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    C James
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

In Memory of Ed Wooton

For the Love - 13. Sermon and the Mount

The tires of Steve's Charger squealed in protest as we rounded the corner a little too fast. We were running a little late for the church meeting, and now we were unable to find a place to park. "Damn, no parking anywhere close. I've never seen them this busy, even on a Sunday," Steve said, as we cruised around the block for the fourth time.

Finally, we found a parking space two blocks away, and ran all the way to the Church. Bounding up the granite steps, and through the carved oak doors, I could hear Reverend Mike had already started warming up the congregation.

Steve and I darted inside, and found the old church packed. We were able to find a bare stretch of wall in the back, and I hoped that no one had noticed our tardy arrival.

That hope was soon dashed, and I nodded to Betty, my boss, as she glared back at us, glancing pointedly at her watch to let us know she disapproved of our tardy arrival. Thankfully, just then Reverend Mike began his sermon for the evening with vivacity, "Ladies and Gentlemen... Yet again our parish finds itself standing in opposition to Reverend Thaddeus J. Emoe."

Reverend Mike stood at his pulpit, with an air of quiet dignity. He was an average looking middle-aged man with a receding hairline, but he seemed to become larger than life when he was before an audience.

A murmur spread through the congregation while Reverend Mike paused for effect. I took a moment to gaze around the dimly lit old church. I knew it had been built in the late 1800's, during Lonesome Valley's heyday as a mining town. I was amazed at the size of the church, until I remembered that the town's population in that era was over twice what it is today. The old church had been built in the conventional style; cut stone and hewn heavy oak beams. Tonight, the church was subtly lit by an incongruous mix of concealed fluorescent lighting and candlelight. The last vestiges of the desert twilight shimmering through the small, leaded stained glass windows, combined with the flicker of the candles and the smell of the wax gave the church an air of permanence, of history, and of purpose.

"It seems..." Reverend Mike boomed from the pulpit, "I'm afraid that the good Reverend Thaddeus' latest outrage is that he has launched a campaign to vilify two young men, whom we have with us here this evening," he said, gesturing in our direction. "However, he has gone beyond mere vilification, and has used biblical passages to suggest that they should be put to death." I felt hundreds of eyes upon us, as many of the congregation turned to look in our direction. I began to wonder if it was possible to melt into the wall, but I reminded myself that most of them were at least favorably disposed to us, or they would not be here.

"The log in Brother Thaddeus' eye seems to be that these two young men are gay. He has cited multiple translations of Leviticus 18:22, which calls homosexuality an abomination in some interpretations, and calls for the death of those involved," he said, in a deep baritone voice that reverberated off the stone walls of the old church, needing no amplification, "However, it would behoove the good Reverend Thaddeus to pound on the good book a little less, and instead, actually deign to read it on occasion."

Many in the congregation chuckled at the statement, while Reverend Mike paused gauging the timing like the pro he was, before continuing at a slightly higher volume, "Thaddeus seems awfully fond of Leviticus. This, indeed, poses some interesting questions, as surely Reverend Thaddeus gives equal weight to all of the Book of Leviticus. Now, let me inquire, do we perchance have any Canadians present here tonight?"

Several members of the congregation raised their hands, as if trying to fill the sudden, deafening silence, "Good... good... I'm delighted to see you all here. Be welcome, and be secure. I think though that you might be equally glad that you are not with the good Reverend Thaddeus, for Leviticus 25:44 clearly states that he may indeed own slaves, provided that they are from neighboring nations."

A few chuckles spread through the audience, echoing off the old oak and stone. Reverend Mike paced back and forth behind the pulpit, waiting for the right moment, "Does that sound preposterous in this day and age? Indeed it does, and indeed it should. However, it is far from unique in the book of Leviticus, of which Thaddeus is so uncommonly fond."

The reverend nodded knowingly, and then lowered his head, as a sad expression tarnished his usually upbeat visage, "I once had the dubious pleasure of encountering the Reverend Thaddeus in a house of abomination! Yes, abomination, and the Reverend Thaddeus was openly and most brazenly partaking of its fare. I was shocked and appalled. Of course, I had no qualms about being there myself, for I have often enjoyed the offerings at Red Lobster restaurants. However, I, unlike Thaddeus, do not believe that the eaters of lobster are accursed before God. For surely the good Reverend Thaddeus is aware that Leviticus 11:10-12 clearly and most unequivocally states that shellfish and crustaceans are an abomination? Yet, of this abomination, he freely partakes."

Reverend Mike waited as the laugher died down, "Yes folks, it's true: According to Leviticus, God hates the lowly lobster. And yet the Reverend Thaddeus shows no remorse for having eaten the abomination, thereby becoming an abomination himself. This of course begs the question, what shall be done with him? If we follow Leviticus to the letter, and surely Reverend Thaddeus would insist we do, we must gather the townsfolk and stone him to death." Reverend Mike smiled as though another thought occurred to him, "Or, perhaps, a more liberal interpretation could be used, and we could quietly burn him to death instead. I rather like the latter idea, as I think it would be a splendid way to enliven our annual church bonfire."

Gales of laughter filled the old church, but Reverend Mike was far from done, "Laugh not, my friends, laugh not, for this is the deadliest of matters. I see many sinners amongst you! YOU," he pointed at a bespectacled man, his hand trembling in a semblance of rage," How dare you defile this holy place with your presence. YOU," he swept his hand across the first pew of the congregation, pointing from one to another of the startled audience, "Have ye all freely conspired to defile this house of the Lord? For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach the alter of the Lord! A blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, or a man that is broken-footed, or broken-handed, or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; Lev. 21:20 states that ye may not approach the altar, or enter the house of worship, lest ye profane it by thy presence!"

Pacing back and forth, gesturing angrily now, pointing again at his audience,

"I see abomination after abomination! I see a woman, wearing blended cloth. I see a man whom I know without doubt hath rotated his crops."

Reverend Mike halted his pacing and wild theatrics, a little smile playing across his lips aided by a twinkle in his eye, "Sorry folks, I can't keep a straight face any longer. If you quote enough of Leviticus, it is plain that it has little bearing on us today. It is hypocritical in the extreme to apply one passage, and one passage alone, yet disregard all the others. This is especially hypocritical for anyone, such as a fundamentalist of Thaddeus's ilk, who proclaims that the Bible must be taken literally in all its particulars. The sad truth here is that charlatans like Thaddeus use a selected passage to preach hate."

Reverend Mike strode forward to the edge of the raised pulpit, "The Creed Thaddeus professes to follow is that of taking the Bible literally, and not interpreting it. This of course begs the question; why is it that he and his followers do not follow the Old Testament laws in all their particulars? There is some scriptural support for the notion that the New Testament absolves the old dietary laws, but where, exactly, does the New Testament specifically, without benefit of interpretation, state that other Old Testament laws no longer apply? There is indeed such a passage, in Galatians 3: So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now faith that is come, we are no longer under a tutor. However, the good Thaddeus and his creed, however, studiously ignore other parts of the New Testament, such as Galatians 5: Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."

"A literal reading of that passage, which is the only reading that Thaddeus' creed allows, conveys only one meaning: that a circumcised man must obey the Old Testament in its every particular! Simply put, Thaddeus and his cohorts are guilty of what they claim to oppose: interpretation, and by extension, utter hypocrisy."

Turning away from the congregation, Reverend Mike returned to his pulpit, nodding gravely as he turned to face his flock, "According to my copy of Webster's, the word ‘ignorant' means unaware or uninformed. I would therefore like us, this congregation, to seize upon this opportunity to help inform the ignorant -Reverend Thaddeus and his flock- of some spiritual facts that we, if we are of charitable mind, might assume that they have forgotten. Though they forgot all too easily that the word ignorant occurs thirteen times in the Bible and is connected with some important spiritual facts we should all know. It is for this reason that we are gathered here tonight, to bear sad witness to the truth that false teachings abound in our world."

"In past weeks, events have taken place in our town that led me to this message today." Reverend Mike slammed his fist down upon his pulpit, causing some of the congregation to jump, "I want you all to know, with nary a doubt, that Satan is alive and well in our world as well as cults who pervert Scripture to suit their own beliefs. And in that, folks, we have the ideal definition of a cult: a group that changes doctrine at their whim, to suit their own vile ends and agenda. They are on a self-appointed quest to convert all they can to their belief system, yet their message is hate, not love. Their message is perverse, not righteous. Their message is hypocritical, vile, based on lies and falsehoods, and it shall not stand! Their core offense is at once simple, and complex: they pervert the meaning of the good book to suit their whims and wishes, yet at the same time cry out that the Bible must be taken literally. They cannot have it both ways, yet that is precisely what they and their ilk are attempting to do. In doing so, they are defiling the very religion that they profess to share with us."

Shaking his head, the Reverend paused for effect, spreading forth his arms and looked towards the ceiling, "This is not about homosexuality. Not really. In the final analysis, it is about us and our faith. Our world is full of people who look at Christianity and see only hate. For this, we have people like Thaddeus who bear much of the blame, for he and his ilk ignore and pervert scripture to fit their own ends. Their excesses know no bounds as they preach hate and intolerance on so many levels, decrying even the separation of Church and State. The Bible is not a book of hate, yet they use it to foster hate. Their beliefs are, of course, very convenient and all too coincidentally profitable for Thaddeus and his followers. I find it reprehensible that a group, or more properly a cult such as they, that professes to take the bible literally would pervert and twist scripture as they have, cherry-picking the bits they like and casting aside those that they find inconvenient. Yet, that is what they brazenly do, and I stand, henceforth and forever, foursquare opposed! Join with me in opposing this perversion, this slander to our very faith."

A tap, a clatter, heralded a slow pounding that built into an avalanche of sound as the congregation broke into unabashed applause. I felt a jostle at my elbow, and turned to see Betty standing beside me.

"Thaddeus better watch out," She beamed, "Mike's all fired up over this, and Thaddeus can't hold a candle to him when it comes to giving a speech or a sermon. Look at the reaction from the audience tonight; many of these people entered the Church tonight with grave misgivings about homosexuality, yet here they are now, all fired up and ready to fight the good fight."

I didn't have long to wait for confirmation of that fact, as a motion caught my eye: Reverend Mike striding with evident purpose down the aisle, those gathered parting like the Red Sea to allow him to pass. My eyes opened wide as I realized that he was heading straight for Steve and me.

He swept us both up in his powerful arms, hugging us and patting us on the back, before turning to his congregation, "These two young men here are the personal targets of a vile hate campaign orchestrated by Thaddeus. Their crime is that they love one another, nothing more, and nothing less. If you read the books of Samuel, you will see the story of David and Jonathan, which is clearly and explicitly a love story, a good and just love, including a physical love, between two men. Some of you, I know, do not approve of such things, nor do I ask you to. I do, however, advise that all of you, as Christians, bear foremost in your hearts the words of our savior: Judge not, that you be not judged. Finally, remember the words of St. Paul: For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

I looked around, my pounding heart matching the thunderous applause of the congregation. To see that we were surrounded by many people that I knew, our friends, my boss, Steve's parents, plus several students and faculty from my college.

Reverend Mike gracefully ushered us out into the semi-privacy of an alcove, where he fixed us in his steely gaze, "I hope what I'm doing helps you both, but I meant what I said in there: this isn't about homosexuality, it is about fighting the perversion of our faith. You two, unfortunately, are where the battle lines were drawn by Thaddeus. I, God willing, fully intend to take up this battle, but there is little that I can do other than preach. Thaddeus and his crowd, however, are not above more direct actions. Watch your backs, always."

We nodded, and the Reverend added, "One of the many reasons I am doing this is for my son. He turns four next month, and from what I hear, he has as high as a one in six chance of being gay or bisexual, if the statistics are right. One in six are the same chances as playing Russian roulette. If Thaddeus and his crowd get their way, it would be like handing my son, and every kid in America a revolver with a single round in it, and telling them to put it to their heads and pull the trigger. I also have an infant daughter, and the Creed of Thaddeus is that Women are second-class citizens. I don't want either of my kids to have to grow up to live in the kind of world Thaddeus is trying to build, so I oppose him every chance I get." He said with a mix of anger and fear.

We nodded in agreement, and Steve asked, "Is there anything we can do to help?"

Reverend Mike smiled, "For a start, you two could set a good example by attending my services once in awhile. Consider that an unsubtle hint from me. However, for the most part, I'll give my sermons, and Thaddeus will give his, with no way to actually decide the issue either way. At best, we can turn enough people against him that he will find other fish to fry. I think, though, that there is evil afoot here, as you two aren't the only homosexuals in town, but you were personally and exclusively targeted. I also know, through a few of my own sources, about your run-in with the Sheriff over in Piedmont, and he's Thaddeus' brother-in-law. Just my hunch, but I think there is a lot more at work here than simple hate and bigotry. Thaddeus is a very wealthy man, and how he comes by that wealth is quite the mystery. Beware of him, and take nothing for granted," Reverend Mike intoned gravely.

"I've never heard some of the points you raised, such as about circumcision. That was a lot different from what I was expecting." I said.

"That passage had both a theological and a hidden significance, and I hope Thaddeus hears of it. Thaddeus, I regret to say, was a high school classmate of mine, and we had gym class together. So, verily, I can bear witness that Thaddeus has, always near at hand, cutting yet diminutive proof that he is bound to obey the Old Testament in its every particular, though he most clearly does not do so." Reverend Mike said, as he ushered us back out to his waiting congregation.

I struggled to choke back laughter when I realized what the Reverend had meant, and I was doubly glad that he was on our side.

The rest of the evening was a blur of handshakes and quick conversations. I could tell that some of the parishioners were leery of us, but in none did I see open hate. In many, I saw sympathy and support. As people started to file out and head home, Veronica alerted me to her presence by punching me in the arm.

"Don't forget, come on over tomorrow morning." Veronica said simply before she vanished into the receding crowd.

We saw Steve's parents when we got back to the house, and they both seemed upbeat. Mrs. Williams especially, she had nothing but good things to say about Reverend Mike.

"I'm so glad that he is doing this, he really is a wonderful man," she beamed. We went to bed in my apartment that night feeling that things were finally looking up, which put us in a great mood that lead to a few hours of indescribable fun.

After breakfast on Saturday, Steve and I gathered up a few tools from the garage and loaded them into the Charger, ready to do some fixing up at Veronica's place.

I kept a very suspicious eye on my gorgeous boyfriend. I well remembered the last pool party and arriving to find that the only swimsuits we had were Speedos. I suspected he might try that again, so I watched him like a hawk all morning.

I'd tossed a pair of board shorts into one of Steve's Gym bags, and chuckled as I watched him throw in a pair of his Speedos, "Show off," I teased.

Steve grinned and winked, "Yup... That's me," as he stood up and stretched, giving me a great look at his flexing bare chest. We both laughed, just feeling comfortable with each other's little quirks. I slid my arms around him, feeling his warm skin as he melted into me, and kidded him deeply, just because I loved him.

Just before we left, Steve was in the bathroom so I seized the opportunity to peek into the gym bag, to find, as expected, two pairs of Speedos, and no sign of my board shorts. As I suspected, he'd taken out my boardies and replaced them with Speedos.

I grabbed a pair of Steve's board shorts from his dresser and replaced one pair of Speedos. I could have switched his swimsuit, too, but I wasn't about to deprive myself of some of my favorite scenery.

Steve came out, wearing just tattered old Levi's and work boots, and looking damn hot. I was careful to keep an eye on him as he leaned into his closet to retrieve the gym bag. He slung the gym bag over his bare shoulder, a little familiar upturn at the corner of his mouth appearing as he did so. I knew that look, but I knew that he would be the one surprised this time.

We arrived at Veronica's, and I had a close look at the damage while Steve unloaded the pickaxe and spade from his Charger. The mailbox post was snapped off at ground level, and would require some serious digging to replace. The lawn could be fixed easy enough by moving some of the loosened sod around, and a little grass seed to fill in the holes.

Veronica came out to meet us, "About time you two showed up. Okay, we might as well get busy. Chad's at work and the rest of the gang will be here in a couple of hours when he gets off."

Steve arched an eyebrow in her direction, "We? Are you going to help?"

"Fat chance, Blondie, I'm supervising. You can start by digging up the mailbox post. Chris, you can join me on the porch if you like, 'cause you didn't drive through my front yard instead of using the freaking driveway."

I laughed, "Nah, I'll help. It was me he was trying to save, after all."

Veronica shook her head, "Yeah, but he still could have backed out instead of fishtailing all over my yard. But, I guess ya gotta expect these things, he is blond, after all."

Steve grinned, shaking his head to toss his hair back, "I like my hair."

Veronica chuckled, "I do admit, it looks good, and I'm so glad you are blond, otherwise I wouldn't be able to make blond jokes about you. Well, you two might as well get started. I soaked the ground with the hose last night, so it should dig easy enough."

I tested the ground with my foot, "Uh, yeah, it's soaked all right. Kinda muddy."

"Don't worry guys, get as muddy as you like. Do some mud wrestling, if you want, I don't mind." Veronica chuckled, "I can throw your jeans in the washer. You did bring swimsuits, didn't you?"

I nodded, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed Steve turn away, hiding a grin.

I hid a smile of my own; I couldn't wait to see his face when he found out that I'd foiled his plan.

Peeling off my shirt, I tossed it in Steve's car and began digging. Swinging the pickaxe was hard work, and Steve and I traded off as we slowly unearthed the remains of the mailbox post and its cement footer. I did enjoy watching Steve work; his muscles rippling under his tan, sweaty skin, which made it hard to keep my mind on the job at hand.

By the time we were able to heave the broken post and its footing out of the hole, Steve and I were both covered in sweat, and I was very much looking forward to a dive in Veronica's pool.

We placed the new post, and then dumped a bag of quickset cement into the hole, wetting it down with the hose and tamping everything into place. I turned towards Veronica, "Let it set overnight, then shovel the dirt back around it and it will be as good as new."

Veronica shook her head, "Oh no you don't. There is method to my madness in having you two stay overnight. Tomorrow, you or Blondie can fill in the hole, and mount my new mailbox."

"You really want me to mount your mailbox? Okay, but what will your neighbors think?" Steve asked, breaking into a wicked grin.

"Steve, you have a dirty mind, that's all I can say." Veronica chuckled, shaking her head.

We laughed, and began spading sod into the gouges in the lawn left by Steve's tires. It was muddy, and we both ended up with a lot of dirt on us. No sooner had we finished than Steve tackled me from behind, knocking me into the dirt and mud.

I quickly found his ribs as we wrestled and began tickling him, reducing him to a laughing ball as we rolled around in the dirt.

Looking up, I noticed that our audience had grown; Chad, Rob, and Joe had arrived with a keg, and Dex was just pulling his van into the driveway.

Steve and I stood up to greet our friends, who gave us a wide berth due to the ample amount of dirt and mud that covered us.

I grabbed the gym bag from the porch, and followed everyone into the back yard and the waiting cool water in the pool.

Rob and Joe put the keg on ice while Chad tapped it. Veronica shooed Steve and I toward the garage, "Go get changed. Put your jeans in the washer, add some soap, and turn it on. Think y'all can handle that?"

I laughed, and with the gym bag over my shoulder, followed Steve into the garage.

Steve began to strip, and I saw that old familiar upturn at the corners of his mouth. But this time, unlike last time, I knew that I had outsmarted him. Stripping out of my own jeans and boxers, I tossed them in the washer on top of Steve's.

I had kept the gym bag close, making sure I'd get first pick of the swimsuits. With a triumphant grin, I reached in. My grin soon faded, because I didn't feel the familiar bulk of a pair of boardies. I looked inside, finding only two Speedos, which I pulled out and held in my hand. I looked at Steve, who was watching me intently, a big goofy grin plastered all over his face, "Which one do ya want?" He asked, exactly like he had at the last pool party.

I glanced at the small Lycra garments in my hand, then back up at my grinning, naked boyfriend and realized the reason for his impish grin. He'd done it to me again! "Steve, you didn't... You couldn't... I checked the bag while you were in the bathroom. I put in a pair of boardies, and I haven't let the bag out of my sight since... So how..."

Steve laughed, "I knew you would check. You only forgot one thing: I've got more than one red gym bag. This one was further back in my closet, all ready to go. The other one was a decoy. I just grabbed this one instead, and let you go all paranoid keeping an eye on it all day."

"You got me again..." I gasped.

Steve chuckled, "Yup, but you look so cute when you are embarrassed... So, which one do ya want?"

I glanced down at the swimsuits in my hand, and saw two identical black suits, "Let's see, black, or maybe black..." I grumbled, and tossed Steve one of the Speedos, "Hey, you wrestled me into the dirt just to make sure my jeans would be too dirty to wear, didn't you?"

Steve snickered and nodded, watching me as I pulled on the tight racing suit while pulling on his own. "That water is sure gonna feel good after all that work," I said.

Steve nodded, "Yeah it is," he hesitated as he took note of my evil grin, "Uhhh, something tells me I'm gonna get drowned if I go near the water?"

I smiled innocently, "I have no idea what you mean. I'm just going to be enjoying a swim, waiting patiently for you to join me." I said, as I winked at him, and left the garage.

This time it was me who Rob greeted with a wolf whistle, as I grabbed a cup, pumped in some beer, and took a seat in a lounge chair while turning a very deep shade of red.

Steve joined me, turned to face our gathered friends and did his customary hands-behind-the-neck stretch before grabbing a beer of his own. His golden tan and his blond hair really contrasted with the tight black suit, and he looked spectacular.

Another wolf whistle from Rob greeted him, and I knew that Steve reveled in the attention.

Veronica looked at me, then at Steve, giggling, "Okay, once again, nice eye candy. Is Steve teaching you his exhibitionist ways, Chris?"

I took a long swig of my beer as Chad pointed at me and laughed, "Did you let him bring the swimsuits again? I figured last time would have taught you a lesson on that."

Shaking my head, "I guessed that he would try this again. I checked the bag while he was out of the room, and he had taken my shorts out. So, I put a pair back."

Steve grinned at Chad, "Yeah, he kept an eagle eye on the bag all day. What he didn't know was that I'd set up an extra gym bag, and grabbed that one when we left."

Chad and Veronica exchanged a glance as Chad cracked up, soon joined by his girlfriend.

Veronica stood up and marched into the house, obviously on a mission of some sort. I did not have long to ponder the reason, for she soon returned, carrying a serving tray, topped by a domed cover made of stainless steel. She placed it with a flourish on a small table, and pointed at the chair next to it.

"Chris, come sit down, right here." Veronica said, crooking a finger in my direction.

I heard and felt my stomach growl, and I was more than a little curious what was on that tray, so I played along. I padded over and sat down, reaching for the cover, only to have my fingers slapped away.

"Not so fast, Chris. First, we have some business to attend. Chadwick, would you officiate, please?" Veronica said, in an outrageously overdone formal manner.

"Chadwick?" I asked, as Chad strode over, an empty glass and a fork in his hands.

"My real first name, but don't you dare tell anyone that." Chad said, as he struck a formal pose, which was made even more out-of-place by the fact that he was wearing just a pair of boardies, and tapped the fork three times against the glass.

I heard Steve snickering behind me, and began to suspect a setup. I turned and shot him a questioning glance, but he shrugged.

"This proceeding is hereby called to order." Veronica said stomping her foot, mocking a gavel. "Some information has recently been made known to me, and the events of today have confirmed that we have no choice but to act, and act we shall. Chris, today I had an interesting conversation with the fry cook at work, regarding your escape from the diner when the Sheriff was after you. Is it true that you spent a good deal of time, with the Sheriff closing in, struggling to open a door?"

I felt my cheeks tingle as I blushed, "Umm, yeah. I was trying to open it the wrong way. Hey, aren't all doors in a business supposed to open out, for safety?" I asked, trying in vain to defend my actions.

"Sure, if you worry about fire codes. Does the diner look like it worries about codes overly much? Answer yes or no, Chris: Did you nearly batter yourself senseless trying to get out a door that was unlocked, and just opened the other way?" Veronica asked, really getting into her grand inquisitor act.

"Uh, yeah," I mumbled, "but it was..."

Veronica motioned to Chad, who tapped the glass again, while Veronica pronounced, "Not only is the issue with the door true, but you do not seem able to comprehend simple directives, such as answering yes or no. Well then, to proceed with the case, did you, once outside, ever stop to think that your safest course of action would be to run and hide, and wait for me to come looking for you? Surely, that would have been preferable to leaping your Jeep over a retaining wall, and trying to outrun a radio-equipped police cruiser and a trigger-happy madman?"

I felt my blush deepen, "Well, okay, maybe you have a point there."

She nodded, "You bet I do. And if either of you show up in Piedmont again, you had better hope it's the Sheriff who finds you and not me. Now, one other little detail: You were supposed to put your jeans in the washer, add soap, and turn on the machine. Would you like to guess which two of those three steps you forgot?"

"Umm, the last two?" I chuckled.

Veronica continued, "Yes indeed. Don't worry; I've done it for you. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. You found an old note, so the first thing you do is go charging into Piedmont. Then, once you made it back here, you try to go charging back to Piedmont again. And lest we forget that you were, quite recently, the victim of blackmail, by Blondie's little brother. I could go on and on. All these facts draw us to an inescapable conclusion..."

Steve made a strangling sound, as he doubled over, trying not to laugh. Veronica pointed at him, "You can button it, Blondie. You are worse than he is! However, you have an excuse; you are, after all, blond. Your boyfriend, though, has been bending every effort to keep pace. So, it is the decision of this court that his status be made official." With a flourish, Veronica removed the tray cover, and I saw the contents of the tray. It was not, as I had hoped, food.

I stared at the brown bottle, which was accompanied by a brush and a pair of plastic gloves. The label on the bottle was turned away from me, but Chad, obviously, could read it from where he stood, because he collapsed to the ground, laughing.

Rob and Joe, silent observers to my trial until now, came over to look, only to turn away, snickering madly. Dex, stoic as usual, merely quipped, "It fits."

I turned the tray around so I could see the label: Hydrogen Peroxide. It took a moment for me to figure it out... "Hey, that's hair bleach," I gasped.

"Yes, indeed it is. Chris, by your actions, you have unquestionably declared that you are, in fact, blond. So therefore, it falls to us to make it official."

I couldn't help but laugh. The more pressing issue was, though; did I really want to let her do it? I shrugged to myself - I'd never been too happy with my plain brown hair. I liked the longish cut and the style that I had, but the color was just... well, plain.

Veronica glanced at my still-laughing boyfriend, "Don't worry, Chris. I'll just lighten the tips a bit, and put in some sun streaks. You won't be quite like laughing boy over there, though. He's a natural blond, and that means he has blond roots. Those, through some unknown method, induce fossilization of the intracranial region. In other words, your boyfriend has rocks where his brains should be."

Steve sat up, still chuckling, "Hey, I'm not that bad."

"Tsk, tsk," Veronica scolded, "how soon they forget. There is an immutable law of nature that has, as a requirement for true ditzyness, that a guy must be three things: Blond, and named Steve."

I gasped as I cracked up, "What's the third? You said three things..."

Veronica nodded, "That was just a test to see if the first two statements are true. You passed... Blondie didn't."

Our alcohol-lubricated laughter filled the afternoon air, as Veronica got to work brushing the hydrogen peroxide into my hair. Steve took the opportunity to dive into the pool, and watched the proceedings from the edge, grinning his ass off at me. I saw Dex stroll over to the pool and crouch down to talk to Steve, but couldn't hear what they were talking about.

While Veronica worked on my hair, Chad and Joe fired up the barbeque, and soon the smell of sizzling hamburgers made me even hungrier. The hamburgers and my hair were done at about the same time. Veronica dragged me inside to her laundry sink, and rinsed off the hydrogen peroxide. She toweled off my hair, and then turned me to face a mirror. My hair was still wet, and didn't look all that different. I gave her a questioning glance.

"When it's dry you will see it better. Even Steve's is darker when wet," she replied to my unspoken question.

At that moment, a very welcome call echoed in from the backyard, "Burgers are ready. Come and get it."

My stomach was growling as I padded back out to the patio, and soon I was sinking my teeth into one of Veronica's great onion burgers. She said she put onion soup mix into the meat, but whatever it was, it was about as close to perfection as you could get.

I had a second burger, and when I was done, Veronica was tugging me by the arm, back into her house. She stood me in front of a full-length mirror, and tossed me a comb. I ran it through my hair a few times, and looked. My hair was lighter, with blond sun-streaks. I wasn't quite blond, but close and I really liked the effect.

I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned to find Steve and Dex. Steve nodded approvingly at my hair, but Dex got right down to business. "I hear that Eric is getting out, and that the Sheriff knows you guys have the Data stick. I don't think he will let up until he gets it back."

I nodded, "Yeah, but what can we do?"

Dex gave us one of his rare smiles. "Easy. Give him what he wants. Let Eric find the Data Stick and give it to the Sheriff."

Thanks also to Graeme, for help, advice, and support, and also to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading.

©Copyright 2007 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.  The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

Many thanks to Conner for editing, support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions on this chapter.
Many thanks also to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions (and for thinking up a title!).

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading and advice, and for putting up with me.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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Just as a side note to your story and having nothing to do with it or its characterizations -- the Aussie slang term for a Speedo swimsuit is 'budgie smuggler, which makes sense when you consider that a budgie is a small bird and would make an interesting bulge in a Speedo, just like . . . well, you know!

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A nice relaxing chapter. Mike is a wonderful new character that is a great foil for the evil rev.  It's not difficult to like a charismatic speaker who can logically put a fundi in his/her place.  I love Veronica's take no prisoners attitude and great sense of humour.  I enjoyed reading this chapter, especially the devious speedo switches.

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