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The Rivalry

ISSUE:  Winter 1987

Everyone’s doing healings now. Maybe I should do the rattlesnake bit,” Lennie Krenner said. “They loved it in Memphis when I stuck my hand into that crate of snakes.”

Deborah was irritated that her husband had awakened her from a dreamless sleep just to hear him think aloud. During his 30-month tour she had seldom doubted that his chief concern was using his remarkable powers for the good of others. Yet as he paced the hotel bedroom in his silk pajamas, thinking of feats to perform at the Dallas Civic Center, she questioned his motives.

“Let’s go home, Lennie,” she whispered sadly. This idea had been occurring to her more often. She yearned to return to her job in the public library of Marianna, Pennsylvania, where raw-cheeked children had laughed as she read stories to them. Then the valley of slag dumps, leafless trees, and wooden miners’ houses visible beyond the windows of the reading room had seemed unimportant. She had taught the children the possibility of happier worlds. Wasn’t that just as important as Lennie’s ministry?

Aware that Lennie was glaring at her, she tugged nervously at the bodice of the embroidered nightgown that he had bought for her. She regretted having spoken.

“You’re like Liotus,” he accused her, wagging an index finger. “You don’t believe I have crowd appeal anymore.”

“I didn’t think that appealing to a crowd was your purpose,” she protested gently.

She watched his ruddy face wrinkle with uncertainty, and then, as she had so often in the past days, she held out her arms to him. He joined her in bed, putting his head on her shoulder. His doctor had warned her that the tension he was under might put a strain on his heart. She didn’t dare tell him that she thought he had failed people despite his powers, or that his powers were slipping. She only hugged him and smoothed the wrinkles from the soft skin of his face.

When Lennie had first discovered his miraculous gifts, he had been willing to show them to anyone who would watch. His ability to bend a spoon without touching it or to ease such pains as the arthritis in a woman’s swollen knees had given his neighbors the hope that they apparently needed. His feats suggested to them that there was a meaning to their lives that they had missed—perhaps signals from God telling them that He cared. For days after Lennie’s displays the townspeople did, at least, smile more easily as they worked in their weedy yards or stood in endless supermarket lines. She had loved Lennie then.

But why had Lennie, a sixth-grade teacher in a mining town, been given such powers? Despite all their hours of speculation, she and Lennie couldn’t understand the source of the powers or why they were bestowed on him or what he was intended to do with them. It had been Liotus, a borough supervisor, who had suggested the national promotion of what he called Lennie’s psychokinetic abilities—the media coverage, the tour, the establishment of a charitable foundation. Were Liotus’ plans the direction from Providence they had sought, as Lennie had insisted? She had argued that Liotus might be misleading them. But Lennie had shouted, “Do you want me to work magic tricks for a bunch of miners for the rest of my life?” So he had made the decision himself because, after all, the special abilities had been given to him.

If his tour had made him certain of the meaning of his extraordinary gifts, he hadn’t confided it to her. If he thought the so-called sermons he gave after his demonstrations explained the wonders, he was wrong. He preached on what marvels he could perform, not on why he thought he could perform them. And people were moved by his feats, not by his words. Lately, she was bothered that he had even tried a religious ministry instead of simply becoming an entertainer as she had once suggested, or a subject for study of psychic powers at Duke University.

Propped on the pillows of the bed, she hugged him, wanting to believe that he did suffer over the significance of his unnatural abilities. The softness of his body seemed to mock her desire to believe in his uniqueness. She felt him stir restlessly and was aware that now soothed, he was ready to stand up and return to his puzzling over that night’s performance. She held him in place. If he insisted on continuing his self-proclaimed religious ministry, she could direct it. “If you won’t go home, fire Liotus,” she said. “We don’t need him,”

He stood up without acknowledging her. “Take notes,” he ordered, pacing about the bedroom as if concerned by more important matters.

Wearily, Deborah regarded the pad and pencil on the distant bedside table. They glided off the table and slid across the bed toward her. She was elated. She didn’t call Lennie’s attention to her effect on the pad and pencil, though. She knew that he would only belittle her. She had told him about the uncanny powers she had been for some time developing and had demonstrated for him her ability to move a chair and to break the point of a pencil without a touch. She had hoped that he might offer her a role in his ministry more important than stage assistant. But Lennie had treated her feats as mere tricks, contrasting them to the miracles he performed. Smiling, he had wondered aloud if she were only acquiring the skills because of her intimate association with him. She sensed, however, that her powers were growing. One day, he would have to give her a more important role. Dutifully, she picked up the pencil and took notes as he gave directions concerning the procurement of rattlesnakes to fill a transparent box, then for the positioning of his podium and the spotlights.

Deborah intuited that the phone was about to ring. Liotus was dialing, wanting to speak to Lennie. Their bedside phone rang. Deborah seized the receiver. Though anxious to prove her intuition, she spoke calmly. “Krenner Worldwide Association.”

Hearing the cool, efficient baritone of Liotus spoiled her pleasure about her intuition. How could they have allowed a man neither of them trusted to manage so many details of their lives? Closing her eyes, she envisioned the box of loathsome, twining diamondbacks Lennie had used before the shrieking audience in Memphis. She imagined the snakes coiling and striking again and again at Liotus. But the vision was so repellent, she immediately opened her eyes and forced herself to listen to Liotus’ directions. “Some important people are on the way up to the suite to meet Lennie,” he was saying. “He’s to dress. I want to see you in the restaurant in ten minutes to go over the details for tonight’s benefit. Now, let me speak to your husband.”

Covering the transmitter with her hand, Deborah whispered to Lennie, “Oh, please, tell him he’s fired.”

Lennie ignored her. Taking the receiver and cradling it by his ear, he actually looked pleased as he listened to Liotus.

Why didn’t she just leave him and head for home? Deborah sat up, dangling her bare feet over the edge of the bed. She was held by his phenomenal powers. If they were gifts from God as he insisted, then Lennie did merit not only her love for his own worth but also her patience because of his burdensome mission. Her anger a bit subdued, she put her feet onto the carpeted floor and headed into the dressing room. As she dressed, preparing obediently to meet Liotus, she watched Lennie finishing his phone conversation. She was surprised when he lounged on the bed after hanging up the receiver instead of preparing for his visitors.

Deborah tried to divine who was coming to the suite. Rather than awareness, she achieved only anxiety. She faced that another of her fears was that he was fooling around with some of the women who were so thrilled by his powers. And why not? She turned her attention to the dressing room mirror studying the shapeless gray suit that she had put on and her cropped, salt and pepper hair through which she was running her fingers. Liotus and Lennie had suggested that the suits and hair style made her appear more professional. As if she didn’t look bad enough without having a hairdo and clothes like these. She hated the lines about her mouth and the angularity of her hips and shoulders. She was aging badly. It would soon even be too late to have the child which she had postponed for the sake of the tour and which she hoped would bring Lennie and her closer.

Tears filled her eyes. She had been a frump at 30, nine years ago, when he had asked her to marry him. She had actually been grateful to him for having asked. But she had been very useful to him all those years. He couldn’t even pick out a shirt for himself to wear to work, she had discovered soon after the ceremony. She had made every decision in both their lives until he developed those powers. Now he had Liotus to think for him, and he acted as if she were of no use to him. And she had been too cowed to stand up to him because of his powers! He wouldn’t abuse her this way if he were as religious as he pretended. She wouldn’t let him. Striding into the bedroom, she glared at him lounging on the bed. “Will your pajamas be suitable to greet whoever’s coming to meet you?” she said. Without waiting for an answer she walked out of the bedroom, slamming open the double doors from the bedroom to the suite’s reception area.

She hesitated a moment, switching on lights and Muzak in the room they used to receive visiting dignitaries. She was hoping that he would appear from the bedroom to reassure her. When he didn’t arrive in a few moments, she banged out of the main door of the Association’s suite, furious because of his insensitivity. She wanted to remain in the elevator area to test her suspicions about the sex of his visitor, but to rescue her pride, she boarded the first car that came. She descended wondering if God, whom Lennie mentioned so often, could indeed be the source of power for anyone like him. During her descent she concentrated all of her aroused mental energy on the small, stainless steel door that concealed the elevator’s emergency telephone. She rejoiced when the small door popped from its hinges and fell to the floor. Her powers were growing stronger. She would find a way to resolve her marital difficulties! She offered a prayer of thanksgiving in spite of her skepticism of a moment before.

Her anger and confusion returned when she saw Liotus, sitting peacefully reading a newspaper, surrounded by the rock formations and cacti that decorated the atrium dining room. In his dark, pin-striped suit, rich maroon silk tie, and many pieces of gold jewelry, he looked as prosperous as the business people who had been attracted to Lennie throughout his tour. Before him on the table was his initialed, brown lizard portfolio, just like the one Lennie carried. He was so concerned about his appearance he had even had his greying brown hair tinted and curled.

When she arrived at the table, Liotus motioned her into the opposite chair without looking up from his paper and informed her in an emotionless tone that he had ordered her breakfast—black coffee and toast. She sat but defiantly thrust the notes for that night’s performance over the top of his morning paper. He lowered the paper, but ignoring her aggressiveness said, “Deborah, I need your help in a matter which involves all of us, but which is a real threat to Leonard.”

She was conscious that he studied her with unblinking, black eyes. Though she wanted to meet his gaze, she couldn’t. Because he had been so rude, she wanted to jump up and leave the table, but she felt somehow concerned so she didn’t move. He continued studying her while stirring his coffee. “I know that learning this will hurt you, but you re not a fool, so you must suspect. Lennie has been screwing around. As the Bible says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” As far as I can tell, it all started in Los Angeles 20 months ago, and then. . . .” He talked on, offering her a litany of women, places, and dates.

In spite of her suspicions she was shocked by his revelations. She was aware that her mouth was open and that her eyes were filling with tears. A part of her mind, however, observed Liotus, probing his intentions. To gain time to understand his motives, she blurted the response he expected, “I don’t believe this. You don’t have proof!”

Sliding a manila envelope from his lizard portfolio, he displayed a thick packet of photographs, withdrew one, and offered it to her. Despite the concerned expression on his face, she knew that he was relishing these revelations. She glanced at the eight by ten black and white photo. It was of her husband outside a dressing room door—in one of the white suits he wore while performing—kissing a plump young woman. The kiss was not causal for Lennie had the woman wrapped in close embrace. Liotus offered her another photo. Foreseeing what it and the rest recorded, she rejected it, averting her face as if she were too shamed. Liotus said, “We’re all friends. I only want you to help me to persuade him that this carrying-on hasn’t been in keeping with his ministry. I know that you’re the kind of wife who can forgive him a few little slips. After all, this may be the one time that we may be able to help him, and when we consider what he’s achieved. . . .”

He wants me to confront Lennie with this, actually hoping that I’ll leave him, she perceived. He knows that I distrust him, and he wants complete control of Lennie. Now she understood why establishing an international ministry had been so important. Presenting Lennie as an entertainer displaying amazing feats of mind control wouldn’t bring in continuing amounts of cash the way presenting a miracle worker did. There was so much money it was even worth his while to eliminate her.

She loathed Liotus. She wondered what percentage of the money collected went to the published list of Krenner causes. Had he even shrewdly arranged for Lennie to be seduced as part of the swindle? She wanted to tear at his throat, but she sat quietly, deliberating. Placidly, she sipped the coffee that the waitress brought and gazed at the pointed spines of a cactus. Finally, after Liotus had become obviously impatient, she announced, “I suppose we’ll have to find ourselves a new manager since you’re convinced Lennie’s such a bad risk.”

She enjoyed the expression of surprise on his soft, barber-shaven face. Judging her to be stupid, he had believed he could manipulate her. She imagined that she might will him out of their lives. Despite her mental efforts, the man responded, “I wouldn’t think of leaving the two of you at a time like this.”

She finished her coffee meditatively, then said, “I’m going to tell Lennie the details of our chat. You’ll have to consider your own career and leave us, feeling as you do about him.”

Again, Liotus declined, picking up his own cup of coffee. Hating his poise, she willed that his coffee would slosh down his chest. She left the table and headed for the elevator as he, sputtering, mopped with a napkin the coffee from his shirt and tie.

When she reached the suite, she avoided the main entrance and went to the bedroom door, hoping to catch Lennie with a woman. As she foresaw just before she entered, their bedroom was empty with the doors to the reception area again closed. When she was 20 feet away from those doors, she willed them open, and they swung away in front of her with such force that they banged against the walls. Leonard, who was sitting dejectedly at his desk in the center of the reception area, never looked up as the doors slammed open and she came into the room. Deborah observed the manila envelope filled with photographs before him and immediately knew what the actual mission of Lennie’s visitor had been.

She was so determined to save them both from Liotus that she temporarily forgot her anger at her husband.

“Lennie,” she shouted, “I know what those are.”

Her husband’s face reddened and he put his hands over the large envelope.

“Don’t you understand? Liotus showed them to me. He expected me to come up here and break up our marriage. And he’s trying to blackmail you, isn’t he? He’s threatened to give them to his newspaper friends, hasn’t he?”

He sat mute, but she detected that, although he was genuinely surprised by her insights, he wasn’t outraged. He actually rather admired Liotus for his tactics.

“He’ll control what you say and do and the money that you raise. You’ll never be free of him.” She realized that she was pleading with him. “There’s no way out but for you to come home. If you will come with me, I’ll try to forget these women.”

She stood before him waiting for his reply, wishing that she had never offered him any choice. She was going to be humiliated. Liotus wasn’t the cause of Lennie’s predicament at all. Lennie really didn’t care if he took advantage of them. He wanted Liotus to be in control. He was already saying to her, “Deborah, you have to understand that Liotus isn’t a bad man. He was only trying to help before I ruined myself. My behavior was wrong. People expect their spiritual leaders to be beyond reproach and they forget that we’re only human. Of course, Liotus’ interests aren’t always ours, but he’s taken care of money matters and business details that we didn’t want to bother with.” He stood up and was walking towards her. “I’ve been tempted and that’s disappointed you, but if you’ll just give me another chance, I’ve learned my lesson. And you know because of my powers that God continues to favor me.”

Deborah fled him, locking herself in the bedroom. Even if the powers were a special gift, he had used them only to cheat her—to cheat everyone! His powers meant nothing. He was a swindler. Suddenly, despite the closed doors, she knew that he was sitting calmly at his desk again, meditating on the situation. He was staring unblinkingly, his tongue working. She recognized that if she so willed, she had the ability to topple the heavy brass floor lamp which stood beside him and crush his head. She was also aware that a smug Liotus was at that moment ascending in an elevator toward his own rooms on the 27th floor, and that she had the power to send him plummeting in that cage to his death. She sensed the floor lamp beginning to waver. She could clearly see that the cables suspending the elevator could easily be snapped.

Deborah suddenly appreciated the strength of her abilities. Her husband had so weakened his own powers that he couldn’t intuit what she thought, let alone, could do. The awareness pacified her. She then realized that she had been standing with her hands clutched tensely to the sides of her head. Trying to relax, she curled into an upholstered chair to contemplate her next move. She was grateful for her gifts and wanted to prove that she was worthy of them. And what better way, but to teach both of these men a lesson? She might not only get rid of Liotus, but she might also show Lennie that his sins had weakened him. If she had enough strength, she might even make the public demonstrations of their powers into truly spiritual events.

Later that night at the Dallas Civic Center, Deborah doubted the superiority of her strength, however, as she watched Lennie at the height of his performance. The hysterical adulation of the crowd had inspired him to take risks. The fierce glow on his pudgy face showed that he thrived on the foot-stomping, handclapping, shrill-voiced jubilation of the crowd that believed in him. And he had been worried that he was losing his crowd appeal! He had removed his tuxedo jacket and bow tie, torn open his pleated shirt, and exposed his hairless, pink chest within inches of the half dozen diamondbacks that remained motionless in their large, unlidded plexiglass case.

She fought the impulse to have one of the rattlers strike him. But she wouldn’t turn him into a martyr before this adoring throng by killing him while he “tested his faith.” How strong her character really was to enable her to resist the temptation to eliminate him. Because of her self-control, she must finally be rewarded by triumphing over him, in fact, by redeeming him, making him once more worthy of his mission and of her. If she could only keep control of her anger.

Lennie leaped back from the shallow, transparent casket and roared into microphones above him, “I am grateful that I am special to the Lord!” Raising his arms above his head, he danced forward on the stage toward the people. “Is there anyone here who is sick? Is there anyone here who is crippled? Is there anyone here who is troubled of heart? Come! Come forward if you believe in me!”

Deborah glimpsed Liotus in the wings at stage left, as exuberant as Lennie himself at the success of the performance. She saw the greed on his face. She felt it. Greater risks meant greater profits. If Lennie continued such feats, national television appearances, maybe on a daily basis, were inevitable. All that exposure. All that money.

Liotus was walking across the stage to help Lennie select “a long-suffering victim” whose cure might have the greatest impact on the audience. “The halt, the lame, and the blind” had gathered, as they had been invited, into a semicircle near the broad, carpeted ramp that led to the stage. Most of the members of that hopeful group had been chosen after careful interviews and medical exams from the throngs that regularly showed up at the Association’s offices seeking relief from their infirmities.

Deborah didn’t have to intuit Lennie’s choice. He would choose Ted, the nine-year-old boy who had been paralyzed from the waist down since age three by injuries in an auto accident. Ted stood in white suit, teetering on his crutches, his innocent face burning with belief in the man who had defied the serpents. Lennie’s choosing Ted was predictable. After all, her “Magician” only performed tricks on those he was able to help. He had never yet restored anyone’s sight or hearing. For some reason, he had succeeded in easing for a time the suffering of those with ailments of bone, muscle, or nerve. Ted was a good risk for Lennie since the Association’s physicians had privately diagnosed a possible hysterical rather than a physical cause for his paralysis. And if Lennie didn’t cure him, the blame always fell on the victims themselves. It was their faith, not Lennie’s, that wasn’t strong enough. Deborah stifled a sob of outrage.

Deborah, a mere stage assistant, was ignored while Lennie and Liotus helped Ted eagerly drag his stiff body upward to the stage to have his faith tested. She tried to concentrate on the clips and adhesive which joined the corners of the oblong, plexiglass case as the stage crew fitted the lid over the rattlesnakes. While Lennie worked his cure, the case would remain in place under spotlights, a dramatic testimony to his continuing triumphs should the cure fail. Deborah knew the moment to test her mettle had come. She shuddered, though, as the lid went onto the case for it looked to her like a glass coffin. To risk the life of an innocent child to test herself against her husband seemed suddenly very wrong.

But as the boy struggled eagerly onto the stage, Deborah noticed Lennie. He was smoothing his hair, refastening the buttons on his shirt, slipping into his jacket, worrying only about how he appeared. Showman, she thought, revolted. Suddenly she was sure that she could make no fatal mistakes because her intentions were only good—to save Lennie and indeed people like Ted who had need of him.

Once reassured of the justice of her actions, she felt very detached, not truly responsible, for the events she willed. It seemed to cost her no effort to make the side panel of the plexiglass case fall out of place, leaving an eight by three foot opening for the snakes to escape. Also, agitating the snakes so that they slithered out of the case before anyone on stage could move took little effort of will. She was conscious of expending effort only to keep control when she saw the expression of terror on the child’s face.

She must be pitiless, though, if she were to succeed. She willed that the panicked boy lose his balance on his crutches as he struggled to escape. Ted sprawled into the midst of the snakes just as she intended. She hadn’t foreseen that he would begin to shriek once he was confronted face to face at floor level with the reptiles uncoiling toward him. But his screams heightened the little drama she had contrived. Pandemonium erupted throughout the audience.

Ignoring what people would think, Liotus ran off stage to save himself. She couldn’t have willed a more degrading departure. Lennie screamed at him, “You idiot! Stop! We’ve got to save the kid.”

Lennie observed her standing serenely by. For a moment, his mouth gaped as he finally guessed the source of his troubles. He had been wary of her intentions since she had come out to join him on stage in her role as assistant. He had noted with suspicion the blue chiffon gown and stylish wig of coiled blonde hair that she wore and hissed “Are you trying to upstage me?” Now he knew.

“Hasn’t God rewarded you with the power to capture these snakes?” she cried. She knew that the hysterical shouts of the audience only intensified the pressure on him.

Lennie went cautiously across the stage toward the snakes and Ted. That he hadn’t run away made Deborah believe that she indeed could redeem him. He was trying telepathically to cast the snakes back from the boy. A six footer, closest to the boy, did slither defensively a few feet to the side. Lennie danced gingerly forward hoping to seize Ted and flee. Because of Lennie’s size, it was easy for Deborah to will him into an arm waving, belly-flop—right in front of the largest snake. Immediately, that reptile coiled, rattling fiercely. Lennie was so shocked that he couldn’t concentrate. She felt sorry for him then. He seemed so degraded sprawled helplessly on the floor, his craven terror apparent. He had become as defenseless before her as she had dreamed. But she wouldn’t release him just yet. Her own moment had come.

She stepped confidently toward the boy preparing to rescue him. A snake unwound towards her. She knew that she could have quite an effect on the audience simply by crushing its head with the stiletto heel of her shoe, then picking up the boy and running off stage. But she could achieve so much more. She remembered Lennie’s stories about what remarkable feats some Eastern gurus regularly achieved with poisonous snakes. Certainly, she was as favored by God as any Indian fakir. After all, who had her gifts? And if she should succeed, then Lennie must yield to her and forever after follow her counsel.

Bending forward confidently, Deborah concentrated on the approaching viper, willing it to perform. Slowly, she extended her left arm, sheathed only in the filmy chiffon. The reptile stopped its approach as her bare hand came to rest on the stage before it. Members of the audience shouted, anticipating yet another nightmarish event. Deborah whispered, “Come.” The snake slid forward and coiled itself comfortably up her arm. She was surprised at the silky texture of its skin as well as the strength with which it embraced her. It seemed placid as it slid around her shoulders, its head finally resting on her breast, its tongue darting investigatively. To have such power she must be special to God, mustn’t she? She was triumphant!

Looking toward the sea of faces in the near darkness beyond the edge of the stage, Deborah waited to hear the roar of affirmation. There was only silence. The audience was terrified that at any moment the snake might strike her fatally. Also, Lennie, still sprawled on the floor before the rattler that threatened him, registered only terror, not awe, at her performance.

Deborah knew that the snake would not strike her. She walked across the stage and lifted the reptile that had been near the sobbing child and let it coil around her right arm. The audience, now realizing that she was putting on a show, began to murmur. She had impressed them. She strode about the platform collecting the other reptiles, depositing them in their plexiglass case willing them to remain. She left only one on the stage—the one confronting Lennie. She had indeed bested him. Though he was yet afraid even to move his head, he watched her movements. He seemed outraged by his impotence and by the fact that the audience, that had come to see him, was now wildly cheering her.

Curiously, she did not feel at all as she had expected as she bowed gracefully to acknowledge the audience’s adoration. She felt an exhilarating sense of her own worth that she had not experienced, she realized, since she had married Lennie. Alleluia, brothers and sisters! She felt smug, justified, powerful. Amen! But she did not feel at all sanctified. And, after all, she had been trying to prove that she was a better person than Lennie. Confused, she had the impulse to hide from the crowd, from Lennie and Liotus, from everyone, in order to contemplate the real meaning of her gifts.

Suddenly, she sensed that Lennie, mastering his fears, was mesmerizing the reptile before him. He was leaning forward fully intending to kiss the darting tongue of the snake. He would again control the attention of the audience! She willed that the snake give a warning rattle, open its jaws wide, and hiss menacingly at Lennie. At this Lennie panicked losing control of the creature, but Deborah faced that her husband yet had strong powers. If she withdrew into solitude, then he must again emerge to display to the “believers” the signs that they wanted to see.

She would not allow that to happen. If she withdrew, she would immediately be forgotten while he, as corrupt as ever, would become celebrated. She hastened across the stage before Lennie could regain emotional control and seizing the snake that threatened him, placed it into the case. She stroked the snakes still coiled about her. Only she would work miracles tonight. To her satisfaction Lennie remained crumpled on the stage regarding her with the same terrified expression with which he had regarded the diamondback.

Deborah moved toward Ted, still helpless on the stage, intending to heal him of his paralysis thus climaxing her spiritual debut. Perhaps, when Lennie finally surrendered to her, they both could retire to meditate on the meaning of their gifts. But it would be so difficult to convince him to retire from all the adulation. She herself had been thrilled by the crowd’s response. Even now as she stepped toward the prostrate Ted, the crowd’s approval was giving her a glow of pleasure. It seemed so hard that she and Lennie must deny themselves the triumph of public displays to achieve real virtue. But the triumphs seemed to distort Lennie’s understanding. And if she kept on, how was she going to end—a celebrated snake charmer rather than a sanctified believer?

Regardless of what became of her, she must now subdue Lennie. There would be time enough later for her to develop character. She reached her hand out to the prostrate boy, sensing that in winning control over her husband, she was losing something that she might never understand.

Ted crawled away from her and the crowd went wild. He was cured. Strange, she had felt no release of energy. Noth- ing. It was Ted’s fear of the snakes still coiled about her that had somehow released him from his paralysis.

Nonetheless, the event was a miracle to the crowd. She had made the impression she wanted. She stepped forward, giving Lennie a smug look. She forced a wide smile, stroked the snakes about her shoulders, and felt the first wave of the unquenchable, sad longing of those who ceaselessly have to earn adulation.


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