Barrett heard God speak when he was ten years old.
Years later all he would clearly remember about that Sunday
night meeting at the Rainier Gospel Tabernacle was that it
was close and sweaty, in the dead center of summer's heat.
Noisy, too. It was altar time at the front of the church, the
saints were praying and praising, and it was not the quiet,
introspective kind of worship but the hollering kind, the
throw-back-your-head-and-cry-to-Heaven kind as the women
wept, the men shouted, and the piano kept playing over and
over the strains of "I surrender all, I surrender all ."
Pastor Thompson, young and fiery, had preached a sermon
that caught John by the heart. And when the altar call came and
Pastor Thompson said, "If this word is for you, if God is speaking
to your heart, I want you to come forward, lay your all on the
altar ." John knew God was speaking to him, and he went
forward, almost running, to kneel at that long mahogany prayer
rail, his face flushed and his eyes streaming tears.
"'Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the
world!'" Pastor Thompson quoted the Scripture. "Will you
receive that Lamb tonight? Will you find Jesus?"
John was ready to receive the Lamb, he was ready to find
Jesus, and as he called on the name of the Lord, he could
even see a lamb, small, gentle, spotless and white, right there
in front of him, right on the other side of the prayer rail, so
close he could have reached out and touched its nose. He was
later told he'd had a vision, but at that moment he thought
there really was a lamb in the church, as real as anything. The
Lamb of God, like Pastor Thompson said. It was so real then,
so long ago. It was a moment that truly stirred his soul.
But that moment, with all its feelings, its meanings, its
transcendent, eternal words, even its little vision, would fade
with time, and John would eventually tuck it away in a lost
and forgotten corner of his memory.
He would not remember that he had done business with
God, that he had made a covenant with the Creator when
only a young boy-"Jesus, come into my heart and take away
my sins. God, I give You my life. Use me, Lord. I'm Yours."
The memory of his father's hand on his shoulder would
fade with time and adult ambitions, as would his father's
words, spoken loudly and prophetically in the child's ear, as
if from God Himself: "Ye are called, My son, ye are called.
Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee, and before
thou wert born I consecrated thee to My service. Walk in My
Word, listen for My voice, for I will speak to thee and guide
thee in all the paths you may take. Behold, I am with thee
He would choose not to remember. ". in all thy ways
acknowledge Me, and I shall direct thy paths ." Good
words, useful words. Forgotten words. "And lo, I am with
thee always, even unto the end of the age ." He would not
But God remembered.
I plead with you, search your heart and
change your course, for if you do not, God will change it for
you. Though you have said to yourself, 'No one sees, and no
one hears,' surely, the Lord sees, and He hears all that you
think in your heart, all that you whisper, all that you speak in
your private chambers. There is nothing hidden from the eyes
of Him with whom we have to do!"
It was the Friday after Labor Day, still sunny, still summer, the
early-evening shadows just beginning to stretch. Crowds of giddy
party supporters were coming from their homes, jobs, early
dinners, and schools to converge on The City's Flag Plaza for
Governor Hiram Slater's big campaign kickoff rally. The Hi-Yo,
Hiram! straw hats were already blooming in profusion and floating
along on hundreds of heads like leaves on a river. Before the
backdrop of the plaza's fifty state flags, a platform had been set
up, draped in blue, festooned with red, white, and blue balloons
and American flags, neatly arranged with rows of folding chairs
and garnished with a full nursery's worth of potted chrysanthemums.
Soon the rally would begin, and Governor Slater would
make his campaign kickoff speech.
But as people entered the plaza, a stocky, gray-haired man
in blue warehouse coveralls was already making a speech,
standing on the edge of a concrete planter box, primroses at
his feet, his head well above the crowd. The governor may or
may not have been within earshot, but this man was going to
shout to the governor anyway, his voice tinged with pain,
"Like Nebuchadnezzar of old, you have set up an image of
yourself for all men to follow, a towering image, a mighty
image, an image far greater than yourself. But please take
heed: the Lord would remind you, you are not that image.
Though you may say, 'I am strong and invincible, I tower over
the masses, I cannot be touched or harmed,' yet in truth you
are as weak as any man, about to be harmed, about to be
"Why don't you just shut up, big mouth!" yelled a beer-bellied
contractor passing by.
"The Truth must be heard though the lie be a tumult," the
"Not him again," griped a mother with four children in
"Get off that planter!" ordered a realtor in a business suit.
"You don't belong up there."
A radical feminist publisher responded with the slogan
Those nearby picked up the slogan, louder and louder, and
threw it at the man for pure spite. "Ho-yo, Hiram! Hi-yo,
Hiram! Hi-yo, Hiram!"
They had stung him. He looked into their faces as pain
filled his eyes, then pleaded, "The Lord is in His holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before Him!"
Through the chanting a few voices could be heard responding
in mock horror, "Ooooooooooo!"
"Our God is there, ever present, and touched with our
infirmities. He is speaking. We must be silent and listen!"
"Hi-yo, Hiram! Hi-yo, Hiram!"
Behind the platform, screened from visibility by blue
curtains, Governor Slater, small, balding, with an unimpressively
high-pitched voice, went over final details with the
"Thirty minutes," he said. "I want thirty minutes even if
you have to cut something."
Wilma Benthoff, the governor's campaign manager-and
presently his harried rally organizer-pushed her wildly
curled blonde hair away from her face so she could see her
clipboard. "Okay, we'll do the 'National Anthem,' then Marv
will introduce the dignitaries. Marv!" Marv didn't hear her; he
was busy directing photographer traffic while tying balloons
to the platform stairs. "MARV!"
He looked up. "The governor wants more time, so keep the
He nodded and said something they couldn't hear. Benthoff
went on, "Then the band will play . uh . Joyce, how many
songs is the band going to play?" Joyce didn't hear her; she was
standing too close to the trombone player practicing his scales.
"Oh, forget it. We'll cut a tune out. I'll tell her."
The governor felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Martin Devin,
one of the governor's staff members and would-be chief of staff.
The tall, former college linebacker had an amused sneer on his
face. "Our old friend the prophet is here."
The governor chuckled and shook his head. "As sure as the
sun rises." He sneaked a peek through the curtain and could
just see the old man's head above the crowd. "I wonder what
his son must be thinking right now?"
"Especially when he sees the ruckus on his own newscast! I
called a friend at Channel 6 and they're moving their camera.
They want it."
The governor's face brightened. "Always thinking, Martin,
Devin nodded, acknowledging the compliment. "So we
just might have an opportunity coming up here ."
Leslie Albright, Channel 6 news reporter, carefully placed a
molded earpiece in her ear and then found one square foot of
ground to call her own as Mel the long-haired cameraman
brought her face into clear focus. There were better places to
shoot this story, better views of the plaza, better backgrounds,
but orders were orders. Someday she was going to shoot Tina
"John, this is where is all begins for Governor Hiram Slater ."
she rehearsed in her professional news voice. "Undaunted by
challenger Bob Wilson's showing in the polls ."
With one hand she held her NewsSix microphone and with
the other her quickly jotted notes, which were trying to elude
the grasp of the three fingers holding them. She tried to
straighten her breeze-tousled blonde hair as she examined her
reflection in the camera's lens. Gawkers were already waving
to Mom behind Leslie's back.
"Undaunted by how well his challenger is doing in the
polls . Even though Bob Wilson . Even though the polls
show Bob Wilson coming on strong . uh . show Bob
Wilson gaining support ."
"We've got about ten minutes," her earpiece crackled.
"Okay," she replied, and went back to rehearsing. "The
governor has proven he has supporters too, as you can see by
the vast crowd behind me ." And then she waxed sarcastic
just to vent herself. "-which you could have seen better if
we'd stayed up on the stairs instead of moving down here."
She adjusted her red suit jacket and tried to think her
report through again. That guy standing on the planter
behind her wasn't helping much.
"The Word of God says, 'Before you were formed in the
womb, I knew you!'" he cried.
Oh brother. Now he's going to bring up that subject!
"I like it," said Tina Lewis, executive news producer. She was
in the Channel 6 control room for this one; she knew it was
going to be interesting.
Above the console where the show producer, director, and
video switcher sat, the monitors on the wall flickered a visual
three-ring circus with different things happening everywhere
all at once so fast you could hardly keep up with it. Monitors
One, Two, and Three showed the views from the three studio
cameras on the news set below; the Preview Monitor framed
whatever view would be next; the On Air Monitor showed
what people at home were seeing; the news anchors were still
in the middle of NewsSix at Five Thirty, pushing news stories
through like cars on a speeding train.
"Camera Three, head-on to John," said Susan the director.
Camera Three moved in. Monitor Three and the Preview
Monitor showed a tight head-and-shoulders shot of handsome,
fortyish anchorman John Barrett looking into the
"Pan for box." The camera moved to the right. "Box." The
video switcher hit a button, and a nicely drawn beer can in a
frame appeared in the upper-right corner of the screen.
"More trouble brewing for Bayley's Beer," said John
Barrett. "Ever since the Bayley Brewery in Tobias contracted
its aluminum can recycling to Northwest Materials ."
"Stand by Cassette Two." Cassette Two appeared freeze-framed
on the Preview Monitor.
". environmentalists have been hopping mad and foaming
up a real storm ."
"Roll Cassette Two." Button pressed. Cassette Two began to
". that could be coming to a head ."
Cassette Two counted down-Three, two, one .
". Ken Davenport has the story."
On Air, Cassette Two: a shot of the brewery. Bayley Brewery
title across bottom of screen. Ken Davenport's voice over the
"Board Members of the Bayley Brewery met today in a
closed meeting to determine what action, if any, they will
"Stand by Camera Two, head-on to Ali."
In Monitor Two, Ali Downs, co-anchor, a former model
with jet black hair and almond eyes, sat ready to begin the
In a black-and-white monitor near the ceiling, Leslie
Albright stood before the remote camera, microphone,
earpiece, and hair in place, waiting her turn to report. Behind
her a fracas was growing.
"Look at that!" said Tina Lewis, almost awestruck. "Will
you look at that!"
"You have turned your eyes from the slaughter you have
championed! You have robbed the innocent of their lives!"
said the man on the planter. "The Lord formed our inward
parts. He wove us in our mother's womb, and we are fearfully
and wonderfully made!"
That was all some of the crowd needed to hear. Hiram Slater
was a pro-choice governor, and this was a pro-choice crowd.
Things started getting quite vocal.
"You're at the wrong rally, bub!"
"Keep your bigoted views away from my body!"
"Would somebody pull him down from there?"
And through all the shouts and threats "Hi-yo, Hiram!"
never missed a beat.
Leslie thought she heard a question through her earpiece.
She held her hand over her other ear. "Say again please."
It was Rush Torrance, producer of the 5:30 newscast. "John
still needs a scripted question to close your package."
"Um ." Leslie looked behind her at the crowd coming to
a rapid boil. "Things are changing kind of fast around here.
He might want to ask me about the abortion issue . you
know, how that might be affecting the climate of the rally."
"So . how do you want it phrased? You want him to-"
The man on the planter was shouting something, the crowd
was hollering louder than he was, and all of them were
louder than Rush's voice in the earpiece.
"I'm sorry, I can't hear you!"
"I'll have him ask you about the hot issues, all right? He'll
ask you how it looks from where you stand. What's your
"Um . I'll end with, 'This campaign could be an exciting
roller coaster ride for both candidates, and the whole thing
begins in just a few minutes.'
"All right. Got it."
Leslie was getting nervous, anticipating an elbow in her
ribs or a projectile on her head any moment. She asked Mel
the cameraman, "You think we ought to move back a bit?"
"No," said Tina Lewis. In the studio they could hear everything
Leslie was saying. "Stay right there. We're seeing everything.
It looks great."
Rush Torrance passed the message along through his headset.
In the monitor Leslie cringed a little but stayed where she
was while the crowd behind her became more dense and
noisy. Fists were waving in the air.
The man on the planter was clearly visible above the
crowd, gesturing and shouting, "Hear me! Volume and chanting
and numbers and repetition and television coverage will
not make a lie true!"
Then some coat hangers appeared, waving in the air above
Tina chuckled. "They know they're on-camera."
Rush informed Leslie, "You're on after the break. Stand by."
On television screens all over the city and beyond, Ali Downs
finished up a story. "Legislators hope the move will help
displaced timber workers in time, but the timber workers say
they'll believe it when they see it."
Two-shot: John Barrett and Ali Downs seated at the expansive,
black-and-chrome news desk. In the upper background
NewsSix in large blue letters. Center background: false TV
monitor screens with faces, places, titles frozen in photographs.