Chapter Eleven

[Start from the beginning here.]

After leaving Gus in the kitchen to presumably cleanse himself, Ron returned to Miranda’s room to figure out the variables in this strange problem. To begin with, Miranda was clearly missing. There was no sign of her under the bed, in the closet, hiding under the sheets or lying still in the bottom of the bathtub. The note she had left was in her scrawled crayon penmanship and there was no mistaking that she had said she was going with God. The second question was where this God person went. Had he meant to take Miranda or had she slipped away with him unexpectedly and in that case, would he bring her back once he realized the mistake? Ron was certain of one thing. This man was not God. There was no such thing as God, in any form. But what did this strange man want with the Lukenglasse family?

The only clue, besides the note that Miranda left, was a shiny satin bowtie he found laying across one of Mira’s shoes in her closet. He picked it up and looked it over but there was nothing suspicious about a bowtie. It told him nothing about this God fellow either, besides the fact that he had good taste, so Ron laid it along side the note in Gus’ makeshift altar. 

Ron’s mind was beginning to formulate a plan around a number of these variables, but the main variable was Gus himself. The man would not call the cops, would not look for Miranda, would not think rationally and would not call Mom. This left only a few options for Ron and none of these included Gus. In that case, his best plan of action would be to vacate the house and find help.

Unfortunately, there was only one problem and the narrator assumes that it won’t be hard for the reader to guess what that problem was: Damascus Lukenglasse, of course. As Ron exited the room he heard a strange noise coming from the other end of the hall. It was a soft wailing noise that drifted in and out in short intervals. Between the wailing was the sound of a wet slap, a lured almost medieval sound, like ripping and whipping all at once. Not knowing where the murderous man who called himself God had snuck off too, Ron could only assume the worst and dashed into Gus’ room grasping a large flower vase from the hall as his only means of survival.

Oh, if only poor Ron knew what he was getting himself into. If only the boy had the frame of reference in all his studies to handle something like this. If only Bertrand Russell had written a philosophical treatise on what to do when your host family goes crazy, then perhaps Ron would have had the analytic and rational powers to deal with what he witnessed when he walked into the room. But alas, the poor boy was out of luck.

There, kneeling in the center of the master bathroom, was an old hippy with his graying ponytail. A hippy who had seen pacifist rallies and peace rock shows, a househusband that put no flowers in the hall vase, not for the random moments that one might need to grab it to ward of intruders, but because he did not believe in picking flowers because it caused them to die prematurely. There was a vegan, half clothed, whipping himself with what looked to be a jump rope tied around a garden claw. Gus, eyes closed, head bowed in submission, lips mumbling an inane prayer, flung the impromptu torture device up into the air letting it land with a thud onto his back then dragged it upwards so that the claw dug into the skin on his back. The only time his absurd mumbling stopped was when the device scratched against his back and he would let out a low whimper between his clenched teeth. It was a despicable sight.

As Gus swung the garden claw up into the air again, Ron accidentally dropped the vase to the ground and watched as it shattered to pieces. Not knowing he had company, Gus stopped mid swing and let the contraption dangle in front of him. Rather than look ashamed or confused at Ron’s appearance, Gus looked down at the broken pieces then back up at Ron with a smile.

“Ah, I’ve seen you’ve come to help boy. You always had a sharp mind,” Gus reached out across the bathroom floor and grabbed a bit of broken vase. He placed the porcelain against his arm with the intentions to slit when Ron scrambled across the room and knocked the porcelain from his hand.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Ron shouted with fear in his voice.

“I am in penance for my sins. This is an act of contrition,” Gus stated calmly while beckoning to his instruments of torture.

“How? What? When?…” Ron’s voice left him and he just gaped his mouth open and shut like a fish flapping its lips together.

“You were right, Ron, about what you said earlier. Like you often are. And I realized I was full of sin myself. Couldn’t go about trying to cleanse the rest of the world if I was so gummed up in the works, if you catch my meaning. So I thought I might just skip up here and have a good solid fest of repentance. And what better way to do that than by torturing myself. Like, I’ve always said, you can’t get something clean until you put some blood and piss into it.”

“You’ve never said that before.”

“Well, I should have. That’s a right good saying right there if I’ve ever heard one.”

Ron’s hands began to tremble with a mixture of anger and the assurance that no matter what he did, nothing good would come of it. He felt sweat start to tingle in droplets along his forehead. His words rushed in his head so fast that they came in groups of three and were often in different languages. How would he stop this man? How would he get Miranda back safe? And would he even want to bring her back to this madness? “Look, Gus. Your daughter has not ascended to heaven. It is not the Rapture. There is no God and you are not some holy redeemer that needs to cleanse himself of his sins. You are just Damascus Lukenglasse, the father of one and the husband of Theresa Lukenglasse. I repeat, your daughter has not gone to heaven with God, she is missing, and we need to get her back.”

On a normal day, Gus was not a man that listened well. He tended towards abstractions and only taking with him what he thought suited his needs. On an abnormal day, one could only hope for the best. In this particular situation, one would have to wonder what Gus took from the speech that issued from his exchange student’s young mouth. Good thing I’m here to explain it.

Though Ron should have been persuasive enough and made a fine point, Gus did not understand a word out of Ron’s mouth. Gus did hear the words, took them in, looked them over and understood them in a raw, basic sense, but in meaning Gus went a whole other direction. If Ron had been saying, the world is ending, head to Canada. Gus would have turned due South and made a quick march towards Mexico. When Gus saw Ron standing in front of him, telling him that God did not take Mira to Heaven with him, the one core thing that Gus believed in with all his soul, the one true fact that seemed to emanate from his head like the only thing he knew, as if it were his name itself, Gus decided that the messenger must be wrong. And if the messenger was wrong, then it was because he was lying to him for a reason. And if he were lying to him for a reason, then he must be hiding the truth. And if he were hiding the truth then the answer must be rent from him.

This is what Gus had now deduced and was his new belief. If Ron was right and God had not taken Miranda, then where was she? And if Ron knew that God had not taken her then Ron must know where she was. If Ron was wrong, and God had taken Miranda to Heaven in the first few moments of The Rapture, then Ron was lying to him and must have a reason for lying. And that reason could only be to stop Gus from cleansing himself and going up to Heaven along with his daughter. Either way, the truth needed to be found and Ron had to be punished. Gus reached for the garden claw.

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