Special Interest

       One Tuesday afternoon at the station, Annette arrived in the middle of a disagreement between Ben, one of our salesmen and Mike, one of our announcers. She walked through the door with a smile in her voice. "Hi, guys. It's a beautiful day. What's up?"
       She turned to Jennifer. "Is Jay in?"
       "Yeah, he's back in his office."
       "You in trouble too?" Mike sneered.
       Annette chuckled. "Don't think so," she answered. "Just coming for evaluation and training. And I'm glad. I like radio. I'd like to learn to be a really good announcer."
       I'd moved to the salesroom door. As Annette walked through the room, I could almost feel the ice melting. Mike's arm dropped. The finger he'd been jabbing at Ben relaxed. The furrows in Ben's forehead softened. And Jennifer, in the middle of most everything that happened in this small building, heaved a sigh of relief.
       "Good afternoon, Annette," I greeted. "Come on back."
       She did. And Mike and Ben continued their discussion more softly and sanely.
       I'd noticed before that Annette seemed to be surrounded by an aura of peace. Just her presence had a quiet, positive influence.
       Seated in the office, I complimented Annette on her promptness and on perfectly timed, clean breaks back and forth from network to our local station when she was running the control board. "Have you ever been told you're too perfect?" I asked.
       She laughed. "No. I've been told I had a lot of problems, but never that one!"
       "Well, let me be the first."
       She crinkled her brows. Question marks were written all over her face.
       She looked so puzzled I couldn't help but chuckle. "It's like this," I explained. "Sometimes when a person focuses really hard to make every word clear and understandable on radio, they overenunciate. The biggest thing I'd like you to work on is simply to relax. Just relax and sound natural."
       In the production room, I gave her some weather reports to read and worked with her to help her sound over the radio like she was telling listeners about the weather, not reading it to them. She made strides forward.
       "I can tell the difference," she marveled. "What's my next lesson going to be?"
       "This is the big lesson for now," I replied. "You're getting the technical part down pat, and that will help you stay relaxed. But for now, just relax when you read the weather or cut a commercial."
       The next Sunday, as usual, I showed up at the station midmorning. Even though Annette excelled in her work, I still started getting nervous about noon. Would she call in sick today? Would she just not show up? Undependable employees are a nuisance any place, but in an on-air radio job, you cant just wait and do the work the next day. Someone has to be there.
       When I heard a car door slam from the parking lot about 12:45, I heaved a sigh of relief... again. One more Sunday afternoon I don't have to do the air shift, I thought, though I'm not sure it matters too much. Except for self-hypnosis, meditation, or reading about reincarnation or the coming new age, about all I do at home is rot in front of the TV and skarf down pop, cookies, and chocolate.
       As usual during an operator's time at the control board, I dropped in and chatted a bit while the network played. With Annette, I was especially curious about what made most everyone think she was wonderful and one person think she was awful. I'd never been around anyone like her. Even when everything was going wrong, she exuded a calmness that was foreign to my thinking. One day, early in her employment at the station, I had asked her, "Are you acquainted with karma?"
       "Some," she responded. "How do you view karma?"
       What an invitation! I launched into an explanation. She listened and asked ques- tions along the way. We discussed spiritual issues from week to week. Her views were definitely from a more traditional religion, yet she seemed interested in what I believed. She never condemned me. And she asked questions that made me think.
       I began to look forward to our Sunday afternoon discussions. The spiritual fellowship often felt like the highlight of my week. Perhaps she'd share my reincarnation beliefs eventually.
       Suffering was one issue for which I'd never found any answers in traditional religion. "Have you noticed all the disasters lately?" I asked Annette one afternoon.
       "Yes! And all over! From Mt. St. Helens blowing her top in Washington, to the earthquake in Mexico City to famines in Ethiopia and Sudan."
       "And the eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines," I added.
       "And one hurricane after the other across the southern United States."
       I shook my head, then sighed. "Seems like the last few years the news has been full of snowstorms and rainstorms, floods and mud slides, record high temps and record lows, tornadoes, and tropical storms. Sometimes I wonder if we're already beginning to see the catastrophic events that Edgar Cayce predicted for around the year 2000."
       Most everyone thought I was crazy for even bringing up such things. But Annette seemed to think we'd see even more and worse catastrophes. "Remember the author I told you about, the one that some people consider to have had a prophetic gift?"
       "I have a book she wrote that you might like to read. In the last few chapters she deals with exactly what we're talking about. Those chapters fascinated me. I checked out the Bible references it gives and have come to think of those chapters as a chronicle of events that will probably happen on this old earth in the fairly near future. Want me to bring it so you can read it?"
       I knew from previous discussions that any book Annette would be recommending would most likely come from more traditional religious thinking than I usually considered. But the modern enlightenment fascinated me. Besides, I figured, the more I absorbed now about all kinds of religions, the better prepared I'd be to find answers at the seminary next year and to eventually help others accept the greater truth that reincarnation helps one understand.
       "Start here at the marker," Annette said when she brought the book, "These last seven chapters are about the catastrophes and other events we were talking about."
       Eager that evening I switched off the Christmas specials on TV, curled up in the ugly orange love seat, and picked up Annette's book. "God," I prayed, "please guide me as I read." I looked at the title
Cosmic Conflict.  I opened to Annette's marker and started to read.
       The next thing I knew, I woke up with a start, groggy, not knowing where I was or what was happening. I rubbed my eyes then looked around the room. I'm home. I glanced down and saw a book on my lap. Oh yeah, I just started reading Annette's book.
       I stretched, then picked up the book again. A couple sentences later, I could barely keep my eyes open. I gave up reading and went to bed.
       The next night, after a quick bite to eat, I picked up Annette's book. Sentences into reading, I couldn't concentrate. My eyelids drooped. I'd never taken drugs in my life, but I felt drugged. I read a couple sentences, then drifted off to sleep. After a while I woke, read a paragraph, and was gone again. Eventually, I laid the book down and pulled out the new issue of Radio & Records and perused it cover to cover. Still wide awake when I finished that I picked up Annette's book again and fell asleep in the middle of the second paragraph.
       When I woke, I realized that while I had slept, I'd heard voices. Not audibly, but in my head. Numerous voices. Like my head was full of many people talking all at once, very loud and unorganized. Cacophony. I couldn't understand what was being said. At least I couldn't remember it. But the noise was raucous, dissonant and unsettling.
       The chapter titles and Annette's description of the book fascinated me. I wanted to read it. What was going on?
       The next Sunday afternoon at work Annette asked, "Finding anything interesting in the book I loaned you?"
       "Not yet." I sighed. "I must really be exhausted from work lately. I want to read it, but every time I start, exhaustion comes over me and I go to sleep.
       "Do you always get sleepy when you read?" she asked.
       "No. I read or meditate frequently in the evening. I've never experienced the weird grogginess that's been coming over me lately."
       Annette's smile disappeared. She looked like she was thinking. She started to speak then stopped. "Maybe," she finally said, "someone ... or something ... doesn't want you to read that book."
       Over the next few days I realized I could read anything else late into the night, even when I'd had an exhausting day. I rarely had trouble staying awake. Especially when I read New Age books, no matter what hour of day or night, I felt energized. What was going on?
       I usually prayed for guidance before I started reading. Hm-m-m. What if I asked God to keep me awake while I read?
       That evening I prayed, "God, please guide my mind. And please keep me awake so I can read this book."
       I turned to Annette's marker and read page after page.
       How does this compare with Edgar Cayce's predictions? I asked myself over and over. I found both the similarities and the differences interesting.
       As I read, night after night, sometimes the drugged-like drowsiness overcame me again. And the voices startled me. When I wakened, I prayed again.
       Annette's book referred frequently to the Bible. I watched for inconsistencies, for lapses in logic, for obviously weird and unbiblical ideas. I figured finding error wouldn't be hard. All the traditional Christian ministers I'd questioned had stumbled over their own gospel. They said they believed the Bible. But they used verses to say things those verses obviously did not say if you just read before and after. I dropped them like I would a hot potato.
       As soon as I see the error in the information Annette is sharing, I thought, I'll drop it too. But she seems sincere. She seems totally dedicated to truth. I'll show her the error, too, and help her see the truth of reincarnation.
       Then a new thought shocked me. "God," I said aloud, "you kept me here this year so I could share with Annette, didn't you?" I smiled and patted Inki's head. "Maybe I will have converted one of these traditional Christians to the beautiful truth of reincarnation before I even get to seminary."
       "God, help me see the error in the book," I prayed.


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