Cult Illustration #30, 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.  




Ms. X was always waiting to get into trouble. She got into trouble a few times with the Foundation during her stay at the Concealment, only a few, but to the Guru's wife, they were whopper-doozies.


Once, the wife became enraged when Ms. X described how simple it was to make the vessel for wealth, indeed a priest need only sacrifice one hen per day for seven days in a row, and the godhead was complete! She said this, joyfully, boastfully, to one of her priest comrades while in the midst of a wealth ceremony.


In this particular ceremony, a single female goat was used to give the vessel of wealth a quick one time punch, no need for a series of birds over the length of a week. She was asked by the wife to slit the neck of the goat because the wife was suffering from a hand injury. Bolstered by the process of sacrificing a large animal to the energy of prosperity, Ms. X felt something akin to winning a million dollar lottery. Vivaciously, she crowed the instructions to her helper who was holding the goat.

“You just give one hen per day for seven days in a row! That’s it!”

“Oh-yea? Wow!” he responded, his mind turning it over, instantly thinking about how he would do the thing for himself rather than pay a few thousand dollars to the Foundation.

The wife stuffed her anger in, saving it for later, because there were clients present, one for whom the prosperity vessel was created. Ms. X was divulging secrets! As it turned out, the customer was immune from the information. Taboo has a way of protecting itself, and so the client did not really hear it, or understand it, but it scorched the wife to no end.

Another time, Ms. X wore a hat at the wrong time, ostensibly, for the wrong reason. The Foundation made a terrible fan-fair about the hat. When to wear it . . . when not to. A hat was always worn during the sheddings, or when removing negative energy from a person or place. It was worn in exorcisms and when appeasing the witches, (or better, commanding the witches to leave people alone by giving them  offerings of smelly fish or eggs or other things). The hat was said to be the barrier that protected priests and clients from negative energy escaping into them. However, a hat was not to be worn in most sacrifices, so as to gain the good energy from a positive ceremony.  Initiations or offerings for gain and gratitude were considered positive ceremonies.

One day, Ms. X got the novel idea that she could spray her straw hat with insecticide, to keep the ticks and mosquitos off. It seemed the real protection to Ms. X, from a real threat. On this occasion, the attendees at the rituals were numerous. They had paid a steep fee and were perpetually in suspense, jostling each other to get a good view of the sacrifices and to hear the wife’s tutorial on the “dos and don’ts” of ritual killing. The wife asked her rapt audience to remove their head coverings so as to accrue the forthcoming blessings. The crowd stirred, briefly, tearing their scarves and caps off, tucking them into pockets or wringing them in their hands as the wife continued her expose. 


Ms. X was present in the theater, holding the animals, or providing paraphernalia for the wife and other priests as the ceremonies commenced. Lo and behold, she was the only officiate to wear a hat! The wife did not whisper in her ear, or voice her anger over this disobedience. She mentioned it to no one. A few days later, when all the customers had left, the wife sicked the Guru on Ms. X the way you might give license to an attack dog. This was the most damaging thing the wife could do to anyone. She knew it, and Ms. X knew it.


Yes, the feeling of impending trouble was a constant with Ms. X, since she could remember. As a child, at home, one never knew when the blows would come, silently from behind. At school, she did things wrong without being aware of it, until the punishment came.


In those days children were expected to be beaten by teachers or the principal. Ms. X remembered her grade school principal, a huge man with a crew cut. He had a wooden paddle with holes in it so that the air would not restrict its force. She saw her brother whipped with it once when they were both sent to the office. Fortunately, some of these boss-men held a code of chivalry and little Ms. X was not beaten, only threatened.


She had a sixth grade teacher, Mr. Phipps, a handsome brute with long side burns and a pot belly. He was a single man, with a macho stance, alluring to many of the young girls in class who promptly fell in love with him. He was a bit of a god to little Ms. X as she and the others stared at him with goo-goo eyes. But one day she saw a drama, in full spectrum, a front row seat with the main characters and this completely changed the way she felt about him.


A girl named Tammy, popular only for her lack of manners, said something to him. Maybe she said something off-color or personal, no one knew, but it gave Mr. Phipps license to attack her from behind without warning. Ms. X watched his puffy red face bursting with hate as he lunged toward the girl. With the force of a punter he kicked the back of her chair so hard that Tammy’s diaphragm reamed against her desk pushing it hard against little Ms. X’s desk. Both desks jolted apart. Tammy’s eyes seemed to pop out of her terrified face and her hair like straw stuck out from both sides of her head. She was not able to inhale and she turned crimson as she crumpled to the floor. Ms. X remembered lots of tears and feeling very sorry for the girl that she formerly did not care for.


She could not remember what happened next. But she remembered the moral of the story for the rest of her life. The next day word got around that Tammy’s parents were coming up after school to talk to the principal, the one with the paddle, and Mr. Phipps. It was a private meeting but the following day Ms. X still remembers the words her teacher spoke to Tammy. When the girl said something untoward or maybe she gave him a snotty look, Mr. Phipps said in a loud sarcastic voice,


“I don’t care if you bring your mother and father up here again, Tammy, you can bring your grandparents too and your Aunts and Uncles and your brothers and sisters . . . you can bring your dog and cat Tammy and even your bird, it won’t change a thing!”


Things had changed since Ms. X was a girl in school. Trouble was still a constituent of school life but things had changed. Like the kids, there were teachers who got into trouble. On her first three days subbing at an Elementary School she worked for a teacher who dealt with a huge volume of students, 200 a day. Art for Mrs. W, Kindergarten through 5th grade. Her classrooms were overcrowded, so much so, that two or three different groups were combined. Later Ms. X would learn that there were far more students in Mrs. W’s classes than in the other school’s art classes.

On the first day the kids kept asking where their absent Art Teacher was but on the second day they asked if she were alright and when she would return. Not unusual, thought Ms. X until the third day when they asked if she were in jail. The older, loud-mouthed kids gossiped with whoops and calls that she was a criminal. With each successive class, the charges of child abuse became more exaggerated. Only when the first grade students were seated and busy coloring did Ms. X understand what really happened. She overheard a small girl reply to another in a soft constrained voice, “Mrs. W said something inappropriate to a student so she got a “time out” for a few days.”


Ms. X supposed that that sort of thing was bound to happen with the pressure of teaching every single day. Unlike subs, real teachers could not take a number of days off to recuperate. This reasoning fizzled away when Ms. X read in the newspapers about a Florida teacher, actually a sub like herself, who was accused of wizardry (that was the exact wording of the accusation). He had performed a magic trick in front of a classroom of middle schoolers (in front of a classroom were the exact words). The man made a toothpick disappear and then reappear, the sort of thing that might get the attention of a bunch of disowned selves, thought Ms. X.


Now the poor man is concerned that the incident (as it was termed) would prevent him from getting further work. Ms. X decided that if something similar were to happen to her, she would welcome it and close the chapter on this book. She did far too much wizardry herself, if that is what it was called. She read what might be deemed inappropriate Seminole legends that had a lot to do with Medicine Men and ghosts and blood.  She might teach a class how to make a Samurai Helmet by folding Origami. Or she would give each child a piece of cotton yarn to play string games. They could choke each other with that and maybe get paper cuts from the Origami.


Sometimes she gave instructions that they might actually follow, like daring a group of 11th grade boys to go into the wild woods of Florida, completely alone, so that they could hear the trees speak to them. These were Learning and Behavioral Disabled boys (LBD's, as they are popularly called), ten of whom stared at her, finally quiet, a bit in awe. Some were huge and sweaty, like unpredictable grizzly bears. Others were lean and cool like lizards.


This was Agriculture class, Trees and Forestry.  Ms. X learned their names quickly. She got excited as she taught them about the inner layers of trees. How fascinating it was to know that the paper thin cambium layer was the tiny percentage of the huge trunk that was responsible for the cell growth of the rest of it. And that another thin layer, the sapwood, was the conveyer of water. The inner heart core was considered dead. Dead! Not a good choice of words spouted Ms. X and she became far more animated about her disapproval than necessary and the boys grew bug-eyed at her rebellion. They wanted to know how she knew so much about trees and Ms. X answered, with candor, that trees told her things when she was alone with them in the woods. And they too, should go into the woods and hear them speak.

“How long?” asked one of the students.

“Oh, at least an hour,” Ms. X stated matter of factly, “And no cell phones, and no ipods, it must be completely silent and you must be utterly alone.”

She failed to tell them to carry a large walking stick to thwart snakes and to rescue themselves from quicksand, and she also forgot to tell them to make sure the forest had a wide path so that they could spot the snakes and to stay away from marshy areas where alligators and water moccasins lurked. She might have warned them about Florida’s bears and how to react to them and to be careful about the panthers and other predators that became aggressive this time of year. Spring. The mating season. She just forgot, she was so in the moment, locking eyes with the boys as they silently thought about the location of a particularly wild place, as Ms. X stressed, away from comfortable housing developments. Most importantly, she refrained from telling them the best way to protect themselves from all of these dangers would be to give an offering to the Ancestors of the land very soon after entering the wood. This, of course, could not be mentioned.

She delved a little too far into wizardry with the 11th and 12th grade boys in Stagecraft. Mr. D’s course. When their teacher was present, this was a truly marvelous class, held in a real auditorium, with dangerous weights and pulleys to operate, and rigging up in the rafters back stage. It had a high-tech audio and lighting control room as well, making this a class about real life.


Students would be in charge of the sound and stage lights for numerous shows, from hosting the United States Marine Band to the community theater productions. Mr. D taught them on a daily basis, giving them all the know-how to operate a theater. When he was out sick, everything skidded to a halt. The active and engaged boys who took this class, odd as it was, were the rebellious type. They had chosen Stagecraft over Automotive Repair and Carpentry. The moment they spied Ms. X, they knew a sham was at hand, because she was there to lord over them with dusty old worksheets. They merely looked at her and swore in disgust.

Suddenly, Ms. X got it into her mind that the place was perfect for a peculiar kind of magic show. The boys were getting belligerent and Ms. X had to reign them in. She promised them an exciting peek into the metaphysical world of “Power versus Force”. She based her conjectures on a book she found in the cabin. She explained that it had something to do with consciousness being the critical component in the structure of our universe. Consciousness, or thought, was the key to what we are capable of accomplishing, including psychic powers! And, she continued, it connects everyone in an entanglement of electrons and photons . . . something to do with electromagnetic fields and the resonance of sound frequency . . . and consequently, it was not unlike what they were learning in Stagecraft, yet far more advanced! The boys looked disgruntled, but they started to listen to her.


She had to think fast, to find things to use in her demonstration. She would prove how a group could “know” what is true from what is false, magically. She had one of the malcontents stand in front of class. In secret, she had put a kumquat from her lunch in one of his palms, and a dirty little piece of candy she found on the floor in his other palm. She instructed him to stand in front of the class holding his two fists in the air.


Ms. X called out to the audience, “Which hand holds the good thing? Everyone write it down on a piece of paper and if you don’t have your paper and pen, just think about it.”  Then she asked them to read their answers, and one by one they each said, the left hand, and those who just thought about their answers, declared the same. When the boy on stage opened his left fist, the kumquat appeared and in the other, the small dirty skittle from the floor. They were quietly bewitched by their own answers, so much so they did not protest, or condescend Ms. X, they timidly muttered in wonder to one another.

One called out, “Let’s try it again!”

Ms. X did not have any other suitable things to use so she explained to her charges that all of our emotions have a vibratory frequency that varies in resonance, from the most negative emotion which is “shame” to the most positive emotion which is “enlightenment”. She scribbled two different emotions on slips of paper and she called up a volunteer, who wanted to be the next to hold up his fists, and she slipped the folded pieces of paper into his palms and he thrust them in the air.

Over and over they conducted their experiments, always choosing the correct answers until at last, out of boredom or just plain fear, their interest trailed off. Ms. X did not have any more trouble with the class. Spooked, and subdued they rested in their auditorium seats until the bell rang and then they scuttled out, conversing in hushed tones.


  Cult Illustration #7, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"

This is an image of a snake swallowing a porcupine. It would seem the snake is more powerful, but as

you can see, the porcupine will kill the snake. Both die.


© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved