Neo-American Church

Chapter 18


No, confound her, her intellect was good, she had brains enough, but her training made her an ass—that is, from a many-centuries-later point of view.

It didn’t take long to find out. When I called Sally to tell her the good news and ask if she wanted a house on the hospital grounds or off, the answer was neither. She wasn’t coming up and I shouldn’t come down. Good advice, in more ways than one.

Frank, the wife-beater, had found the key to her heart. I had the exquisite pleasure of envisioning my two daughters being brought up by one of the biggest assholes I had ever met. The first thing Steve did, when he got home and heard the news, was to mutter “that miserable bastard” and then hide his beautiful S&W .38 Special revolver which, although I hadn’t mentioned it, was the only thing in the house in which I was interested.

I took a bus from Princeton to Miami and called up Karl Newton in Syracuse from my brother’s house. Karl had visited MGL a couple times and loved it. $2,000 for my equity? Fine. The money came by Western Union. I bought an old panel truck for $600 and went to collect Sally and the kids. It was night. I was smashed. A cop started following me. There was every probability a warrant was out for me in Florida because of the old seizure of the sugar cubes. Delightful. I stepped on the gas and careened around Miami’s chessboard of look-alike blocks until I lost the cop, then abandoned the truck. The next day we all took a plane for Syracuse.

Airplane fares, incidentals, and a month’s rent and a month’s security on an apartment in Syracuse near Sally’s old sorority house quickly disposed of the two grand. Broke again. I remembered that a visitor to MGL had claimed to have seen marijuana growing next to the highway between Star Lake and Cranberry while hitchhiking home. My Syracuse boo hoo and I went up to check it out. Sure enough. To celebrate, we got drunk, got picked up for P.I., and spent the night in jail. But we returned with the goods. Sally wasn’t pleased with these developments. The next day, when I returned from shopping, she and the kids were gone. Two days later, divorce papers arrived. There was no way I could return to Florida without going to jail. I had sold Morning Glory Lodge for nothing.

Karl gave me his old Volkswagen convertible and I drove down to Millbrook. Tim wanted to know what I wanted to do. I told him I seemed to have two choices. I could either stay at Millbrook or go to Alabama. An admirer from Birmingham had offered cash for the trip, but the letters he had written were almost illiterate, so I had grave doubts about the wisdom of accepting his offer, although he had also said he owned land in the region, some of which he might give to the Church, he said.

“Listen, Art,” Tim said, “you’re no more fucked up than I have been several times in the past, and don’t think I haven’t considered committing myself. I may yet, if it’s the only way to avoid prison. But I have decided that if I do, I will pick some nice quiet VA hospital in the South. I can’t stand this place in the winter. I think you ought to go down there and let this character pay your bills while you work on Divine Toad Sweat.”

Yeah, well, I don’t know, maybe so. My only genuine interest at that point was making sure I had enough whiskey on hand. During a slide show in a darkened room that evening, Billy Hitchcock appeared and asked me what I was up to. I told him.

“My wife left me, I lost the lodge, and I’m a complete fucking drunken mess.”

“There’s no room in the house,” Tim said, from the other side of the projector, which was producing the usual squiggly forms on the wall.

“Well, what about the Gray Buildings out back?” asked charming Billy, and may the heavenly hosts forever praise his name, for that one, anyway.

“I think we could fix up a room,” Billy said.

The “Gray Buildings” were a farmhouse, garage, stables, carriage-house combination into which the Ashram would move in ’67. One of the farm hands, Hurdle, and his family lived in the house section but there was plenty of empty space at the other end which I could have fixed up.

“No,” said Tim, flatly, from behind a cloud of cigarette smoke in the gloom. “I think Art ought to go down to Alabama for the winter.”

I looked at Billy, rolled my bloodshot eyes, and waived with a wave. Billy slouched down in his chair a bit and started nibbling a fingernail.

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