Cult Illustration #32, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"

          This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.  

Substitute teaching for grade school Art, Mrs.Greer. There were times when Ms. X would understand that her training as a priest had actually helped a child in the midst of classroom mayhem. She would reflect on her day and a sweet faced five year old would appear, and she would see the boy as her own son. A feeling of love and protection would engulf her being. The boy was chewing on a soft rubber toy, the 50 cent prizes from gumball machines, the ones just perfect for choking. Twice she asked him to remove it and pocket it or have it confiscated. She finally took it from him, all slobbery, and put it in her own pocket.

While the room raged with yelps and screams and arguing, she knelt on the floor in front of him, and putting aside her superstition that such things should not be mentioned, less they happen, she explained how this thing could hurt him, even kill him. With the toy tucked in her pocket she felt safe to utter the unthinkable. She knew that for the accomplished individual, thoughts really do become reality, and words were sometimes their vehicles.

In this silent, still bubble that encased Ms. X and the child there was something akin to time travel, where nothing else existed but two spirit beings. His face was seared into hers, their eyes a reflection of the other, and knowing perfectly well that what she was about to say was as solid a truth as the boy in front of her, Ms. X spoke softly.

“I know the rubber toy tastes very good and it is very hard to keep out of your mouth but there are people who love you very much and you must stick around for a while.”

She got goose bumps. She stood up and moved on to manage the class, the mob that her mind had so skillfully disappeared for a few seconds. She sauntered like a lynx among them tapping shoulders, calling out sweet heart, dear, honey, the names she gave them, and she was melting a six foot snow drift when the boy tugged at her shirt.

“I want to throw it in the garbage,” he said.

“Okay,” said Ms. X, “I’ll do it”

“No,” he said, “I want to throw it in the garbage.”

Ms. X thought for a fraction of a second and then took the rubber toy out of her pocket and handed it to him but she followed him too, and towering behind him she watched as he used all his force and with a wheel like motion, slung the rubber bauble into the garbage. And somehow knowing she was right behind him even as students milled about like marbles in a pin ball machine, he turned and smiled up at her and she smiled back, joyfully, giving him a vigorous thumbs-up sign.

Working for the Foundation, ceremonies were occasionally done for those who were not expected to live. These were charity cases, simple, for clients not present. How one heard about them was second hand, not always from the key players, but reliable sources. Once a mother actually plunged her baby boy in a pot of boiling water, and he was dying, so the Guru and his wife were asked to do something. Ms. X helped the wife sacrifice both a rooster and a hen to the men and women Ancestors of the child, so as to guide him properly through his early death. The sacrifices were done in his name, so that his spirit would, at least, be partially compensated for the actions of his mother. It was a paltry exchange thought Ms. X. No amount of death could correct his death.

In her confused medley of dreams, the Substitute Teacher felt, somehow, that she was carrying on with her own style of priest work. It was done in a covert way and she conceived of it as superior. What could be more altruistic, anticipating no praise or adoration? There were no profits at all, not even spiritually thought Ms. X, when she was in her most foul mood. When she felt elevated, she would theorize that she was doing  great and wonderful guru work. She justified its voracity by comparing herself to the Guru’s wife. The wife fielded calls all day, and late at night from those who felt privileged to have her attention. When she worked for the wife, Ms. X secretly wanted to be needed in that way, and the lucrative benefits attracted her, the idea that you could be wanted so earnestly, listened to so intently, and paid so well. Ms. X kept this a cold desperate secret, but the Guru’s wife could sense that something important was missing in this worker’s life. To make up for it she promised Ms. X that she would soon be achieving “the highest level” and that there would be benefits. This pleased Ms. X and she waited.


Cult Illustration #14, ball point pen on paper, 11" X 8.5"


© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved