I awoke with the taste of a spicy rat fajita in my mouth and a mercifully painful disassociation, almost an amnesia, as to who I was, or even where I was. The smell of stale cigarettes and beer urine attacked my nose as I looked upwards at the ceiling fan. I rolled off of the stained sheets of the bed and staggered to the window. When I opened the blinds, the bright sun blinded me for a second.
"Dallas..." I said to myself, "Shit! I'm still only in Dallas!"
Every time I think I'm gonna wake up in Tulsa.
When I was home in Phoenix, after my first devival, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be nothing--just happy, smiley pinks going to their day jobs. I hardly said a word to my girlfriend until I said yes to a threesome with her sister.
When I was in Tulsa I wanted to be in Phoenix. When I was in Phoenix, all I could think of was wanting to be back in the concrete jungle of Tulsa.
I'd been here a week now--waiting for Reverend Stang to give me a mission. Getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. Every minute "Oakie" squats in the outhouse he gets stronger. Each time I look around, the walls move in a little tighter.
Everyone gets anything he wants. I wanted a mission. And for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service.
"Dr. Zinn, are you in there? Room Service!" "Yeah, yeah, hold your water."
It was a real choice mission. And when it was over, I'd never want another. I opened the door.
"What d'ya want?" I said.
"Are you all right Dr. Zinn?" said the bellboy. "What's it look like?" I said.
"Like you've been binging on 'Frop for a week!" he said. I instantly recognized him as a SubGenius, the word " 'Frop" being like a secret handshake.
"Are you Dr. Hieronymous Zinn, provisional secretary to the Congregation for the Promulgation of the Doctrines of the Faith..."
"Yeah, yeah" I said.
"...Phoenix Metropolitan Annex Branch (SE area), and Mammarial Head of the Dominiquaniquaniqua Order?" said the SG disguised as a bellboy.
"Hey, buddy, are you gonna shut the door?" I asked. "I have orders to escort you to SubGenius Headquarters" he said.
"What am I being kicked out for? What'd I do? Am I going before the Curia?" He looked at me blankly. "You know, the Inquisition? Ecclesiastical Court?"
"There's no charges, Dr. Zinn, you have orders to report to Reverend Ivan Stang" he said.
I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. He threw a pot of scalding coffee on my back.
"Owww! What th' hell didja do that for?" I shouted. "For not tipping me, you asshole!" he said. A few hours later, the limo with me on board pulled into SubGenius Headquarters.
I was going to the worst place in the world, and I didn't even know it yet. Weeks away, and hundreds of miles across the empty desert that crossed the land of Beavis and Butthead like a TV coax plugged straight into the heart of Dobbs.
It was no accident that I got to be the caretaker of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs' memory, any more than being back in Dallas was an accident. There is no way of telling his story without telling my own. And if his story is really a confession, then so is mine.
"Dr. Zinn reporting as ordered, Reverend Stang" I said, to the man himself, accompanied by two individuals I took to be Jesus and Dr. Dynasoar.
"Dr. Zinn," said Dr. Dynasoar, "have you ever seen this gentleman before?" pointing to Jesus. "No sir" I said.
"Met Reverend Stang or myself?"
"You've worked a lot on your own, haven't you Dr. Zinn?" "Yes sir, I have."
"Your report specifies Intelligence/Counterintelligence with the Center for Annihiliptic Parapsyparanorum."
"I am not presently disposed to discuss those operations, sir" I said, haltingly.
"Did you not work for the Thuggee Clench in Denver?" he asked.
"No sir" I replied.
"Did you not assassinate a government Tax Auditor who was investigating the Church?"
"Sir, I am not aware of any such activity, or operation... nor would I be disposed to discuss such an operation if it did in fact exist...sir."
Then Reverend Stang spoke. "I thought we'd have a bite of lunch while we talked. I hope you've brought an appetite." We moved as a group to the catered buffet line.
"You have a bad hand there," said Reverend Stang, "are you wounded?"
"Just a little accident while dynamiting dolphins on R&R, Reverend."
"Dynamiting dolphins on R&R, huh? Sounds like utter bullshit to me" he said. "But you're feeling fit?--you're ready for duty?" "Yup" I replied.
We each took a serving tray to the table. "Well, let's see what we have here," he said, "roast Yeti steak, and usually it's not bad. Try some, Jesus--pass it around. We might pass both ways to save a little time. Dr. Zinn? I don't know how you feel about this sweet and sour crawdad, but if you eat it, you won't have to prove your courage in any other way. Winking lizard sauce?"
There was little time to contemplate the dubious meal. "Dr. Zinn?" said Dr. Dynasoar, "You've heard of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs?"
"You've got to be fucking kidding--right?" I said. "God-like entity. Saviour of all SubGenii, etc?" "Dr. Dynasoar," said Reverend Stang, "would you play that tape for Dr. Zinn, please?"
He reached over and turned on a reel-to-reel tape recorder that must have been made in the 1960s. I figured that they had borrowed it from the studio.
A mechanical voice-over stated: "Intercept of transmission. 0430 hours. Sector zero lima kilo six."
"Monitored out of Oklahoma," interjected Dr. Dynasoar, "this has been verified as J.R. "Bob" Dobbs' voice."
A strange, broken sound the came out of the tape machine: "Take a can of your gasoline. Say this can of gasoline is the sun. Now you spread a thin line of it to a ball representing the earth. Now the gasoline represents the sunlight, the sun particles. Here we saturate the ball with the gasoline--the sunlight--then we put a flame to the ball. The flame will speedily travel around the earth, back along the line of gasoline to the can--or the sun itself. It will explode this source, and spread to every place that gasoline--our sunlight--touches. Explode the sunlight here, gentlemen, you explode the universe...(Garbled)."
Then the mechanical voice-over said: "Transmission received, 0700 5 July. Sector foxtrot tango polka."
Again the strange, distorted voice of Dobbs: "Crunchie-munchies are the best. Spill a bowl full on your vest. Serve them to unwanted guests. Stuff your mattress with the rest."
"Transmission received, 0705 5 July. Sector foxtrot tango polka."
"We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Reverend after reverend. SubGenius after SubGenius. Clench after clench. Devival after devival. And they call me a deity. What do you call it, when the reverends accuse their deity? They lie when they say I must be merciful to those who lie. Those nattering nay-"Bobs" of negativity."
"End of transmission" said the voice-over. Dr. Dynasoar turned off the tape player.
Reverend Stang spoke first, "Well, Dobbs was one of the most outstanding saviours this country has ever produced. He was brilliant, he was outstanding in every way. And he was a good salesman, too. Some cannibalistic tendencies, but we all thought of him as a "humanitarian." A deity of wit and humor. He went to Oklahoma to convert the heathen. And after that, his ideas...methods...became unsound. Unsound."
He shook his head.
Dr. Dynasoar then spoke, "Now he's crossed into Kansas, with his Apache army of his that worship Dobbs like...a god, and follow every order, however ridiculous."
"Well, I have some other...shocking news to tell you," said Reverend Stang, "J.R. "Bob" Dobbs was about to be...martyred."
"I don't follow, sir," I said, "martyred?" "Dobbs had ordered the execution of some SubGenius reverends, men he believed were double agents for the Scientologists. So he took matters into his own hands," said Dr. Dynasoar.
"Well, you see, Dr. Zinn," said Reverend Stang, "in this holy war things get...confused out there. God-like power, ideals, immorality and whim-like pragmatism. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to keep all of the money for yourself. Because there's a conflict in every religion: between the irrational and the slackful; between good and "Bob" and evil. And "Bob" does not always triumph. Sometimes the anti-"Bob" overcomes what Adolph Hitler called, "the better insanity of our nature." Every deity has got a breaking point, when it's just better to kill them then let them screw-up the whole scam. You and I are expendable. J.R. "Bob" Dobbs has become expendable, too. He very obviously needs to be martyred."
There was a pregnant pause before I said, "Yes, sir, very much so, sir. He very much needs to be martyred."
Then Jesus spoke, "Your mission is to proceed up I-35 in a Jeep Cherokee. Then turn west onto I-40, going to Amarillo. Head North and pick up J.R. "Bob" Dobbs' path at Hooker, Oklahoma.
"Follow it, learn what you can along the way. When you find Dobbs, infiltrate his schism by any means available, and terminate his incarnation on this plane of existence."
I thought for a second, then said, "Terminate...Dobbs?" Reverend Stang spoke, "He's out there operating without any decent return or residuals going to the Church, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable kickback. And he is still in the field, recruiting infidels for his 'new' religion."
"Terminate...with extreme prejudice," said Jesus, "as graphically and gruesomely as possible. Chop off his head, pull out his liver, tie him to four horses, etc. You get the idea. Be sure to get it all on videotape."
"You understand, Dr. Zinn," said Dr. Dynasoar, "that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist. A dead martyr is worth more than a live pain in the ass."
The long trip north to Oklahoma City gave me a chance to think about my life. How many people had I already killed? There were those six I knew about for sure: a used car salesman, two interior designers, and the three girl scouts/ninjas who were close enough to blow their last breaths in my face. But this time, it was a deity, and a smoker. I usually cut some slack for smokers.
That wasn't supposed to make any difference to me, but it did. Martyring a deity for proselytizing the feeble-minded in this place was like passing out at the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I going to do? But I really didn't know what I would do when I found him.
I was driving down the road in NENSLO's Jeep Cherokee, a pretty common sight on the Interstate. They said it was a good way to pick up information at truck stops and move without drawing a lot of attention. And that was O.K. I needed the air and the time. The only problem was that I wouldn't be alone. The crew were mostly just kids. Punker bimbos with an aversion to wearing underwear, and enough face armor to make oral sex almost unpleasant.
"How old are you?" I said to one of them. "Eighteen!" she said, while popping her gum. Yeah, right, I thought, and hanging out with NENSLO.
The mechanic, the one they called "Jamie," was from New Orleans. She was wrapped too tight for Texas, sort of like a too-small condom. Probably wrapped tighter than using a handful of rubber bands and a pencil.
"Jamie" who could siphon gasoline out of an oil well, was a hut slut from the beaches south of L.A. To look at her, you wouldn't believe she had ever taken on an entire biker gang and won by a kneeling-eight-count.
"Jamie" was the only straight female in Northampton, and it had made her aggressive about her sexuality. I think all of the straight men in Oklahoma had put the zap on her.
Then there was NENSLO, the driver. It might have been my mission, but it was sure as shit NENSLO's Jeep.
"There's about two exits that we can take the offramp into Hooker," he said, "they're both hot--belong to Baptists."
"Don't worry about it" I said.
"You know, I've pulled a few special ops in here," he said, "about six months ago, I took a man who was going past the Seven-Eleven at Texhoma. He was trying to assassinate Dobbs, too. I heard he shot himself in the head."
I just ignored him, and put all my concentration on the erect nipples of "Jamie" sitting next to me. After a time, I decided to read Dobbs' dossier.
At first, I thought they handed me the wrong dossier. I couldn't believe that they wanted this deity martyred.
Contributions to the Church were near an all-time high. Converts from every major religion and philosophical system, many of whom were prime candidates to be on the Xist ships within the year. Et cetera, et cetera.
I had heard his voice on the tape, and it had really put the hook in me. But I couldn't connect up that voice with this man. Like they said, he had been an impressive saviour. Maybe too impressive. I mean--perfect. He was being groomed to take over Catholicism, maybe Buddhism, even Islam. But last year, when he had departed to go to Oklahoma, things started to slip. His report to the executive committee of the Church had been classified. Seems they didn't dig what he had to tell them.
During the next few months, he made three requests for truly exorbitant expense vouchers. 100 gallons of calamari, 50 gallons of applesauce, a new pair of Nikes for each and every one of his followers. That sort of thing. Unacceptable.
As we were driving into Goodwell, I saw smoke rising in the distance. Fire, explosions, black helicopters circling the town.
"Armored Transvaluator Division, with bringdowners, first of the 99th SubGenius," I said to NENSLO, "our escorts to the offramps at Hooker." But they were supposed to be waiting for us another 21 miles ahead, at Guymon. Well, fightin' SGs! Those boys just couldn't stay put.
I saw their commander putting little X-day passes on the bodies of the Baptists. " 'Death cards'," I said to "Jamie"-- lets "Oakie" know who did this."
The commander had had a pretty good day for himself. They trucked in the Yeti steaks and the Lone Star and turned the smoking hole of Goodwell into a beach party/orgy. But the more they tried to make it just like Texas, the more they made everybody want to go out and kill more normals.
"That offramp you're pointing to is kind of hairy, Dr. Zinn," the commander said to me.
"What do you mean 'hairy', sir?" I said. "Hairy," he said, "the Baptists have joined up with the Methodists and they have some pretty heavy ordnance there. I've lost a few pickups in there now and again. What's the name of that village? Guymas? Guyana? These goddamn "Oakie" names all sound alike to me.
"Well," I'll tell you what, sir," I said, "if you drop me, NENSLO, and the girls off there, I'm sure I could convince "Jamie" over there to turn your grapes into raisins."
"Holee shit!," he said, "I'll take that town and hold it for as long as it suits you, Dr. Zinn!"
We were on the road in an hour. Before the attack, he had his vehicles play their stereos at full volume, all blaring "Gwar" at 150 db.
"Mmmumpph?," said "Jamie," looking up from his lap. "Yeah, I use "Gwar," he said, "It scares the hell out of "Oakie"--they think it contains 'satanic' messages!"
The carnage was incredible. We took Guymon with a rape, kill, pillage and burn attitude that was refreshing. The commander ordered a Chordite drop on a treeline that was harboring lay preachers who were dropping mortar rounds on our position.
"I love the smell of Chordite in the morning," he said, "It smells like...slack!"
The next morning the road to Hooker was ours. But something was wrong. Much of the devastation I expected wasn't there-- in places, we even saw some efforts at rebuilding. It was no wonder that Dobbs put a weed up command's ass. The war was being run by a bunch of reverential clowns who were going to end up giving the whole circus away.
I read more from his dossier:
'Late summer of last year, Dobbs proselytizing efforts in the highlands were coming under frequent ecumenical ambush. Some of his missionaries started losing their faith. November: Dobbs orders the assassination of three reverends and one mutha. Two of the men had sent in over $300 to the church. Scientologist activity in his sector dropped off to nothing.'
Guess he must have hit the right four dupes. They tried one last time to bring him back into the fold, and if he had just shut up and been a figurehead, all would have been forgotten. But he kept going. And he kept winning it his way. And they called me in. They lost him. He was gone. Nothing but rumors and random intelligence, mostly from captured "Oakies."
The "Oakies" knew his name by now, and they were scared of him. He and his schismatics were playing forcible conversion and run all the way into Kansas.
"My orders say I'm not supposed to know where I'm taking this Jeep, so I don't," said NENSLO, "but one look at you and I know it's going to be hot, wherever it is."
"We're going up route 54 about 40 miles past Guymon." "That's Kansas, Dr. Zinn!" said NENSLO.
"That's classified. We're not supposed to be in Kansas, but that's where I'm going. You just get me close to my destination and I'll cut you and the "Jamies" loose."
"All right, Dr. Zinn."
'Dear Reverend Stang: I'm afraid that both you and Jesus will have been worried about not hearing from me in the past few weeks. But my situation here has become a difficult one. You have not made this any easier by officially accusing me of murder. The alleged victims were four Scientologist double agents. We spent months uncovering them and accumulating evidence. When absolute proof was completed, we acted. We acted like SubGenii. Your charges are unjustified. They are, in fact, under the circumstances of my being the only entity capable of saving your asses on X-day, completely insane.
When I get back there, I think that perhaps some adjustment to the Church hierarchy might be in order. I am beyond your timid, lying morality. So I am beyond caring what happens to you.'
I now felt I knew a few things about Dobbs that weren't spelled out in the dossier.
When we arrived in Hooker, I received a new communique from the Church: "There has been a new development in your mission that we feel we must communicate to you. Months ago a man was ordered on a mission that was identical to yours. We have reason to believe that he is now operating with J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. The Church has had him declared dead, for the sake of collecting his life insurance policy, but now we have intercepted a letter to his wife, advising her to invest heavily in [deleted]. We believe that Dobbs is advising his new followers to invest in [deleted] for the purpose of financing his operations."
I threw away the useless piece of paper. Who cares about a Rosencranz character, anyway?
NENSLO and the "Jamies" decided to stay with me as we crossed the Kansas border. He was close. He was real close. I could tell by the marked increase in violent destruction, only partially covered by the ash of the Kansas volcano. I couldn't see him yet, but I could feel him. As if the Jeep was being sucked up the highway. Whatever was going to happen, it wasn't going to be the way they called it in Dallas.
Part of me was afraid of what I would find, and what I would do when I got there. I knew the risks. Or imagined I knew. But the thing I knew the most--much stronger than fear--was the desire to confront him.
We arrived in J.R. "Bob" Dobbs camp, a graveyard of every kind of Baptist, Methodist, and any other kind of preacher; policed by a heard of 'Fropped-out Yeti zombies and some psychotic reverends, interspersed by numberless Apache warriors. I felt like I was coming home to Dobbstown.
We had just exited the jeep when one of the "Jamies" was scooped up by a male Yeti and carried off to his 'love-shack', faster than the other "Jamies" could follow. Then a funky- looking "deadhead" crawled out of the crowd.
"There's mines over there! Mines over there too! And watch out--those goddamn Yetis'll bite you too! Oooh, that's a pretty jeep, move it in right toward me!
"I'm a Texan! A Texan civilian! Howdy Texans! Oh, you've got the whiskey--that's what I've been dreaming of."
"Who are you?" I said.
"Who are YOU?" he replied, then laughed, self-consciously. "I'm a photo-journalist for the 'Weekly-World News'. I've covered the holy war, the alien invasion, the prophesies of Charles Manson. I've been in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, even Nebraska! Whooeee, baby!"
"What are all these Yetis doing here?" I asked. "Uh, they think you've come to...take Him away" he said. "Take who away?" said NENSLO.
"Him! J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. These are all his children, man, as far as you can see. Yeah, man, we're all his children!"
"Could we, uh, talk...to Mr. Dobbs?" I said. "Hey, man, you don't talk to J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet warrior deity in a classic sense. Sometimes he'll uh, well, you'll say 'hello' to him and he'll just walk right by you--won't even notice you. Suddenly he'll grab you, he'll throw you in a corner and say, 'Do you know that 'uck' is the middle word in "fucked"? If a train leaves Burbank at 10:00 am, travelling at 50 miles per hour and another one leaves Newark at 2:00 pm, travelling at 30 miles per hour, when will they crash in Omaha!?" ' "I don't know," he continued to rant, "I can't...I'm a little man. I'm a little man. He's a great man. I should have been a ragged cloth used by a 300 pound Juarez call-girl. Dumped into an old backhouse."
His face suddenly changed to a mask of fear. "Oh, for the love of "Bob", please don't go without me! I don't wanna die here, man. Help me, man!" he pleaded.
"I wanna get a picture of this."
Then, as we walked through the brick-and-steel devastation that led to his temple, the deadhead confessed that, "just the other day, he beat the shit out of me, man, just 'cause I took his picture, man. He said if you take my picture again without paying for it, I'll kill you. And he meant it, man. I'd leave that video camera in the jeep if I were you."
Waiting for Dobbs, sleeping in a tent next to the jeep, we lost another "Jamie" in the night. Just disappeared.
NENSLO confided in me. "This J.R. "Bob" Dobbs guy, he's wacko, man, he's worse than that, he's evil. I mean, that's what the man's got set up here, man, it's fuckin' pagan idolatry--look around you! Cool!"
"Then you'll help me?" I said.
"Help you? Fuckin'-a I'll help you, I'll do anything to get a piece of this action. We can blow all them assholes away, they're so spaced out they wouldn't even know it."
"I'm going to need you to wait here, NENSLO. Here, take the radio. If I don't get back by 2200 hours, three days from now, you'll call in the air strike. Chordite, sexocets, mindwinders, infra-reds, the whole enchilada."
"Air strike?" he said.
"The secret code is 'Almighty-Kingdom-Come-Massacre-Dobbs'. The coordinates are--wherever the hell this place is. You figure it out on the map. O.K.?"
That evening, a group of female Yetis put the bag on me and wrassled me up to the temple.
Dobbs had returned.
I was thrown unceremoniously on the floor of his room in the temple. It smelled like slow death, or at least like it needed a good airing-out after a week-long orgy. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but when they did, I was shocked to see Dobbs, lying in a corner on a mat, a grossly obese parody of the Dobbs we all knew. Instantly I spotted his trademark grin--his pipe jutting out of the corner of his mouth.
This was the end of the Interstate, all right. Everything I saw told me that Dobbs had gone insane, or at least had become very, very greedy with Church funds. The room was filled with sweaty, exhausted bodies. If I was still alive, and not yet a sex toy, it was because he wanted me that way.
"Where are you from, Zinn?" said Dobbs.
"I'm from Siberia, via Phoenix, sir" I replied. "Read any good books, lately?" he asked.
After two days of my living in the temple and listening to the most vapid of conversation, interspersed with my trying to kill him and failing, he finally asked me, "Are you an assassin?"
"Uh, yes. I guess so. They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were...unsound, and that you had been, uh, skimming from Church funds."
"You are neither an assassin nor a good liar" he said. "You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill."
"No, honestly, sir," I said, "I'm an assassin. Really!" "Nope, sorry," he said, "No! Wait a minute, I can figure it out. I've got it--you're ah...selling magazine subscriptions to earn your way through college! No? Vacuum cleaners? No? Amway?"
"I'm here to kill you, you bloody idjit!" I said. "Oh," he said, "O.K."
"Huh?" I said.
"Want to use a gun? I've got a nice selection over there. Help yourself."
"Is this some kind of trick?" I asked.
"If you don't kill me soon," he said, "I'm going to start reciting bad poetry!"
I used a machete. A lot.
NENSLO worked the video camera, and also got some nice stills for my resume. While poking through his stuff, we came upon a large box filled with gold from melted-down tooth fillings. We split the take 60/40, with NENSLO getting the cult for his own personal use. I figured I could omit those last details from my report to SGHQ, and instead bitch and whine so much that they might give me a nice bonus. I mean, hell, everybody fudges on reports now and then. NENSLO kept his Jeep, so I had to take a Greyhound bus back to Dallas.
Maybe next time SG command will kick-in for air fare.
>"Mon Dieu!", cried Isabel, "meine liebschen, Berlitz, 'in flagrante delicto' with that pueta, Rosalind!"
-Dr. Zinn, from the novel
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