Day 54: IDOLATORS AND THE DEVOUT
For the second time in a month, I have spent days holed up in this hotel. The local news picked up the Internet messiah story and it spread to cable news. It might have died there, but Jeeves gained too much credibility from his FOXnews appearance. Two days ago, he recounted all his Internet messiah prophesies to a skeptical Bill O'Reilly.
"Um, Mr. Jeeves, if I have to call you that, why should I believe any of this?"
Jeeves was unfazed. "Well, Bill, I don't really care whether you believe me or not, but for everybody else -- who won't be dead tomorrow -- I am telling the truth."
O'Reilly died on his way home from the studio that night, apparently killed by a drunk driver speeding to an anti-abortion rally. Since then, Jeeves had become more than a local celebrity, and the world was looking for his messiah. It wasn't the first time people believed a 30-something Jew would lead them to salvation.
Being trapped here actually wouldn't be so bad if Tobey weren't sticking around too. I had barely been with Oz since our first time together, and Tobey didn't seem to notice that the dynamic had changed. He did ask, however, why Oz had stopped wearing fishnets and if she'd had a boob reduction.
"No, Tobey, but thank you."
"Well, something's different," he said. "Why do I want to f**k you less?"
Oz was diplomatic. "Well, you can only suppress your latent h**osexuality for so long, Tobes. But I'll tell you what, if you run down to Starbucks and get me a tall latte with heavy cream, I'll be sure to wear something sexually retarded for you tomorrow."
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That bought Oz and me about 20 minutes, and we made the most of it. A journal is no place for sexual details, but I should note that Oz's claims about not having Daddy issues were decidedly untrue.
Tobey came back with coffee and an unusual degree of energy.
"Here's your dingo juice, Oz," he said, handing over the coffee. "Let's work the cleavage tomorrow as per our agreement, OK?" Oz took her coffee "Oh, by the way, Gladstone, the government has declared you a person of interest under the NET Recovery Act."
Tobey handed me a photo, and there I was. They'd even based an artist's rendering on Jeeves's description. There was a reward, but, for the moment, no one knew my name.
I turned on the TV. Apparently, the government wasn't the only one after me. Some religious groups were calling for my imprisonment. A spokesman for the poorly named C.A.M., "Christians Against the Messiah," quoted some statistics of dubious value, claiming the Internet was the number one cause of sin in the 21st century. These folks believed God had smited the Net like a virtual Gomorrah. By that same logic, anyone who sought to return it was working against God's will. Furthermore, I had to be a blasphemer because I called myself the messiah. It didn't seem to matter to them that I never called myself that.
There was also rising speculation from some that I had stolen the Internet. It was a complicated theory that went a little something like this: Who better to return something than the person who stole it? Actually, that was pretty much the whole theory. Anyway, they didn't like me either.
Not everyone hated me though. Several foreign governments were offering the Internet messiah millions to defect from America and bring the Internet back to their country. A spokesman for Japan offered 500 million and a lifetime tax-free residence. Germany had a vaguely similar offer. Saudi Arabia, however, promised "countless riches" and 24/7 military protection from those "who would see the streets run red with the messiah's Zionist blood." (I knew that artist's rendering was slightly more Semitic than necessary.)
"No offer from Australia, " Tobey said. "Harsh tokes."
"Yeah, I guess they couldn't spare any Bloomin' Onions," I said.
"Crikey," Tobey offered.
"Crikey, indeed. The crikiest."
"Crikey has more than one meaning, right, Oz?" Tobey asked. "Like how you can use 'Smurf' in lots of ways ..."
"I hate you f**kwads so very much."
"OK, enough tooling on Oz," I said. "What am I gonna do?"
"I'd go with Japan," Tobes suggested. "Not that Germany isn't tempting. They both have great porn, but I dunno, Japanese women are just hotter on average."
"No, I mean how am I gonna leave this room with the whole world looking for me?"
"Well, couldn't you just, y'know, work for the government?" Oz asked. "Seems they'd make it worth your while."
"First of all, f**k the government and their bulls**t NET Recovery Act. Who even knows what they're up to. And more importantly, f**k you. I'm not looking for a job. I'm off the grid. I'm free. The disability payments keep me alive, and I answer to no one. All I have to do is nothing. "
Tobey and Oz didn't look directly at me.
"Nothing," Tobey said. "I mean, most people hate their job, y'know? Would it really be so bad?"
"Are you f**king kidding, me? You think you know what a job is? You blog for a living. You work in your boxers, cruising news reports you can add b*****b jokes to, and then scrape the ad revenue for rent. You're gonna talk to me about work?"
"Easy, Gladstone," Oz said.
"No, I'm not going to take it easy. You were so disgusted by the notion of a job that you let strangers watch you shower for money. I put in my time. I'm done. "
No one said anything for awhile. I sat at the desk chair, radiating the martyrdom of a misunderstood teen. And in return, Oz silently smoked her cigarette in a way that put her pain only partially on display: hiding the ancient scars while flaunting the fresh wounds I had inflicted. Tobey watched TV.
"Besides, this is stupid," I finally said. "I'm not the Internet messiah, whatever that is."
"Well, y'know, Gladstone," Tobey said. "Maybe you are?"
Tobey shut off the TV. "Jeeves says you are. Anonymous believed in you. Strangers follow you. And your mom popped you out in a manger after getting f**ked by God."
"Well, that's a fair point."
Oz crushed out her cigarette.
"Fuck it. Tobes is right," she said. "Who are we to doubt Jeeves? I decided to put my lot in with you instantly. And you were right. Fuck the government. The Internet is ours. We find it for us."
"Yeah, but how long will I make it out that door? All of New York is looking for me."
Tobey stood. He had that look he got before thinking of a new humorous way to describe how much he wanted to f**k Demi Moore.
"Maybe we don't need to be in New York. Let's go to Staten Island!"
"We're looking for the Internet, not Italians."
Tobey frowned at my quip. I'd never seen him so serious. "Didn't Quiffmonster42 say Anonymous believed the Internet signals might be coming from Staten Island?"
"But if we leave New York, we won't be able to get back," I said.
"The odds of continuing our search without being spotted in New York are slim now anyway," Oz said. "You're the messiah, Gladstone. Whaddya think? Is the Internet in Staten Island?"
I didn't know. I had no intuition. No divine voice leading me. But I had two friends, and a deep abiding love of the Staten Island ferry.
"If I end up crucified," I said. "Be sure to mention my sweet c**k in the Gospels."