Moses Sagas


Chapter One

Firsts

“In your light I learn how to love…You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”  – Rumi, Islamic scholar

T’ung Jên – Fellowship with Men: “The character of a peaceful union of men, which, in order to hold together, needs one yielding nature among many firm persons” – from I Ching the 13th gua

ASHERAH

I met him on the ninth of June.  Los Angeles basked in a splendid early summer twilight that night; it was enchanting.  I didn’t see him pull up in the yellow Lamborghini Aventador that we left in later.  I’d been busy working things out with some good friends of mine from Guangzhou, the Lins.  My father’s newspaper, the Los Angeles Journal, relies on personal connections all over the world, but Ulysses insulted the Lins accidentally and I had to deal with the fallout immediately before our information about commerce in South China evaporated.  My father, Ulysses, is pretty diplomatic normally.  I’ve cleaned up before, and this isn’t going to be the last time.  I don’t care that I lose face for the paper.  I’m lucky to have the kinds of problems I have.

Tina Linn and I had just finished with my formal apology when I glanced up and saw him as he entered the crowded bar.  He was beautiful, but then, everyone in LA is beautiful, especially in the deepening dusk of the canyon.  I saw his tall, slender figure only in profile as he strode through the crowd.  Something about him caught my attention.  It wasn’t his height, nor was it his obvious prestige and wealth, nor even the majestic manner with which he carried himself that caught my eye.  There was beauty in him of an entirely different quality, a beauty pure and perfect.  I live in the world of the pretty people.  He wasn’t pretty.  He was flawless.

My hand went up, involuntarily, to my chest, as if I was trying to stop my heart from leaping out of my body to follow this stranger.  His long body moved with grace, slithered, even, between the dense groups, until it stopped at the most prestigious table.

He did not see me, of course. I hadn’t looked at that table – I avoid scanning the rooms I enter in case I wind up having to chat with someone.  If I don’t make eye contact, I can usually avoid social chats.  But now I looked.  The best table in the house was full of wealthy young playboys, all of them in possession of social and fiscal territory occupied by only a fraction of a fraction of the human world.  My perspective, as the only daughter of a newsman, is informed by my travels with my father.  When you’ve walked the streets of Vietnam and India, you no longer look at American comfort the same way, if you’ve any heart at all.  I wasn’t impressed with the material density that was clearly at this man’s disposal.  I was stupefied, even awestruck, at his glory, the mightiness I felt drifting off of him the like the earth releases its heat- so much power in such a small space.

There were seven of them sitting at the table.  Once the magnificent stranger got halfway across the deck, a skinny guy rose and greeted him warmly saying “Yo!  Mo Jinn!”  The lanky boy put a Miller long neck into the beautiful stranger’s hands, threw his long arm around him, and escorted him to the packed table.

They were obviously very close, and, judging from the reaction of the rest when the beautiful stranger got to the table, he was rejoining buddies he’d had known for some time but hadn’t seen lately.  I didn’t know they always used that table, or that his plane from Heathrow had been late.  I only knew that the beautiful stranger was compelling, irresistible both to me, a stranger, and to his friends.

I’ve been a stranger all my life.  I lost my mother when I was young, which is too long a story to tell.  But then, tucked into my father’s life, I slid into the larger world, into Oman, into South Africa, into China, even into Guam.  The terrific betrayal of my mother’s absence diminished in magnitude against the backdrop of the world.  I’ve seen the refugee camps in Jordan, filled with terrified Iraqis.  I’ve seen men without hands begging in Tanzania.  But I’ve also received kindness when I’ve been lost, confused, or somehow stranded in a place so foreign I can’t even read the alphabet.  But, despite my experiences, my heart confirmed what my eyes suspected:  There was nothing on earth like this man and the glory in him, perhaps even perfection and nearly unlimited power.  Not the power my father wields, of information, not the power of celebrity or money like his friends, but power that reaches beyond the limits of this place, this world.  I knew it like I know my own name.

I turned, and, disguising my query in Mandarin, said, “Tina, do you know that man?”  I aimed my eyes.  Tina’s own shrewd eyes pivoted, locked onto the back of his head.  She and her husband own much of the tea trade, and spend their summers with in LA when Guangzhou is impossibly warm, returning to their wondrous Chinese home every fall.  Tina knew the wealthiest level of LA intimately, because anyone from China knows that without guangxi, it doesn’t matter how much money you have; you can’t do anything without connections.  Connections were Tina’s specialty; she left logistics up to Ken, her husband.

Discretely, she began in Mandarin: “The one there, to the far left, that’d be Johnny Moore.  His mom’s the actress, Kiki Moore.  They live in Bel Air, nice house.  I think they are vegan.  Kiki told me her only boy was studying philosophy at Brown, but that was a few years ago.  He’d be finishing now.  And he sails, I think, yes, he sails.” Tina’s volumes of social data came out like a Google search – instantly and effortlessly.  Tina was keenly aware of the value of information.  She was giving me something she gave no one outside of her immediate circle.

I nodded patiently.  I could count on Tina; how lucky it was she’d been at my side just then. I watched them unreservedly, they were all focused on the mystery boy.  One of the boys at the table had the reddest hair I’d ever seen, and was making origami out of cocktail napkins.  Tina said she didn’t know him.  She lowered her big round sunglasses and peered harder at the group.

“And that one,” she said, quietly, shifting unconsciously to English, “That one on the right, the one that looks like Elvis Presley?  He’s the eldest son of Smack Line.  Smack has several children, but that must be Rock.”

The boy looked a little like his father, Smack Line was an aging rock star famous for his insatiable appetite for women and his great guitar riffs.  Smack had an upcoming charity concert at the Greek that my father’s paper was sponsoring.  Tina continued.

“It’s been awhile. But I think Smack told me something about that boy being the smart one, just finished up at Berkeley, don’t know his field. No, I do, it’s literature.”

“He’s huge,” I said.  Rock’s muscles were literally boiling out of his flesh.

Tina stopped looking at the boys.  “Asherah, I don’t know the one with his back to us.  I didn’t see his face, but he’s got important friends.  They circle about him like planets.  Look at how they look at him.”

It was true.  Their love for the beautiful stranger was written all over their faces.  I respected Tina’s evaluation.  She was pure Chinese: you couldn’t define where her ancient wisdom ended and her own unique personality began. But I trusted her intuition implicitly.

Tina’s voice quickened, “That boy, the one next to Smack’s kid, how did I miss him!?  That’s Andre Maimonides.  I know his family very well.  He just graduated from NYU in business; we sent him something.  He’s a good boy.  Parents from Al Khor, in Qatar, related to the royal family.  He’s a real gentleman.  I’m honored to introduce you,” Tina said, getting up.

I’d been caught unprepared.  It never occurred to me that Tina, whose discretion and modesty was absolute, would do something as rash as this, introducing me to a total stranger without any kind of formality or plan.

“Tina, God.  I had no intention –“

“I’ve known you since we were girls, Asherah, when we were together in father’s tea house. You were my little sister.  You could have had any boy you wanted these past 20 years, and you’ve never let anyone come near you in any way that matters.  Tonight you ask me to tell you about a boy.  I’m going to introduce you to Andre; once we’re at the table, I’ll be able to tell you a lot more.  Come on, let’s go.”

She took my hand, and then we were walking.  She’s small, but like most Chinese women, she was very strong.  Her firm will and strong grip lifted me from my seat.  I got up.  I absolutely wanted this.  I didn’t pretend otherwise.

As we made our way over to him, the light settled like a crown on the massive pile of black curls on his head.  Tina was surprisingly strong for such a tiny person.  It was all that tai chi.  In a single moment, we were there.

A cool breeze drifted off the chilly Pacific Ocean.  John Moore, I noted, wore a Cambodia t-shirt; Rock’s hair was in a modified pompadour, and he was indeed muscled beyond reason, in really expensive thrashed jeans, sterling silver chain hanging from his tattered leather belt.  Andre looked up at us first, his dark, smooth eyes appraising Tina and me.  He was in a silk t-shirt and blazer, cigarette burning between two fingers.  He stood up to greet us.  Smooth as cream that boy, and incredibly handsome.

“Mrs. Lin, Assalamualaikum.”

“Andre,” said my friend, “Walaikum assalam,” and she kissed him on the cheek, an unusual and intimate gesture from Mrs. Lin.  They exchanged more formal greetings as I stood aside, appraising the table.  Irritatingly, I still couldn’t see the mystery boy’s face.  But I noticed his body go rigid as we approached.  He must be quite tired of hangers on and paparazzi.  I was instantly sorry that we were there, like groupies, which are insidious.  I was in the process of backing away quietly when he stood up and faced me.

Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck, fuck-all.  I smiled grimly, still backing up without much grace.

Then I was utterly stunned and halted looking into his face for the first time.  His dark, almost black eyes and soft lips were windows into a soul without stain.  There was torment in those eyes, and power too, dangerous power, but there was kindness around those full lips, tenderness in his perfectly young yet ancient face.

“Moses,” he said, bowing formally to me, then he did something I did not understand.  He took my hand lightly in two of his long fingers, and touched it gently to his own forehead.  He said, “ῆora.”

When our hands touched, I felt a sharp pain, the kind you feel when you stick yourself with a needle, but instead of receding, the pain intensified and rippled through me.  Out of courtesy I endured it, but as a result I felt an instant need to sit.  Before I knew it, he was behind me with a chair, sparing me the certain indignity of literally collapsing onto the floor.

“Asherah Joyce,” I said involuntarily, staring at him until I could stop myself.  Moses.  He didn’t say Deasy.  Could he be that Deasy?  Tina was already in conversation with the rest of the boys, working her magic, gathering information I knew she’d feed to me later that night.  The universe stilled; I heard nothing, noticed nothing more. I sat there.  Moses regained his former seat.

“Pardon me,” I said, hastily. “You caught my attention, and I asked my friend if she knew you.” I glanced over at Tina hoping to toss Moses’ gaze away.

Moses’ eyes did not leave my face in my preliminary attempt to redirect him.  I closed my mouth and calculated, returning that level gaze, so thorough, so intense.

“Gypsy,” he said.

My true name isn’t common knowledge; once you know me, you call me that.  He didn’t know me.

“Yeah,” I said, aware that our eyes had still not unlocked, aware that I was already weary enduring the magnitude of him.  “So, wow.  You’re – you’re really something,”

“Everyone is -” he returned.  I considered this comment, sent it through my mental sifter.  I shifted tack.  “You’re just in from a long absence?”

“Yes.”

I fumble around in my head.  “And these guys are your best friends.”

“Yes,” he says, still not baited into turning from me to look at the people I reference.

“I need to stop asking questions you can answer in a single word,” I say, pulling back.  I drink my gin and tonic for lack of anything better to do.

Moses’ gaze isn’t merely a gaze.  Something sturdy and intentional flows out of him, like he’s a living doorway rather than a man.

Love.  I thought.  Love.

My eye drifted then, because I was distracted by something peripheral.  I realized it was silence, immediate silence at the table.  I leapt to my feet and introduced myself.

“Asherah Joyce?” asked Rock, smirking, tugging my hand, and looking like a young replica of his father.   Suddenly they were all stifling a laugh.

I compose myself, my eyes fixed entirely on Rock’s challenging gaze.  If I weren’t such a veteran of all kinds of social interaction, I doubt I’d been able to summon much dignity.  But I am Ulysses’ daughter, and I never make a fool of myself, certainly not with these boys, in this place, in front of this man.  Deasy?  How could he be?    I was about to say something clever, but then –

Moses stood up and said, simply, “Let’s go.”  Those were not the words I’d expected, not in a million scenarios.

I actually turned around, stupidly assuming he was talking either to someone behind me, or to a friend of his who’d shown up to rescue him from a stalking teeny bopper.

“Asherah,” he added, rescuing me a second time.

“Yeah,” I fumbled.  I turned tentatively, unsure exactly what I was saying or doing.  I set my glass down.  It was then, as I shifted, that I registered the shock on the faces of his friends.  Only Tina ignored the obvious irritation of every boy at the table.  I’d intruded, ruined the reunion.

Moses glanced at his friends, “Something has come up.  Let’s get together tomorrow at Jimmy’s.”

The lanky boy with the long hair smiled hugely at me, clearly trying to cover up the mess I’d made, and introduced himself as James Dean.  He shook my hand rigorously.  He seemed the least surprised by Moses’ behavior.  He looked like a hippie.  He smokes loads of really great pot, I decided jealously.  I didn’t get to break minor laws as Ulysses’ daughter.  I didn’t get to do anything wrong at all, at least nothing that leaves a trace.

I did not know what famous person James Dean was the son of, but I would later on, after Tina was done with him.  I guess I shook other hands, and took my leave of Tina, but all I recall is that suddenly Moses and I were headed out of the bar, alone.  I followed him through the crowd like a wolf follows an alpha wolf, with unquestioning obedience.  I’m the last thing from obedient.

Moses retrieved his car, whispered instructions to have my little convertible delivered to my house, and we were off, headed into the now inky LA darkness.  I looked around – when had my purse joined me?

“I ought to be afraid,” I said absently, “since I’m being abducted.”  I stared ahead blankly as the gravel popped underneath Moses’ racing tires, and we pulled out onto the winding canyon road.

“I’m taking you home,” he said.  “Do you live with your dad on the beach?”

“I’m twenty,” I said, annoyed, “of course I live with my dad.”

How did he know?  I didn’t answer him.  The sun had set.  The air was chilling now.

“You’re Ulysses’ only child,” he said, quietly, his car moving so smoothly it felt like we were on water.

“Yes, how did you – ?” I stopped.  The events were so weird I lost my nearly innate ability to make conversation.

“I didn’t, until you told me your name.”

“Oh, right, I told you my name,” I repeated, as he headed down to Manhattan Beach.  “But you did not tell me yours.  You are a Deasy, aren’t you?”

Any Deasy would know where my father lived, just as I, as a Joyce, ought to have known all the Deasy family.  After all my recent research I knew about Twink, the young girl, my age, actually, and the older brother Mordecai, I knew about the troubled head Arthur, and I knew most about the aging patriarch Abraham.  But the enigmatic adopted son, Moses, was almost an insignificant sidebar in my own research on the Deasy’s.  And there were no published photos of him anywhere on the net or in the research our staff had done for me.  From the beginning I knew that this boy wasn’t anything like his grandfather.

This weekend, Sunday morning, my own review of Abraham Deasy’s self-titled autobiography, Chosen, would be appearing in my father’s book review.  The Deasy book would certainly be a bestseller, but my scathing opinion of the appalling pride and hypocrisy of Abraham Deasy’s account of himself was assuredly going to make waves. I was riding with Moses Deasy, the invisible member of that highly public family.

“Just Moses,” he said.

“That’s obvious,” I said, dryly.  His presence skewered me, shattered every social protocol I knew.  He unbalanced me that night, Moses did, and nothing has been the same since.

He wasn’t one for small talk apparently, because we drove in silence all the way south.  By the time we reached the walk street that led to Ulysses’ house, I thought he’d like privacy.

“Do you want to take a walk?”  I asked.  If he walked me to the door and my dad was home, Ulysses would certainly invite him in for a drink.  Instinctively I protected my connection with Moses from the beginning.  It was then I recalled Moses’ back story from the research I’d done on Abraham.  It was like my mind did this involuntary hiatus when I met Moses, kind of clicking off and then blinking back on.  Moses was an orphan, a foundling.  THE foundling connected to the Deasy empire.

“Yes,” he said, leaping out of the car to open my door for me.   I sat a moment longer, racing through the story in my mind.  I hadn’t used this information about the foundling Deasy in my review, and so it had been deep-sixed in my head until now.

Moses, this boy who drove me home, adopted son of the world famous Deasy clan, biggest conservative, evangelical church in Cali and undisputed religious publishing king with a worldwide congregation in the millions – Moses was the ungrateful son who didn’t obey.  His father, always the uneasy heir, recently in discussions about taking over from the founder, Abraham Deasy.  Arthur, Moses’ adoptive father, hid behind the elderly patriarch, and though Arthur was compelling and handsome, he was not nearly as black and white in his thinking, and had trouble maintaining the unbroken moral front line insisted upon by Abraham.  Moses must not have fit well into that pairing, I thought. No, he’d not fit at all, I revised my assessment instantly.

Moses’ tender father, with the troubled eyes and startling confessions, had been excellent for business, but Abraham was backpeddling now, aware of the risk of installing Arthur Deasy as head.  Rumor was that Abraham worried that Arthur Deasy might say what he really thought at the wrong moment, and break open a spotless moral record. A new head, one from outside the family was being considered, but no names were uncovered by our staff, so the successor, if chosen, was a mystery.  As for the errant grandson Moses, foundling, young billionaire thanks to his dead Jewish mother, no photos are ever released, and there is no record of the child ever being publicly connected to the family church.  Whomever is tapped to run the million dollar religious empire, it sure as hell won’t be this guy, I thought.

“You’re not a biological member of your family,” I said, stepping out of the car, stating the obvious.  I nearly stumbled.  Moses’ car rode so low to the ground I didn’t have to step far.  I heard the stritch, scritch of a lone pair of rollerblades along the boardwalk as we headed towards the beach.  People skate all the time along the strand, no matter the hour, and it wasn’t that late, like 8 ish maybe.  I’ve done it myself now and again.

“No,” he said.  He seemed relieved to be in the darkness and relative quiet of my neighborhood.

Then I volunteered, more defiantly than I wanted.  “I guess you know that my mom and I haven’t been close for awhile.  Since she started drinking, actually.”

He didn’t say anything, kept walking towards the beach.  He took off his loafers when we got to the sand, left them side by side right there next to the pavement.

“I could drop those at the house; they might not be here when we get back,” I said, shaking my feet out of my shoes.  I watched him see it for the first time.  My toe ring, the one with all of the characters from the Feng Shui compass around the toe.  Tina’s friend custom-made it for me in his factory in Guangzhou.

“They’ll be fine,” he said, still looking at my toe, without a glance at the bespoke shoes he left in the sand.  I had a pretty good idea of their worth, and though they were very long, thin, shoes, someone might pick them up just because they were beautiful.

“You’re not a worrier.”  I venture, casually, jerking my thumb towards the abandoned shoes.

“No,” he said, abruptly, looking annoyed.  “Twink, does the shopping.”  He waved his hand as if the conversation sullied him somehow.  A billionaire for sure, but a consumer, not so much, I thought.

I envied any woman allowed to dress this man.  My carefully curated personal style developed during my travels with my father.  I always wear scarves, and usually hats.  I love street clothes.  I read Vogue like Abraham Deasy says he reads the Bible.  I love beautiful things.  Because of my style; I’m Gypsy.  Only people in the family call me by that name, until now.

“You took me out of that bar for a reason,” I said, finally. “So let’s hear it.”

The salt air was delicious, and wet.  My skirts were swirling in the light breeze, I clamped a hand down on them.  He looked uncomfortable, but did not reply immediately.  We walked down to the surf’s edge and headed into the cool dark of the near-empty beach.

“I want to be alone with you,” he said, simply, two minutes later.  His whole being radiated palpable energy. I wondered how I was tolerating his near silence?  He was so utterly present in his body, and vested with such obvious power I was content to be beside him; he never made me nervous even from the beginning.  His body, or something larger, but associated with him, felt as if it were surrounding me.

Walking by his side, I was temporarily connected to him by a bond I could neither see nor comprehend, but I trusted him right off, before I knew what he was.  It helped I was very familiar with powerful people, men and women.  I do not have the fiscal or political, or even the social power of the people my family knows.  But we control the distribution of information.  As such my father, and I, by connection, have the respect of those who value the truth.  My dad is good that way; he definitely has an editorial slant, but he doesn’t lie.  Power doesn’t intimidate me, but Moses’ power wasn’t quite in the same category of even a head of state.  There was a different quality in it that I was wrestling to name when I asked, “Privacy for what?”

Was he being sent by his family?  Was this just one more scene from the hateful feud between our families in which my father accused his grandfather of hypocrisy and his grandfather accused my dad of counterfeit news reporting?  Even as I had the thought, I knew it could not be true.  Why, then?

Suddenly he sits down.  By now we are way down the beach, sitting in a pool of darkness as the moon rose over the Pacific throwing a luminous gold avenue across the ripples of water.

“Privacy,” he begins slowly, “because my friends did not expect you any more than I did.”

“But you know me?”

“No; I knew there was going to be one more.”

“One more what?”

“Brother, I assumed brother.”

“Pity then,” I said sarcastically.  “You must meet people all the time, you are familiar, at least, with women.”

He shook his head, “No.  I’m not, not particularly,” he grinned then, and turned away from his gaze at the ocean to stare me right in the face.

“Let me be the first to introduce you to our breed,” I said, reaching for his hand but he shifted from my reach, protecting me from the shock I’d already received earlier.  Fuck it, this was too strange.  I wasn’t going to ask.

“So you – you didn’t have a plan?”  I could ask about that, at least. He seemed like a man who always had a plan.  Later I learned he was the opposite.

That got his attention.  “No,” he said, grimly.  He spoke again, after a long pause, “Where are you in college?”

“Berkeley.”

“Summer job?”

“The paper.  Actually I wrote a piece on your family this week.”

He bent the edges of his lips down, as if swallowing a rebuttal, and then said, “You like books?”

“I like reading,” I said, posing a question of my own.  “In school you studied?”

“Linguistics.”

“Not really one of the lighter subjects.”

“My mother taught me Hebrew, my nanny taught me Chamorro.  It’s a way to connect.”

“Speak crab, too?”  I watch a small team of ghost crabs crawl up out of the sand and seem to want to be with him.  Just as I said it, the crabs disperse.

“Yes,” he said, smiling, “sure I do.”

“If you avoid people so much, then why bother with philosophy of language?”

“People, no, I don’t avoid them. I avoid – ,” he stopped, with a measured look I would normally have distrusted. He wasn’t going to tell me. Then he added, “ –  words are meaning.”

I felt, then, the edge of his solitude, his loneliness, his freakish purity and its revolt against the insincerity of the social world he and I both knew. I don’t know how I knew this.  He looks like a playboy, but being near him, he doesn’t feel like one at all.  He feels like an avenger.

“I understand, that,” I said, playing with a fistful of cold sand.  “When I was a child, my mom was an artist, before she lost it, I assumed people  – ” I stopped, I do not tell people these things, and certainly I do not talk this way with total strangers.  His radiant sincerity drew the truth from me like a compass helplessly orients around a true north.  “I assumed that people used words to connect.  Then I learned they don’t.  I’m not a word person; I’m a picture person.  And I wanted to meet you tonight because,” fuck, I thought, fuck just get it out, “because when I saw you, I saw beauty.  I asked my friend who you were – but – yeah – I had no idea she’d drag me over.”

His face was turned away, slightly, then, with control, he turns to me.  His deep eyes, the danger around the edges of his mouth, all this mitigated by his response to what I say.  He leans towards me, whispering, his eyes nearly twinkling in amusement, “Yes,” he says, simply, “I know.”

“When I lost my mom,” I fumble on, “I hung onto the beauty she taught me to see before she got blurry and sloppy.  When I saw you, you reminded me of her, somehow.”

“You remind me of someone, too,” he says, a bit wistful.  Is there a woman in his life in secret?  I don’t think so.  Then he said, “Your mother and father named you for the Hebrew goddess of the sea.”

“Yes.  My mom is, or was, very creative.”

“And are you creative?” he asks.

The intensity of his presence is exhausting.  He shimmers.  I nod, looking at him with a surge of passion.  I like him.  I really like him.  He is absolutely unique, a treasure beyond anything I’ve seen in my moderately broad travels.  He makes me feel like I feel when I discover some amazing thing in a stall in, like, Nepal, but my inner thrill is an order of magnitude larger.  My heart lurches towards beautiful objects, objects that mitigate the horror I know, the horror below the surface of the social and political world.  Now I feel that skippering thrill in my heart, I want to reach out, possess Moses, take him home and keep him.

“I’m creative, yeah, but I’m not an artist like my mother.”

“It’s dangerous,” he says.  “It’s not time for you, yet,” and he gets up abruptly.  I struggle quickly to my feet.  He paces, muttering.  He shakes his head, and says, “No,” aloud, and then, in almost a whisper he breathes, “Ok,” like he obeys something in his heart or his head.

He steels himself, then faces me as if he is being forced.

“I didn’t know you’d be beautiful,” he says, sounding even more irritated.

“Always have been,” I say, laughing, “though these days – .”  I looked down at the skirts that swirled about my ankles, the dozen silver bracelets on my arms.  Feminine I am.  “I know you can alter those things now, but in my case, I can assure you I’ve always had this equipment.”

That made him laugh, and the tension in his eyes evaporated.

“You’re part of this team, apparently.  You’re 8.”  He acts like this is a comprehensible statement.

“Eight?  What do you mean 8?  And what team?”

“Mine.”

“Do I get a secret code name?  A cool cape?”  I’m really unsure how to play this weirdness.

He tries to be stern but I can tell he wants to laugh again.  I’m good at making people laugh, and I can tell, he’s not. Maybe because of the life I’ve lived, meeting with intellectuals hiding from various state police, sitting in Chinese teahouses with mystics, I’m tentatively OK with uber-weirdness.

“Why do I feel like the unathletic girl who is last to be picked for a team?” I say, feeling his disappointment or struggle.  I sigh, and settle back down on the sand.  To my surprise, he follows my lead, sitting, but sits facing me, his legs crossed Indian style like a child sitting on a mat in primary school.

“I will not tell you much,” he says, unapologetically, adding, “even they don’t know, yet. “

“They?  The guys at your table?”

“Yes.”

“You’re lucky I’ve got some news experience or you’d really be losing me, Moses Deasy.”  He flinches.  I look at him, “Fuck, I’m sorry.”  I never once used that name after that, never once for him.  Deasy is not his name.

“Just Moses,” he says, cautiously.  I realize now, he’s probably much more in the Joyce camp than the Deasy camp.  I have no idea how right I was, at least on this minor point.  I’m often wrong about Moses, even now.

“I’m starting a production company this week.  I will say more about it at the first meeting.  But, if you’re willing to resign from your father’s staff, at least for the summer, join us, as a partner.”

“You’ll do something beautiful,” I say, staring at him.  “Like Michelangelo-good, won’t you?”

“I don’t know that kind of thing ahead of time.”

There are porpoises in the ocean just off the shore leaping into the moonlight.  I’ve lived on this beach since I was 10 years old, since the day my father moved out of my mother’s house and took me with him.  And I’ve never seen the fish do that.  I’m pretty sure the performance is for Moses.

“Are they doing that for you?”

He smiles at my question.  He loves animals, hates his family.  Check.  Check.  I began my newspaperwoman’s list

“For us,” and the porpoise ballet ends with a splendid finale.

“So what’s my role, Moses?”

“You just told me that beauty is the cornerstone for you.”

“I did.”

“So you’ll make it beautiful.”

I squint at him, nodding like this is a piece of cake.  Like I’d spent years and years practicing the enigmatic craft he’s proposing.

“If it’s true, it’s beautiful, don’t you think?” I ask him, looking at the nearly smooth surface of the sea now that the big fish are gone.

“That would be a categorical absolute,” he says, seriously.

“Why, though, have you ever wondered why?” I ask.  Apparently not, because he answered me instantly – leading me to wonder – does he ever wonder at all?

“Because the heart decides what’s beautiful, and it does that by locating what’s true.  Human beings trust their brains too much.  I just made the same mistake, assuming you’d be something other than you are.”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You’re beautiful, like I said.”

“And that’s a defect?”

“It’s a temptation.”

“I’m not in that line of work, Moses.  You’re safe with me.”

“I’m sure.” He says.  “But you are not safe with me.”

“I’m sure I can handle it,” I say, laughing.

“No, you can’t, not if I put my heart into it,” he says, grimacing.

“Well, then, don’t.”

“Yeah,” he mutters, unconvinced.

“If you’re looking for the virgin Mary,” I say, “I’m not her. I’ll spare you the lurid details, but, be assured I’m no angel– And, while I’m at it, I’m going to tell you this dialogue is at the top of my list for strange.”

He presents me with a scalding look, “Women don’t become valueless when they exercise their liberties.”

“Well at least we can agree on that, cowboy,” I say, staring out at the unnervingly calm Pacific Ocean. “What about you?  What makes your heart sing?”

He thrusts his head back then as if he consults the zodiac before constructing a reply, “Liberty!” he laughs.  He looks over at me with a diamond hard gaze.

“So I’m gathering that will be the theme for your venture?”

He nods.

“And the risks?”

“Big.”

“I bet.  Ok, so why?  Tell me why and I’ll give you what you’re asking, which is for me to let go of a job I love, work with my only parent, whom I also love and trust, to help you with a psychotic sounding venture.”

“Because I can.”

“OK, Moses, that kind of reply works great on a screenplay.  I want the human version.  So, try again.  Why?”

“I’ll tell you a story,” he says, his eyes never leaving mine.  “Once there was a perfect, whole thing full of other perfect things.  But none of those things were beautiful.”

“Why?”

“Because none of them knew any different.  They only knew what they’d always known, flawless perfection in a perfect world.”

“And so they were what?”

“Hideous.”

“Hideous in their shallowness?”

“In their innocence,” he said.  “They were heartless, utterly without depth, passion, or compassion.”

“So then what happened?”

“They were given a choice.  They could stay as they were, or become gods.”

“And what did they have to do to gain such a priceless treasure?”

“Choose to obey or to rebel.”

“And did they?”

“Some.  But then a few returned, and then, in their free state they were –“

“Exquisite.”

“Exactly.”

“And so, ever since – what?”

“The balance fluctuates, but now, in the end, the odds tip against us, as the fear sown into the world continues to expand.”

“And what will you do?”

“Shed power.”

“So you’re, what?  Perfection’s conduit?  Some kind of a spiritual mega vitamin?  How will the numbed and raging masses access Just Moses?”

“Not me.  The truth.  They’ll remember they are gods.”

“Because you’ll tell them?”

“Because they’ll show themselves what they are, they remember that they are children of God.”

“That I’ve got to see,” I said.  “OK, Moses, you have your sexy, vixen, partner.  I’m in. But I’m not going to sleep with you.”

“I’m a virgin,” he says, plainly, without a shred of shame.

“Well, that skews the normal storyline a bit.  I’ll not steal your virtue Moses, I’ll be a perfect lady on that score.”

He smiles quietly. “I’m counting on it.”

Our first private conversation essentially ends.  I’d agreed to attend a single meeting of Moses’ new company, some kind of a venture for which he’d already outfitted a place on La Brea.  I’d see him in a few days.  He walks me home; tells me my car is in Ulysses’ garage, and no longer parked at the bar.

I don’t sleep well.  Instead, I wake up early.  My father has come and gone while I’m in my room.  That happens a lot, actually.  Ulysses and I are always grateful for the rare times that we end up home together.  I wonder at a gigantic, beady-eyed white seagull staring rudely through my bedroom window, my instinct is to laugh at him but something in the eyes of that bird warned me off that notion.

Continue to Chapter Two >