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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Angel Meadows, California is a little-known community founded by a strongly religious sect more than one hundred years ago. The residents are fundamentalists, so much so that they strictly follow the laws laid down in the Old Testament. They observe kosher dietary laws, all the men have beards, all the women cover their heads, and so on.
The community is laid out in a square that is exactly two miles long on each side. Except for land set aside for humble dwellings, there are more than 1200 acres available for farming, and the mild climate of the area allows the residents to farm all year long. Angel Meadows is so perfect that it could be considered Heaven on Earth.
When Angel Meadows was established, the residents built a wall around the compound to isolate the it from outsiders. From its beginning, no one except members of the sect have ever set foot inside the wall. In fact, because of this self-imposed isolation, all the residents are descendants of the original settlers. This has not caused any genetic issues because, by carefully arranging marriages, the residents have avoided any problems associated with inbreeding.
On Saturdays, the residents set up stalls outside the wall to sell their goods. Men sell furniture that they have made and women sell baked goods they have made. Of course, farm produce is also sold and, because it is all organic, it commands a high price.
It was only recently that the community allowed Internet access, strictly controlled of course, to be used only for research and to purchase items that the residents themselves could not produce. That was good news for Horace Grimly. Horace didn’t have any particular skills and was unable to participate in the Saturday sales. One day, though, a female Maltese dog managed to get through a small hole in the wall and made it to Horace’s house. Horace immediately fell in love with the dog and, despite the fact that no one in Angel Meadows had ever had any pets of any type, he was determined to keep it. He named his dog Abigail.
Horace knew nothing about how to take care of a dog but, using the Internet, he was able to determine how best to feed it and, more importantly, how to groom it. He developed his own dog food from farm produce, created a shampoo using only organic materials, learned how to sharpen scissors to the point they were like razors and, ultimately, how to cut a dog’s hair to perfection.
Horace didn’t expect much success when he set up his dog-grooming stall on a Saturday. At first, he had few customers but, as word spread, people lined up for his grooming service. As his business grew he slowly raised his grooming rates from twenty dollars to sixty dollars. He also began selling his shampoo for twenty dollars a bottle and his dog food for ten dollars a pound. Soon Horace was making a more than a thousand dollars every Saturday, almost ten times as much as the other residents.
Jealousy had never been much of an issue in Angel Meadows, but Horace’s success changed all that. A year after setting up his grooming business he found himself in the community courtroom.
Horace wasn’t on trial, though. Abigail was on trial.
On one Saturday Horace felt fatigued and, after apologizing to everyone waiting to have their dogs groomed, went home. There, to his shock, he found his wife Ruth in bed with a married neighbor named Saul. Horace dutifully reported the adulterers to the council of elders who, in turn, immediately called for a hearing. If found guilty, Ruth and Saul, according to the laws of the Bible, would be stoned to death.
Terrified, Ruth dreamed up an ingenious defense. “The dog made me do it,” she said. “Abigail is a witch. This is why we never allowed pets in Angel Meadows. They are the agents of Satan.”
A murmur ran through the courtroom. Sensing an opportunity, Saul said, “She is right. The book of Matthew says, It is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. Abigail has tricked Horace into making dog food with our crops.”
The council of elders, confused, decided to put Abigail on trial and set the upcoming Sunday as the trial date. Morose and downtrodden, Horace, having nothing else to do, set up his stall the day before the trial. Within a few minutes a tall, handsome man dressed in black introduced himself to Horace and handed him his business card.
“I am Zell Moloch,” he said. “I’m going to be your lawyer or, more precisely, Abigail’s lawyer.”
Horace was mystified by Zell’s statement. “But…but…how do you know…”
“You’re not as isolated as you all would like to think,” Zell said. “Word gets around.”
“But we don’t allow outsiders in…”
“I will go home with you tonight and stay with you,” Zell said. “I will go to the trial with you tomorrow. No one will object, I assure you.”
Zell was right. Since no one from the outside had ever been allowed inside the gates, the Angel Meadows residents were unsure as to what to do when they saw Zell, so they did nothing.
The next day Jeremiah, the oldest male member of the community and therefore the de facto leader, called the trial to order in an old barn used as a community center. Addressing Ruth, he said, “Tell us what it is Abigail did to turn you into an adulterer.”
Ruth, confident that she would be believed, answered, “She caused Horace and me to be less intimate and…”
Zell cut her off with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Is it not true that you had relations with Horace the very morning you were discovered with Saul?”
“Well, yes,” Ruth said. “But…but it isn’t like it used to be and besides, Abigail has made me barren.”
“That seems to be true,” Jeremiah said. “Ruth and Horace have been married for more than a year and have produced no children.”
Zell held up a round, plastic container, opened it and spilled its contents onto the floor. “Perhaps these birth control pills are the reason you are barren,” he said with a sneer.
Ruth gasped and sank into her chair.
“Well,” Jeremiah said. “I guess we know what…”
“Not so fast,” Zell said. “This trial isn’t over.” He swept his hand around the courtroom and shouted, “The book of James says, there is only one teacher and judge. He is able to save or destroy you. So, who are you to judge your neighbor? I have witnesses to call. I have sins to expose. In fact, you Jeremiah, I want to question your relationship with…”
“Enough,” Jeremiah shouted. “This trial is over. You make take Abigail with you, Horace. You may leave, Ruth. The elders have to confer.”
Of course, Horace cast Ruth out of his home. On the next Saturday, after hearing nothing from the elders, he set up his grooming stall outside the gates. To his surprise the gates closed behind him with a slam. Frightened, he cried out, “What’s happening?”
Horace was greeted only with silence. About fifteen minutes later the smell of smoke floated over the gates followed by the sound of screaming. Horace laid his grooming table lengthwise against the wall surrounding Angel Meadows and climbed up. To his horror he saw the community center engulfed in flames.
“No,” he cried. “No.”
A week passed before the fire marshal and police released statements. There wasn’t much of an investigation, because the reason for the fire was explained in a message sent out over the Internet by Jeremiah. “We have become corrupted and must be punished. God forgive us. Horace is the only remaining true soul in Angel Meadows.”
Because everyone in Angel Meadows was related, and because Horace was the only living member of the community, he found himself in possession of more than 1200 acres of prime real estate. It didn’t take long for him to find a buyer willing to pay a premium price. Horace was suddenly a multi-millionaire.
He shaved his beard but let his hair grow long. He opened a number of very successful dog grooming salons and became even richer. Horace was handsome enough as it was, but Abigail was also a wonderful chick magnet. Soon he was married to an up and coming Hollywood starlet and mingling in high society.
Horace was very happy.
Zell was happy, too.
Two years after the fire, he stood outside the gated religious community of Elysian Fields, Oregon. He patted a Golden Retriever on the head and, after creating a hole in the brick wall surrounding the town, said, “Now be a good dog and go do your job.”