Arts & Culture

Letter from Jew-neau (Part IV): In Which the Author is Saved

So there I was, bent over backward in a marble cistern, two Aryan bodyguards holding my arms down, while Todd Palin shoved my face underwater. I could hear people singing and clapping, behind me a Kenyan preacher shouting about witchcraft … Read More

By / September 25, 2008

So there I was, bent over backward in a marble cistern, two Aryan bodyguards holding my arms down, while Todd Palin shoved my face underwater. I could hear people singing and clapping, behind me a Kenyan preacher shouting about witchcraft and python spirits while I thrashed my legs and tried to keep air in my lungs. 

Jewcy, I’ve never been so frightened – as Todd held me down I could feel water spilling into my nose, my heart thudding, my chest almost bursting with panic and oxygen deprivation. With a mighty wrench I lifted myself up. "Sarah!" I screamed, but Todd’s big, meaty hand clamped over my face and shoved me down again. There was water in my ears, in my mouth – they held me until I felt water pouring into my lungs and a bright white light burst in my head. My muscles wrenched and cramped, my back spasmed, a silent scream filled my skull. I may have wet my pants, but it was hard to say.

How had it come to this?

Only that morning, Sarah and I had been hiking on Gravina Island, enjoying the view of sleepy Ketchikan and beautiful Deer Mountain. Though stopping every hour or so to fuck, we still covered a lot of territory, Sarah pointing out the various places where illegal immigrants, Muslims, teachers, scientists, journalists, and anyone of French descent would live, once she was elected.

Timidly, I asked, "What about writers?" hoping to God we wouldn’t be put in the camps, too – or at least that my high-octane, well-lubed connection to Her Babeness would exempt me.

She didn’t answer. "And this," she said, sweeping her arm to point out a deep gorge below. It was several hundred feet down, the river that carved it long dry; a place where the sun never shone, impossible to get into or out of. "This is where we’ll put the community organizers." She made a face of such venomous disgust that it reminded me of our first night in the Baranof Hotel, when I’d said I needed a break from going down on her.

"I’m not really sure what you have against community organizers," I said. "Don’t you think they do important work?"

"It’s not the organizers." She arched her eyebrows, as though sharing something on which we agreed. "It’s those communities."

Then she threw her arms around me, jumping up and down like a charming girl. "Oh Andrew, let’s not ruin this beautiful day by talking about people Jesus hates," she said. "I want you to do something for me."

"Anything, my spotted fawn."

"I want you to be saved."

This gave me pause. It’s not like I’m an observant Jew or anything – I had to Google the date of Yom Kippur this year – but I’d never thought about taking Jesus as my personal savior. PJ Harvey, maybe – but the Son of God?

"I just can’t stand the thought of you being left behind," she said, tearing up. "I can’t stand the idea of you being struck down by the avenging sword of Christ and having to spend eternity with demons chewing on your ball-sack and Satan shoving his flaming fist up your ass while I eat grapes and read the Washington Times in a shady bower in Heaven. Who will I sled-dog with if you’re not there? Oh please please please, novelist? For your wittle Sarah-Warah who woves you so much?"

That’s how I found myself submerged in the baptismal fount at the Wasilla Assembly of God, with a Kenyan preacher waving a big heavy book over my head – and you can be sure it wasn’t Lady Lazarus!

Todd yanked me briefly out. "Tell us!" he screamed in my face. "Tell us what we want to hear!" Then he plunged me into the water again. My arms, twisted over the sides, felt like they were breaking, my guts churning with Holy Water. "Tell us, motherfucker!"

"I don’t kno-" Down I went again. I was sure now that I would die, a lapsed Jew in the Wasilla Assembly of God. I remembered Sarah’s last words as she kissed me goodbye: "It’s just a little dunk in the water. Then you’ll be one of us."

When he pulled me out again, I gasped, "Okay!" The music and the clapping stopped. Everyone stared at me, the two goons brandishing their fists. The preacher’s eyes rolled back in his head and he shook and made unintelligible sounds, like George Bush trying to read a sixth-grade vocabulary test. "Um… I love Jesus?" I said. Everyone cheered, and balloons with crosses printed on them fell from the ceiling. Sarah rushed forward and squeezed me while I coughed and sputtered and shook and eventually passed out in her arms from relief.

They took me back to their house and sat me at the kitchen table, wrapped in a blanket, while Willow, the middle daughter, made tea. Other than some urgent thumping coming from Bristol’s room upstairs, it was a peaceful afternoon, and while Sarah took a long bath – she’d mentioned something about a mysterious rendezvous that night – I asked Todd about something that had been bothering me.

"Weren’t you supposed to give testimony in the Troopergate affair today?" I said. "Weren’t you under subpoena from the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee?"

He laughed. "Yup."

"Did you go?"

Another laugh. "Nope." When I looked puzzled, he said, "Look, it’s like, no big thing. You don’t have to testify when you get a sup-… serb-…"

"Subpoena? That’s the whole point – you have to testify."

"Not if you’re like famous or something, or Christian, or you don’t like the people who issued it." I said I figured that he and Her Babeness would want to set the record straight about whether she had pressured the Public Safety Commissioner to fire her sister’s ex-husband, and whether she fired him when he wouldn’t do as she asked. I asked why, if she hadn’t done anything wrong, she’d want to make it look like they were stonewalling, perpetuating the scandal through Election Day.

He scratched his crotch. "Dude, of course that’s why she fired Walt. Duh!"

From upstairs, we heard water sloshing, and then Sarah’s voice. "Honey, are you talking about the trooper thing again?" 

"That dude was like a total douche," Todd told me. "What was Sarah supposed to do?"

When I said government officials weren’t supposed to fire subordinates just because they didn’t see eye to eye on personal matters, and weren’t supposed to use their office to carry out vendettas, he looked at me as though I were speaking another language. With a bang on the kitchen table, he stood and went into the next room.

"You think you’re so smart," he said, unrolling a parchment scroll. "Just cause you wrote that really cool book, Lady Lazarus, you think you know everything. Well, this here legal opinion says different. It says if someone under your power is uncool you can fire them. It says, and I quote, ‘conventions regarding the abuse of power are quaint or obsolete.’ So there, writer guy."

"Who wrote that?"

He bent over the parchment. "It’s signed by Al… Albert Gozo…"

"Alberto Gonzales?"

"Yeah, that’s it! And someone named John Yoo."

"Figures," I said. That’s when Her Babeness, fresh from the bath, her skin radiant as a spring peach, swept into the kitchen. Her hair was wrapped up in a towel and she wore leopard-skin panties and nothing else. "Todd, baby, you’re going to be late for your secessionist meeting," she said. "Andrew and I have an appointment to keep."

"Yes, Mother," he said.

All the way from Wasilla to Anchorage, Sarah was keyed up and distracted. After Todd left, and we slaked our lust on the kitchen table, Sarah had put on a stunning little black number and stiletto heels. She borrowed one of Levi’s suits, which fit me pretty well, and we sped off toward our secret assignation. From the passenger seat, I stared at Her Babeness, once again marveling at the strange events that had led up to this night. There was something new in the air, a charge I didn’t recognize. When I put my hand on her knee, she sucked on my fingers and floored the accelerator.

Jewcy, it’s a good thing I have some experience with powerful women who are detached from reality. My novel, Lady Lazarus, deals with a confessional poet who is, shall we say, a couple french fries short of a Happy Meal. But it’s her mother, a punk rock star, who most reminds me of Sarah Palin: smoking hot, with some kooky religious ideas, married to a man who can’t quite keep pace. Sarah was beyond me every step of the way – smarter, better looking, more skilled at conspiracy, hornier. As the Anchorage skyline grew up out of the tundra, I started to feel a strange dismay, the sour certainty that, wherever she was going, I might not be able to follow. Would my Wasillan Love Machine be willing to stay behind?

"So, I have something to ask you," she said, her words a little shy, one finger twirling her hair.

"Anything, dear heart."

"Do you think you’re ready? To take the next step?"

How my heart leapt! "Yes! Yes, I am, Sarah. Oh, sweetheart, I thought you’d never ask."

"I’m so happy," she said. She pulled up in front of the Millennium Alaskan hotel, the lights spangling on the surface of Lake Spenard, dancing like the very spirit of love. "I can’t wait!"

"When will we do it?" I said.

Her Babeness leaned over and kissed my ear. "Right now. He’s waiting for us. I booked the penthouse suite." She got out of the car and, as a valet trotted over, dropped the keys on the pavement. He? What the hell was she talking about? Who was he, and what did he have to do with our future?

I followed Sarah through the lobby and into the elevator. "What’s going on?" I was nearly hysterical.

"I just thought it was time to spice things up a bit, novelist," she said. "I thought I’d bring someone else into the mix."

"You mean -" I swallowed hard. "A ménage à trois?"

She looked at me strangely. "No, I mean a threesome. Now straighten your tie."

The elevator rose and I nearly crumpled to the floor with anxiety. Whoever was waiting for us in the penthouse suite, whatever happened tonight, I would never be the same. We would never be the same. I looked over at Sarah and wanted to weep – for what we once were, for what we might have become.

The elevator slowed. With a lurch and a bright, ominous "ding," the door slid open.

Tomorrow: The mysterious man in the penthouse suite; Lady Lazarus’s biggest fan; is there life after Her Babeness?

Andrew Foster Altschul, author of Lady Lazarus, is guest blogging on Jewcy.  Tomorrow he’ll publish his parting post.  Stay tuned.


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