1 Sermon Preparations
Having a taste for literature, Doc usually read westerns. He had, however, turned to the best-seller list from time to time. When he heard of the Da Vinci Code, his keen insight into the possibilities for crowd-drawing harangues did not fail.
He was engrossed with the book as he sat in his office, a half hour before the morning service, having come in to prepare his sermon.
“Ought to preach on this,” he muttered.
Dull Sodder ambled in. Doc glanced up and hefted the tome.
“What do you think of this one?” Doc asked.
“Worst book since Elmer Gantry,” Dull said without even flinching. Doc flinched. He had liked Da Vinci.
“Sure,” Dull sat down and leaned back. “Downright insidious.”
“That’s so. I probably ought to preach against it.”
“Say, they have a movie on it. Don’t you own a piece of the movie theater?”
“Well,” Doc was wondering how Dull had discovered that bit of information. It wasn’t anything he couldn’t talk his way out of though.
Dull, a cunning psychologist in his own way, realized the effect of his casual observation and rightly guessed at the thoughts revolving in Doc’s mind.
“Well,” Doc said slowly. “That’s why I was wondering about preaching on it.”
“You can be against the book and even the movie as loud as you want and still go.”
“I got one word for you, one word: witnessing opportunities.”
There was a pause while Doc’s older, cunning mind found the idea that Dull’s younger, cunning mind already possessed. They looked at each other with cunning looks. They shared a moment of fraternal cunning. Neither noticed the other rubbing his hands.
“Why, it would be downright wrong for two-fisted, regular Christians with pep and common sense to stay away,” Doc observed. “But they’d want to be prepared for it first.”
As they got up to go into church Dull Sodder wondered what it was old guys like Doc usually did for sermon preparation anyway.
2 The Da Finney Code
When our heroes reached the Transcendental Arrangement again, bearing with them the complete works of Charles Grandison Finney, they discovered that nobody had done anything about the yak. The yak was still standing in the rain that came in through the ideational trap door, contentedly chewing on a piece of the couch, thoroughly soaked, and more alive than ever before in its life. Nobody else was around.
“Well,” Unk said. “At least we can use him to carry all these books.”
“Won’t they get wet?” Kat asked.
“Probably. But I doubt it will improve them.”
They loaded up the yak who seemed delighted (not knowing a thing about theology, you see). They made it back home without further incident. Kat decided to keep the yak so they called it Pete and put it out to graze. It didn’t occur to any of them that Pete was not male.
Now it came to pass that Unk had not looked at any of his fan mail since this story began. Fan mail, of course, piled up. While Unk’s natural inclination was to throw all of his fan mail out as completely worthless, he felt a sort of moral responsibility to those who looked up to him and so he made a point of opening and at least reading his fan mail, even if he didn’t always answer every last bit. There was a large pile of fan mail on the great table in Unk’s study. The complete works of Charles Finney were also stacked on the table, surrounded with bottles of ketchup just as a precaution.
Halfway through the stack of congratulatory letters, kind albeit tastelessly sentimental cards, financial contributions and other such pleasantries he came on a letter from the FBO (The Federal Bureau of Order). The letterhead seemed vaguely familiar. It looked like an official document. It had a lot of WHEREAS all in a row. Unk’s keen instincts soon discerned what it was. It turned out to be a resolution, and a resolution against Unk! Great, thought Unk, now I also have the FBO trying to dog my steps.
Fan mail is all very well, but tiresome to a modest chap such as Unk. He turned away and began to thumb through the complete works of Charles Grandison Finney instead.
Not as bad as fan mail, he thought.
In two seconds of keen, absentminded perusal the magnificent mind of Unk discerned a pattern. He concentrated, flipping through the tedious tomes at mind-boggling speed.
I need the right music for this, he thought. He almost put on some Haydn, thought better of it, and stooping down to a dusty corner of the shelf, retrieved some Strauss waltzes. As the music sounded he had second thoughts, but left it on.
He bent his concentration again on the nefarious volumes.
It was there! It was unmistakable. There was a code hidden away in the complete works of Finney.
He told Kat about it.
“The Da Finney Code,” she said.
3 The Fatal Twist
The next morning Pete was lowing plaintively. Kat tried giving Pete some oats, but Pete only looked at her with distress and lowed some more. The Little Rabbi wondered if perhaps Pete would be partial to Cheerios, but Pete did not seem at all interested in Cheerios.
“Maybe he likes milk with the Cheerios,” C. S. Lewis (who had decided that Darby and Dracula were too weird to hang out with and had asked the Unks if he might stay a while, having arrived at dawn through the bathroom trap door) suggested.
“Oh!” Unk said, and checked under Pete. “Anybody know how to milk a yak?”
It turned out that C. S. Lewis knew something about milking animals. The Little Rabbi was from Iowa so they made him help. Soon Pete was contentedly chewing grass and they had filled one of those bucket-like Chex-Mix containers with yak milk.
“Yak milk,” Kat said, “I have a recipe that calls for yak milk.”
Unk looked grim.
Later, they assembled in the kitchen where Kat was cutting up olives.
“Well,” the Little Rabbi said, “What about this code. Where does it lead?”
“It is a complicated proleptic code,” Unk replied.
“How does that work?” Kat asked.
“Well, it doesn’t, at first.”
“A proleptic code looks forward to making sense some day. I believe that day has arrived, unfortunately.”
“Why even say it is ‘complicated’ if that is the definition of a ‘proleptic’ code,” said the Little Rabbi using finger quotes.
“It is worse than you think,” Unk replied. “You see, while an ordinary proleptic code . . .”
Dear reader, you will no doubt marvel at the sagacity of our hero, Unk. Here we have him giving a disquisition such as is rarely heard in capitals of learning like Oxford and Cambridge. He is doing it without the benefit of notes and without any involved research other than subjecting himself to the music of Johann Strauss Jr, which, upon reflection, you will agree is rather more of a handicap than not. And while he is explaining these concepts with great lucidity and illustrations more apt than most ever conceived, still he is speaking so far above the heads of the poor Little Rabbi and Kat and, even, I’m afraid, C. S. Lewis, that for me to recount the explanation would do you absolutely no good and might, in some cases, prove fatal to those who attempted, unaided and without proper safety equipment, to understand it.
Therefore the greater portion of this speech will be sealed up in silence and I will take up my story again at the conclusion. Suffice it to say it made a great deal of sense to anybody who could understand it.
“ . . . which is why this particular code was waiting for the arrival of none other than Thomas Kinkidinkidink.”
There was silence after this, as the minds of Unk’s listeners cautiously relaxed their defensive posture and the meaning of his last sentence sank in.
“Oh,” Kat, who was looking for somewhere to sit down, said. “That’s bad.”
The Little Rabbi was speechless. C. S. Lewis didn’t know about Kinkidinkidink, but he decided that if he asked they might think he was stupid. So he kept quiet.
4 Under Siege
Thunder! Thundering! Pounding, booming, blow upon blow dinning, assaulting the ear, laying siege on sanity, came a sudden and insistent sound in the quiet afternoon.
Unk and Kat had fallen to the floor as if somebody had inadvertently been playing some George Beverly Shea recordings. C. S. Lewis was out cold. Only the fearless Little Rabbi stood before the onslaught of sound. The door burst from its hinges and the agents of the FBO poured in. The Little Rabbi dove through the window into the back yard.
He saw Pete, saw the coast was clear, and decided it fell to him to make sure that Pete was not captured.
“Come on Pete,” said the Little Rabbi tugging on the rope. They went around behind the shed just in time. The agents of the FBO had searched the inside and now came outside to have a look around. Seeing nothing, they went back inside leaving only the driver in the black van. He was a contractor and not a permanent employee of the FBO.
Sensing that the man was a contractor, and would not give him away, the Little Rabbi went over to talk to him. Pete came along.
“I’ve always wanted to drive a large, black van,” the Little Rabbi said conversationally.
“Yeah,” the contractor replied. “This one is better than some I’ve driven. I can slam on the brakes and squeal the tires on corners. They actually want me to.”
“It is very nondescript too.”
“Yeah, even the upholstery on the inside is black. They also let me scatter gravel when there are gravel driveways. I like that. . . . That’s a pretty nice yak you have there.”
“Thanks,” said the Little Rabbi. Refusing to be distracted, however, he kept to his line of inquiry. “So this is a pretty decent outfit is it?”
“Yeah. Right now they’re raiding this place,” the driver indicated Unk’s fortress with a jerk of his thumb. “I guess they think there might be a clue to some conspiracy involving the paintings of Thomas Kinkidinkidink. I think my wife has a Thomas Kinkidinkidink Bible cover. You know, one of those things that you zip up and carry your Bible around in.”
Heroically refusing to be distracted, the Little Rabbi kept to his line of inquiry, “How do they know about any conspiracy?”
“They got inside information. One of the big bosses at the FBO, Count something or other, somehow managed to get a wired stooge in there. Apparently they’ve been trying for a while.”
Gasp! Thought the Little Rabbi. Could C. S. Lewis have sold them down the river?
The FBO goons had been torturing Unk mercilessly but to no avail.
“How does the code work?” The chief goon snapped, twitching the nob on the Total and Excruciating Pain-o-Matic to which Unk was wired.
Unk kept silent. He didn’t even blink. It was as though the Pain-o-Matic were unplugged, except that it wasn’t. One of the FBO goons, having been used to test it earlier, lay dead on the floor.
“Do you have to use that thing?” C. S. Lewis, the yellow traitor, asked.
5 Mortimer Gunius
“Shut up,” The chief goon snarled at C. S. Lewis. The chief goon was middle aged, a career FBO man. Every day when he came to work he carried a briefcase that had the FBO logo on it and his name, Mortimer Gunius. He had won it at a company picnic. He didn’t really have to carry any paper in it, except for some resolution forms, but he carried some comic books and a Russian dictionary. He didn’t know Russian and had never used the dictionary, but he liked to have it fall out every once in a while when he was interrogating somebody. He thought it might intimidate them.
The chief goon, Mr. Gunius, also wore shirts with the FBO logo and his name on them. He had an FBO mug at work and FBO slippers at home. He even had an FBO CD player that didn’t work, but he still kept it in his den. He was a career FBO man in every sense. He went to all the company meetings, went to all the company picnics and holiday parties, or the Bureau’s equivalents thereof, and he liked them.
The Total and Excruciating Pain-O-Matic was a patented FBO invention. It carried the FBO guarantee. It was manufactured by a little company that was not on the books of any other government entity. Coincidentally, the owner of the company was a member of Doc’s church. He was able to give generously to Doc Baptist Church because of the revenue that his little liaison with the FBO afforded him.
Coincidentally, Doc was a member of the board. Of the company that made the Total and Excruciating Pain-O-Matic and of the FBO, that is.
When the Pain-O-Matic completely failed on Unk (or rather, when the dial was set to Super Yow! with no visible effect on the victim), Mr Gunius was more than a little perturbed. Not only had the machine never failed before, it was a product of the FBO and this sort of failure, in the presence of civilians (as Mr. Gunius was fond of calling non-FBO personnel) was a profound embarrassment. There was only one way the FBO dealt with embarrassment.
“Lewis, this is all your fault!” Mr. Gunius screamed.
C. S. Lewis backed away. Everything was going wrong. When he took the job from the count he had thought he would be helping to make Unk into a traditional dispensationalist. He had never meant for there to be goons and a Total and Excruciating Pain-O-Matic. Now the enraged Mr. Gunius was advancing on him, sputtering and making bureaucratic noises.
C. S. Lewis reached for the nearest instrument and found the handle of the pot in which Kat had been cooking. He grasped the handle and flung the contents of the pot on Mr. Gunius.
Mortimer Gunious fell to the floor writhing in agony.
“What was in that?” C. S. Lewis asked.
“My yak milk, leek soup,” Kat said.
“Call 911,” Unk said. “We have to get that goon to the hospital.”
6 Why Lewis Did It
“I don’t understand it, Jack,” Unk was saying. “Why did you sell us down the river?”
C. S. Lewis looked a bit sheepish. “They told me I could help to win you over to traditional dispensationalism. Darby was really excited about it. I couldn’t say no.”
“I bet its one of the count’s ruses,” Kat said. “I’ve never liked him.”
There was a pause, then the Little Rabbi said, “Can I call you Jack too, Mr. Lewis?”
“You may call me Professor Lewis, young fellow.”
“Jack,” Unk said.
“Yes Mr. Unk?” Lewis asked.
“Oh, just call me Unk, Jack.”
“Oh, very well.”
“Jack, I wonder if old Count Dracula isn’t somehow tied up with Doc’s outfit.”
“You mean with Felonious Assault and that crowd?”
“Oh not the youth pastor. That’s actually another problem that involves Kameldeergard and now Kinkidinkidink and the Da Finney Code. I’m sure there is a connection there. But I mean just Doc and some of his anointed boys, the old school.”
“There was a shifty kid with them . . . what was he called . . . Sharpe? Pot Scraper? No. Oh yes, he was called Dull Sodder!”
“You saw Dull Sodder in the Transcendental Arrangement?”
“Well, not exactly.” Lewis looked embarrassed. “We were in a Baptist church, I believe.”
Unk groaned. “This is getting worse all the time. They actually took you to a Baptist church?”
Lewis nodded, mute and ignominious.
“Was there an invitation?”
Lewis blushed and nodded again.
“Well,” Unk said, tactfully refraining from further questions that might cause Lewis pain. “Let this be a lesson to you.”
They went to the hospital to visit Mortimer Gunius, who was recovering and looking forward to six months of physical therapy. Gunius only spat at them. He had been fired and his career was over.
“Give him some time,” Unk said.
So they left.
On the way home Unk wanted to hit the Flameburger Grill to ask Bud for some advice with the Da Finney Code situation. Over guacamole, bacon cheeseburgers Unk put the situation to Bud, cleverly omitting the part about Pete, the yak.
“Well,” Bud said, “It sounds to me that when you got something so convoluted that it actually involves the paintings of Thomas Kinkidinkidink and the writings of Charles Finney, you need to get back to the source.”
“What is the source?” Kat asked.
“The mainframe,” Lewis said nodding. He was enjoying his guacamole, bacon cheeseburger very much. It was his first of the kind, and he found he liked the coleslaw too.
“I’m not too good with computers,” Unk said.
“I’m not talking about computers,” Bud said. “I’m talking about a voyage to the Swilli System.”
“It would take a lifetime to travel there,” Unk exclaimed.
“Not on a ship with an etymological confabulation drive.”
“No way! An etymological confabulation drive?”
“It sounds like a complicated proleptic code,” Kat groaned.
“It is like a complicated proleptic code,” Bud said, “Only insanely more complicated!”
“And you know of such a ship?” Unk said, his guacamole, bacon cheeseburger forgotten.
“I got a friend who owns a chain of restaurants in Oregon who is building one. He took Greek in seminary for a while, so he’s into that stuff. I think I can get it for you.”
“How much?” Kat asked.
“Nothing. Just let me come along. I’ll cook.” For Bud had always yearned for adventure.
“Well,” Unk said. “Somebody’s got to cook the guacamole, bacon cheeseburgers.”
“Yay,” said the The Little Rabbi. “We’re going to space!”