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Everything That Somehow Found Us Here

From: New England Review
Volume 33, Number 2, 2012
pp. 71-85 | 10.1353/ner.2012.0056

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I do not know if other sects of the cult exist—if the cult can be found in Sapporo, Saint Petersburg, La Paz, Bruges—or if the cult in our village was the cult itself. If it was, then I am all that is left of it. And perhaps it could have emerged only in a landscape like ours, in a village teetering along the glacial waters of Lake Superior, a village whose cottages and mailboxes were buried under snow most months of the year, a village in which there was rarely ever anything to do. The cult was seldom referred to as the Cult of the Deathself, most often instead the Yooper Cult, which seems to suggest that it was an invention of our village alone. But our father—a mustached Dutch American, with knuckles the size of my kneecaps, droopy earlobes fatter than my thumbs—he often spoke of the cult otherwise, as if it were something very old and far-reaching, something far bigger than just our twenty-cottage village in the Upper Peninsula.

My sister, on the other hand, often spoke of the cult as if it were something either very funny or very fake. Like me she had been adopted by our father, but from Jamaica instead of Korea. I loved her, not like a brother loves a sister, but like a boy loves an older girl with dark curls and an upturned nose and a mask of dark freckles. At bedtime I would chant her name to myself—Kayley, Kayley, Kayley—as if whispering a spell to make her stay. Kayley said the cult was bogus, but I believed our father when he said that it was real. Like all of the cult's followers, he referred to it as Temple. I loved him, not like a son loves a father, but like a soldier loves a general who will teach him to be strong. He was the lighthouse keeper for our village—he wore black snow boots I could stuff both legs into and then, bending over, both arms. I was stunned by the size of him. If I'd had any friends, I would have told them all.

Ours was a harmless cult. If a cult is destructive, then that is its downfall—if a cult is harmless, then its downfall is that. A more destructive cult might have died by a twenty-car police raid, by the mass suicide of its followers. Ours was simply smothered by more compelling cults—by the Cult of Meth, the Cult of the Internet, the Cult of Everything That Somehow Found Us Here. It was already happening when I was a boy—Kayley hated our cult only because her friends belonged to another, the Cult of Meth. They lived in villages beyond our cove, came for her in a minivan with snow chains and a rusted hood. Owen Puck had a tattoo of a handprint on his face—the black palm under his jaw, the black fingers pressed into his cheek—as if he'd been handled by a demon. The others didn't have names, just hooded parkas with missing buttons and broken zippers, pants stained with the salt from the roads, seeds whose shells they'd spit out into our sink. After school Kayley and I were supposed to do our training, but Kayley trusted me not to tell our father that she hadn't, and not to tell him that Owen Puck and the parkas had come to our cottage, and not to tell him that Owen Puck had taken her into her room and locked the door. Before our father got home Kayley would claw the slimy seed shells out of our sink and fling them into the garbage can beneath it, rake the coffee grounds and meatless ribs over the seeds so our father wouldn't see them, and when he got home I would say I had done my training for three hours with only a ten-minute break and so had Kayley. Our father would ruffle my hair and tickle my sides and fling me onto the couch and leave me bouncing there, still giggling, as he shut...



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