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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005 01:00 am

Taking the most clandestine route

No one was above suspicion, and that suspicion had to be inclusive

Secrecy was the first order of the Brotherhood, so brothers Harold and Herbert called it Not The Brotherhood. Hob Fadwaddle, the only other “known” member, called it Not Only The Brotherhood. The organization’s purpose was just as secret — or perhaps just as confused. At one time it was vehemently anti-government/pro-conspiracy; now, after 9/11, it championed an anti-conspiracy/pro-government stance. All things Brotherhood were clandestine — especially the meeting place. The Brotherhood complex was so well hidden that Herbert had to ask Harold for directions every time they went to a meeting. No outsider was allowed in the compound — except, of course, the covert expert Hob asked in each month to give them covert advice. Or, given they were all masters of disguise, maybe it wasn’t Hob doing the asking — for Harold suspected that Hob was not really Hob at all but was, in fact, Herbert! Not to be outdone, Herbert countersuspected that Harold was Hob. Harold then counter-countersuspected that Herbert’s suspicions might have merit and that he (Harold) was Hob — maybe. For Harold did not discount the possibility that Hob was not one of ’em, but was, rather . . . both of them. Hob suspected from the beginning that he was not Herbert because Hob could always find the compound without asking directions from Harold. But because he’d long suspected Harold of being Herbert, it was quite possible that he (Hob) was Herbert — in weak masquerade. And because he did not recall asking in outside advice, he suspected that the direction-giving Harold did the asking. Suspicions aside, they agreed that with their ever-troublesome identities crisis, they needed occasional advice — else they might not survive, and they were, after all, “survivalists.” Although both Herbert and Harold suspected that they did not agree, that it was only Hob who agreed, Harold nonetheless went along with the idea so that he would be above suspicion. Herbert likewise agreed, but only if they all agreed that Harold was not above suspicion — because no one was above suspicion. They all agreed — maybe! Time for “. . .” Jjgcvg’s monthly advice. Jjgcvg had no first name, and no one could pronounce his last name. He was, then, by nondefinition, an avatar of stealth, and as such much in demand by all the surreptitious groups hereabouts. Hob Fadwaddle struggled, as always: “And now, a man who needs no introduction; I give you . . . a . . . a . . . a man who . . . needs no . . . I give you. . . .” “. . .” Jjgcvg was behind schedule, so he just joined them at the table camouflaged to look like a desk: “As always, gentlemen, first names only.” Herbert: “Hob.” Harold: “Herbert.” Hob: “Harold.” Jjgcvg started as he always started his monthly covert talk, reminding them that no one was above suspicion and that suspicion must be inclusive or else their secret activities might become . . . public!  Public! The very word made secret societies cringe. As Jjgcvg often reminded them, “Public infiltration is as deadly to secret organizations as is drinking Coca-Cola products!” Hob was first to the realization that although he’d suspected both Harold and Herbert, he’d not suspected himself — he’d not practiced inclusive suspicion. To rectify the oversight, he accused himself of infiltration, and Herbert voted unanimously (for all of ’em) to expel Hob until the next meeting. Hob left in disgrace. Harold, not wanting to seem less diligent than Hob in front of Jjgcvg, admitted that he was, and always had been, Herbert. Herbert much relieved to find that he was not himself, and no longer directionally challenged, left the compound to test the premise — and couldn’t find his way back. With only one person left, Jjgcvg called off the meeting for lack of a quorum. Having confessed to being Herbert, Harold was committed to the charade, lest he draw suspicion. He dared not ask himself directions, and so he joined his brother in not finding the compound for a few hours. Jim Smith refilled the Pepsi machine, went to the membership dues box, took out only the amount they owed him, and once again rued the day he’d accepted this delivery route full of secret organizations. Were it not for the Jjgcvg gambit, he’d likely never get paid at all. At least he’d catch a break at the next stop, the governor’s mansion. For the last three years he’d just told the Executive Mansion staff that he was the governor, and they’d paid him immediately.
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