"Brigham? Did you put the potato salad away?" yelled the founder of the LDS church. Joseph Smith was wearing his red, white and blue barbecue apron, and trying to scrub away the sooty remains of Jack Parson's terrifying firework display from the patio area. Their July Fourth parties were legend in these parts.
"What do you think? You think I want us to throw up for a week like Fourth of July, 1956? That was fun" came the gruff reply from the open kitchen doors.
Nº. 49 Isaiah Way didn't usually stand out from the thousands of other mini-mansions that made up the stucco metastases that was Mountain Meadows. But, for the last week it had been festooned with red, white and blue bunting, and a huge, inflatable reproduction of the Declaration of Independence had stood puffed up on the front lawn. Missionaries had been scuttling about, cleaning and bringing in loads of food from the Costco just off the Zion Parkway in anticipation of the crowd to come.
Of course, Joe had the missionaries to clean up for him, but they never really did it right. Besides, he was full of nervous energy and cleaning always helped. Even though it was always a big production, he always felt a bit happier to have their home filled with so many people, even if they weren't blood family.
"Did you see what happened to that clown Hubbard? He's finally surfaced!" growled Brigham. He was looking the news on his iPad and making sandwiches from some party leftovers.
"What can't you get down from the cupboard?" yelled Smith from the back yard.
"I said Hubbard goddammit! Hubbard! Did you see what happened to him?" Brigham said with no small amount of exasperation. They had been together 24 hours a day for the last two weeks planning the party. He needed some time away. Maybe he could join Fred Remington and Gertie Stein at Fred's lodge near Yellowstone for some hunting and a few shots of whiskey this summer. He loved Joe, but sometimes . . .
"Oh, goodness, I was wondering what happened to him. Does he seem to be getting anywhere with his progression?" yelled Joe from the deck.
"Not from the looks of it" said Brigham, taking a huge bite of his ham and cheese sandwich. "I guess he's been running into some fairly irate characters since we sent him off with Mo. The followers are tough to deal with, but it's always the family that stabs the hardest."
"Are you talking with your mouth full again? I can hardly understand you. And sit up straight when you eat, you know you get indigestion otherwise" said Joe primly, as he entered the kitchen carrying the the last few stray glasses from the yard.
Brigham just sat there, in mid-bite, fuming. His light complexion reddened to match the bloody curse on his skin. Joseph was just about to say something else when Brigham snapped, "Well, if you'd actually listen to what I'm saying maybe I wouldn't have to repeat every goddamn word!"
The bustling missionaries scattered like cockroaches exposed to light.
"Is it so wrong that I try to maintain a few scraps of civilization around here? We're dead, but we're not savages! I try to keep a nice home for you . . ." Joe's lip was quivering.
"Oh, fuck, here come the waterworks. I gotta get the hell out of here. Here's your fucking sandwich!" He pushed the plate across the island toward Joe, spun around and barked for his missionaries. "Darcel! Azer! We're outta here . . . now!"
The two young men appeared from the hallway and waited nervously by the front door. When he reached the entry, Brigham turned back to Joe. "I was trying to tell you about how yer boyfriend Hubbard was doing, but you're at me! You're always at me! It's my manners, or my drinking, or my smoking, or I'm tracking in dirt! Leave me alone, Joe! Just leave me the fuck alone! Go find Hubbard! He probably likes that kind of hell!" And with that, he pushed his minions out the front door and slammed it behind him.
Joe could hear the garage door opening, then the house shook with the rumble of the exhaust from Joe's H1. He always took the Hummer when he was angry. Joe listened as the huge SUV roared off for parts unknown. "Manners! The man has no manners!" he said to himself, as he compulsively cleaned the dust from the wainscoting in the hallway. "He'll be back after a few days of living like a savage . . . he always comes back." He composed himself as he walked back to the kitchen, saying to whichever missionaries remained in hiding, "Come out, come out, wherever you are! It's alright now, the show's over boys! Get back to work, and remember, that bunting needs to be rolled, not folded!"
Joe looked at the sandwich sitting on the counter. Brig had decorated it with a tiny American flag on a toothpick. He could be so sweet. He wiped a tear from his cheek. Joe hated it when they fought. It was probably his own fault . . . again. Maybe he was too controlling after all, but the coarseness, how despised the coarseness . . . and the dirt . . . on his nice carpets. He looked at his phone sitting on the granite countertop and thought about calling Brigham to apologize. But, next to the phone was Brigham's iPad, still open to the story about Hubbard's abduction by his eldest son. The image was dramatic! Joe loved gossip and this was too good to ignore. He pushed the fracas to the back burner of his mind, then sat down to read the article and eat the sandwich Brig had made for him.
This particular story was harrowing, and a bit thrilling if he was to be honest. Revenge, fire, monsters and ultimately the transcendence of the wronged. Oh, the first encounters with those that one had wronged could be potent and transformative. On the other hand, they could lock one even more firmly into delusion. That was always painful. Ron would learn . . . eventually. And what of Sid? It had been months of waiting. What happened to him in that fiery abduction? The pictures showed an awful scene. Just as he was thinking this, there was a chirping from his phone. Unsurprisingly, it was Sid. That's how things worked in this place. He picked up the phone. "Well, Mr. Lokavid, I was just thinking about you!" he said knowingly. "How are you doing?"
"To be honest, I've had better weeks, I assume you've seen the news?" he said in his perfectly lilting voice.
"Mmm hmmm, yes, I certainly did! And what a rowdydow that was, and right after seeing Jess? Does he know what happened to you? I'm sure he's concerned not hearing from you and all." There was a twinge of bitterness when he mentioned Jess. The man he'd built an empire for wouldn't so much as give him the time of day. He hoped Sid couldn't sense that. Joe continued, "so, my friend, how can I help?"
"To be perfectly honest, I don't really remember everything that happened yet. Things don't seem to be lining up. I've read some reports, and the last one had Hubbard heading back to R6 City. I have no idea why." Sid paused and added "He's a tough nut to crack. There are a lot of people who want a piece of him right now."
"Well, Sid, intersectionality being what it is, he could be anywhere. We'll just have to see how the winds blow. Is there anything we can do?" Joe really wanted in on this. He wasn't so sure Sid was up to the task.
"Hard to say, Joe. What does Brigham think?" Sid waited for the reply, but there was silence. "Joe, is everything alright? Did you two have another row?"
"It's okay . . . really. It was just one of our silly quarrels. The usual. He's off to drink or shoot something or wrestle a buffalo. He always comes back." Joseph tried to sound confident and breezy about the whole thing.
"Disharmony is so unpleasant, but so much of the fabric of our lives is woven from it, no?" Sid said wearily. "And speaking of our lives, what is the date, anyway? How long was I out?" Regeneration could wreak havoc with timelines.
"It's July fifth. You missed our party. Why?" said Joe.
Four months. He'd been out for four months. "Oh, dear. Temporal dislocation." Sid said uncomfortably.
"Really? How exciting! When are you?" asked Joe.
"It should be March 19 or 20, or so I thought." Sid had been through this with a few of his "deaths" and this sort of thing could be so messy.
In a reality in which things could grind on with a deadly dull sameness, Joe was always thrilled when something unusual occurred, "Oh, my goodness. Well, when is Hubbard? Did he get pulled along with you?"
"Well, there is precedent for that sort of thing, Hubbard and I have been in the flow as it were. I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if from his perspective, he's still just a week into this reality. I won't know until I find him however. I hate to cut this short, but I really must do a bit more research and see if I can find Hubbard. You see what you can do on your end and call me if you find out anything. I do hope things work out with Brig. They always seem to. Cheers, my friend." And with that, the Buddha from five months ago ended the call.
'Who to call? Who to call . . .' thought Joe. He punched the button on his phone to summon Siri.
"What can I help you with, Joe?" asked the cybernetic voice.
"Call Mo, mobile."
"Calling Abu al-Qasim Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Abd al-Muttalib, mobile." said the voice, utterly mangling Mo's full name.
The call went directly to voicemail. Mo was probably on the line with Sid. That would figure. The two of them were always enviably close. Of course, they were two of the big players here. He was small potatoes in comparison. Joe didn't want to seem too desperate or needy, so he thought about who else he might call that had connections to this case. Maybe his best bet was to find someone whose rage and intersectional proximity to Hubbard would take them right to him. He pulled his copy of Barefaced Messiah out of the bookshelf and opened it to one of the many post-its sticking out of it.
He summoned Siri one more time. "Call Sara Northrup Hollister, home," he said with an ever-so-slightly wicked smile.