“...you see little hints in the news.”
by Rob Hunter
“Big Brother is here,” said Carl.
The day the Illuminati—secret, sinister—entered my life Harold Junior pulled up in his rusted-out Lincoln Continental as I was checking my mail. Our mailboxes, down by the road, do double duty as street addresses too, here in rural Maine. Harold’s huge domestic battle cruiser had been bought cheap and came with a titanic appetite for gas and oil. But it never had to go far, only start. And it plowed through drifts that would stall a Jeep.
“Look. See that—it’s a beaver.” I followed Harold Junior’s pointing finger. No beaver. There had been no beaver sightings on the lower Pennamaquan since they started blowing beaver dams to control upcountry flooding. Something about fish migrations.
Harold did not leave the driver’s seat. This was a protocol of roadside conversations: stay in the car, otherwise they’ll have to invite you inside for coffee or a beer. Anyway, Harold would have had a time making it to the house. His free spirit was sorely tried by arthritic knees and diabetes, trapped inside 450 pounds of fat.
“No, goddamn it, it’s a beaver—right there.” Harold got out of the Lincoln. The car sprang eight inches up on its springs. They made those babies to last. Harold lurched toward the riverbank. The breeze caught the blue, syrupy exudations from his tailpipe and a cloud of hydrocarbons accompanied us as Harold grabbed my arm and dragged me along. He pointed. “There! A beaver.”
“We don’t see many of them,” I said. I had never seen any of them.
Harold Junior released his hold on my arm. He grew thoughtful. “They renounce sex,” he said. “The beaver bites its testicles off and throws them to the legions of hell in hot pursuit. A servant of God ‘must cut off from himself all vices, all motions of lewdness, and must cast them in the Devil’s face.’ That was on TV.” There was a Christian channel included in our local basic cable package.
“A pretty good reason for no beavers,” I said. But beavers were making a comeback it appeared, and that is why I remember the day the Great White Lodge, The Illuminati, came to visit with me—Harold and the beaver. It was the same day and they came not bearing beavers, but with a wrong number.
It was Saturday about suppertime, the time boiler room calls come in. I have a routine, spooning rice and fish together, listening with courteous deference to the pitch, whatever, until the caller pauses for breath. Then I spring my trap. “My wife. You are calling for my wife. She died in April.”
There is a pause and they ring off. Then I eat dinner. The University of Kansas Jayhawks are trying to build a new field house and the news of the death of a distinguished alumna has slowed them down but it hasn’t stopped them. The Jayhawks’ telephone solicitors still show up about once a month.
This time it was neither aluminum siding nor the Jayhawks.
I was watching Talk Radio, a video of a film from a stage play by Eric Bogosian, a film about the Faustian progression of a radio talk show host in Texas, most of it set in the broadcast studio. The phone rang. Hmmm.
I stopped the tape and answered the phone. A man in Windham, Maine was checking on a bogus charge on his bill. Had I received a call charged to his number? No. September fifth? I checked the calendar. I had been home all day waiting for chimney work. The caller later identified himself as Carl, a born-again Christian who listened to Christian radio stations. But all this information did not come at once; it was scattered throughout our conversation. We must have talked for ten minutes or so, he incurring charges far in excess of the $.57 he was checking up on. There had been a lot of billing mix-ups last month and he was calling all the listed numbers to frame a complaint. I was the first who had answered.
I said since the death of my wife I had lived alone with a dog and two cats. Might they have learned to dial? No, besides this was a call to my number billed to his, from a third location.
We grew easy and made observations about how computers were sending the world to hell. “Big Brother is here,” said Carl.
“He’s always been here,” I replied, “except what with home-based downloading he’ll be in our videos, too.”
“Next year. The compression technology is online. Two master numbers, supposedly known only to the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation and they can tap into your home CPU. We are at the mercy of any hacker.”
This was stretching out and introductions were in order. “Hunter, Robert Hunter.” Then gratuitously, “My kids use the same last name. But then, there wouldn’t be any names on your bill.” I could hear him nod and continued on into the silence. “They’re almost thirty, not little kids who’d be playing telephone games.” I held my hand in stages off the floor, indicating the heights of small children. Carl was easy to talk with, gregarious, out-going. And wary. He never gave me his last name even after I had told him mine several times, the repetitions in a context that my adult children had been visiting at about the time of his snaggled bill and perhaps one of their calling card calls to the coast had been misinterpreted by the NYNEX computer.
Carl brought up the Illuminati and the act of Congress that in 1913 created the Federal Reserve to keep foreign money manipulators out of our system. “But the secret control of the Federal Reserve. What about that? There is no way of finding out.”
He had found out. Some Christian radio station had mentioned it. “I’ll bet you see little hints in the news.” I had told him I read news on the local radio station. Something I had been doing on one local radio station or another for almost forty years.
There were hints in the news, how would he know that? The wire services ground out reams of copy daily full of the gratuitous insights reporters slip in when they notice inconsistencies in the official versions of whatever the story of the day happens to be. Their editors flatten them out, seeing these as speed bumps on the unimpeded flow of homogenized information. During the news free-for-all of the Vietnam War, the daily press briefings in Saigon—the Five o’clock Follies—generated a lot of these inconsistencies. Announcers learned to cherish them.
I was grinding out my penitent’s path toward Social Security at a backwoods Maine radio station. Where I read the news. I was one of them. “A coffee grinder,” a self-effacing reference to the limited wattage of the local radio station.
“There are hints. Can’t deny it.”
“Well, the Great White Lodge, right?” My first mistake; I thought I was playing Carl but launched into explanations of how these things came to be. My version—the King James Authorized. My arguments sounded weak in the earpiece. “The Secret Masters are tying our shoelaces together while we sleep.” There—the ball was in Carl’s court. I sensibly attributed the normalization of the news to a wire service self-censorship that kept the wackier stuff out of sight whenever an editor caught up with it. No one needed to know, the paper trails were too convoluted and too expensive to investigate.
“The Illuminati. It’s Celtic.” Keltic he said it, very PC: Celtic with a K. “Europe will take control of the North American money market, the world. A few control and direct everything, sharers of secret knowledge. There is a plan.”
I was tempted to make a wisecrack but didn’t; I was getting a vague sense of unease. Not about plots, but about plots about plots. Enough worried people, feeling powerless, and they needed a target. Carl needed a target and he knew my number. Things were going to hell and God was on their side: the Christians needed a plan, a conspiratorial secret evil out there. Carl was thoughtful, not a crazy. These were things he had spent much time pondering. He had my number and my name while all I had was “Carl.”
Carl explained, calming and confidential. This was something I, as a reasonable, educated human being knew, but for whatever reason, was not yet ready to face up to. He spoke a mumbo-jumbo of home brew mysticism, lifts from the rituals of lodges hopelessly garbled by centuries-long transmission.
“Illuminati, ever heard of ’em?” I had.
The Illuminati, the behind-the-scenes master schemers of folklore and secret fears, had reentered my life. Carl was right: in his heart of hearts, everyone suspects that there are puppet masters controlling things. What else could explain so much misery if there is a just and merciful God? Carl was worrying on about Europe taking over the world, so I didn’t tell him I had seen a board game called “Illuminati” in the Dungeons and Dragons section of a science-fiction book store on a cobbled back street in Bonn, Germany just that April while taking a break from my late wife’s last-ditch radiation treatments.
Carl was talking and I had not been listening. I hurried to catch up. “Illuminati, sure: pyramid power, Lovecraftian corruption, board room of the Chase Manhattan. Sure. Hey, ever read Foucault’s Pendulum? Umberto Eco, you know?—Name of the Rose? They made a movie out of it.”
Ahh, they made a movie out of it. Not to worry. There was an uncomfortable silence, just line noise and both of us breathing. Hollywood had executed a flanking maneuver, squeezed his fears onto the small screen, video to be compressed and downloaded. I decided Carl and I had talked enough. I would have just as happily agreed with him, but he would never allow it. He required contention and I was parroting a party line. He had gotten me to defending the established order. Anything I could say he could refute: the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, tainted money impacted, ever circulating through the same hands, controlling.
I wished I had remembered to tell Carl not to worry it’s only a picture show.
And then there was the beaver.
copyright 2008, 2015 Rob Hunter
The Illuminati, originally “The Illuminati Owe Carl .57 Cents,” is an oldie-but-goodie first written for and published in Lost in Willipaq in 2008. The events described happened in 1993.