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Dump Miner - Chapter One
Father Leo Arrives at the Americo Resource & Welfare Facility: 4499.


The sun rises reluctantly over an encampment surrounded by high-reaching barbed wire fences. Lookout towers made from scraps of steel and rusted iron sheets dot the fence. Inside, a compound slum of makeshift shacks and shanties rise from the desolation. Muted shades of amber and gray from tarnished metal scar the landscape. Junk piles of cardboard and rotting wood fill the ground with grime and disgrace. In the distance, tiny fragments of broken glass glisten atop the mounds of garbage.

At first glance, one might think that this is a concentration camp from the 1940’s that has been allowed to run itself into the ground. It is not. This is the Americo Resource and Welfare Facility 4499.

Outlines of humans can be seen inside the lookout towers. But it becomes apparent that these towers are not here to protect the people within the camp. They are here to protect the mounds of garbage – the dumps. Large heaping mounds of debris, refuse, and rubble reach to the sky behind the enclosed village. As the sun continues its journey and hovers over the dumps of discarded rubbish and filth, ribbons of smoke can be seen rising like smoldering incense. The air is filled with the sickening smell of decay and decomposition.

From one of the facility towers, a siren suddenly screams without warning. It is the morning signal calling the dump miners to work. Six days a week, the dump miners start their day with this siren, a painful shriek which for some foretells their harrowing death.

As the siren bellows into the distance, human shapes dressed in yellow plastic coveralls and yellow hats depart their small shacks and march wearily to the dump mines. At the gates of the dump mines guards hand out the assignments and tools needed for the day, shovels, picks, axes, and large black bags, which the dump miners carry on their backs. With these tools, the dump miners extract aluminum, steel, paper, plastic, glass, and methane gas from the mines for recycling.

A stretch limousine races up the front gates of Americo Resource and Welfare Facility 4499 and is promptly met by two facility guards. As the guards approach, the rear passenger window of the limousine rolls down. It is Father Leo, a Census Taker for The Church of Americo.

Father Leo is tall and broad-shouldered, a strong man with a rugged face. Behind his dark-rimmed glasses, his deep-set eyes have seen much as a Census Taker. He enjoys his work and takes much pleasure in wearing the uniform: black suit, black shirt, black shoes, and white tie. Proudly, he displays his status in society with The Church patch on his left arm sleeve. Underneath his left arm, as all priests, Father Leo carries his copy of the B.I.B.L.E.

He has uncovered much treachery and fraudulent behavior during his work, all of which resulted in the conviction of the deceivers. Of those convicted, Father Leo has witnessed and relishes a 98% mortality rate. To get to the truth, Father Leo never thinks twice about making someone swear on the “B.I.B.L.E.” Thus, he has snared many souls and caused them to plunge to their final destination. Father Leo revels in his job and is good at what he does. He truly believes he is doing the work of God.

As Father Leo’s window lowers, he is struck by the stench created from the mines. He reaches in his left breast pocket, pulls out a white handkerchief, and covers his mouth.

Guard:
What business do you have here today?

Father Leo:
I am Father Leo. I have come to audit this Facility under the order of Cardinal Superbia. I am sure that I am expected.

The guard looks at his records, and then signals to one of the towers. The iron gates creak open and the limousine enters the facility. Winding its way, it passes primitive and unfinished-looking makeshift dwellings. Its tires rumble through unpaved streets, leaving a trail of dust as it veers to avoid dump miners who are milling around the facility yard.

Father Leo:
These people are so lucky to have someone that cares for his country as Reagan Walker does.

Father Leo’s driver looks in his review mirror and nods silently.

The limousine approaches a large but oddly constructed house in the middle of the encampment. The structure is assembled from a haphazard collage of wood, stone, and steel. This jigsaw mansion-like building is strangely out of place.

This is where the Chief of Americo Resource and Welfare Facility 4499 resides. His name is Bishop Lamb, he is known throughout The Church of Americo as a strong director who runs his facility with an iron fist. He is very well respected and is often rewarded by The Church for his excellent job of motivating the dump miners to produce more than the average yield of other comparable facilities.

Over the last several months, however, the production of facility has decreased nearly sixty percent. While decline in production is not uncommon, they do cause red flags at the Revenue Division within The Church of Americo. A decline in production may be caused by the death or injury of miners in a dumpsite avalanche or the dump mine may be running out of resources, but that is not the case in here. Facility 4499 is in the middle of a 1980’s cash vein and should be producing much more than it currently is.

The car speeds to the front of Bishop Lamb’s mansion and skids to a stop. The driver jumps from the car and quickly opens the door for Father Leo. Father Leo exits the car gradually while covering his mouth with his handkerchief struggling to keep from vomiting from the smell that surrounds him. Hurrying up the front steps of the mansion, the ornate but rust-covered front door swings open to meet him.

A young and attractive man, barefoot and wearing a short tunic, stands in the doorway. He does not smile nor raise his head. He is an altar boy of Bishop Lamb’s that works for The Church. With his head bowed down, he greets Father Leo.

altar boy:
His holiness will be with you shortly, Father Leo. Please have a seat and rest while you wait.

The altar boy gestures Father Leo to enter the mansion. Once inside, Father Leo is welcomed by the smell of damp and musty furniture. These furnishings are old and worn but still quite elegant. In the middle of the receiving room stands a cast-off soapstone fireplace, flanking it are two massive, high-back chairs, cracks on the heavily carved frame and legs indicating their age. These furnishings are a mish-mash of styles from no particular decade. A dated and dingy plastic torchiere lamp stands guard beside another door, a crumpled piece of tattered tapestry serving as a crude curtain. Behind the half-open curtain, Father Leo can see a bare wrought-iron bronze chandelier, its one bulb feverishly flickering in the dark. It is common for the bishops of facilities to withhold some of the dump mines’ finer finds for their own pleasure. Father Leo walks to a heavily stained, torn velvet high back chair, dusts it off, and awkwardly settles in. The altar boy follows Father Leo to his seat with his head still bowed.

altar boy:
Bishop Lamb has asked that I make you as comfortable as possible, Father Leo. Is there anything I can do for you after such a long journey?

Having said this, the altar boy kneels in front of the seated Father Leo and crosses his hands behind his back. This does not surprise Father Leo at all. What does make him suspicious is that this type of practice, although not unheard of, is usually presented after any business transaction that may need to be addressed.

Father Leo:
No, thank you, my child. I am fine, thank you.

The altar boy stands up somewhat confused by Father Leo's reply.

altar boy:
Would you prefer a nun?

Father Leo:
No, please let the Bishop know I am here.

altar boy:
Can I offer you some wine?

Father Leo:
No.

altar boy:
The Bishop told me to make sure you get any relief you need.

The altar boy’s persistence begins to irritate Father Leo and it can be seen in his face.

Father Leo:
Just let him know I am waiting.

altar boy:
Any…

Father Leo:
Now!

Startled, the altar boy turns and hurries back toward the door.

altar boy:
I am sure that his holiness will be with you shortly.

Father Leo gets up from the chair and inspects the room looking at each piece of furniture. He takes out his handkerchief and slowly wipes his eyeglasses, puts them back on, and starts making notes in his B.I.B.L.E.

A pale hand with gaudy rings on every finger carefully opens the door to the office halfway. It is Bishop Lamb. Cautious to not allow the door to squeak, Bishop Lamb enters the receiving room. Father Leo does not notice him enter.

Bishop Lamb is a short man with no noticeable hair, the style made popular by highly influential fashion slaves. His jet-black eyebrows are penciled in and arched very high, making him appear that he is always in shock. This eyebrow style is widely accepted by the Ultra Republican women. He is very thin and pale giving him the appearance of frailty and feebleness. He dresses in very long silk robes with extravagant embroidery that has frayed in different places. The train is so long that it endlessly drags on the ground behind him. On the upper arm of each sleeve is the symbol of The Church so heavily embellished in sequins and beads that it’s hard to distinguish what it once symbolized. He enjoys wearing jewelry. On each of his fingers, he wears flashy baubles. Dangling around his scrawny neck hang pendants and necklaces made out of plastic, glass, seeds, and rosary beads. He is very effeminate and does not hide this at all. Bishop Lamb tries exceedingly hard to give the appearance of being very dainty and having excessive refinement.

Bishop Lamb:
Hello, Father Leo.

Father Leo looks up from his B.I.B.L.E. and turns to see Bishop Lamb. Father Leo can’t help but to grimace at the sight of him and tries to hide his disapproval of the Bishop’s appearance and the obviously flagrant lifestyle he lives. Father Leo extends a hand in friendship as the Bishop approaches.

Father Leo:
Holiness.

Bishop Lamb approaches with open arms as if to hug Father Leo, his silk robe sleeves so long that they cover both his hands. Father Leo is not here for pleasantries; his intentions are only to find the reasons why that the facility is producing at such a low rate. Firmly, Father Leo offers only one hand. Reluctantly slowing his stride, Bishop Lamb reaches out from under his sleeve and gives Father Leo a very limp handshake.

Bishop Lamb:
What brings such a fine specimen of a Census Taker to my humble facility?

Father Leo:
Didn’t Cardinal Superbia contact you?

Bishop Lamb:
He had an altar boy call about some silly matter. But I thought I had reassured him that I had everything under control.

Father Leo:
Cardinal Superbia can see no reason why your production has decreased so dramatically.

Bishop Lamb:
This is normal in every facility. Production cannot be maintained if there is nothing to produce.

Father Leo:
Then you will not mind if I have a look around?

Bishop Lamb:
What would you like to see first?

Father Leo:
May I see your books?

Bishop Lamb:
Of course, come with me to my office.

Bishop Lamb opens the door and waits for Father Leo to step through. It is, at once, bright and dark inside; a light flickers from one chandelier bulb plays hide-and-seek with those who enter.

Father Leo follows Bishop Lamb through a long hallway. Numerous doors line the hallway walls, some to the left, others to the right, some slightly open, and some completely closed. As they continue, Father Leo observes young, attractive altar boys or young attractive nuns, in different stages of grooming themselves or lounging in unsettling ways.

Father Leo:
Why do you need so many altar boys and nuns?

Bishop Lamb:
I have no more than necessary to accomplish the will of The Church. You do not approve?

Father Leo:
Looks more like a harem than a congregation.

Bishop Lamb stops and abruptly turns to Father Leo.

The hallway is dimmer now. The flickering chandelier bulb seems so far away the two figures stand facing each other. The glint from Father Leo’s eyeglasses distinguishes them. Bishop Lamb speaks sternly but in a loud whisper, not wanting to be heard.

Bishop Lamb:
Ridiculous! What are you implying, Father Leo? I only use my staff as intended, according to the 7th commandment, paragraph 12, sub-section 1a. I abide by every rule of The Church and The Party. How dare you imply such a thing! Do not question my morality again, do you understand… Father?

Father Leo retreats a few steps backwards as Bishop Lamb speaks. Father Leo knows that even though he does not like the lifestyle that Bishop Lamb chooses to live, it is still accepted within the rules and regulations of The Church and The Party.

Father Leo:
Yes, I understand your holiness. May we continue to your office now? I wish to finish my work here today.

Bishop Lamb directs Father Leo into his office. The windows in the Bishop’s office are covered with thick blue-black velvet sheets fashioned into curtains. A mammoth flat-screen computer monitor takes up one complete wall of the office. Other walls are recklessly covered with different types of art from no particular era. An oversized paper poster of the Archangel St. Michael slaying the devil hangs frameless beside the flat-screen monitor. A cracked piece of stained glass, depicting a purple passionflower, leans against one of the velvet sheets.

The Bishop then walks over to his desk and sits on an old wooden swivel chair. His chair squeaks and whines as he turns, not wanting to follow him. Striking a few keys, a large spreadsheet reveals itself on the massive monitor, the numbers on the columns and rows change constantly racing each another. This is the chart of the dump mine production from the Resource and Welfare Facility 4499.

Father Leo:
May I use your keyboard?

Bishop Lamb:
Why?

Father Leo:
I want to create a dump of all databases.

Bishop Lamb:
Why?

Father Leo:
I need it for my report to Cardinal Superbia.

Bishop Lamb:
Is that really necessary?

Father Leo:
Yes. Why are you being so uncooperative? Are you trying to hide something from us, Bishop?

Bishop Lamb:
No, of course not. I am… at your disposal, Father Leo. Haven’t I offered every amenity?

Slowly, Bishop Lamb turns the keyboard towards Father Leo. Father Leo lays his B.I.B.L.E. on the Bishop’s desk and starts hitting some keys, then looks at the screen. He hits some more keys, then more keys, then more; the almost rhythmic pounding of his fingers sound like a dark symphony. The numbers and objects on the computer screen start to change, slowly, and then faster, pages flip from one to the other, trying to keep up with his pace. Bishop Lamb looks up blankly at the monitor; the numbers and objects appear to tattoo his mask-like pale skin. After what seemed like a never-ending arpeggio, Father Leo stops typing.

Father Leo:
Your numbers are low considering this is a relatively new facility.

Bishop Lamb:
You know how miners can be. I could get more production out of them, if I could make a few examples out of the bad ones.

Father Leo:
That won’t be necessary. What doesn’t make sense is that your flock is in the heart of a 1980’s cash vein. But it’s not producing the same amount of currency as other facilities mining within the same decade.

Openly confused Bishop Lamb looks at Father Leo, then at the monitor on the wall.

Father Leo:
Statistics show that your facility should be producing at least twenty pounds a day in copper coins alone, yet you show none. We need a full audit of this facility. Cardinal Superbia will want to look into this.

Befuddled, Bishop Lamb grabs the arms of his wooden swivel chair. It squeaks and whines, as he tries to walk while seated.

Bishop Lamb:
Cardinal Superbia …is that really necessary? You know running a facility has its advantages.

Father Leo:
What are you saying?

Bishop Lamb:
I could make it worth your while. Just fill out the report as the heavenly father expected. None would be the wiser.

Father Leo is taken back by such a request and can barely retain his disdain for such an intentional disregard for the laws of Americo.

Father Leo:
I could ask you to swear on the B.I.B.L.E. right now for such a remark, but no, with a discrepancy this large… Yes, I will be back with Cardinal Superbia. Be prepared if your books don’t balance.

Father Leo leaves the Bishop’s office. Bishop Lamb’s has real reason to be concerned. This is a real problem. Not knowing what to do, the Bishop walks to the window nearest his desk. He draws the velvet sheet curtain partly to one side and gazes out. Watching as the limousine driver closes the door after Father Leo gets in, the Bishop stands at the window frozen in time.

While clutching the curtain with both hands, he ponders what is to become of him. Surely Cardinal Superbia will discover the missing funds. What if he is asked to swear on the B.I.B.L.E.? The truth will surely come out.

Embezzlement. The word rang in his head. Embezzlement. Transfixed, he closes his eyes and repeats the word over and over in his head. Embezzlement is a crime punishable by death. What if The Church does a comprehensive scan of the mansion? They will surely find the money he has stolen and hid!

Bishop Lamb softly mutters to himself and relives his wrongdoing over and over again in his thoughts.

Bishop Lamb:
So close. So close indeed.

The Bishop’s plan was to embezzle enough money to purchase membership into “Heaven”. He only needed $20,000,000 more and at the rate the miners where extracting currency from the dumps, it would have taken only five to six more years.

But now there is a problem. It would only be a few days until Father Leo returned with Cardinal Superbia. It would be impossible to move the already absconded funds to a new hiding place. There was no other place to hide that much cash in time without being found out.

Thinking to himself, the Bishop quickly concocts a quite devilish plan; he will invite Cardinal Superbia to visit before Father Leo could make his report. He hastily grabs the phone and dials.

Bishop Lamb (admiring the rings on his free hand):
Yes, I would like to speak with Cardinal Superbia…
Hello, your Excellency. I am pleased to announce that Americo Resource and Welfare Facility 4499 had a tremendous blessing and have unearthed over $520,000.00 in paper currency…. Yes, the currency is in perfect condition... It is contained in an old briefcase… You will pick it up personally, wonderful... I will have an altar boy make all the arrangements. Yes your Excellency... Bless you, your Excellency… No, bless you… I will await your arrival… Your Excellency, before I forget, I am expecting a Census Taker today, but he seems to be tardy in his arrival. For convenience, I have created a back up of the facilities database for him to bring back with him. He can show you the results of our production upon his return. This way, I won’t tie up any of his and The Church’s very precious resources… Thank you your Excellency… No bless you.

Bishop Lamb hangs up the phone and slumps deep into his chair.

Bishop Lamb:
Now I need to find an old briefcase… Relief. I need relief! Where is an alter boy when you need one. Relief!

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