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If I overlooked your religious belief, then let me know and I might rewrite the story. I had a good excuse: Please understand that some of us have to deal with teen agers and still try to look good. I'd better skip a few meals.

Submitted:Dec 15, 2008    Reads: 141    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

#10 Normalcy

A madman sprayed the restaurant window with machine gun fire. People ran screaming in every direction. Someone called the police.

The madman was actually a terminator and the violence was not random. It had indications that the Connors were in a small city and so it began a grid search essentially hoping to get lucky. Driving by, it had noticed someone who looked similar to John inside and parked.

Spotting John was coincidence. He was sitting there waiting for Cameron to return from calling Sarah and Derek at a pay phone to avoid using the cellphone. The whole family was out of town. The purpose of the road trip was to lead the terminator on several wild goose chases and snipe hunts.

Sarah had stuck a picture of John Connor on the back window of a Greyhound bus. Derek meanwhile had sold an old credit card of Sarah's to a con artist. It was under an alias they knew to be known to the terminator and the stupid con artist would soon have a terminator on his tail as he traveled. Just then the call from Cameron came and Sarah and Derek hurried back toward the restaurant.

Back at the restaurant, John hit the floor, pulled a wig from his pocket, put it on, and crawled out the back of the restaurant through the kitchen. Just then the bus went by and the terminator looked up in time to see what looked like John smirking in the back window. An old trick but effective enough to lure the terminator away. Cameron put down the restaurant's metal hat rack that she would have used to spear the terminator and went to find John. Sarah and Derek returned and they walked over to where the car was parked a block over.

The four left the town in a direction neither the same as the terminator nor back to Los Angeles but in a third direction that would throw the terminator still further off if he came back to that town retracing his steps and picking up yet another lead and wild goose chase: the credit cards that Derek had sold to the con artist. There was enough money still in that old account for the con artist to be several states over before it was rejected by a merchant.

In the car, the four removed make up and latex that disguised their true appearance. John's false face was obviously not good enough to fool the terminator but he was getting better at it. The Connors were finally beginning to think. They had not yet reached the point of getting better weapons and learning to take the offense, to chase instead of be chased, but they had come a long way toward using their brains. Now if they could learn to either think like Skynet or think more creatively than Skynet, then they would have a chance of not only not losing the war or being satisfied with drawing a stalemate but actually winning. The key to that was learning a lesson from the dolphins and the otters. If you had fun, treated this lethal business of war like a game instead of a foregone fatalistic conclusion that humans would be wiped out, then maybe just maybe . . . .

John: "Are we there yet?"

Cameron: "Are we where yet?"

John: "Home."

Cameron: "You must be asking a rhetorical question because you can look out the window and see that we have hundreds of miles to go."

Derek: "What's the hurry? Hot date tonight?"

John: "As a matter of fact, yes, with Riley."

Sarah: "No hotness for you. Invite Riley to come by the house. You can go out some other time. This weekend we don't need to be seen about. That terminator we just sent on a snipe hunt is not the only one in Los Angeles."

John: "Okay but just because we're fighting a war doesn't mean we should stop living and having fun. And I want to go back to school. Some leader I'll be if I grow up stupid and illiterate."

Cameron: "John has a point. He is stupid and not very well read. You're a fine home schooling teacher Mom but that should be in addition to high school not instead of it."

Sarah: "What are you saying John? Speak plainly."

John: "I thought I was. Okay, I'll try again. I think we should be normal."

Sarah: "Define normal."

John: "A normal family would go to church on Sunday or have some kind of religion, Cameron and I would go to high school like normal kids, dating, we'd have family vacations while we still have a world to vacation in, before it becomes a war zone, and I could tell people that my mother and my uncle worked at such and such a place instead of forgetting the cover story of the week."

Sarah: "I'm a stay-at-home mom who works part-time as a waitress and your uncle is a mechanic who also does odd jobs. What's so hard to remember about that?"

John: "What about the rest?"

Sarah: "We'll see about school and we're on a vacation right now."

John: "It's a mission not a family vacation."

Derek: "Think of it as a working vacation."

Later at home after Riley leaves.

Cameron: "We should do something together as a family."

Sarah: "Like what?"

Cameron: "Go to church on Sunday."

Sarah: "Which one?"

Cameron: "Friends."

Derek: "That figures. It's a peace church."

Cameron: "First you're afraid of me going on a killing spree. Now you're afraid of me NOT going on a killing spree. Make up your mind."

John: (sarcastically) "Human beings, hypocrites of the universe, that's us."

Sarah: "Pick some other denomination."

Cameron: "Like what?"

Sarah: "Catholic. They gave us sanctuary when we were desperate."

Cameron: "You mean running from me."

Derek: "No. It confesses that it's a machine and weirds out the priest."

Sarah: "Episcopal."

Cameron: "Politics. Henry the Eighth started it just to get a divorce. He wouldn't take no from the Catholic Church."

John: "Yeah, Cameron hates politics."

Cameron: "On the other hand, they are The Establishment. If we ever needed to move up in the world socially and economically, we'd want to join them. Unlikely to happen though since we'll probably always be on the run."

Cameron left unsaid that she thought she was stuck in a white trash family. It would have broken their hearts.

Sarah: "Presbyterian."

Cameron: "Predestination. Too gloomy."

Sarah: "Lutheran. My own preference."

Cameron: "Faith without works." Sarah: "Baptists."

Cameron: "Full body immersion baptism and chaotic free for all. They might split into two congregations right in the middle of a service. John needs stability. Not constant moving."

Sarah: "I'm the parent not you, but good point."

Sarah: "Methodist."

Cameron: "Methodical. Action oriented. Put it on the short list."

Sarah: "Quakers. No, we ruled them out. Quakers are the same as Friends."

Cameron: "They should be on the short list anyway. We need friends."

Sarah: "Okay. Unitarian."

Cameron: "And while we're worshipping, some nut who has been listening to a right wing radio rant about liberals, bursts in and sprays the place with a machine gun. No."

John: "Eastern Orthodox."

Sarah: "Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox or what? Doesn't matter. More complicated than the Catholics. Besides, with the Russian I'd worry about bumping into the Russian mob or the KGB. Let's see who is next. Christian Science."

Cameron: "Could delay medical treatment of John if he were ever shot. Good newspaper though."

Sarah: "Evangelicals."

Cameron: "We have enough to worry about without helping to destroy the culture of Amazonian Indians and indigenous people worldwide."

Sarah: "Pentecostals."

Cameron: "Uncle Derek and John say I don't even have a soul so I don't want to grieve the Holy Spirit."

Embarrassing silence as Derek and John look away.

Sarah: "Fundamentalists."

Cameron: "We get fire and brimstone all week. Shouldn't catch hell on Sunday too. Besides we can read the Bible for ourselves without their interpretation."

Sarah: "Jehovah's Witnesses."

Cameron: "Been wrong too many times about the Second Coming. No loyalties outside of their denomination."

Sarah: "Mormons."

Cameron: "Good reinforcement of preparedness skills we already have."

Sarah: "No, too totalitarian. Big Brother. And something could happen to John on his missionary year. You couldn't go with him because you're female. You should have noted that yourself Cameron."

Cameron: "Mennonites."

Derek: "Peace church. By the way, The Resistance discovered, will discover, a lot of Mennonites enslaved in the work camps."

Cameron: "Brethren."

Derek: "Peace church."

Cameron: "You're taking out all the good ones."

Sarah: "Moravians."

Cameron: "They do Christmas better than anyone else."

John: (sarcastically to Cameron) "Aren't you going to say, it would be good for John?"

Cameron: "You're not a little kid anymore. I would like it though."

Sarah: "Nazarenes."

Cameron: "They don't smoke tobacco or drink alcohol and they believe that the human race is depraved. I live in a house full of cynics who already believe the human race is hardly worth saving and none of us smoke or drink. So what could we learn from them?"

Derek: "God help us! It's like an information sponge, a Hoover vacuum for knowledge. Are you sure you're not an agent for Skynet studying religion for its use in manipulating people?"

Cameron: "I'm sure. Skynet knows all this. Skynet considers itself to be God, not something external. You know the old joke about plugging in a supercomputer and asking it if there is a God and it replies 'there is now' ?"

Derek: "It even knows our religious jokes."

Sarah has been thinking up new denominations and flipping through a reference book.

Sarah: "Salvation Army."

Cameron: "Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw. Good people but we're not destitute."

Sarah: "United Church of Christ."

Cameron: "Not a long religious tradition."

Sarah: (reading) "Christadelphian."

Cameron: "Too hard to find because there are so few of them."

This is quickly turning into something resembling a defense of a doctoral dissertation as Sarah tests the outer limits of Cameron's knowledge and finds no limit.

Sarah: "Ethical Culture"

Cameron: (senses instantly that this is now a test) "If learning ethics is the goal, not a bad choice but, it is said, charity begins at home. Home training that is."

Sarah: "So you're saying I'm a bad parent for teaching my boy to kill."

Cameron: "I'm saying decide what's best for him. And me."

Sarah: "Then we should complete the survey before deciding." (reading) "Schwenkfelder."

Cameron: "Harder to find than the Christadelphians."

Sarah: "Spiritualists."

Cameron: "Shaky tables."

Sarah: "Swedenborgian."

Cameron: "Might be worth a look."

Sarah: (talking to herself about another denomination named MCC) "Parental prerogative. Skip that one. Here we go. Volunteers of America."

Derek: "That's a denomination?"

Cameron: "Like the Salvation Army."

Sarah: "Wesleyan."

Cameron: "Practically Methodists."

Sarah: "Let's see." (turns the page) "Other faiths. Judaism."

Derek: "No way. We already have terminators chasing us. We don't need neo-Nazis, fundamentalist Muslims, and other anti-Semites trying to kill us too."

Cameron: "I agree and certain forms of Judaism like the Hassids require huge time commitments. However, if John studied with Talmudic scholars, it would really sharpen his analytic skills."

Sarah: "He could get analytic skills studying with Jesuit scholars."

Cameron: "Why not both?"

Sarah: (reading) "Islam."

Cameron: "No. We'd stick out and be put on some terrorist watch list making it easier for Skynet to find us."

Sarah: "Buddhism."

Derek: "They didn't fight back in Tibet. Not effectively anyway."

Sarah: "Hinduism."

Cameron: "Yogic training might save John's life someday."

Derek: "How so?"

Cameron: "Learning to control his breathing underwater, climbing, and in caves. Good exercise too."

Sarah: "Sikhism."

Cameron: "Good fighters."

Derek: "That's true. I've fought alongside Sikhs."

Sarah: "Confucianism."

Cameron: "Politics."

Sarah: "Jainism."

Derek: "Peace religion."

Cameron: "Nonviolence."

Sarah: "Zoroastrianism."

Cameron: "Persecuted in its country of origin, Iran. The religion of the Magi."

Sarah: "Taoism."

Cameron: "Useful if you are studying physics. One day John will be doing applied temporal physics for time travel."

Sarah: "Shinto."

Cameron: "We're not Japanese."

Sarah: "African Animism."

Cameron: "They have some areas of knowledge unobtainable nowhere else. Not easily accessible in the United States though."

Even Derek is impressed by Cameron's command of religious knowledge, both its range and depth. Cameron glances in his direction, and then looks back to Sarah awaiting the next one.

Sarah: (looking up from the book) "Native American shamanism."

Cameron: "We couldn't use Navajo code talk because Skynet has access to Native American linguistic databases. As for the purely religious and spiritual aspects of the Yaqui way of knowledge, I'd have to see a sorcerer actually levitating before I'd believe it. Without psilocybin of course. As with Wiccans on belladonna, you just think you're flying when you're stoned."

Sarah: "Obviously you're no big fan of Carlos Castaneda."

Derek and John are laughing.

Sarah: "No hallucinogens for this family. I could just see us getting busted for pot and the cops finding an arsenal instead."

Cameron is near to laughing herself.

Sarah: "Agnosticism."

Cameron: "We already are secular humanists. I've already studied humanism and you're all humans so nothing more to learn from it."

Sarah: "Atheism."

Cameron: "Good for teaching John how to think outside the box. Skepticism is bedrock to good science but paradoxically science itself was started by Christians and many of the best scientists are Christians."

John: "If there were some way to combine all the best aspects of each religion and leave out the bothersome parts . . . . "

Cameron: "The only mixture is Baha'i."

John: "I don't think that has the aspects we were talking about."

Cameron: "There are other considerations like the people in the congregation. A nice building. A huge cathedral or little chapel. The music. I'd wish for a church with a full ranked pipe organ and a gifted organist like Virgil Fox. E. Power Biggs was great but not in the same league as Virgil. Then there is the Gregorian chant you would get at an abbey church sung by monks or a mass choir at some African-American churches particularly Missionary Baptist or a cantor at a synagogue. There is the art of an old European cathedral which would be educational and broadening for John." (pauses, somber and mystic) "John should have the opportunity to see the great art of places like the Vatican before it is destroyed on Judgment Day. The treasures of Mankind are treasures for a reason. They bring out the best and noblest in one's innermost being." (Like one who has lived longer than Methuselah, Cameron sighs. The sadness is ineffable, tangible, and palpable.) "John could read The Lives of Saints and other hagiographic literature but this is something that ought to be experienced and not just read about at a distance. We ought to travel while there is still a world to see." (yanks herself out of this elegiac mood) "I'm sorry. I came back through time to help save the world not to read a eulogy over it. Please continue."

Sarah: "What about the sermons in a church?"

Cameron: "Depends totally on whether a congregation is lucky to have a gifted orator from a top theological seminary or divinity school. Even when it does, it might not be edifying to this family. We have to literally deal with a Judgment Day. Not us standing before God yet but facing oblivion at the hands of terminators and Skynet. I'm not sure if even Dr. Norman Vincent Peale could encourage this family."

Sarah: "From a practical standpoint, the Resistance needs military chaplains and psychiatrists for PTSD. Fighters need morale officers to have hope and to go on living. And they need consolation and solace when they are dying. Meanwhile, we might try some white bread interdenominational nondenominational church while we are looking around. I think having a church home might give us extra resources, one more place to turn to in case of emergency."

Cameron: "Exactly."

This is what passed for normal in the dysfunctional Connor family: John was a truant from school who played video games like Already At War and Quake Live, who watched the Virgin One TV channel, and who got phone calls from terminators pretending to be someone he knew. John dated a girl, Riley. Riley on the surface seemed like a nice girl who rode a bicycle and wore a safety helmet but who lured John to parties where he was exposed to drinking, drugs, fighting, and permissive parents. At one party, a juvenile delinquent actually got his mother to bring beer and then ordered his mother to her room.

Since Riley's handler was Jesse, one had to wonder if The Resistance wanted John to be beaten up, get a girl pregnant, lose brain cells and a liver in heavy drinking, and arrested in a pot bust which the police would enter into a database and a battalion of terminators would show up to kill the future leader of humanity.

Meanwhile, Sarah could say all she wanted that Cameron internalized Derek's harsh words but Cameron actually internalized Sarah's indifference toward herself. Starving herself in a quest to become perfect, Cameron was becoming an anorexic.


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