Monday, January 03, 2005

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Okay, there’s no doubting it, now. The body snatchers have landed and they are walking among us. At least half the voting population has been taken over by the ghouls from outer space, and their minions appear to be multiplying exponentially. It’s an alarming prospect and thinking people everywhere should be on full alert—“walking backward,” as my friend Benny, the firecracker salesman, likes to say, the better to watch your back, I suppose. Although, come to think of it, I’m not sure how that works.

At first glance, it’s difficult to distinguish the ghouls from the rest of us, though there are a few characteristics that stand out. The first thing you look for is simply the expression on the face. The ghoul will often look at you initially with a friendly smile and kindly chirp, “Hello. How are you, today?” which is okay in itself, but before you get taken in, notice the eyes. Usually devoid of any real feeling—rather vacant. It’s like they’re looking at you, but not really seeing you. The safest thing to do is simply respond in kind—a quick, “Fine, how are you?”—and move on. Just keep it as shallow as possible. Engaging them in any deeper conversation can be risky. As Benny recently discovered.

He related his experience to me today over lunch at Luby’s, a local cafeteria. We were talking about the body snatchers and how they seemed to have taken over the government, and the whole country, when Benny nodded at a nearby table and said, “There’s three of ‘em right there.” He was referring to a man and two women. I’d seen them before, often in company with three or four others. I was pretty sure they ate lunch in Luby’s every day. At least I see them every time I eat there. One of the women works there. She’s the one at the end of the serving line who tallies up your items and hands you your ticket. She’s middle-aged, soft and round, always a kindly smile.

I studied them closely, looking for some clue. Then, I turned back to Benny. "How do you know they’ve been taken over?" I said.

He smiled. “Well, I was in here the other day. And when I got to the end of the line and that one handed me my ticket, she smiled, like always, and said, ‘Hello, how are you, today?’ I usually just say, fine, how are you, and she usually says whatever she says, and then I go on. But this time, somethin’ came over me. A little bird spoke in my ear.

"So I says, ‘Oh, hit some, miss some, how are you?’ Then I stood there smiling back at her. Well, her face just kind of lit up, and she said—‘Oh, it’s just a lovely day to be alive.’

‘Is it?’ I said.

‘Oh, yes,’ she said. ‘Another chance to serve the Lord.’

‘Hm,’ I said. ‘You don’t say.’

‘Oh, yes.’

‘Well,’ I says, ‘and what do you think about this little war we’re engaged in, now? Are you liking that, too? I notice we just blew up a bunch more people over there--men, women, children—just blew them to smithereens. I wonder what the Lord thinks about that? You got any idea?’

“Well, I have to hand it to her. She kept that smile going right along. I might as well have said, ‘Aw shucks, I just dropped my pudding on the floor.’ She says, ‘Well, some things can’t be helped, you know.’

'Can’t be helped?’ I said.

‘We have to protect ourselves.’

‘From what? Unarmed civilians? Women and children?’

‘I know—it’s sad, isn’t it?’ And the smile stayed right there. It wasn’t moving. I could almost feel her patting me on the head as if I were a snot-nosed kid and she was my old granny.

"I says to her, ‘Well, what about your good book? What about the Ten Commandments everybody’s so fired up about, trying to get ‘em posted in every schoolroom and courthouse in the land, and pasted on everybody’s foreheads? I recall—tell me if I’m wrong, Miss—but isn’t there a commandment in there that says, Thou shalt not kill? What about that, now? I’ve always taken that very seriously, since I was just a sprout. I don’t know why. Just the way I was raised, I guess. But you’re obviously someone who follows the Good Book and understands the ways of the Lord. So, maybe you can explain it to me why so many good religious people—people like yourself—seem to be all for this war business over there in Iraq. How does that jibe with your Thou shalt not kill statement? Can you explain that to me? Just in a few words?’

“I waited a moment for her to answer, but she just stood there—still smiling, mind you, but silent. And now I begin to notice something different about her. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but then I saw it. Two little red pin-pricks of light had come on, deep inside, one in each eye. I wasn’t sure if I ought to go on or not, but I see she wasn’t answering, so I pressed a little harder. I says to her: ‘Well? What about it? How seriously do you think we oughta be taking these commandments? After all, we're talking holy law, aren't we --Inscribed in granite by the hand of God Almighty, passed on to us by his second in command at the time—Moses Almighty? What do you say? You think we can just let that slide, for the sake of homeland security and lower prices at the gas pump?’

‘Well, it’s complicated,’ she mumbled, her smile beginning to fade a little.

And I says to her, ‘No, it’s not.’

And then, her smile vanished, altogether, replaced by something else. Something like a scowl. And the little red lights throbbed in her eyes. ‘But, but, it’s not that simple, she stammered.’

‘Yes, it is,’ I said, looking at her, square. And she wasn’t smiling, and she looked as if she might like to turn me over to John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales or somebody.”

At that point, Benny’s eyes crinkled, the smile broke over his face, he reached up, tipping his hat, and said, “Good day, Miss,” picked up his tray and moved on.

Another characteristic: the ghouls, the zombies, the living dead, whatever you want to call them, do not like to be challenged on any of their superstitions, beliefs, delusions, or lies. Religion is a prime example, of course. They’ve decided the Book of Revelations is the only way to go. It’s the only part of the Bible they seem to take seriously. So they’ve carved out this weird quasi religion based solely around Armageddon and the Rapture, where in the final days, apparently, Jesus will swoop down from the clouds and whisk all the “saved” people into heaven, leaving the rest to suffer eternal damnation; thus making Jesus a kind of grim executioner. The whole thing has a grotesque cartoon aspect to it, which features people flying up out of their cars, their houses, supermarkets, Walmart, wherever they happen to be at the moment. The rest of us, the liberals, the socialists, and assorted heathen, will suddenly find ourselves having to deal with cars careening down the highways at seventy miles an hour, minus their drivers, along with sundry other bizarre phenomena. Nowadays, when I see those bumper stickers that say, “In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned,” I just can’t resist the urge to leave a note under their wiper-blade: “In case of rapture, can I have your car?”, “your bassboat?”, “your oldest daughter?”

Believers in this end of the world theology would seem to be relieved of any responsibility to the planet; since the end is coming anyway, why lift a finger to prevent wars, especially nuclear war? In fact, why not help it along a little? After all, wouldn’t a good nuclear conflagration fulfill Biblical prophecy? And as for attempts to protect the natural environment, again, that would seem a waste of time, if it’s all doomed anyway. And why trouble yourself to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical aid, for the poor and homeless? After all, if they haven’t been saved, they don’t deserve our help, and if they have, then they, too, can look forward to the Rapture and better times in the world to come.

What I don’t understand is why anyone would think that Jesus or God Almighty His Own Self, would want to fill His heaven with a people that showed so little regard for His world, and for each other?

More on this later.


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