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Posted by John on Saturday, 24 February

He said, Can you rise up, son Clu tried with all his might until he was pink in the face, but his skinny legs would not work. I dont believe this, he whined. Just as I thought, said Deacon Johnson stiffly. On the ground Clu continued to grunt and squirm. Let me work on this a minute, he pleaded. Give him back the damn wheelchair, Deacon Johnson snapped at the driver, and lets go. Just when he was certain that the grand TV mega-healing would have to be called off, or at least scaled back to a sheep or a cat, Deacon Johnson spotted the blind man. The man was alone on a bus bench outside the entrance to Lunker Lakes; beneath the big cedar billboard, in fact, directly under the second L. That he would be sitting right there at such a crucial moment seemed like a heavenly miracle, except that Deacon Johnson didnt believe in miracles. Plain old dumb luck was more like it. He told the limo driver to stop. The blind man did not have a guide dog or a white cane, so Deacon Johnson was hopeful that they could do business. He walked up to him and said hello. The man didnt move one bit, just stared straight ahead. Deacon Johnson could see nothing but his own natty reflection in the dark glasses. May I ask, Deacon Johnson said, are you blind I suppose, the man said. May I ask how blind Depends what you mean. Can you see what that billboard says Deacon Johnson pointed to a big Toyota sign a quarter-mile down the road. The man said, Not hardly. Deacon Johnson held a hand in front of the mans face. Can you see that The man nodded yes. Very good. Thank God, Deacon Johnson thought. For coaching purposes, partly blind was perfect. As a telegenic bonus, the man appeared sickly but not morbidly sunken, like some of the bums at the soup kitchen. Deacon Johnson introduced himself and said, Have you heard of the Outdoor Christian Network Yes, the blind man said. Then youve heard of the Reverend Charles Weeb, how he heals people on national television I watch no television. Yes, I understand, but at least have you heard of Reverend Weebs healings The reason I ask, hes having one today. Right here, inside this gate. A healing. On live satellite television, Deacon Johnson said. Would you be interested The man toyed with his beard. For five hundred dollars, Deacon Johnson said. And would I be healed Let me say, Reverend Weeb gets excellent results. With the Lords help, of course. Deacon Johnson circled the blind man and assessed his camera presence. I think the Lord would probably like us to shave you, he said. And possibly cut your hair the braid could be a distraction. The blind man raised a middle digit in front of Deacon Johnsons face. Can you see that he said. Deacon Johnson chuckled weakly. I underestimated you, sir. Lets make it a thousand dollars. For a thousand bucks I take a shower, the blind man said, thats all. When the man stood up he towered over Deacon Johnson. He pulled on a flowered plastic cap and smoothed it flat over his skull. Then, with thick callused fingers, he pinched Deacon Johnsons elbow and held on. Lead the way, the blind man said. The instant the other bass boats roared away, Al Garcia felt sure that he and Jim Tile would be drowned, that the roiling wakes would swamp the wooden skiff and it would sink upside-down, trapping them both in a cold underwater pocket. This did not happen. The skiff proved not only stable but also dry. It was, however, maddeningly slow made even slower by the sloshing heft of the Igloo cooler, which was filled with fresh Lake Jesup water especially for Queenie. That, added to the considerable weight of the two men, the tackle, the gas tank, the lunchboxes, the anchor, and the bait (several pounds of frozen Harney County shiners, Queenies favorite) was almost too much for the tired little six-horse Mercury to push. Garcia puttered down the canal on a straight course for Lunker Lake Number Seven. With one hand he steered the engine. With the other he idly trolle