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Monday, September 20, 2010

Executive Order 16661: 6:21 am


My phone continued to get louder and louder, a setting I really began to resent with a passion. What the hell...who would be calling me at...I looked over at the boxer-covered alarm clock and saw that is was 6:21 am. It was 6:21 am on a Sunday, normally the most boring and chill day of the week.
My head felt like what I had always imagined a Medieval blacksmith shop sounded: metal on metal with sharp scrapings. The metal on metal was the sound reverberating in my head and the scraping caused by the many beers I had the night before. I wanted to go and make myself permanently acquainted with my toilet. Yet, my phone would not stop ringing/beeping and so I had to go deal with it first.

I got out of bed and immediately the room pulsated. Ugh, when am I going to learn? I looked around for Amber, Jennifer, Chelsea or whatever her name was whom I had shared a bed with; wherever it was I spent the night. Good, it will make it easier to escape if the phone does not draw her out wherever she is hiding. I saw a note on the pillow and twinged when I recalled how many movies I had seen where some guy had left a note before the girl woke up. It was intriguing to see a sort of a role reversal. I'll take a look at this in a moment, I thought as I stumbled to my phone.


"Hey Church, its Barney; did I wake you?"

Oh c'mon Barney it is Sunday freaking morning what do you think?

"Nah, I was just waking up Barn, what's up? Is something wrong?"

"Is something wrong? Heck yeah, there's something wrong! Chuck, I got a huge story for you; you are just never going to believe it."

Suddenly my hangover was converted into an adrenaline rush; I had been looking for a big story to help me get noticed with some of the major networks. I did reporting for the local paper but I had always wanted a shot at broadcast journalism. Tom Brokaw was my favorite anchor from my media studies when I was pursuing my journalism degree in college. I had graduated Suma Cum Laude, but still had not be able to find a job in broadcast journalism. Instead, I had to settle for a pitiful job at some local paper where most of my story suggestions were ignored and assignments given to other reporters.

Barney was one of my informants, but he was not a particularly good one, often giving me crap to work with. Like the time he told me about a supposed sex scandal in the Mayor's office which turned out to be visits from the Mayor's publicly unacknowledged daughter. Yet, something about his tone suggested to me that he had stumbled onto something big. Needless to say, I was very interested.

"What is it Barn, what do you have for me?"

"Well, Chuck it has to do with some churches..."

Churches? What was he talking about?

"What do you mean churches? Are we talking about some sort of sex scandal? Some Christian leader in town say a racist remark publicly? Some church get caught endorsing a candidate? What are we discussing?"

"No, no man, its nothing like that. Look, I just got a call from a friend who said that several pastors of some rather prominent evangelical churches got text messages talking about a new Executive Order, I wrote it down here..." I heard him shuffling with some papers, "Oh yeah, here we go, Executive Order 16661 and they were warned by the same number not to go to their churches today. The number is a blocked or restricted number, so there are no details on who sent it."

This is what you woke me up for Barney. My hangover was coming back with full force and I was beginning to think about tossing my cell phone out the window. Why did Barney think a kid's prank was a huge story? Some hackers could have easily accumulated all of these numbers and decided to bring the churches to a halt for a Sunday. I would find it pretty hilarious if I were involved with something like that, never being a fan of organized religion.

"Barney, are you, this has got to be the worst tip you have ever given me...Are any of these churches even taking this seriously?"

"I mean, I don't know yet, its too early to say. Churches early services normally don't start till like eight unless there is a sunrise service. But you might find this interesting; according to my friend the churches that were contacted were the churches that signed the Church Transformation Pact a week ago."

The Church Transformation Pact was signed by a bunch of evangelical church leaders who wanted to declare their common solidarity on many issues that affect how people in our country live. I thought it was going to be another Christian hate document talking about hating abortion (and the people involved) and hating homosexuals. However, I was surprised to see that it was more of declaration of action and goodwill rather than another banner of hatred. There were still the appeals to orthodoxy, but who cares as long as they benefit everyone and start the work of bringing more people together. If there was a good purpose for organized religion, I guess that would be the big one.

"That is interesting, Barn, but don't you think that makes the likelihood that this is a hoax increase?"
Barney paused on the other side of the line.

"No, Chuck I think this is for real. Something in my gut says something is going to happen to these churches."

"But Barn, an Executive Order is from the President? The President is a Republican and a..."

"Yeah, a Christian, I know. It does not sound right out all, but my gut Chuck, tells me it is."

The President of the United States was Nathan Cartwright, the former governor from the state of Oklahoma and a favorite on the list of many Right-wingers. Since the fall-out from the "Verona experiment" the right-wing Republicans had pretty much controlled the country. They were elected by angry individuals who did not know who the Founding Fathers were or what the Constitution says; they simply wanted another change and they fell for the rhetoric. Despite valiant efforts by Moderate Democrats and even some independents, we had been unable to remove the Republicans from power and they were slowly starving all of our government programs except defense and homeland security, but we needed those after Muslim, religious extremists nuked the city of San Francisco about ten years ago. We were all too willing to be more safe. Still, President Cartwright was a Pentecostal reared Christian who referred to God more than any other president; it did not make any sense for him to act against the churches; especially evangelical ones.

Considering all of that, I was not about to go with Barney's gut; I could not go to my boss with a text message. I needed to have something more to go on or I would be laughed out of the office and possibly out of the job. As much as this would be a curiosity and perhaps grab a back page spot, it was not front page news.

"Barney, thanks for the call but I need something more." Anything more...

"Well, if you want to see if there is anything to it, Chuck, there is one of those churches about 15 min outside of downtown; the event, whatever it is, is supposed to start at 8 am. If I am wrong, then no harm. If I am right, I just made you star, and don't you forget it either."

I copied down the church's address from Barney. It was probably going to be a bust and a waste of gas, but I did not have anything else to do and I needed to escape from this house before its mistress reappeared and tried to convince me to become her life partner.

"Thanks Barney, I will check it out. Take care." I hung up the phone, spun around and began gathering my things, fishing for my pants and going on a hunt for my shirt. I found my shoes and laced them up real quick then went over to look at the note on the mystery woman's side of the bed.

It read:

Dear Charlie,

Thanks for a fantastic evening; I had a great time with you. I got called into work and had to leave before you woke up. There is some cereal in the kitchen and milk/juice in the fridge. If you touch anything else, I will know it; you won't want to find out what will happen to you if you do, trust me on that. Once you have eaten, please lock up and see yourself out.



Celia, that was her name! My head still ached and I was grateful that she had left me something to eat. I went down the stairs of a pretty modest, but not cramped house to the kitchen where I found the cereal and milk and poured myself some juice. There was a Sunday paper on the bar and I almost went for it when I remembered Celia's ominous warning in her letter. Wisely, I decided to just eat, drink, and stare.
Once, I had finished I found my way to the front door, locked it up, and was about to shut it, when I realized that I did not have Celia's phone number. Whoa Chuck, why do you want her number, just get out of there!However, I went over to the phone and scrolled to menu that told you the home number and I even found her cell number. For some reason, Celia's chauvinistic approach of getting rid of a one-night-stand was intriguing and I suddenly want to get together with this woman again and not for sex; ok, for more than sex. I could not believe I was putting her number in my phone, pretty sure that I would be using them.


By the tone of her note, I would probably have to reckon with this later, but for now I would live with it.Crazy, I thought as I passed the wall clock that read 6:46 am. I walked out the door, making sure it was locked and casually strolled out to my Honda Civic. I was walking down the walk when I noticed an old couple out enjoying the morning and staring at me, shaking their heads disapprovingly.

Go inside you old prunes; when was the last time you two were intimate?

Then an awful image filled my mind and I quickly brought my thoughts back to the task at hand. If the event was supposed to happen at 8 am, I had time to stop by Starbucks and get some coffee to help wake me up and get rid of the last vestiges of my headache, and I had to time to scope out an ideal location to observe the church. I did not want to actually go to the church, just in case there was actually something to this text message.

None of this makes any sense, but if it is true, I owe Barney...and I managed to grab Celia's numbers.

I had no idea why that thrilled me so much, but it did and I made sure I smiled out at the two old foggies as I left.



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