109 Veni, Vidi, Vici

On Monday morning, Herbie told Kitty that he thought she was ready to take on her first assignment, to research a re-enactment venue. He’d coached her through all of the miracle stories. In his opinion, she’d handily mastered the details, if not the meaning those represented, and that was all she really needed to know to do her job, only the facts. She’d proved herself to be prompt and diligent at all of their sessions together, and proficient in her limited stage presence at weekend services. She was also driving him crazy, he so lustful after her that he blamed vestiges of former, similar triumphs of his in that house. She was so meek a student; he felt sure of her compliance once he got around to exercising his growing right to have her, to make her utterly his own creature. He pretended to fight her wicked temptations but this impending domination excited him, so much so that he asked himself if he didn’t prefer the anticipation to the consummation.

Kitty nearly screamed with relief at her release from spending another week locked up with Herbie in this closet of a room, where she perceived both the walls and Herbie moving closer and closer. She was able to smile sweetly at him, even as he put his arm around her waist to more confidentially share the news.

“Oh quick, Herbie, tell me which miracle it will be. I’m so excited to find out, to get out and get started.” Kitty told the truth; it was an odd sensation.Chapter 109 Veni

“Well Kathy, it’s to be the fishers of men. Remember that one?”

“Luke 5: 1 – 11?”

“Excellent! And the special request is that you investigate first the possibility of doing it at the big lake, instead of any of the smaller ones around the city. Think you can handle that?”

“You betcha.” Kitty extracted herself from the enveloping hug Herbie here attempted to execute in congratulatory guise. “I’ll get over to Lake Michigan today and get you a report tomorrow.”

“Good, because Mr. Thuss is very keen to get his tour in motion.”

*    *    *    *    *

There used to be a lifeguard at Buckley Beach, back in the day. Kitty had spent hours there with her swimming friends, other golden girls getting a head start on a tan, sprawled on the groin that jutted into the sunbathed waters, where the reflection added to the early summer sun’s effect. There was also a cadre of dedicated lake swimmers who launched their long distance or endurance laps from that same groin, virtually disappearing into the water, and riskily, some without spotters. The venerable sign at the top of the bluff proclaimed a host of rules; the ordinance was as specific as it was ignored, dishonored more on the beach than in the submergence. Occasionally, a police officer accosted a scofflaw but it was a quiet secret that the beach was a local refuge for forbidden activities: swimming, sledding, grilling, dog walking, boarding either on wheels or waterborne, the launching or landing of watercraft.

Today, at last reveling in her employment, Kitty, wearing a black wetsuit, swam parallel to the shoreline, aligning her strokes with the sandy ripples only shoulder deep below. She relished every inch of that ever changing, sometimes sandy beach, sometimes stony shore, remembered each crack in the base of the bluff’s protecting wall, slits widening from crevice to cache, home to unwanted debris, the remains of rendezvous, of forgotten frolics, or an expectant repository for escapades yet-to-come.

She’d climbed every track up the well-worn bluff. A liberal sequence of layered graffiti, an archaeologist’s puzzle, adorned the perpendicular wall that arbitrarily divided the beach into shoreline more publicly used, or privately enjoyed. The intensity of the messages increased with distance from the public eye, as did the distribution of fractured rip-rap, remnants of wave action blasting and hurling apart the conceding concrete. This was frequently buried, and as often exposed to waves welling up and through it as it rested, awaiting like a player at musical chairs its inevitable, clamorous displacement.

Watercraft were not allowed closer than fifty feet from the groin. This would not entirely preclude a miracle tour performance; an accurate reading of the scripture should require that the preacher, the pretend Jesus, inaudible to the growing crowd onshore, get in a boat to be rowed a little ways offshore; ideal, but forbidden. Preaching from a boat, launched elsewhere but arriving here and remaining the mandated distance from the groin, could work. In a pinch of interpretation, he might appear standing on deck ready to address the thronging but beach-bound congregation gathered to hear him. In any case, at least one, if not two boats with fishing nets would be required to support the storyline.

The assembled host, described as pressing in on Jesus, presumably would consist for the most part of event ticket holders, standing room only. A few of the less eroded breakwater steps could serve as bleachers but this was unlikely to be required, as this was a location strictly for the able-bodied; there was no access other than by a steep ramp or rough-hewn, woodland steps. Kitty took in for the first time what a theatrical setting this really was with its succession of natural loges marching up the walls, the high gallery at the crest of the bluff, the gaps in the groin as trapdoors to unseen depths below the stage it formed, a tableau set by the wide, flat surface of the lake. It was calm today; another day, with other weather, would transform the scene, render it unusable for a paltry human device, as Mother Nature would so utterly engage in her own dramatic turbulence.

Kitty’s report would have to include this; any miracle staged here must be planned to coincide with a favorable forecast. Lake Michigan was very volatile; in any wind, any speaker would be inaudible even with a loudspeaker, even a slight distance away from shore, and the set, all the sand and the bleachers and the audience gone underwater. When it was showtime in this playhouse, neither the tour producers nor their supporting cast would be able, unlike their original protagonist, to calm the waves. Kitty was a trouper by trade and to her experienced eyes, this spectacle looked uncertain of a curtain call.

A Lake Michigan beach with a groin, in the distance, and extending away from shore to limit erosion of beach sand from erosion of wave action.

A Lake Michigan beach with a groin, in the distance, extending away from shore to limit erosion of beach sand by wave action.

Village policy permitted first come, first served use of public parks, primarily for residents. Other extravaganzas had, in the past, been re-located from parks to closed-off block party venues, where sufficient facilities and parking could be provided for the use of attendees, leaving the parks free for ongoing public use. But Kitty and Co. needed a lake more, and a lavatory less. Perhaps a special permit could be bought; it wasn’t her decision.

She and Rod hadn’t spoken at services, yesterday. One astonished glance between them had been enough to confirm whom the other was, even so out of context. Herbie hadn’t bothered to introduce them. They kept their acquaintance under wraps, a conspiracy most pleasing to her; he must think she was worth knowing, to keep her for a more private occasion. Rod had a job to do, she made an extra effort onstage. What a dream team! Why put her ambition at risk? She was still only the messenger, not a purveyor of props for a miracle show. That suited her just fine while she considered additional, more fruitful possibilities as she toyed with the idea of being so near the helm of his organization.