“When I opened the door / I could not believe my eyes
I saw my friend in the air / Like an angel when it flies
Why did it happen? / Why did he have to go?
I cried a thousand tears that day / And now I’m on my own”
Vincent DiBaterre – Just Me, 1992
Entertainer Morris Liddy, of the pop duo Viddi Moliddi, was found hanged in his apartment late last night. Those close to Liddy say he was very distraught over recent developments in his professional life. Among his final words, in a letter found on the scene:
“I’m sorry we lied. Thanks for the love.”
The Portillo Observer – Lifestyle – E1
Portillo, TX – Present
I am Kyle Blyte. I need to be pure. I will become like the clouds, like a blank sheet of paper. Like snow, I guess, it never snows here. I attach the spray gun to the compressor hose. I load the paint cup with primer white. I aim the nozzle, and pull the trigger. It’s coming out splotchy. I adjust the ratio of air pressure and fluid delivery. Now it is a fine, even coat. In this way, I am made clean.
Ms. Slown detected a strange air as she entered Portillo High School, Thursday morning. She had heard the news of Mo Liddy’s death on the radio, accompanied by the new single, the title track, Fade to White. She wondered how this would affect the student body. Immediately she saw a scattering of white armbands. She saw “R.I.P. Mo” written on a homemade button, in Sharpie on a white t-shirt, on a book cover. Several students wore their Viddi Moliddi concert shirts. Heather remembered when Elvis died, she was a freshman. They had all felt such strong emotion for the fat stranger in his weird clothes. They wanted to be sad, to feel something that deeply. They simply awaited the opportunity, the trigger.
As Heather walked to her class, she prepared herself to say something to the kids. Upon entering room 323, she stopped cold. One of her students wore a rope tied into a noose, like a grotesque cravat, around his neck. He seemed to be covered in a smooth application of white paint. He sat, quiet and sullen, ignoring his peers’ reaction to his odd display. He had obviously been crying, as some of the paint had rubbed off around his eyes and cheeks. Some of the students looked quickly from him to Ms. Slown, seeking a cue how to react.
After a moment, Heather collected herself.
“Kyle, may I speak to you in the hall, please,” said Heather, and to the others, “class, please review the chapter on bicameral legislature.”
The classmates Kyle passed leaned away from him, as if the paint might still be wet, or his unsound state of mind contagious. Heather pulled the door closed behind him, and they stood alone in the hallway. She took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose, waiting for the right words to come.
“Kyle,” she began, “you’re hurting, aren’t you?”
Kyle nodded, his eyes drooping to the floor.
“You enjoy music. You enjoyed his music.”
“It was mine. They made it for me.”
“Were you upset about – the announcement?” Heather had noticed a difference in Kyle the whole week.
“Vincent said they sang it. Morris said they lied. I don’t know which is true.”
“The music, it made you feel something. That feeling was true.”
“But it wasn’t true. I loved something that was fake. I got fooled.”
Heather tried to look Kyle in the eye, but he still averted.
“Once enough people believe something, once any person believes something deeply enough, the belief holds itself up. It stops mattering whether it’s true.”
Kyle processed that for a moment. “Morris is dead. That’s the truth.”
“Morris is no longer with us, because he had – problems. Personal problems.”
“He had my problems,” said Kyle, finally meeting her gaze. “Every beat was like, taking one of my problems away. He took them all away, he made me clean.”
Kyle held up the white-painted backs of his hands to her.
“You still have the music. It can still do that for you.”
“I’m afraid now. I have to do right. There’s nothing to make me clean. The music, it’s just a cassette, it’s just a piece of plastic, Ms. Slown.”
“You can’t go through life being afraid, Kyle,” said Heather. “Be just and fear not.”
He looked down again. Tears dripped down his pallid cheeks. Heather carefully lifted the effigy of Mo Liddy’s hanging rope over Kyle’s head.
“Let me take this from you.”
“I met Bro. Alton when he hired me to do a job. I couldn’t have imagined it would have such a special meaning. He wished to have a large mirror installed, in the place I now know as the Receiver’s Hall. At the time I was unfamiliar with his calling, or the extraordinary purpose this simple piece of glass would serve. One hardly gets to know Bro. Alton that one does not make a new friend. He introduced me to the others in the congregation, and my life has never been better. Like humble sand is made into brilliant glass, so have I been transformed. I have been improved by what I have been shown. Every time I have the wonderful experience of looking into that mirror, I am grateful that Bro. Alton called me all those years ago.”
Installer, Portillo Glass & Mirror
From Light Reading – The Newsletter of the Receivers of the Shining Message
Portillo, TX – Sabbath Morn
RJ dashed from his Econo, through a light rain whispering on the Channel Breeze Shopping Center. He halted under the awning, wiping his shoe soles and shaking off what water he could. The ladies were not chatting outside, this morning. He waited a moment, alone. The sound of the rain and the prelude music, muffled through the wall, relaxed him. He had a reason to be anxious. Today, he would finally get his turn to pass through the gate. The light would shine for him. He brought out the gold coin Bro. Dennis had given him the week prior, admiring it, then returned it securely to his pocket.
At the appropriate time in the service, RJ stood and walked forward to the little gate. Bro. Harold waited there, smiling at him. He began the rite.
“Why have you come?”
“I am informed that, by this gate, is the way beyond.” RJ held out the gold coin, with its sunburst adornment. “Are you willing to let me in?”
Bro. Harold, replied, smiling broadly, “I am willing with all my heart.”
He took the coin, and pushed the gate open, following Rex inside. They walked into dim, blue lighting. Rex had been taught the names of the solemn articles he would encounter next, but had never actually seen them.
“Has this a name?”
“This is The Vehicle”
“Why seek you carriage?”
“I wish to receive the Shining Message.”
Bro. Harold nodded and motioned for him to seat himself. RJ did so, and looked to his left, seeing his reflection in a large, single mirrored pane.
“Who is he beside you?”
“I am beside myself.”
“Has this a name?”
“This is the Instrument.”
RJ took it in his hand, felt its heft, slipped his finger in the trigger guard.
“What is its sound?”
“The Golden Report.”
Bro. Harold bent and made a movement with his hand. In the same instant, The Vehicle began a hypnotic motion, and a large spotlight with an amber gel was struck from high above RJ’s right shoulder.
After a moment, Bro. Harold, at a jarring volume, commanded, “Sound the Golden Report!”
RJ raised The Instrument straight into the air, and squeezed the trigger. The hammer snapped, producing a beautiful chiming tone. It resonated another thirty seconds. As it finally diminished, the light was cut off, and The Vehicle became still, once more. Bro. Harold offered a small wooden box, to which RJ returned The Instrument. He sat a minute more in the dim blue silence.
RJ and Bro. Harold walked together back through the gate. The congregation stood and applauded.
RJ forced a smile. He had received nothing.
A damp breeze stirred, and red neon blazed on the Galveston seawall. The old man dreamt often of this moment. He sat in the passenger seat of his beautiful Model-T. The light appeared, and he turned to see himself, in the moment of his revelation. The younger one twisted away from the light. It blazed across both of them, throwing a shadow onto the drab, narrow beach below the high embankment. Ashen sand turned burnished brass, delineating inky black. Molo’s eyes could not abide the brutal radiance, and were forced to study the stark form of his umbrage. It resembled the state he was in: panhandle, coast, Mexican border. A dune peeked out of the shade, signifying a location. Molo understood, knew the place. In this curious semblance of topography, the light was showing him his destination, the source of his imminent fortune.
Casa Rellenos – 8:15 PM
Heather sat alone, a tinny simulacrum of mariachi music grating in her ears. She looked at her watch, and drank the last sip of her third margarita. She considered calling Rex’s pager, but waiting around a pay phone, for whatever excuse he would call back with, would only heap further indignity on her. She wanted to drive to Dr. Momus’ office that instant and sail away on her mega-dose of DeMoLition. That treatment had been on her mind, vexing her with trepidation. The tequila helped dull the feeling, and burn off the residue of the fog of malaise clinging to her mournful students. They would move on. Maybe her troubles would seem as trivial as a departed pop star, with that final treatment. The spell would be broken, she would realize the songs were not that great after all; her hardships were not so life-shaking. One more day.