Rune Rofke - Glenn Emery

Karma is a Sneaky Bitch

June 1980

Yesterday was fantastic if you like joyful experiences. But if you like being angry and tired and frustrated, you would have absolutely loved today.

We have a new IW. Her name is Kiyoko Bowman and she arrived the day before yesterday. Although she's Japanese, her husband is American and she's been in the U.S. a long time. She doesn't speak or act like a lot of Japanese members. She seems more American than Japanese. I took an instant liking to her. Carl, I think, did not. He's been acting strange ever since she arrived, going out of his way with the phony adulation. That's always a sure sign something is wrong. But I haven't a clue why she upsets him so much.

What I do know is that her arrival seems to have precipitated an awful lot of negative events in rapid succession. Maybe they had been building up for a while and it took her arrival to cause them to manifest.

First of all, Gail announced at breakfast she was leaving the church. I wasn’t there because I was at the Red Cross, but when I came home I found everyone sitting around the dining room table on the second floor like they were at a wake. I joked: “Who died?”

They told me Gail was leaving, and I made them repeat it two or three times because I didn’t think I had heard them right. When it finally sank in, I sat down and joined them. I was stunned. Gail was one of our best members and our best fundraiser. Her leaving was a real blow. Carl looked like he was taking it the worst, but all of us were shocked and sad. It really was like a sudden death in the family. Even Kiyoko, who hardly knew us, was very distressed by the sudden turn of events. It was bad enough we were losing a member, but losing a solid, longtime member like Gail was terrible, and Kiyoko knew that as well as we did.

Gail was still in the sisters' bedroom getting her things, and when she was packed she came into the dining room and addressed all of us. We had been her only family for a long time, and now she was walking out. She took a deep breath and said in a voice that was both shaky and resolute: “I’ve accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior and I pray you do too before it’s too late. Reverend Moon is a false prophet and will lead you to hell. Goodbye. Please don’t try to contact me.” She turned and went downstairs to start a new life.

Usually you can spot struggling members a mile away. They’re always unhappy and complaining. It’s a chronic disease. Sometimes their attitude improves momentarily for a day or two, but it never gets better. When they finally do quit, even after ten years of constant complaining, it’s no great surprise. You sort of expect it. But there was nothing like that with Gail. She was always cheerful and strong and supportive. Something obviously had changed.

Then I remembered the matching was coming up, and it suddenly dawned on me that that had to be it. The idea of Father picking out a mate for her was something she couldn’t accept. And then I recalled something she had confided to me many months earlier, in strictest confidence, and which I had promptly forgotten: She was in love with Terry, her MFT captain. I didn’t think much about it at the time. We all had crushes at one time or another on somebody of the opposite sex, though nobody would ever admit it. It was normal. I'd felt that way toward at least a dozen sisters. But it did explain why Gail worked so hard to bring such high results when she was on Terry’s team. It was the only way she could make him love her, even if that love was purely platonic.

Now the possibility of Father choosing someone other than Terry to be her husband, probably a stranger she had never met, was the lever that forced her out of the church. At least that's the way it seemed to me.

Outside a car honked. I looked down to the parking lot. There was a beat up Pontiac with a large black woman behind the wheel. A younger black woman was in the back seat. Fundamentalist Christians, probably pentecostal. There was a large black Bible on the dash and a crucifix hanging from the mirror. I watched as Gail rushed over to the car carrying a big suitcase and an even bigger smile. A young black man in a suit got out of the back seat on the other side, helped Gail into the car and put her suitcase in the trunk. They all were dressed like they were going to church, even though it was Saturday.

I also realized something I had not thought about for a long time: Gail was black. She was the only black sister in the center and one of relatively few black members in the entire Unification Church. It occurred to me that maybe Gail missed being around black people. That thought had never crossed my mind until now.

The Pontiac backed up, turned around, and then pulled out onto 38th Street, scraping the muffler as the woman gunned the engine out of the parking lot. The car swayed close to the ground, rumbling loudly down the street and trailing a thin white cloud of burning oil. It turned left at the light and disappeared toward downtown. Gail was gone.

We all sat around the dining room table for a while and talked about what had just happened. Suzy, as usual, was full of harsh judgment, saying Gail had made some bad condition or other. Suzy, as usual, didn’t know what the fuck she was talking about. I think my theory was better, but I kept it to myself for the simple reason that every single sister sitting at the table probably felt exactly the same as Gail: They were scared shitless about the matching too, terrified they were going to be stuck with some homely dork they would regret marrying for the rest of their lives. There was no point in me saying anything that might possibly validate their worst fears.

I busied myself the rest of the morning changing the locks on the doors to the center, which I was planning to do anyway and had nothing to do with Gail’s sudden departure. Then I turned my attention to the headlights on the van as there were no low beams. First I would have them and then I would lose them, back and forth, and just when I discovered the root of the problem -- ZAP! -- the whole works short-circuited.

I tried replacing the voltage regulator and the ballast and the starter relay and even the solenoid. Miraculously the van started only to die again and refuse to restart. So I conceded defeat and had it towed to Palmer Dodge. After I signed the repair authorization at the dealership, I grabbed a box of candy out of the van so I could fundraise on my way home and defray the cost of the repairs.

There was a working-class neighborhood behind the dealership that I had never been in before, so I decided to give it a try. It was pretty poor, which normally was a good sign for fundraising. But right away I sensed a bad vibe. Folks were mean and nobody would give. The spirit of the place was very low. I was about to give up and try somewhere else. I had one more house on the cul de sac to try and then I’d leave.

The guy came to the door but he was an angry, humorless bastard. I should have turned around right then, but my habit was to push a little before giving up. The next thing I knew was a sharp pain like a hundred bee stings in the back of my thigh. I turned to see a medium-sized mixed-breed dog scampering off the stoop.

I couldn’t believe it. The guy didn’t even say a word. He just stared at me like it served me right for knocking on his door. What a fuckin’ asshole. That bitch hurt like hell. My pants were torn and blood was coming through. I abandoned the fundraising project to walk home and get cleaned up.

I was so angry. In all my years of fundraising, in all my confrontations with bad dogs, I had never been bit. Somehow I had always subjugated them, forced them to back down. Or maybe I was just damn lucky. It took a sneaky little bitch to nail me. God damn that hurt!

There was no doubt in my mind why this happened: me spying on Nina in the shower. I did something that was obviously wrong, I refused to repent for it, so I had to pay. It also explained why everyone in the neighborhood was so mean. If I had been in the proper place spiritually, it wouldn't have been that way. I would have made money. Even the van wouldn't have developed an electrical problem. Once again, I got a painful reminder of how spiritual conditions directly affect the physical world. I had grown careless living in the center.

The wound wasn't so bad after all, though the skin was punctured in a couple places. I thought about rabies, but I knew instinctively it wasn't a concern. This was purely a spiritual thing. The bite was indemnity for what I had done. The punishment fit the crime, and rabies would have been overkill. So I simply washed the wound really well, dabbed it with alcohol, and put a big bandage on it. If it got infected, I'd go to the doctor. But I didn't expect that to happen.

Carl wanted me to take Carol, Louise and Theresa out blitzing. He and Suzy were going to stay home and talk with Kiyoko, try to figure out why Gail had left and what sort of spiritual conditions we needed to make to fix the situation. Me taking the sisters out fundraising was part of that spiritual foundation he felt we needed, and I agreed with his assessment. I didn't tell him why I thought I had gotten bit by a dog. Carl had enough problems to deal with.

We had another vehicle at the center, a small Toyota Corolla wagon, so after dinner we used it to blitz the bars. Carol and Theresa were solid fundraisers, but Louise was not. She was very shy and always had a hard time talking to people. She rarely made much money, so we often left her behind at the center to cook or answer the phone or do the books whenever we went fundraising. So it was unusual to have Louise along to blitz bars, but I couldn't anticipate how badly it would go.

I took the three of them down to Southeastern Avenue, which had a lot of blue-collar bars that were usually productive, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I dropped Louise off at a biker bar I had been in many times before. I told her I would wait outside in the parking lot. I thought Louise's shyness would actually be an asset in that type of place. They might see how timid she was and take pity on her.

I was wrong. Something happened that I can only guess about. I think, but I'm not 100 percent sure, that somebody in the bar groped her. I mean under-the-skirt, inside-the-panties groped her. Whatever happened, she came flying out of the bar, got in the car, locked the door, and refused to say a word. I'd never seen her so distraught. I was very concerned and tried to get her to tell me what had happened. She would only stare straight ahead and not say anything.

Carol and Theresa were doing well, so we decided we’d stay out all night as an indemnity condition for Gail. But now I was more worried about Louise. I didn't try to make her fundraise again. She stayed in the car for the rest of the night and eventually fell asleep in the back seat. When we finally got home it was nearly 4 o’clock in the morning. We had made nearly $300, so it was definitely worth the trip, but Louise's bad experience ruined any sense of accomplishment I might have otherwise felt. Carl, Suzy and Kiyoko were asleep when we got home, so whatever happened to Louise would have to wait until morning.

I was dead tired. I think I was asleep before I hit my sleeping bag. And then it seemed only an instant later Carl woke me up for 5 a.m. pledge service. I jumped up, but I wasn't really awake. Through force of habit I put on my slacks and grabbed my tie, which by sheer repetition I could tie blindfolded. I went into the prayer room, knelt on the carpet, put my forehead on the floor to pray, and promptly fell asleep with my ass sticking up in the air while I waited for everyone else.

I felt a light tap on my shoulder. It was Kiyoko. All the sisters had come in and were kneeling on their side of the room. Kiyoko had a funny grin on her face. She leaned over to me and and whispered, “You’re not wearing a shirt.” 

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