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Meet Emily McIntyre

April 4, 1973

On March 29, 1973, the last of the American POW’s walked out of the North Vietnamese prison they called the Hanoi Hilton and headed home.  Larry McIntyre was the last man out the door and onto the truck.  He had been in captivity for six months.  His capture was a quirk of fate that he had accepted as a test from God.  A Daniel in the lion’s den catechism.  His commanding officer would have called it a death wish.  Without the knowledge of his parents or his fiancé, Emily, Larry had taken every step possible to assure that he would be placed in harm’s way.  Most of his ROTC buddies at Penn State were being de-commissioned shortly after graduation because the war was winding down.  Larry had to make a determined and persuasive appeal to keep his commission and to be attached to one of the few combat units still fighting in Vietnam.

Once in Vietnam, he had taken every opportunity to get assigned to the most dangerous missions.  By September 1972, there was little else to do on the ground, but assist South Vietnamese troops in secondary roles.  The American military presence had been restricted largely to providing air support.  Captain Jessie Grant had told Larry, “Lieutenant, if you keep it up, you’re going to get yourself killed.  I’d advise you to keep your head down from now on out.  Let some other poor son of a bitch take this one.”

“This one’s mine, Captain.  I’m ready to go.”  Grant had shaken his head and handed Larry orders to accompany a column of South Vietnamese troops headed north to Quang Tri City.  They were to take part in the final stages of an effort to reclaim the province lost to the North Vietnamese in the Easter Offensive earlier that year.  A few miles short of their objective, they had been ambushed.  Larry got caught in a spray of machine gun fire and had fallen into a deep ditch next to the road.  Just before he passed out, he had seen a vision of a golden temple on a hill ablaze with light.  When he awoke, he was in a makeshift prison hospital with bandages covering half his body.  He was able to move his arms and legs, but he was in excruciating pain.  As he drifted in and out of delirium, he had seen the golden temple each time.  He was sure it was a sign of God’s favor.

Larry had become more and more desperate in his last year at Penn State because he had not yet experienced transcendence, an encounter with God so strong that it would transform him and show him the path he must take to fulfill God’s will on earth.  He was pretty sure that if he returned to his father’s steel fabrication business in Pittsburgh and raised a family in Upper St. Clair he would not have the holy epiphany he was seeking.  One cold, gray Saturday morning in January, he had been particularly despondent after masturbating.  He had defiled himself yet again, and he was sure that he would not be chosen.  He had turned to his Bible and opened it by chance to Zechariah nine, verses fourteen through seventeen, where he read:

Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet, and march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.

The Lord of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour and tread down the slingers; and they shall drink their blood like wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.

On that day the Lord their God will save them for they are the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.

Yea, how good and how fair it shall be!  Grain shall make the young men flourish, and the new wine the maidens.

Larry had been convinced that he was being called to battle where, drenched in the blood of his enemies, he would receive a revelation from God.  Based on similar random Bible selections, he had spoken to Emily in the library and later asked her to marry him.  If he had read verses eleven and twelve that day, he might have had some warning about his capture by the Viet Cong and the Lord setting “prisoners of hope” free from their “waterless pit” so that they could return to their “stronghold.”

As he recovered from his wounds and settled into the humdrum existence of life in solitary confinement, the golden temple vision had faded from his dreams.  He was afraid he had failed God in some way.  The only blood he had drunk was his own when a guard whacked him with a rifle butt, cracking his tooth and splitting his lip.  Time was slipping away.  He had been afraid the warring parties would sign an agreement at the Paris Peace talks before God could give him some clarification on the whole golden temple thing.  He needed to confront his enemy and was perplexed that he hadn’t been dragged into an interrogation room for water boarding or cattle prods.  No matter how much of a ruckus he made or how foul his epithets were, his captors had ignored him.

One day, when the guard brought him his daily ration of rice, Larry had hurled a bucket of urine and feces in his face.  That move got their attention.  After being beaten and kicked by three guards in a storm of angry Vietnamese profanity, he had been hauled naked into a small room and strapped into a chair.  While an officer looked on, two guards had attached electrodes to his nipples, testicles and penis.  For good measure, they had dropped the bottom out of the chair and stuck one up his anus.  Finally, Larry had thought, we’re getting somewhere.  Sure enough, at some point between the tenth and twentieth jolt of electricity, the golden temple had come into focus.  He had seen the grand house of worship in all of its glorious detail on a magnificent wooded hill.  The massive golden doors had opened and out had walked Emily in a flowing white robe holding their son, Larry Jr., also in a white robe.  She had been smiling and waving at him and motioning him to follow her into the temple.  It was then that he knew.  Despite the pain, he had smiled.  And then he had heard the laughter and opened his eyes.  The officer and the guards were pointing at his crotch where his penis stood at attention.  Just then he had ejaculated.  That, too, he had taken as a sign from God.

In Pittsburgh, he limped off the plane to a hero’s welcome.  Emily, Larry Jr., Larry’s parents, Emily’s parents and half of Upper St. Clair were there to greet him.  At the welcome home party at his parents’ country club, he took Emily aside and said, “I had a vision over there.  It was a message from God.”

“Really, dear.  What did He tell you?”  She was holding six month old Larry Jr. who was ready for his nap.  She had learned early on that she had very little patience with his pre-nap fussiness.  Her mother had been spelling Emily in the afternoons so that she could take her own nap.  At that point of the party, both mother and child needed a dark, quiet room.

“He wants us to build a church, a golden temple actually.  On a hill.  He wants us to minister to his flock and bring his message to Upper St. Clair and, eventually, to the rest of the world.”

Emily had never seen Larry like this.  Before, he had always spoken like some well-behaved Boy Scout with an earnest devoutness that could be irritating at times.  But now, he was speaking with an aggressive confidence that made her perk up.  “What about your father’s business?” she asked.  She was tired of living with his parents and her parents.  She was ready for the big home in the suburbs.  Every minister she knew lived in a modest parsonage.  Every minister’s wife she knew wore rummage sale dresses.

“Oh, we can’t do it right away.  I’ll still work for Dad for the time being.  I’ve got to get a divinity degree or at least take some classes.  But we can get started.  Maybe rent some space nearby.  I want to build a congregation of true believers.”

Larry Jr. was starting to whine and arch his back.  He was overtired and over-stimulated.  Emily felt like whining, too.  “But Larry, surely there’s some church we could find that would suit you.”

“There’s not one church in Pittsburgh that’s worth a damn.  They’re all sleepy little excuses for tax exemptions.  None of them is awake spiritually.  I bring a new message of redemption, a redemption born of fire and blood.  There’s a battle coming, Emily, and we have to be ready for it.”

Larry Jr. opened his mouth as wide as he could and used the full volume of his little lungs to announce his unhappiness with life as he knew it.  He was wet, tired, hungry and scared of the crazy man talking to his mother.  “We’ll talk more later.  I’ve got to find my mother,” Emily said.  She turned on her heels and marched off with her son screaming in her ear.  His tears were staining her new silk dress.  It was lavender, her favorite color, and it was her first designer dress.  The first of many, she had hoped, now that Larry was home.  She was every bit as unhappy as her son.  She did not want to be a preacher’s wife.  Surely, Larry’s father could talk some sense into him.

Later that night, after many heartfelt speeches of praise for Larry’s heroics and bravery and many toasts to the future happiness of the reunited couple, Larry climbed into bed next to Emily, who was covered from neck to ankle in her lavender flannel nightgown.  She was reading Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives.  He reached down to pull up her gown.  She put her hand on his to stop him.  “Not tonight, Larry.  I’m having my period.”  She had been so glad when she started bleeding just before she had left for the airport that morning.  She figured she had at least four days before they would have intercourse.

“I could tell,” Larry said.  “I swear I could smell your hormones.  It makes me want you even more.”

She kept her hand firmly over his.  “Yes, but, I’m all bloody down there, and I’ve got cramps and it would be such a mess on the sheets.  Your parents’ sheets.”

“Don’t worry.  Sex is good for your cramps and I’ll get a towel to put underneath you.  I didn’t tell you the other revelation I received from God.  He told me that sex between a man and his wife is His gift to us.  We celebrate Him when we make love.  It’s a form of prayer and worship.  The more we do it, the more favor He shows to us.  We are so blessed to have found each other, you and me.  We’re two healthy attractive adults, each of us turned on by the other.  There’s no reason why we can’t have sex every night for the rest of our married life.”  He gave an extra tug on her gown.

She used both hands to stop him.  “Larry.  This is not right.  It’s against the Bible.  We’re not supposed to have sex during my period,” she said, relying upon the laws of Leviticus to protect her from his assault.

“Now, Emmy, don’t Bible verse me in bed.  You can’t win that one,” he said as he forced her hands away from her gown.  “You know how you love your jumbo shrimp.  The Bible’s against shellfish, too, but you still eat them.”  He stroked her inner thigh and pulled out her tampon.  “I am the head of our house just as Jesus is the head of our church.”  As he slipped inside her bloody vagina, the image of her favorite appetizer, dipped in thick red cocktail sauce, almost made her vomit.

Moments later, he ejaculated, mixing his semen with her uterine slough.  “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asked.  “Sorry about getting blood on your gown.”  He rolled off of her on to his back and fell asleep.  She opened her eyes and caught a glimpse of his shrunken penis covered in her menstrual blood, some of it pooling in his navel.  She never ate shrimp cocktail again.