Adam Ash

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Thursday, May 25, 2006



“I’m waiting for you,” she said. “The New Jerusalem Hotel, room 404.”

“Amazing. I’ll be over.”

She ordered room service. Oysters, champagne, caviar. Esther was paying for everything. Earlier Eve had bought candles and now she lit them, fussing about their placement to make the most atmosphere. She had enjoyed her orientation course. She had learned all about the Bureau of Behavior Design and Management. It had a very unorthodox and unprecedented history, until now a secret to her, like it was to everyone else in Jesusland. Its origins had been truly modest. It had started as a simple neighborhood Christian dating website. Soon the concept took hold, and the business grew fast. Then the Bureau began to run Abstention Programs in schools, and from there it began to run the schools themselves, to the point that this private enterprise displaced the public education system entirely, and then began running Adult Education programs, which led to the first Behavior Management Programs, until this faith-based organization, a cross between a non-taxed church and a free-market corporation, ended up taking over all aspects of human behavior, to the point that power in the USUG was divided between the Bureau of Behavior Design and Management, who legislated and administered all human behavior (virtually replacing Congress); the President of the USUG and his executive branch, who controlled foreign policy; the God-Facs prison factories and God-Mart that controlled the nation’s economic activities; Sunday Fox Media and one or two rivals that controlled the creation and dissemination of all information in the USUG; and the Patriot Units, Patriot Boards and Special Tribunals that controlled legal matters, virtually replacing the old USA court system. In terms of control and concentrated power, the most important of these nexuses was the single private faith-based corporation with the bland name, the Bureau of Behavior Design and Management: firstly because of its over-arching control of human behavior, and secondly because the Men of the Gospel sat on the steering and oversight committees of all the other ruling bodies in a many-tentacled, interlocking board member system. It was unique, because it was the first time in history that government had been entirely privatized.

Here she was in Los Angeles, far away from New York, where the pain of her crime against God was painted on the very streets, against the very walls of the buildings, staring back at her from every surface, like the eyes on the ubiquitous posters. This brief visit to Los Angeles was a heaven-sent break.

What to wear? She was no expert in carnal underwear, a long-dead feature of the old USA. In those days, women wore underwear that was supposed to excite men. These days underwear was strictly white and sensibly functional.

Not that Eve was unaware of fashion. But the New Formalism did not admit of the use of nudity -- or of any revealing exposure in any fashion sense. Women did expose their shoulders anymore, except on TV, and certainly not their navels or their knees – offenses for which a Patriot Board would prosecute. The New Formalism had one major theme: elegance, as exemplified in the designs for the Teacher Corps. Elegance reminiscent of such ancient icons as Audrey Hepburn and Laura Bush. Women did not think themselves restricted because they could not show their shoulders or their knees in public. After all, neither could men. There was an accepted standard for public decency, as there was an accepted standard for public speech. Patriot Boards punished treasonous speech and treasonous exposure. Media organizations themselves were extra careful about lascivious, decadent and abusive content, which included everything from bad words to bad actions.

Consequently, there were no guidelines about sexuality in fashion, because none were needed. Salacious underwear had fallen by the wayside. Victoria’s Secrets and other companies that specialized in “sexy” underwear had long ago atrophied into non-existence. The Decency Pickets and Boycotts led by the Women’s Arm of the National Council for Family Values had done sterling work. Consumer revolt had influenced design. Designers now were mostly women or heterosexual men, since no business – neither Broadway nor Seventh Avenue, neither antiques nor art, not even the Catholic priesthood – could be a refuge for homosexuals anymore.

So Eve simply put on a hotel robe with nothing underneath except her panties. Recently a daring designer had come up with the idea of light pastels in underwear – gray, yellow, blue and white – and it seemed as if this would be approved. Pink, of course, was out of the question.

However, outerwear color was one place where designers could express themselves. Conservative pantsuits in the hottest pinks and purples and bright yellows had been the fashion among Blesseds only two years ago (female Beloveds were not allowed to wear pants). There was a logical swing to the color trends. One season it would be all neutral grays and dark colors, and the next season colors would scream in the brightest hues.

A discreet knock on the door.

Eve opened the door and saw a huge bunch of flowers. Ezra was behind a cart full of flowers, pushing it in. Flowers sprouted out in a huge bush the size of a small truck. Eve laughed with pleasure and surprise. Suddenly the room looked smaller and cozier. Suddenly she could forget about the accusing emptiness inside her.


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