Paul leaned his elbows against the table, head in hands. Maybe he just needed coffee. These days, he always felt like he needed coffee. He always felt tired, drained. Just another cup. One more. Black, black, black. No sugar. Strong. With all the driving, all the shootings, all the explosions, it had been the longest night of his existence. How many DHS agents did they take-out? How soon would more be coming? These were Federal Agents with long memories.
Paul shook his head and groaned. He knew there was no turning back—this was his ‘new norm” and he didn’t like it one bit.
Lasseter leaned forward and pushed a cup across the table. Hot, freshly ground, freshly brewed Peet’s Major Dickanson’s blend. It smelled great.
Akira stood directly behind Lasseter, peeking over his shoulder. “I know what you like.”
“Thank you,” he said, palming the cup with both hands.
Time stood still for the next few minutes as Paul slowly nursed his coffee, sipping ever so slowly, hoping neither of them would speak until he was ready. That was part of the problem. These days, he never felt ‘ready.’ He could feel his brain start to kick in when Akira finally broke the peace:
“It’s time to get ‘the Garb.”
Paul raised his eyebrow. “Garb? What ‘Garb?”
“The ‘Garb you need to communicate to the most people in the shortest amount of time.”
Paul sipped his coffee slowly and stared.
“What are you talking about? I never know what you’re talking about.”
“Paul,” she answered, pushing the coffee cup a bit to his left, “No one’s going to listen to you looking like you look. You need to look religious somehow. More spiritual.”
Paul retrieved his coffee cup and brought it to his lips.
“You need ‘The ‘garb,” she continued. “Leave it to me. I’m going to take care of it.”
Lasseter raised his flask, laughed loudly, and nodded his head in agreement.
“She’s right you know.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“Humanity as a species is not going to survive and everyone senses it. They can’t express it, but they can feel it. You’re a planet of magical thinkers, a planet of deniers. Governments make decisions based on hope, and faith, not facts. When confronted with opposing evidence, no one engages it. World leaders dismiss it by calling it “fake,” “phony,” “biased,” “libtard,” and they continue to let the world fall apart.”
Paul’s jaw dropped.
“That’s why I’m taking Akira and the Baby and we’re starting over somewhere else.”
Paul grabbed his coffee cup with both hands. He needed more caffeine. He didn’t want to drink it. He wanted to inject it.
“How does me wearing this ‘garb change any of this?”
Lasseter laughed, tried to embrace Akira’s waist.
She pushed him aside forcefully.
“The planet is nearly at the point of no return. But you can change things.”
“Just talk to people. Talk to the most amount people in the shortest period of time. You can change the direction the world is headed.”
“You mean I wear religious ‘Garb like collars, pointed hats, vestments?”
“Red shoes, too.” Billy-Bob yelled, entering the room and pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“Help yourself pal,” Lasseter turned his head. “You earned it.”
The pointed hat is a Zuchetto,” Akira continued. “But you can go beyond Christian garments. There’s body paint, tattoos, robes, scarification…to me, it’s all symbolic, meaningless gibberish, but these ritual symbols mean something to most of the people on this planet. They’ll listen if you dress in the correct ‘garb!’ It’s the surest way to get the attention of the most people in the shortest amount of time.”
Lasseter perked up. “She’s right. And don’t forget, we’re leaving. You’re staying.”
Akira shrugged. “Dress for success, the clothes make the man. It is what it is.”
Paul groaned. “After I pick a costume, then what?”
Lasseter stood and stretched, offering Billy-Bob his chair.
“You can already take over people’s minds.”
“So we get you dressed up, put you on Social Media, and you incite the peasants to bring out their pitchforks.”
“This could be your last hoorah. You gotta have fun doin’ it.”
Akira always had to have the last word.