Lern & Digest left me shaken and my office tainted with the smell of sulfur. The object of my new investigation was none other than my own brother, Justin. He’d received a call from one Elsie-Em S. Kirche. It was only about a year ago and, now, he’d gone into hiding.
I drove out to the Kirche place. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was sitting on the front step, covered in bandages. He’d been handed his hat alright, and his bags, too. Nearby were two mailboxes, one bearing the name “Kirche,” the other “Justin Stauld Pastor,” too hastily removed, so still visible. “Start talkin’, Brother.” I said. He did, in his peculiar little present-tense manner.
“The first person I meet in this community is a dame, a Sharon Lovejoy. Oh, she is well-intentioned enough. No matter who she sees as we talk, there is Lovejoy, waving hands, smiling, and shouting encouragement to everyone. Personally, I find it a distraction, and it really grates on my nerves. Then she really gets excited, see, and waves over a particular friend of hers. This other dame introduces herself. ‘Uma Stobay. Everything I say about how this community is run…. You can count on it! I know how it is with you newcomers.’” My mouth fell open.
Justin continued, “My reaction, too, Brother, but before I can even begin to absorb that, Uma quickly points out two men talking quietly together. ‘There are two you’re not going to want to get mixed up with. Mr. Reed Mark Lern & Ward Lee Digest. Now, remember… Uma Stobay.’ Her grin is hungry, and she shakes my hand with an iron grip and leaves.” He paused, shuddering with the memory.