97 More Money Than God

There was ample room to swivel the telescope on its tripod to take in the sweep of views. Rod Thuss had unpacked it himself, after Vanity Fairbourn had finally given up on cadging a Saturday night dinner date invitation from him. The move-in complete, she’d reluctantly returned to Chicago. He didn’t like her company at all, and wanted to spend his first evening alone, setting up his new toy. Next he’d figure out where to place his rowing machine; maybe facing into the lake, for kicks.

Chapter 97 More Money Than God

He resented being sent to the wilderness of Wisconsin but to play his part in the expansion of the mission he’d settled for an enviable job package, including accommodation in this lakeside penthouse, a hefty relocation sum, any additional income generated from his public or media appearances, plus a guarantee of quicker promotion on completion of his stint here. His situation was more lucrative, in the end, than that obtained by others of his colleagues. This was a wanted territory, he’d been persuaded, and a powerful voice and presence like his was needed to secure it before competition arrived.

It was not a large population to subdue, not like other states, but one recently trending more conservative with wealthy suburbs growing to the west, and all of their many blessings to divert to the success of the mission. There were desperately poor people here too, the ones that craved the message, filled the seats and loaded up the collection plates with whatever paltry sums they could muster in hopes that similar pecuniary blessings would trickle back to them according to the promises proffered, buoy them up in their daily struggle just to stay even, keep life going for one more otherwise hopeless day.

From his pricey perch, Rod aimed to keep one eye on the heavens, the firmament of stars by night and the eternity of water by day, and the other on the people below, and all of their expendable wealth, soon to be available to him as he exercised his proven, winning ways. His aerie would at least provide him some degree of seclusion, some whisper of isolation from the congregants in his charge. Condemned to live here, he might still discretely discover some few souls to appreciate his savvy, his obviously richer style, refugees perhaps from other, more fortunate regions of the country.

The firm of interior decorators hired by head office to pave his way into this space had only lately inquired as to Rod’s own taste, his personal imprint. Vanity herself had early assumed carte blanche, and used the place as a proving grounds for her own, untested – avant garde, as she preferred to consider them – tastes. She was ambitious, too; making her mark in a prestigious property, even by Milwaukee standards, could propel her in reputation and in retainers in a great hubric hub, a stretching megalopolis, both north and south. Rod, tyro-like, had stuck a proverbial stick in her spokes, unseating her even before the scheduled magazine shoot was staged, depleting her chances of preferment. She had wanted to coax and seduce him but found him utterly without any of her passion for refinement; the least he could have done was take her up and advance her career with effusive references. She retreated in bitterness, smarting under his intimation that her arithmetic was all wrong; she should be putting less into the penthouse and taking more out.

Rod had written, on the request form, a decorating motif simply of heaven on earth, interposed with a cosmos-conscious cosmopolitanism. Most clients faced with a form, their own inadequacy of understanding and an inability to compose a single thought, just went along with the clearly superior expressions of their professional design team who offered assurances of intuitive understanding of what the client wanted and needed for peaceful occupancy and self-completion. Instead, Rod wrote some interfering nonsense about serenity, and openness, and light. He accepted nothing from any continent but his own – other cultural motifs would mar the finishes – just space and light, and no mirrors, except for shaving, thank you all the same. He liked plain. He could introduce his own decorative touches, he’d discovered, mostly in shades of blonde.Rod Thuss

His ultimate goal was to be a televangelist. He wished he had a different name, something catchy. He’d invented the story that his middle initial, the ‘A.’, stood for Amen, so that his name when spoken slowly and out loud without any spaces to separate the words, sounded as “RodAmenThuss”. He really liked how that sounded, especially when he said it in his best radio voice; it sounded sort of noble and god-like to him as though if he wanted to, he could directly determine the fate of others by what he decided to do, how he acted. Maybe coming here would truly enhance his powers; he’d never thought of that. He’d imagined just the opposite in fact, that he’d become less powerful by agreeing to come here. But he still envied those with really great names, like his rival, Roy Rakeoff.

To further his life goal, Rod was set to confirm a studio set-up here in town to house the indoor miracles, with facilities, staff, and his number one priority, a female stage partner. He wished that woman he’d met today at the elevator were an evangelist. He liked the cut of her jib right from the first second he laid eyes on her, unlike the needy Vanity. He’d noticed this before, that there were people whom he instinctively would hire, without knowing anything about them at all, just basing it on his gut feeling that this person was exactly what he needed, had the right attitude to work, and that this attitude would trump any required skill. That was his modus operandi: get the person right first and learn the job later. Kitty had showed attitude, in spades. Though no longer young, she was good in all the right places, the way a woman should be, for a presenter.

He’d have to undertake to find the partner-woman soon, not that he minded the personally conducted interviews with a succession of lovely and preferably young ladies. They were just a well-accustomed perk by now. But he knew that for a single man with a lot of money and a mission, that socially, if not professionally, it was required that he have in his line of work, at the very least, an attractively visible and very female partner. And, if he was mounting a show to take on the road, especially on the sawdust trail in a backwater state, that for that female to be accepted she might just have to be a wife. He’d interview most prudently this time; of course, that didn’t exclude extensively.

There was a box of paperwork marked ‘Urgent’ awaiting his attention in the office room. This box was from his previously assigned liaison pastor, the one currently doing the research for the Miracle Tour venues. He’d never met Herb Minosa in the flesh, nor his even more newly hired field worker. They’d also been allocated to him from head office to get some groundwork going, pending his arrival. He’d have complete discretion about their employment, with freedom to fire and hire at will, once he had taken up daily operations here. He had no Sunday obligations this weekend and Monday was a holiday and in gratitude for that respite, he decided to delay work until morning. He turned his lens to the star-pierced, holey darkness descending over the lake.