The Brink of Betrayal - Digital Collage 6" x 4"

Bill G., pillar of the community, insurance broker extraordinaire, Shriner, Exalted Overseer of Flying Carpet Go-Kart Maintenance, found himself in San Francisco for a weekend-long meeting of the International Federation of Secret Societies.Against his better judgement, he decided to visit a Japanese bath house in North Beach. As he sat soaking in the large communal bath, a female attendant appeared from behind a door, walked toward his side of the tub and bent down beside him. She plucked his sacred Fez from his head and put it on her own. "Come with me," she uttered, leading him from the bath to a towel-draped table."Lay face down," she instructed as she placed warm towels over him. "I think you'll enjoy this." The young woman proceeded to knead the muscles in his back. Weeks of tension slipped from Bill's body. The woman's fingers seemed to pinpoint and rub away every worry hidden in his flesh. Tears came to his eyes and he found himself overcome with a wave of emotion.
"Would you like me to stop," she asked.
"I don't know what's wrong with me, " he replied.
She raised her hands off his back and said, "This is not uncommon. Many clients feel they can let down their defenses here. Sometimes it is good to let go of the thing that is bothering you."
"The thing is," he said, "Nothing's really bothering me. I mean I put myself under pressure to write new policies, and there's the upcoming election for a seat on the Council for the Federation...but nothing I'm losing sleep over."
"In that case," she said, "it sometimes helps to reveal a harmless secret. The sense of release can be cleansing."
"Yeah," he said. "That sounds like a good idea, but I don't have any secrets."
"Oh, take for example your hat here on my head", she said in a matter of fact way."Maybe your secret society has some silly ritual like a secret handshake you can teach me."
"Well, I don't know about that Darlin'." Bill replied.
"Surely, such a silly little thing can't really matter to you," she answered."Think of your health."
Bill hemmed. "You promise you won't tell a soul?"
"Yes," she replied.
"Promise," said Bill.
"Oh, all right", she said with a laugh. "I promise...Elk's Honor."
Bill leapt up off the table."I knew it!" he cried."
The young woman's hand went over her mouth, her face turning crimson.
" Hank Burwell and all those other double-dealing Elks put you up to this. This is about the upcoming election!" he cried."You all were going to blackmail me so that I couldn't get elected to the Council. Damn you!"he cried, snatching the fez from her head and dashing out of the bath house into the night wearing nothing but a towel.

Shame-faced he crept back into the hotel through a service entrance, and coaxed a maid to open his room for him. Once inside he threw on a pair of slacks, a shirt, his red blazer and raced down to the parking lot to the trailer holding the flying carpet go-karts. Seeing no one, he unlatched the door, climbed up into the trailer, rolled a go kart onto the lift at the back and lowered it to the ground. Adjusting the choke, he pulled the starter cord and the flying carpet roared to life.Slipping into his seat, he glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone had seen him. Undetected, he pressed his foot to the accelerator and took off down the street toward the Embarcadaro. He turned left at the bottom of the hill and headed out to the Golden Gate Bridge. Weaving between cars, Bill raced up the the hill, ran the toll and kept driving until the go cart sputtered to a halt at the exit for Tiberon. He rolled the flying carpet into a ditch and hiked up a hill to the top where he found a single banyan tree standing in front of a metal fence.Despondant he laid down beneath it and fell fast asleep.

The glare of the sunrise reflected off the fence awoke Bill the next morning. Propping his head up with hand he looked at the glowing fence behind the silhoutte of the tree. He didn't know what the day would bring, but for the moment the scene he beheld filled him with a sense of tranquility.