo Club next month, but now I’m afraid you’ll just make me look bad….” Mal’s narrowed eyes are sending out X-rays of hatred from behind his thick, black-framed glasses. Gordon pushes back in his seat. “I’m already Chief Scrivenoter and there’s a good chance I’ll be made Snark of the Universe next year—but not if you go screwing it up for me. I’ll never hear the end of it from those guys if they find out I’ve got an ass-cheeked ding-a-ling like you for a son!”
If the Pinto weren’t traveling at over eighty miles an hour, Gordon would have opened the door and rolled out of it by now. He doesn’t say anything to defend himself. His soul just sinks deeper and deeper into an interior monologue. He blames himself for not being the kind of son his father can take pride in. He wonders how things might have been different. A little flame of indignation flares in him when he thinks that life is hard enough—a father should defend his son against the world’s cruelty, not rain more blows down on him—but then Gordon thinks of all the idiotic things he’s said and done… and the little flame gutters.
Maybe he deserves whatever insults his father has in store for him. His heart yearns for a father would gladly stand behind him and school him in the ways of the world (he feels so alone, so ignorant—like everyone knows more than he does), but he can completely understand Mal’s disappointment. Gordon has never fit in very well with his father’s conception of an All-American boyhood: football games, Boy Scout camp, barbecues, and go-cart races. At the Hoo-Hoo Club’s Fathers and Sons Night next month some favorite son will be chosen to undergo the ritual of the Entered Apprentice—and thereby become an honorary member of the Hoo-Hoo Club—but that favorite son won’t ever be Gordon. Not in a million years.
“The off-ramp to the airport is coming up,” Mal says grimly. “Now do you want to go flying or not?”
“I guess not. I don’t feel like it today,” Gordon says.
“How come? You’re not scared because of that DC-10 crash last week, are you?”
It’s been all over the news. A DC-10 crashed just after take-off from Chicago, killing 272 people. It’s being called the worst aviation disaster in American history.
“I just don’t feel like it,” Gordon says. “That’s all.”
“Fine,” says Mal, “then I’ll take you to the lumberyard and put you to work. But I’m going flying, anyway.”
“Go ahead,” says Gordon.
For some reason, it seems as if Mal is putting Gordon’s status as his son up for grabs when he says: “If you don’t want to go with me, I’ll just find somebody else.”
FROM PAGES 475 – 479 (Gordon at 16):
“You’ve been doing some independent research, I see…” Lloyd says with a lopsided grin. “Are you familiar with the concept of egregores?”
“No. What’s an egregore?”
“When two minds come together to achieve a common goal, a third and superior mind is created—an egregore.”
“What’re you saying about greed and gore?” Jimmy interrupts from the backseat, where “Houses of the Holy” is just ending with a flurry of wailing from Robert Plant.
Lloyd turns off the stereo. “Egregore…” he enunciates. “It’s an Old English term that roughly means ‘the spirit of a thing.’ As I was telling Gordon, an egregore is a kind of group-mind that’s created whenever two or more people come together for a specific, shared purpose. For instance, let’s say you and Gordon put your minds together to create an article for the school newspaper, as I know you’ve done in the past. And let’s say the purpose of that article is to tear down the reputation of a certain hypocritical high school administrator who shall remain nameless.”
“Witzkowski!” Jimmy shouts with uninhibited glee.
“That raging dickhead,” Skip further clarifies.
“Now… so long as you both remain true to your original purpose—to destroy someone’s reputation—your minds will be ‘entangled’ on a quantum level,” Lloyd tells them. “You’ll experience some commingling of your morphic fields, which might result in mind-to-mind communication—a nonlocal transference of information that explains things like how you sometimes know who’s calling before you pick up a ringing phone. That quantum entanglement also creates a third mind, or egregore, that can know much more than either one of you on your own. In the beginning, an egregore is no more than a kind of crude quantum computer program that helps you to achieve your goal. Such help can arrive in many forms. From within, it might turn up as inspired thoughts. From without, it might appear as useful synchronicities: Jimmy might happen to be in the right place at the right time with a camera on a day when his quarry is looking somewhat… fishy.”
“Like a sanctimonious fishman,” says Gordon, to get the phrase exactly right. “I’m pretty sure Witz never forgave us for that.”
“Yes, well, remember what I said: The egregore is like a rudimentary computer program in its early stages. Although it’s meant to serve, if it’s not given the proper commands it can easily turn on its creators, like a golem. In your case, that would mean the reputation you end up destroying could be your own.”
Gordon remembers the joke that came back to haunt him—his father’s fury over what he’d written in The Columbia Journalism Review: “Norman Mailer could be reading right this minute that my jackass son thinks he was raised by wolves!” The same queasy-sick sensation that he felt then rises from the soles of his sweaty feet to shudder through him all over again. “Oh crud…” he mutters.
“Fortunately, most egregores dissipate rather quickly once their objective has been achieved,” Lloyd says, as if to soothe him. “But when the process continues over a long period of time and more minds are persuaded to add their psychic energy to its agenda, an egregore can grow strong enough and smart enough to survive even the death of its original creators. At that point, the egregore truly has a life of its own. And that’s when things get interesting….” Lloyd takes his hands off the steering wheel long enough to rub his palms together in a pantomime of an evil genius anticipating the fruition of his havoc-wreaking schemes.
“Interesting how?” asks D.H., leaning forward from the backseat.
Lloyd says, “Consider the egregore of the Templars, energized by the fanatical devotion and bloodshed of thousands of men for nearly 200 years. In 1314, after Pope Clement nullified the Templar Order with a helping hand from King Philip the Fair, the egregore of the Templars lived on. By then, it had become conscious. It knew how to think—how to get what it wanted. It murdered those who had conspired against it and then it withdrew to the inner dimensions. There, with infinite patience, it waited for centuries until it was contacted by a new order of men prepared to carry out the intentions of its original founders and supply the egregore with the psychic energy it requires to function in our world. What those men gained in return was access to the Templar egregore’s vast accumulation of knowledge and power. The name of that new order was… can anyone guess?”
“Devo?” D.H. suggests.
“The Freemasons,” Gordon says.
“Good man!” Lloyd congratulates him. “You’re starting to see how it all works…. Corporations, political parties, religions, and even nations all have their own egregores. And all those egregores are warring for influence over us. Obviously, we can’t help but become affiliated with at least a few egregores over the course of our lifetimes. But if we do so without thinking, there’s bound to be trouble.”
“So an egregore is like Jung’s ideas about the collective unconscious,” says Gordon, trying to understand, “only narrowed down to just Republicans, or just the Catholic Church.”
“Essentially, yes,” Lloyd agrees, “but with the caveat that the egregores of the Republican Party and the Catholic Church are far more virulent than the all-embracing collective unconscious. Which brings me to my next point: Some egregores are created in fits of malice or xenophobic hatred, and those egregores exist only to destroy, giving rise to instincts for death and domination in their individual members. The Nazi egregore would be a prime example, of course.”
“The Michael Jackson egregore would be another one,” D.H. says, thinking of the singer-songwriter that he currently despises most.
“Such an egregore has a vicious, malign strength,” Lloyd continues, choosing to ignore D.H., “and it can infect other egregores like a virus. By imposing its form on its enemies, it thereby becomes its enemies. I believe something like that occurred when the CIA made the grotesque moral error of bringing Nazi war criminals to our shores during Operation PAPERCLIP. The Nazi egregore infected the CIA egregore and eventually overpowered it. The Nazis even had a word for such invisible battles among egregores: Weltanschauungskrieg. It translates as ‘world-view warfare.’ They may have been the first to name it, but this type of warfare has been going on for centuries. More than a thousand years ago, I believe a similar battle was fought and lost by the egregore of the Roman Catholic Church.”
“The same thing happened to me with ‘Beat It,’” says D.H.; “I couldn’t get that stupid song out of my head for months.”
“If that’s how it works, then what about the Assassins?” Gordon asks Lloyd. “Did the Assassin egregore infect the Templar egregore, then get passed along to the Masons?”
“I’m afraid that it did,” Lloyd says.
That isn’t the answer Gordon was expecting to hear.
“The Freemasons have certainly been known to commit assassinations from time to time,” Lloyd admits. “Just look into the Propaganda Due Lodge in Italy, if you don’t believe me.”
“Then why were we even talking about soul-sucking moon men and all that other junk?” Gordon asks, exasperated. “We should’ve been talking about egregores all along!”
“Are you sure there’s a difference?”
“An egregore doesn’t need a spaceship.”
“Point taken…” says Lloyd, “and you may well be right. Perhaps my tale of interdimensional alien mind-parasites is just a useful allegory for the workings of our self-created egregores. After all, the magickal birthing and feeding of egregores was the carefully guarded secret at the core of the ancient mystery cults—a process they called ‘The Art of Creating Gods.’ And some of mankind’s oldest myths refer to a war between those so-called gods, at which point Man became a slave to egregores that he himself had created. We’ve been obliged to serve them ever since, not only with sweat and tears, but with our blood.”
“Smells like the same old bullshit to me,” says Jimmy.
To Gordon’s more refined nose, the odor wafting off Lloyd is redolent of high-priced cologne, smothered farts, and the usual halitosis-punctuated pedantry. Jimmy’s right: Nothing new.
“Let’s think for a moment about how the egregores of corporations operate, since the Reagan administration seems so determined to hand our country over to them,” Lloyd says as the wind blows his toupee into devilish snarls. “It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that corporations are immortal soulless entities that take as much as they can and give nothing in return. Their primary goal is to keep increasing productivity and earnings in an all-devouring, endless cycle. Corporate egregores exploit their workers, pollute the environment, and turn vast quantities of the world’s irreplaceable natural resources into disposable junk products, all just to show a quarterly profit. They steal from the poor and give to the rich, creating enormous concentrations of wealth in the hands of just a few thousand elitist assholes. If Reagan and Bush get their way and all that money and power isn’t redistributed—via a system of fair taxes and the checks and balances built into our Constitution—then America’s liberal, democratic society will soon be looking a lot more like a corporate-sponsored fascist police state. And that will be because, quite simply, the egregores of unchecked capitalism tend to penalize those who would better the lot of humanity, while at the same time rewarding the relatively few unbridled sociopaths who take advantage of anyone and anything that they can.”
“Yeah, but where would we be without porno and Diet Coke?” Jimmy asks, pointing to just two of their recent purchases.
“Well, if you can’t beat ‘em…” Lloyd says cheerfully. “Seriously, why do you think I ended up in the insurance racket, anyway? My line of work probably has some of the most evil egregores out there—aside from Big Oil and the tobacco companies—yet most insurance brokers see that evil as something apart from themselves. They fail to recognize it as coming from their own hearts and souls.”
“But not you,” says Gordon.
“No… not me,” says Lloyd. “Not now, at least. That’s why I’m here doing my penance, trying to provide a little enlightened adult guidance to a carload of snarky but redeemable teenage jerk-offs.”
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