Government Secrets

(a novel excerpt in 2 parts)

by Martha Conway

The next evening I carried my bags and blankets into my new rented bedroom. I did not have much. I looked for a used quality in all my possessions. A tapestry, a few milk crates, a torn Polish poster. I disliked them all. But I did not have the energy, or the money, for anything more.

A woman knocked on the door as I was tacking up the poster, Holly, a woman with long dark hair who lived upstairs and who sometimes slept with Dan. I was surprised and pleased to see her. She brought in a bottle of red wine.

This is the official welcome, she said.

I knew so much about her already. Her father ruined a business, her mother practiced law. I liked to hear about people I had never met -- families, old boyfriends, where they lived, whether they rented or owned. Even what they drank: Johnny Walker Red. Holly's mother was allergic to the resin in red wine. This was why Holly drank it. The two often quarreled; we have a counter- charm, Holly told me. Besides, wine is good for the heart, she said. Beer, too, but that is too numbing.

I thought that was the point, I said.

Oh no. Alcohol is useful to open you up, but too much closes you off.

If I could just decide which I wanted, I said.

We drank on the floor from paper cups with handles. Holly sat with her legs in a v. She bent her torso over one knee like a ballerina in warm-up, her long hair falling onto her face.

I am so tight, she said. Yesterday I could not touch my toes. I was so stiff from that jazz class.

She wore leotards under loose, hand-knit sweaters and long thin skirts with colored tights. Holly exercised daily. I admired her stamina. She did not eat red meat and she read the backs of cardboard cartons of food before buying them. She knew the difference between good and bad cholesterol, the importance of vitamin A, what fat-content meant. Every morning she and Dan rode mountain bikes up a mountain and down. She was a healthy woman with strong wide fingers and good skin. Her face had a Slavic look to it. Shrewd about something I could not guess. She told me about a check-up she had with a homeopath.

A what?

The royals all use one, Holly told me. They prescribe remedies rather than drugs. A very small dose of what in greater quantities might cause your condition. Like the hair of the dog that bit you. This gets the body to fight the problem on its own. My cure consisted mostly of coffee beans. Western medicine is completely corrupt.

Did it work?

My stomach is almost all the way back to normal. But I can't eat white sugar, avocados, or anything with wheat.

She told me she had started going to a contact dance group. Some people she worked with had invited her. It was in a high school auditorium with two drummers and a sound board, and the dancers pair up and bump into each other and re-pair and bump into each other. That was the dance. It develops trust, Holly told me, so that after they can play the Infinity Game.

What is that? I asked.

Well, you have to promise not to let anyone know, Holly said, bending over her other leg. You pay for an imaginary seat on an imaginary airplane and hope others after you will pay for seats too. As more people come in, you get bumped to the front of the plane, until you are the pilot, at which point you pilot out and collect twelve thousand dollars.

That's a lot of money.

Well, but that's secondary. What you are playing for really is inner abundance, she told me, holding her wrist, pulling one arm over her head and releasing.

I could do some things with twelve thousand dollars, I said.

It's not about money, Holly said. It's a spiritual thing. It's an est thing. Just in the end it pays cash. First you dance, then you trust, then you play the game. This is how it works. It's all one ritual of faith in abundance. And how you feel about yourself is directly related to how much you get. That's the challenge. Comprenez?

I'm not sure, I said. I leaned against the wall of my bedroom and watched her. My legs and fingertips felt numb and after my third paper cupful of wine something in me fell out of gear. I had had nothing planned for the evening except maybe a little t.v. With Holly there was not as much action but the stories were better.

It's all about self worth, Holly said. Self confidence. Any doubts, any fears you have will affect how you do. You control your own game. Because it will work for you as long as you let it. As long as you believe it. Energy follows attention, and so on and so on. The first meeting I went to some guy said to me, I feel good energy from you; I know you are going to pilot out in a week.

Twelve thousand dollars in a week, for just believing that you can? I asked. I touched my jawline, my hair. I had been given plenty of fruit as a child. My teeth were strong. There was no reason to believe I couldn't get twelve thousand dollars by working, and yet I didn't believe it.

You might not get any money at all, Holly told me. It all depends on who buys a seat after you. If anyone.


But if you play the game right, what you will get is much much more.

I drank the last of the wine. The bottle stood empty. There seemed to be so much when we first started. I hoped Holly would not leave when she noticed.

You know, if you wanted, Holly said, you could come along with me next time. I'm in the first row already. I've had a really good run. And everyone is supposed to recruit at least two new people before cashing out.

I don't know, I said.

I could loan you the money to buy the seat. It's really worth it. It could help you a lot. And I don't mean only the money.

I'll think about it, I said.

Holly said: We all have a fear of personal growth.

next next page