Madeleine was decidedly nervous about returning to Bell’s Political Science class Wednesday morning, but return she did. She eased into her seat as Bell began to pontificate.
Towards the end of class, Bell got off the subject of the basic structure of the legislature and started talking about the nationalisation of health care in the Republic. He was obviously happy it took place, and added the comment, “And, of course, with socialised medicine, we don’t have to rely on miracle workers—such as we have here in class—of meeting our public health needs.”
Denise and Vannie giggled a bit; Madeleine began to squirm in her seat. Then Jack raised his hand.
“Yes, Mr. Arnold,” Bell said.
“I don’t get what the big deal is,” Jack said. “The little girl’s better off. Doctors never could fix the problem. Besides, man, it just saves the government a lot of money having to take care of her.”
Bell’s anger welled up very quickly; the veins around his temple bulged. “Get out!” he barked at Jack, pointing his finger at him and then sweeping it to the door. “I won’t have such a serious matter made light of!” He turned to Madeleine. “You get out too—you started all this!” making the same gesture to her as he did to Jack. Both of them got up and make their way to the door. It was all Denise and Vannie—and a few others—could do to keep from rolling in the floor laughing.
Jack made it to the door first, holding it as Madeleine went through. They both made it out to the hallway.
“I’m sorry I got you into trouble,” Jack said.
“It is not your fault,” she replied. “It is mine. I started all of this.”
“Everybody is sure making a big deal out of this.” They looked at each other for a second. “Can I ask you a question?” he finally came out with.
“You’re from France, right?”
“Do you really know how to French kiss?”
She looked at him with a combination of astonishment and amusement. “It took you two and a half years to ask me this?”
“I’m kinda shy. . .” he replied, looking sheepish.
“How well did Denise ‘French kiss,’ as you say?”
“Oh, she was great, she had a lot of cool moves. . .oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be talking to you like this.”
“It seems that Denise has many advantages over the both of us,” Madeleine finally stated.
“Looks that way. . .” Jack wasn’t the type to be at a loss for words when talking to a girl, but this time was exceptional.
“That was very kind, the way you held the door for me,” she said. “I see this up in Hallett when I visit Carla, but not here.”
“I guess we’re kinda rude. I’m glad you liked it. Maybe I should walk you to your next class.”
“Our next class?”
“Yeah. . .our next class.”
“Then let’s go.” They walked together down the hall.
Mark Arnold marched into his office to the clattering of Selectric and Executive typewriters. The firm of Arnold and Murchison was Verecunda’s most prestigious, able to navigate both Verecunda’s own legal system and that of the rest of the sovereign nations on the Island. Connections sufficed where laws failed, as Mark demonstrated in Serelia.
He was running a little late; he had been out entertaining a Canadian client the night before. The Canadians were leaving that morning, so Mark was able to get caught up on what was piling up on his desk while he had been tied up with his guests. His secretary brought in his coffee without being asked.
Near the top of the desk was an open letter with the letterhead of the Anglican Province of Verecunda. He scanned it, thinking at first it was routine, but quickly realising it was not:
18th January 1971
Mr. Mark R. Arnold, Jr.
Arnold and Murchison
312 Gerland Street Suite 600
Republic of Verecunda
Dear Mr. Arnold:
Pursuant to applicable canons, this letter is to inform you that your term as a member and Senior Warden of the Vestry of Christ Church in Point Collina is terminated by extraordinary diocesan action, effective immediately.
This termination is in response to your position regarding the institution of the new liturgies in the Parish, which is inconsistent with your duty of a cooperative attitude towards the Church as a member of the Vestry.
Thank you very much for your years of service.
CHURCH OF VERECUNDA
+L. Dionysius Farnsworth
Bishop and Primate
cc: Dr. James Woolsey, Christ Church
Mark slammed the letter down on the desk, then slammed his hand on the pager. “Why was this letter from the Diocese opened?” he angrily asked.
“It wasn’t marked confidential,” his secretary responded. “It looked rather routine.”
“It wasn’t!” he snapped. He thought for a minute. “Get me Bishop Farnsworth!”
“Yes, sir.” It wasn’t too long until his secretary came back on the line. “He is off the Island, sir,” she informed him.
Mark fumed for a second. “Then call Dr. Langley!” She managed to get the Rector on the line.
“What’s going on here! I’ve been fired from the Vestry by the Bishop! He can’t do that!” he barked at Langley on the other end.
There was a short silence. “Can you meet me at the Men’s Grille for an early lunch, in thirty minutes, say?”
“Yes, I can.”
“Thank you,” Langley replied and hung up. Mark hung his phone up. What’s going on here, he thought to himself.
“Do I have any appointments later in the morning?” he asked his secretary over the ‘squawk box’ again.”
“No, sir,” she responded. “Your next appointment—with the Minister of Finance—is at 1400.”
Stupid 24-hour clock, he thought to himself, realising that it was the law now, as it had been on the rest of the Island for a long time. “I’m leaving shortly, but will be back for that.” He riffled through his papers to make sure there wasn’t anything that required immediate attention, then left the office without saying a word to anyone.
He found his car in the space just as he left it. Taking it out of the car park, he turned left onto Gerland Street, then left again at Central Avenue, then right at Meeting Street before going onto the Dahlia Bridge. On the Point, the bridge went straight into Melaleuca Street, which led him gently up and across the Point and down to the east side entrance of the Point Collina Resort and Country Club.
Another Gerland creation, the club was a strange institution in that it was both a country club for the nation’s elites and a resort for its tourists, which meant that the latter subsidised the former. The side entrance, just before the beach, led to the golf club house, which was detached from the hotel. There was the Men’s Grille, that venerable institution that had a spectacular view of the beach and ocean in front of it. Turning right and driving upward to the club house, Mark parked his car and got out. It had turned cold and he shivered a bit as the ocean breeze cut through his suit. He finally reached the entrance to the Men’s Grille.
“Dr. Langley is over there in the corner, waiting for you,” the Aloxan maître d’ informed him. In polite conversation, Verecundans routinely referred to all black people as Aloxans, whether they still lived in the Kingdom or were Verecundan citizens.
Paul Langley shook Mark’s right hand with both of his. “I am grateful that you came to see me,” Paul said. They sat down. The waiter, who had also been the maître d’, came out.
“Usual drinks today for the both of you?” he asked.
“For me,” Mark agreed.
“No, just get me a ginger ale,” Paul said.
“Not imbibing today, Reverend?” Mark asked, surprised.
“Not this time,” Paul replied. Mark could tell it was serious.
“Make that a double,” Mark said.
“Your usual orders otherwise?” the Aloxan asked.
“Yes,” they responded in unison.
“Thank you,” the Aloxan said, and disappeared.
“So what’s going on here?” Mark asked urgently. “Can’t you do something about this?”
“Before we continue, there’s something you need to know,” Paul said. He handed Mark an envelope. Mark removed a shiny, waxy-surface photocopy, unfolded it and read it. His countenance, if anything, deteriorated as he held the A4 trifolded piece of paper in his hand.
“That’s your copy,” Paul informed him. Mark returned it to the envelope and put it in his suit pocket.
“So it’s all up for you?” Mark said.
“Afraid so, old boy,” Paul said. “As soon as we’re done, I’m returning to the Rectory to continue to help Mrs. Langley pack. That should be complete tomorrow.”
“So where is Farnsworth sending you?” Paul asked. “It seems he’s playing chess with us.”
“I’m going off the board,” Paul replied. “I’m moving to Serelia.”
“Serelia? What parish?”
“St. Mark’s in Drago. I’ll be Assistant Rector.”
“Isn’t that a demotion?”
“It’s only temporary. The Rector will retire after Easter. It will give him time to ‘show me the ropes.’ They’ve assured me that the position is mine, and Tanger is a man of his word. So for that matter is King Adam.”
The waiter served their drinks. “Maybe I should have had my usual,” Mark said.
“We need a clear head to discuss these matters,” Paul observed. “After this, you’ll have plenty of time for drinking.”
“I still don’t understand how Farnsworth can remove me from the Vestry,” Mark declared.
“It goes back to your own father,” Paul replied. “As you remember, he became Bishop after coming back from Serelia and building Christ Church with his and other family funds. The rest of the diocese was jealous; they felt that he bought the position. But he was clever; he put into the canon a provision that the Bishop can remove a vestryman under extraordinary conditions. That was to keep the parishes in Collina and Uranus quiet. But, of course, it’s never been used—until now.”
“But. . .I just told Woolsey what I thought. Why is that extraordinary? And how did he get the authority to pull the prayer books.”
“We live in different times, Mark,” Paul answered. “I never wanted Farnsworth as Bishop. I don’t want to sound sour grapes since I lost the election at Convention, but I’ve always felt that he was the wrong man for the job.” He paused and looked around, then turned back to Mark. “He is too weak to stand up to the forces that want to take over this church and everything else in this country.”
“You mean the government’s involved in this.”
“Yes. A month or two after he was elected Bishop—and note that we didn’t even bother with a co-adjutor this time—there was a meeting between Farnsworth, Santini. . .”
“The Catholic bishop?”
“Yes, Methodist Bishop Gregg, and a couple of general presbyters from their church, with our new Minister of Culture, Jacqueline Todd. The Ministry of Culture has as part of its ‘hidden’ portfolio the management of religion in this country.”
“Managing religion? We’ve never managed religion in Verecunda. That’s the East Island way.”
“We’re managing a lot of things we didn’t used to,” Paul noted. “In any case, Mrs. Todd basically stated to the four churches represented, to wit, that certain religions posed a threat to national unity and integrity, which necessitated the government’s involvement. She went on to state that, while the churches at the meeting were, in the government’s opinion, helpful to the needs of the nation, they would have to make some commitments in order to help the government deal with those which were not. In return, the government would basically allow the churches represented to proceed as they had.”
“So what did the government want out of the churches?”
“Specifically, that they wouldn’t say anything while the rest of them are being suppressed. Their specific target is the Baptist church, although there are others.”
“A good number of Baptist people up in Uranus voted for Kendall.”
“But now they’re unhappy because of his social and taxation policies. They went the other way in the local elections last year. Kendall isn’t one to take chances. In any case, as I understand it, another part of Todd’s appeal is based on the fact that the churches she called into the room have very little sympathy for groups such as the Baptists.”
“So it’s safe to assume she got a warm reception.”
“Not entirely,” Paul corrected. “The Presbyterians wouldn’t go along with it. But they’re not numerous enough to be a problem to Kendall, and I’m certain he has a plan for them.
“The most enthusiastic respondent was Santini. He’s worried that the government will take revenge on the Catholic Church after Lucian Gerland dies. So he’s positioning the church as a friend of the government. And, of course, he’s hoping they’ll deal with Father Avalon and his protests so he won’t have to deal with him as a rebel in his own church.”
“He hasn’t gotten a payout on that.”
“The government needs Avalon.”
“Needs him? He’s a big thorn in their side.”
“He’s proof there’s still ‘democracy’ here. He doesn’t have a following outside of his enthusiasts in the Charismatic movement. So he’s only a gadfly to Kendall. To Santini, he’s heart trouble.”
“So that leaves us and the Methodists.”
“Farnsworth is using the present situation to advance his liberal agenda for the church. He claims that, if we don’t ‘move the church forward,’ as he says, it will become irrelevant.”
“I’ve heard him on that subject.”
“What he means is that, if he doesn’t do liberal things in the church, the government will lump us with the Baptists and other fundamentalist groups. This is absurd, but it’s classic Farnsworth for you. That’s why he brought Woolsey in, over my objections. That’s why he’s pushing this new Prayer Book.”
“New Prayer Book? These are only trial liturgies in the U.S. Why are we trying to get ahead of the Americans?”
“It’s something of a sham in the U.S.,” Paul noted. “They’ll officially have a new Prayer Book before the decade is out, no matter who says what. And, of course, that opens the door to women ministers and the other things that the likes of James Pike was pushing before he vanished in the desert.”
Mark was silent at the end of this speech. “So I guess you’re going where the church will remain the same.”
“Exactly,” Paul confirmed. “The Church of Serelia will never have a ‘new’ Prayer Book and they will never have women ministers. And the Church there moulds the government, and not the other way round, as we have it here now.”
Mark was silent again for a bit. “We’ll miss you very much,” he said. “And I know that Jack will miss Rick.”
“It’s his last week in school here,” Paul said. “He’s very let down at this, but I have no choice. I start at St. Mark’s Parish Sunday, and he starts at St. Mark’s School on Monday.”
“Perhaps Jack will come and see him—I think he plays at Alemara Academy in a little over two weeks. Maybe he can come up and see him after that.”
“Rick will be looking forward to that.”
Dinner at the Arnold House was never the cheeriest of affairs, but that evening it was less cheery than usual. The Arnold house was unique on the Point in that it was a true creation of modern architecture. The front door opened up into a sunken atrium which reached up through both floors of the house to the skylit ceiling. Around the atrium on the first floor were the dining room, kitchen, master bedroom and an opening to the patio and pool. The second floor contained the children’s and guest bedrooms, which opened to a balcony that wrapped around the atrium on three sides, much like a hotel.
Mark generally stopped by the club on the way home for a drink or two; he obviously made up for lost time at lunch, as his surly mood dampened any hope of a decent conversation. He groused endlessly about being kicked off of the Vestry, about Paul Langley’s departure, and cut off Jack’s comments about Rick at every corner. He blasted Cathy’s suggestion that she might join the Catholic Church, saying that they were even worse and kicking in that he wouldn’t stand for a “mackerel-snapper” under his roof.
Needless to say, the children fled at the first opportunity, leaving Helen to supervise the help in getting things cleaned up while Mark had another stiff after-dinner drink. Both of them ended up in their rooms, under cover of doing homework.
Jack’s room included an outside balcony that overlooked the pool. He closed the door and tried to do some homework, but couldn’t. He went out on the balcony, bundling up but glad to be outside. The night was cold. The breeze that came from onshore blew through the palms, which reached up past the roof crowns of the houses around them. They were silhouetted only by the city lights, as the moon was absent that night.
He went back into his room to put on an album. He thumbed through the album rack. He pulled the album that Terry had given to his sister. Lunatic’s Lament, he thought to himself. Nice idea, but. . .not in the mood. He put it back and continued his search. Finally he found the album whose title at least matched his state of mind: Blood, Sweat and Tears. He put in on the changer and started it, which dropped the album on the platter with a satisfying thud, moved the tone arm over and set it down on the lead-in groove. Assured that all was well, he went back out on the balcony, only cracking the sliding glass door as the temperature was down to near freezing.
Having made sure the coast was clear, he sat down and lit up a conventional cigarette. After a bit it didn’t seem enough, so he reached in his pocket for a silver cigarette holder, a family heirloom that he used to store his best smoking material, his joints. His habit was to roll them ahead so he would be ready when the occasion called for it. He took one out and looked at it very hard. By this time the stereo was playing “Sometimes in Winter,” a mellow lament of lost love. The Island was a place which redefined winter for many of those who came there, but tonight it was cold enough to awake both ancestral memories and present, passionless fact. Jack really wanted to cry but wouldn’t let himself, even when alone. Finally, he carefully replaced the joint in the cigarette holder, closed it and shoved it into his pocket.
“I’m going to get her,” he said. “I’m going to get her.” He took his ashtray back into the house, cleaned the butt and ashes back into the commode, flushed it all down to make sure the evidence was gone, and set himself to do his homework and more.