Up this hill and down, and up another hill. Lathered. Rinse. Repeat. I’m tired. It’s so sensuous.
Eliza Evermore enjoyed her life in Colorado Springs. It was inspiring to jog in the breathtaking shadow of Pikes Peak. Olympians trained here. She just plodded along. Sometimes she watched the flyboys marching at the Air Force Academy. She lived in God’s Country, the Evangelical Vatican, where the Chamber of Commerce fretted that the number of local religious organizations had fallen below eighty. She was twenty-three, a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and now she breathed in the heady air that accommodated America’s bastion of defense, its capital of religious contemplation, and its Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Marijuana was legal, too.
Her three-times-a-week jogs, typically after work, began and ended at the small condo where she lived. The routes varied with her whim, but they began and ended with a level two hundred yards. She always picked up her pace on the home stretch, partly because she prided herself on having a kick left and partly because she always craved a cigarette after exercising.
Yes. The habit had begun with sex.
Once she cooled down, Eliza liked to have a little nibble of chocolate. She liked her edibles, and she could have a nice, luxurious shower before it kicked in. Then she’d turn on the TV, watch Brian Williams, have a glass of wine, and make up her mind about going out to dinner, or fixing something at home, or watching a movie alone with her weed, or seeing what the divergent nightlife of the city had in store for her. She might make love with an adventurous airman, escaped from the barracks, or a budding preacher man, backsliding because of the Devil’s work.
Eliza knew her way around forgiveness. It was the engine that drove Colorado Springs’ prosperity. She was a counselor. It required compassion and passion. She counseled lots of sinners and had lots of sex. It took them to know them.
She considered her options, lying on the couch on her side, legs folded, enjoying the gathering fog that delightfully blurred her sensibilities. After Brian Williams told her of the day’s crises, she quickly grew tired of Entertainment Tonight. She wound up doing nothing but watching Netflix, hitting the vape, reading Cosmopolitan, and enjoying a light repast of peanut butter, crackers, and Diet Coke. Then she tumbled off to sleep, composing a nice, long prayer and letting Sweet Jesus know all the various and sundry actions for which she needed His divine forgiveness. She prayed well, cultivating that much-admired relationship with her Personal Savior. She awakened the next morning, pure as the driven snow, and went off in her Personal Mazda to do the Lord’s Bidding from nine to five. She had His Support. She had His Forgiveness. Life was but a dream.
Eliza had taken the last job she’d expected. She’d earned a sociology degree, and when she’d first taken a job as a counselor at Forgiveness, Inc., the outreach arm of Roger Jacklin Ministries, Colorado Springs had seemed hopelessly weird. The state’s second largest city was its bastion of conservatism, and the evangelical impact on its affairs was formal and pervasive, but also superficial. The city had its microbreweries and marijuana dispensaries.
They all had an inordinate amount of parking in the back.
Eliza got a bit weirder herself, and Colorado Springs likewise began to appear normal. This, allegedly, was the real world.
Jacklin himself rarely made an appearance at the office. He spent more than half his time traveling, which was to mean, raising money. Junior ran Forgiveness, Inc., and he was young, handsome, and dynamic, and charismatic would have applied to him even without the religious connotation. He was also a stinker and a rounder and a bullshit artist, which was a necessary component of his line of work. Eliza had enough sense to keep him at a distance, mainly because Roger Junior treated cocaine as if it were a Holy Sacrament. Get a few snorts in him and he’d speak the Unknown Tongue fluently. It raised his Inner Pentecostal. Eliza didn’t let herself get caught in that trap. She didn’t like Junior when he was amped on blow. He said it intensified his personality. It did. He was an asshole, natural born. Someone else got him his coke. She just picked up a little extra weed because she knew he was going to ask for it. It wasn’t a bad arrangement. Basically, he just paid for all of it, and she got high for free. People thought him fanatical when he was really just compulsive. She thought he really did love Jesus, but the Lord had a lot of questionable affiliations. Junior saw Him in even the most gaudy of earthly pleasures. He had his daddy’s gift of persuasion, though, and she’d let him in her pants the first night they’d gone out together.
No more. Life was too short. If any man was a mortal sin, he was Roger Jacklin, Jr., and not even Eliza felt comfortable pinning on the Lord forgiveness for being with Junior in a biblical sense. He liked candy too much. Nose candy. Eliza didn’t like it at all, but she figured the more he got high on weed and the less he got amped on coke, the more the possibility of a relatively tranquil day at the office. Junior came in late, as usual, breezed by her desk to mention, with a wink, that he had sort of a sweet tooth. She slipped him an innocent, infused knockoff of a Reese’s Cup, and when he said they’d meet later, she knew that meant he was ready for the vacuum-packed kush she had tucked away in her briefcase. Junior stoned was much better than Junior coked out of his mind. Anyone not blinded by his religious façade could read Junior like a comic book. Fortunately for him, most read him as religious, and he was religious … about taking drugs. Eliza thought she was part of the solution, not the problem. When her conscience started hurting her, she just nibbled a bit on a Reese’s Cup. It didn’t take much.
Today the office was crowded. Today everyone would receive their marching orders. Junior would be fine. The weed would make him idealistic, warm, nice, even. It was Mark Fifteen Day. When Eliza was high, she always thought to herself that it might one day be a brand-new Lincoln Continental.
And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.
If Junior was cool, which was to say, on weed, he’d let it go there, but if he had gotten into some coke, he’d keep on with old Mark.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Junior wasn’t studying about any strychnine. He thought Jesus was talking about his cocaine and marijuana. Eliza didn’t think any of that. She just thought weed was cool and cocaine wasn’t. Junior wasn’t, either, and he’d be his daddy’s undoing yet. One of the blessings Eliza sought in her prayers was the one about being out of there when the empire crumbled.
I reckon I’ll be busy asking forgiveness for this short story. Instead of stringing this along, I may produce a sequel. Or it may just stand alone. I hope you find it more thought-provoking than offensive. The idea came to me in the middle of the night. I appreciate you taking the time to read it, as well as the mainly non-fiction blogs at www.montedutton.com.
Here’s how you can buy my various books: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1