Yes, she loved Him. He demanded love, that’s what Ray said.

She had no doubt that He knew already. Not so much that He could read her mind, although it was possible, but that He could read the universe with its sudden absence of a hatchling crane with microscopic nodules where mauve-ish pinfeathers might have come in a week later.

What would He do? He would shout in someone’s face, “Karma, dharma, farm-a!”

Nonsense, perfect sense. Someone asked Him about dogma and He said, “Cat-ma! God’s little pet name, eh people? Are you God’s little pets, people?”

There was nothing benevolent about Him. Now, up close, He smelled like wood smoke from the faulty stove in the zendo. Smash the hall of mirrors, my sister had heard Ray repeat. Torch the theater. He would kick the wandering fowl when He was cross—that same lyrebird crouching in the farmhouse entry, for instance, had performed on mounded earth behind the silver fan of its own tail feathers until the Guru, in a rage, charged it, all flushed neck and shoulders.

Tall for a girl, where were my sister’s pinfeathers?

But when she finally looked up, He was beaming down upon her. A smile of such brilliance, such overwhelming love, that she forgot her fear and she was transported to the shores of light that were the inside of the Guru’s great cranium. She was, at once, resting, and very, very active. She felt herself shiver as she basked in the source of all Happiness.

She didn’t know how long she lay there.

The Guru had said famously that time was only a prism. Then He corrected Himself and said prison. Devotees understood He was greater than time, and they understood greatness.

All at once my sister was aware of a poking in the soft spots of her ribcage. She stiffened, although it didn’t hurt, exactly. It didn’t tickle. The Guru was wiggling his toes around her barrel. It was funny but it didn’t tickle. He had slipped one foot out of its zori. A small foot for such a big man. When He got old, very old—did a Guru?—He would totter.

The earth smelled like an old porcupine. She had a picture: He was a flannel rag on a stick pushed down to clean inside a recorder. She had a toy one, in Halifax; it was made of blond wood and it stunk of spit if she didn’t clean it.

He laughed, the soft flannel scrubbed her.

From the cassette tape: All you have to do is open, Dear Ones! All you have to do is receive Me, people!

His love was real. Wood. Spit. His love called forth her love—had she ever loved before this? She saw a million pale maggots that could turn a fallen tree trunk into jelly. She felt love turn death to jelly. He flexed His toes and grunted as He shoved her. She was love and she was spirit. Did He want to roll her over?

Then He kicked hard, with the blunt head of his heel, as if He were suddenly impatient. He wouldn’t break His short toes on her.

Her body tingled all over, and the oatmeal of wet dirt was dense in her passages. She felt loose, her blood was sloshing. Her belly was wet—from the inside?

Suddenly she had the incontrovertible urge to start shaking.

The Guru stopped kicking. He kept his foot pressed into the side of her ribs and she vibrated.

He must have felt her kundalini.

He must have felt her shaking travel up His leg bone.

When my sister turned over He was gone and she looked up through the wings of fir trees to a pale sky with no ceiling. She couldn’t tell where the sky started. She curled onto her side. Of course the sky didn’t start somewhere, out of nowhere, there wasn’t a line of blue or gray as if the sky were another, separate heaven. As if the sky were the sea. She could smell the fingery salt rivers, she had seen the insolent tough gulls drop blue mussels on the blacktop.

She could still smell burning feathers.

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