Mornings in the cult started early.  If you didn’t get up in time, all the good bagels would be gone.  And the flavored cream cheese, like the blueberry type I liked, would be used up because Janice, the one who usually had bagel duty, only ever bought one tub of it, even though everyone liked it the best.

Breakfast was served in the stripped down kitchen with the dingy, peeling wallpaper.  In addition to bagels, there was usually some juice.  Whatever was on sale at the Marrow Family Market down the street – grapefruit, apple or sometimes the fruit punch, which was pretty gross and too sugary.

After breakfast, the cult members would typically gather in the backyard.  It was a pretty private backyard, which is important in a cult house.  You don’t want random people seeing what all the cult members are doing in the backyard.  Next thing you know, they contact the media and you have crazy cult member wannabes hanging around.

This yard had a couple high concrete walls and a chain link fence on one side that was covered over pretty well with vines.  The problem was this chain link fence was only about seven feet high.  So some of the neighbors on that side could look over if they really wanted to and stood on a table or a chair or something.  We had to be careful, if we were going to do anything extremely cultish, to hang some tarp from the tree on that side of the yard.

But usually our morning routine didn’t require so much secrecy.  Darryl, our ‘charismatic leader’, would come out on the concrete-slab of a patio and blow his whistle to command attention.  Darryl was a decent leader, as cult leaders go, but he was severely lacking in the charisma department.  That’s why I put the phrase charismatic leader in quotes just now.

For one thing, he didn’t have that commanding, theatrical voice that so many natural, true charismatic leaders possess.  You know, that room filling, sonorous tone.  Sort of like the guy who does the Darth Vader voice.  Instead, he had this kind of scratchy, low-volume voice.  That’s why he needed the whistle to get everyone’s attention.  It also didn’t help that he had some bad facial scars due to severe acne problems in adolescence.  While that maybe added to his cultish rage, it didn’t do much for the charisma factor.  And then there were the clothes.  Darryl usually wore some kind of thrift store, JC Penney-style, plaid, long-sleeve shirt and loose, unflattering jeans.  He could’ve used a sharp jacket, or some cult jump suit, if you want my opinion.

But, you had to give the guy credit.  Even though he didn’t fit the usual bill of a cult leader, he worked hard at the job.  He was good at some things through sheer effort and stubbornness.  For instance, he had a pretty good piercing gaze he could basically silence anyone with.  He’d gotten this down to a science over years of staring at his pet cat and neighborhood children.  Another good quality he had was a fiery temper that could break out in random, unexpected flares of violence.  This was very effective, since it always had the effect of intimidating cult members who got out of line, especially new members who’d never seen Darryl flare up before.  Although usually the violence wasn’t very serious, but something more like throwing a half-eaten piece of cake on the floor or ripping an old curtain off a bedroom window.

Our usual backyard routine started with Darryl’s morning pep talk.  He didn’t really call it a pep talk, since that didn’t have a very cultish sound, but that’s what it boiled down to.  He gave some reminders of our purpose in the cult, and shout outs to members who’d accomplished something in the last couple days.  This could be any kind of accomplishment, such as posting an especially creepy blog entry, cleaning out the refrigerator or writing a poem that praised Darryl’s more admirable qualities.  Then there was a sort of physical routine we did that was a mixture of yoga, tai chi and some less strenuous moves Darryl developed on his own through a close study of dogs and grey squirrels.  Finally, there was a berating, where Darryl called out a member with unsatisfactory performance and publicly berated them for their shortcomings in front of the entire assembly.  Some people took pictures during this part and posted the photos on their Facebook page, which always made it even more humiliating.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering why I left the Kill Jill Cult.  Frankly, I was tired of the cult never living up to its ambitions.  We had these grandiose plans that lured me into the cult to murder Jill Burroughs, but they never really amounted to anything.  We’d get a few steps done: like filling out a diary of Jill’s movements, taking surveillance photos of her at the Super Walmart parking lot and, one time, stealing her mail.  But somehow it never added up to a real assassination plot.  The whole glory and the purpose of the Kill Jill cult was supposed to center on doing away with Jill Burroughs, but it never seemed to come closer.  Part of me thinks that Darryl just didn’t have his heart in it.

Jill was this middle-aged lady that was pretty much the most annoying woman in town, hands down.  She’d done something to personally alienate everyone who joined the cult.  A lot of us had tried getting jobs at her market, with the so-called ‘organic’ produce and all, and been turned down before she even looked at our applications.  She also was a fanatic about coming down hard on skateboarders and BMX bikers who practiced tricks on the sidewalk down from her store.  They might’ve practiced a few times in her store parking lot too, but it was usually empty anyway.  So who’d care?

Just the sight of her, with her clomping, tree-trunk legs, mottled, make-up-free face and old-fashioned blanket-shaped dresses was enough to turn most people’s stomachs.  I saw her almost every day, standing there with her hands on her stupid hips in front of her store, and it just made me burn with impatience we never did anything about it.

One night, Darryl was a little out of control on a Coors Light bender and was real full of himself, you know.  He was going out about how “tomorrow we do it, tomorrow’s the night Jill Burroughs gets what’s coming too her.”  He ripped some photos from the Jill surveillance scrapbook and pins them up on the wall, then he draws these red target-type circles around them, right?  Then he starts writing plans, directions.  Telling Marty he’s gotta stake out Jill’s apartment.  Holding his beer can like the rolling pin and telling Jung Ho, look, here’s how you come up behind her, creeping up when she’s locking the storage shed.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I put down my rum-and-Pepsi and I called bullshit.  I was, like, ‘Darryl, we’re not gonna kill anyone.  You sit here and talk a big game every time you’ve had few too many brews.  Then it’s all talk, talk, talk.  Well, how about some goddamn action?’

He looks at me, you know with that great gaze like I said he has.  And he’s like, “Yeah, you wanna try me out?  Jung Ho, get that rolling pin right now.”

Well, Jung Ho, he was always real quiet.  He did whatever you told him.  So he runs and gets the rolling pin, and the whole time Darryl is standing there facing me, his hair all messed up and grabbing his Coors Light can real tight.

I just stared back.  “You big talker,” I said.  “Let’s see you try it.

We stood there, like it was some frozen moment out of Inception or something.

Then, just when I was breaking into a sweat, to tell you the truth, Jung Ho comes back in.  Empty handed.

“Where’s the goddamn rolling pin?” screamed Darryl.  “I told you to bring that rolling pin!”

“It’s gone.  I think Stacey took it.”

Then Darryl lost it.  He started screaming for Stacey.  Just screaming.  He was always pissed at her, cause Stacey would always be taking the rolling pin for her crafts.  So she could make perfect Play-Doh circles or something.  Next thing, Stacey’s running down the hallway, still smoking her cigarette, carrying this Play-Doh clump and the rolling pin, Darryl chasing behind her.  They run up and down, and out in the yard.  It just keeps going around, those two running in circles, Jung Ho joining in after Darryl screams at him.

Well, I just gave up at that point, to be honest.  Darryl didn’t even notice me anymore.  I told myself, if I have one shred of self-respect left, this is the night I leave this cult.  A bunch of people chasing each other all around the property over some rolling pin and Play-Doh aren’t going to end up killing anyone.  And that’s when I did it.  I unlocked the wood, red-painted cult collar from around my neck, took off my custom cult skull earrings and walked out of there.  The next morning I tried to wash off the Kill Jill forehead tattoo the best I could.

So that’s it, really.  That’s how I left the Kill Jill cult.  Now could I get another of those doughnuts?



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