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and when the parrot opened the third cage, and he heard the sound of the rain, the third creature swam to the bank of the flooded river.
and there joe beheld a black coelacanth, with a black dog riding him, and the dog balanced a tv remote with 5000 channels on his nose, and his name was control.
joe ate his burger slowly. he didn't know when he would get another one. farmer brown was consuming his burgers, fries and onion rings with quiet determination. then his cell phone rang in his pocket. he let it ring while he swallowed his huge mouthful of food, then answered it.
he listened a while then hung up.
"i have to go. i'll have to leave you here." he put some money on the table under his plate.
joe's heart leaped. maybe farmer brown would leave the food he hadn't eaten and joe could take it! an even wilder flashed into joe's brain. maybe he could take the money from under the plate and saunter casually out. but how far could he get if he didn't get another ride right away?
both hopes were dashed when the farmer called pierre over to the table and asked for a doggie bag for his food. pierre took the money without counting it.
a bus boy came over with the bag and filled it. with a nod to joe, farmer brown took the bag and his giant coke and left.
joe never saw farmer brown again, except on television. but he never forgot him. he was a good guy.
despite his hunger and fear, his mind began to wander, and his old dreams, so long buried under job, family and responsibility began to surface.
in his youth joe had dreamed of founding his own religion, like buddha or darwin or l ron hubbard. he remembered his terrible embarrassment when his mother had searched his room expecting to find copies of playboy and penthouse and instead found professor max muller's history of world religions in ten volumes.
"why were you hiding this?"
"because i was ashamed."
"oh? and why were you ashamed?"
he started to cry. "because - because i couldn't afford the illustrated twenty volume edition."
that was a long time ago. joe had given up on, then forgotten his dream when, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't think of a new religion or new dogmas. he had gone to school, studied diligently, and success, marriage to an ambitious woman, and a place in the cabinet had followed.
the old dream returned, with a new twist. in his youth, happily reading max muller or sir james frazer or the oxford history of religion in his comfortable middle class bedroom, he had never thought to connect religion with money. now, with night falling, his stomach growling, and instant death in the form of big rigs and greyhound buses roaring past him, he thought - if i had my own religion and i had one follower, just one, maybe that follower could slip me a little something and i could get a burger or a doughnut.
it started to rain. as soon as it started to rain, the first truck that passed, a little pickup badly in need of paint and with no lettering on it, stopped. he ran forward to it.
maybe people weren't so bad after all.
maybe his luck was changing. he got into the passenger seat of the pickup. to his mild surprise, he did not recognize the driver from television. the driver was a thin little man with long hair and a beard. he immediately brought to mind popular representations of appolonius of tyana or rasputin.
"thank you," joe said. he fumbled around for a seat belt but couldn't find one.
"raining," answered the little man.
"yes, it is," joe answered. "but not everybody would stop."
joe nodded assent, they drove a few miles in silence. it occurred to joe that the driver hadn't asked him where he was going.
"you back from the war?", the little man finally asked.
war? what war? "no," joe answered.
next: bob and june