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Phil's Chronicles


Barry N. Rodgers

Chapter Four


Slicker and Blue kept the Family informed of current events - news relevant to the street dwellers.  They moved around a lot, watching and gathering information.  They knew everyone and everyone’s business.  What Blue had not learned from Digger, Slicker had taught him.

Much of what Slicker taught Blue was less than crucial to Blue’s survival; for example, Slicker had tried desperately to convince Blue that he should engage in sex with the whores on Mulberry Street.  He had done so with hopes that Blue would substitute intercourse for his preferred method of releasing sexual tension; masturbation.  Slicker wasn’t against the idea of self-manipulation so much as he was concerned that Blue would be arrested for public indecency - Blue was less than discreet about where he performed.  He was a proficient and zealous self-manipulator.  Slicker fervently tried to teach Blue some restraint, as Blue would grab himself and start jerking whenever the urge struck him, which was quite often - an unacceptable social activity, although quite a common sight among street dwellers.  But so far he had not enjoyed much success in thwarting the big ox’s sex drive. 

Today, however, they had big news to share with the Family.  A new shelter had opened across from the freeway underpass.  According to Slicker, "It’s some kind of church shelter, one of those outreach programs."  Slicker rolled his eyes in disgust, and Blue mimicked him.

Slicker retrieved a cigarette-butt from his coat pocket, lit it, and savored the smoke as it filled his lungs.  Though plentiful, it required several cigarette-butts to satisfy Slicker’s nicotine craving; but he had time, and a pocket-full of butts.  For as long as the zealots were around the Family could get food, clothes, and a warm place to sleep; and all they need do was patronize the missionaries.  Exploitation was just another means to the end of survival for the street dwellers.

Make them feel like they, the poor miserable, heathenish street wretches, would be dead if not for the kindness and benevolence of the self-righteous.  The street people knew that the missionaries wouldn’t last very long.  Their kind came and went like day and night.  They wanted to help, but frustration drove them away after a brief attempt at saving the lost. 

"They don’t understand, they can’t understand."  Phil’s thoughts became words, and his words were let loose on the wind like seeds.  "They represent the system; the system from which all blessings flow.  However, all misery flows down to us from the system as well.  They also fail to see how they symbolize the very things we’re all in exile from; they’re the clones, the ones we’re trying to avoid becoming.  So, we use them.  We eat their food, wear their clothes, and sleep in their shelters, but we don’t get close to them and we never let them get very close to us.  Getting too close to the missionaries can land you at the Farm.  Besides, we don’t need them to show us God, we know God.  He talks to us, to Moses, and Moses tells us what he says." 

Moses, another long-time member of the Family, was an obstreperous old lunatic; but his words were divine, virtually all of which came from the Bible.  He was often a wild-man; ranting and raving, jumping about and throwing things. 

Digger convinced the rest of the Family to take Moses into the fold.  "Crazy or not, he’s in as much need of us as we are of each other," he had advocated.  It mattered little to Moses, he could have cared less whether they let him hang around with them or not.  He was as content to go his own way, alone, as he was to be part of the Family.  Still, he stayed.  No one wants to be alone if given a choice.  Not even Moses.

One of the more memorable of Moses’ sermons was rendered while the Family was staying at Handout’s place, escaping the cold - his exegesis addressed the doom of Babylon, as written of in the New Testament Book of Revelation.[9]  "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird . . ."[10]

Foaming and frothing, quoting scripture after scripture, Moses escalated to a frenzied, possessed state.  As he preached, he ripped off layer after layer of shabby clothing until finally he was naked, perched atop a table, singing - his own version of "Shall We Gather at the River" - while frenetically dancing about.  He kicked trays of food and slung gravy on everyone within a thirty-foot radius - presumably it was holy gravy.  The fact that Moses was naked and covered with mashed potatoes and gravy might have damaged his credibility, but it did not stop him. 

Soon there were several naked people dancing around the Shelter cafeteria, throwing food and adding to the chaotic atmosphere that Moses had incited.  It was a big party until the police showed up and made everyone settle down and put their clothes back on.  They arrested Moses and tried to cover him with a blanket but Moses would have nothing to do with this.  For reasons known only to Moses, being naked was an integral part of his religious experience.  The Family never disputed his method, or his madness.  If Moses wanted to get naked and preach, then he could damn well get naked and preach. 

No one saw Moses for a long time after the incident at Handout’s place.  When he did return he was his usual self; calm, passive, with the occasional religious, naked outburst.  Moses was immune to all forms of therapy, including drugs and shock treatments.  He’d been to the Farm more times than anyone could count and he always came back unaffected.  Phil presumed that Moses had to be a source of frustration to the clones at the Farm.  He feared they would terminate Moses, failing all attempts to conform him.  The system did its worst and Moses continued his ministry, such as it was. 

Phil knew that the system had ways of killing people that didn’t look like killing.  They can kill you, yet keep enough of you alive to prevent them, the system clones, from being charged with a crime.  They stay just outside the reach of the law.  They are the law.  If you cause them too much aggravation, they’ll make you a vegetable; a motionless, lifeless, soulless vegetable.  Produce is much easier to care for than the mentally ill.  Produce requires very little maintenance.  Phil didn’t want to see Moses changed into a vegetable.  Before Moses joined the Family they lacked any way of knowing what God wanted them to do.  None of them could talk to Him.  They had encountered several people claiming to be Jesus, but none of them ever stayed around very long, and none of them knew the Book like Moses.

Chapter Five

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