Signs & Portents
Iram Indeed is Gone with all its Rose
Although nauseated by the disgusting habits and tastes picked up by these weak minded individuals, he had still patiently waited out the time allotted from the U.S. Immigration system to become bored by his presence in the country, as his uncle Feisal had instructed him. But this accomplished, he quietly left school and moved to his present address, careful not to leave a forwarding address just in case there was any snooping by the Immigration office.
At the present time, he was by day a nursery school teacher for the Berkeley Day Care Center for Working Mothers and by afternoons, nights, and his days off, a member of the ultra secret organization called the Fellowship for the Jihad Against Westernization, a fraternal organization founded by his great uncle Harun Kemosh. This organization had fewer members than better known Middle Eastern alliances and brotherhoods, but what it lacked in numbers, it made up for in the fanatical dedication of its members and their proclivity for action. Hazrat strove to excel in the personal initiative and action side of the ledger himself.
He was slated to succeed his uncle as supreme commander of the organization in the fullness of time. He felt an acute sense of responsibility over his assignment in the United States. He felt fairly sure his uncle was looking on it as a test of both his leadership ability and his courage in the very heart of the enemy territory.
Consequently, he had not been idle. Although in Berkeley for barely six months, handicapped by being unable to locate his contact man for inexplicable reasons, and scarcely able to speak the language, Hazrat already had to his credit the fire bombing of the New Islamic Christian Church. This abomination had been pointed out to him by his former roommates, who seemed to think the whole thing was a great joke. Hazrat was appalled that they took so lightly a matter touching on religion itself.
Free of their noisome company, he had stalked the grotesque pink stucco building for days before deciding on a course of action. Not wishing to tip his hand by a premature purchase of explosives, he had attempted to improvise with what he discovered readily at hand, Chinese fireworks. Acquiring these, he had purchased a can of tomato juice and a can of lighter fluid. The first, he poured down the sink in his apartment, he was very careful about what he put into his stomach in this foreign land. The empty can, he filled with the fireworks, packed tightly, and doused the whole thing with lighter fluid.
He made a successful wick out of cloth also doused in the fluid. But after several attempts to reattach the top of the can some way—he had to give it up. He understood that explosives were more effective if tightly confined and ended by enshrouding the whole thing in a plastic bag, which he then put into a plain brown paper bag to disguise any suspicious appearance.
Cautiously, he waited outside the New Islamic Christian Church until the small hours of the morning when the street was deserted, then flung his missile through the stained glass window with the crescent and cross design in it and ran madly and wildly for his life.
Explosive devices were not, however, Hazrat's strong point. None of the fireworks exploded but the plastic bag did catch fire and began to burn with a horrible stench badly frightening a number of the brothers, Sharif Mark among them, who were inside meditating at the time. They cowered back in
uncertainty and panic at first, but rallied when some of the lighter fluid spilled from the can and also
caught fire, burning along the floor with an eerie blue glow. They beat out the resulting small conflagration with their prayer rugs.
Little damage was done, except for the stained glass window and the following day the members took up a collection for a new window. Speculation was naturally rife among them as to whether they had come upon the time of their persecution.
Hazrat had, on the same night, proudly written to his uncle of his achievement, greatly embellishing his own role in things. But when he ventured out and learned the rather disappointing result, his elation changed to the hope that no other account of the episode would reach his uncle's ears. It was after all, a small world and getting smaller all the time.
This disappointment convinced Hazrat that he must make more diligent efforts to locate his contact. He had previously informed his uncle of this problem, but no enlightenment had issued from that source. His uncle had only urged him to find Ezzedin Nefaric, who was a good boy, besides being the son of Abdullah Nefaric, of blessed memory, who had been the bosom companion of his uncle, etc. etc.
Hazrat began to visit local coffee houses and restaurants frequented by persons of Arabic descent. Carefully, he insinuated the name of Ezzedin Nefaric into casual conversations at these places, identifying his relationship to this individual variously. It was possible that Nefaric had run into difficulty with the authorities. In that case, he must leave no trail leading back to himself.
Ultimately, he was successful in a completely unexpected manner. Most of his careful enquiries and name droppings had only resulted in the other individuals looking politely blank when the name was mentioned. Then, quite by chance, he ran into Ezzedin himself one evening.
The first thing he noticed was that Ezzedin was openly displaying himself by parading around in caftan and sandals. Hazrat himself made a major concession to Western necessity. He always wore jeans and tee shirts when appearing in public in order to pass unnoticed among the natives. He did not really need any other signal that something was badly amiss, but beneath the natural effusiveness of their first greetings and embraces, he noted a certain evasiveness in Ezzedin's manner.
The reason for the irregularities was soon determined. Ezzedin was not just in danger of coming under the spell of Western ideas, he soon confessed that he had taken another wife, an American. Fortuitously, this strange Western female was away at work until all hours and never attempted to interfere with Ezzedin's activities as she believed him to be suffering from "cultural shock." Hazrat was able to take Ezzedin in hand unimpeded. He did so with some reluctance and distaste for he despised Nefaric for his marriage to a foreigner. His protestations that he had married only to establish a cover did not ring true at all. He likewise bored Hazrat with endless whining recitations of his own difficulties in the U.S. When he actually ventured to slyly propose that Hazrat use a marital solution himself, Hazrat had to restrain himself with great effort, least he explode. But restrain himself he did, and launched an intensive program to restore Ezzedin to some sense of his responsibility and duty.
Nefaric, however unreliable, was central to his own potential success here. For one thing, he was an expert in explosives, having received extensive training in Beirut. For another, he was the only other FJAW member in Berkeley. But once he had Nefaric whipped into some sort of shape, there would still remain the problem of selecting a suitable target. The target had to have stature, he had discovered that the New Islamic Christian Church was pretty small potatoes and that there were many such strange institutions in Berkeley, some of which could be considered more of an affront than the New Islamic Christian Church. Hazrat began to focus his attention on the native population looking for some clue to the logistics problem.
Certain elements, he learned, were themselves forever decrying their abysmal fate and protesting that they wanted to return to a more "natural way of life." It was an ambition with which Hazrat would have sympathized, but he saw no hope for it, classing it as similar to animals aspiring to become human beings. But their energy intrigued him and he watched them with a bemused look of wonder.
This expression of wonderment on his face, many mistook it for genuine support for the various causes, especially combined with his problems with the English language. Only his eastern reserve saved him from becoming quite popular.
Nefaric's wife had given him a small yellow Volkswagen for his own personal use which Hazrat found very much to his liking. There finally was some good of his misbegotten marriage. Hazrat immediately adopted a strategy of having himself chauffeured around in order to better study Berkeley and its environs in a search for a potential target. It must be of some grandeur and importance, hopefully combining the features of being safe and easy to strike. It was on one of these expeditions that they came upon a large crowd of Berkeleyans carrying placards in a state of considerable excitement. The site and focus for this gathering was a large factory type building situated at the edge of town. Hazrat was unclear as to the function of this factory, but sensing something electric in the air, he instructed Ezzedin to park the vehicle beside the road. Unobtrusively, he debarked and insinuated himself into the crowd.
Ultimately, he was able to decipher from chance conversations around him that the purpose of the building was to treat sewage. His English was improving, but he stared at the structure in disbelief and dismay. It was so clean, could he have misunderstood? A western woman became graphically helpful, at this point, and also told him that the end result was the dumping of the end product into the ocean. This, after it had gone through nameless and unspeakable processes inside the building itself. She left him, with some parting words on "pollution," staring at the sanitary outside appearance with a rapt expression on his face.
Hazrat's brain went into high gear. He made lightning fast deductions. Obviously, the natives themselves were worried about the pollution contained in this place, and he suddenly visualized that the obscene effluviums exuding from some hidden channel in the structure drifting across the Pacific, and perhaps even washing up on the shores of his own country.
He likewise noted the advantage of this isolated location and compared it to the problems involved with the previous sites he had surveyed. Most of these he had felt nervous about, especially as his was only a two man operation. Although quite willing to give his life for the FJAW cause, he did hope to
survive to continue the fight. For many nights now, he had paced the floor over each possibility, weighing the symbolical and strategic values of this one and that, but never before had he felt so completely satisfied by all the aspects.
He smiled broadly and in his mental dialogue, he began to compose the letter to his uncle in which he would delineate his discovery of the outrageous intentions of the Americans and his successful thwarting of their hideous plot. On the way home in Ezzedin's car, he decided to perhaps add the element of atomic wastes to give the whole affair more dignity. After all, who was to say exactly what the Americans might really be discharging through their secret pipe line into the Pacific?
Iram indeed is gone with all it's Rose,