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Larry Appleton was seated at his desk in the basement of the Chicago Chronicleís building, absorbed in the research he was doing for an article he was working on. He was only vaguely aware of the elevator doors opening behind him, an occurrence which happened too many times a day to count, until he heard a low voice whispering something in his direction.
"The sun sets low in the cornfield," the womanís deep voice said mysteriously.
Larry turned just long enough to see Harriet Winslow, the elevator operator, tiptoeing toward him in a sneaky manner, even though no one else was around. "The sun sets low in the cornfield," she repeated more clearly.
Casting a quick glance back and forth to ensure no one was within earshot, Larry whispered over his shoulder, not looking at her directly. "Only when the cows are sleeping."
Harretís voice rose to her normal volume, tinged with confusion. "Now, does that mean the partyís on for eight oíclock or eight thirty?"
Larry threw his pencil down in frustration and turned in his chair to face her. "Eight-thirty. Sleeping cows means eight-thirty. Everybody knows that!"
"Well, if you ask me youíre going to a lot of trouble to keep this birthday party a secret from Balki," Harriet commented sharply.
"No more than anyone else would."
"Oh yeah," Harriet began, placing her hands on her hips. "Party invitations always come with code books. I thought I was being asked to take part in a James Bond mission!"
"Well, you only live twice," Larry quipped. "I want this to be the best party ever!"
"Why is it so important to surprise Balki for his birthday?" Harriet asked. "I mean, it isnít like he wonít be excited enough about it if he knows."
"Balki once threw a surprise party for me at three a.m.! So, Iím holding this party for him two days before his birthday. He wonít suspect a thing."
Harriet shook her head. "All I know is there was less planning for the Summer Olympics."
Larry snapped his fingers as he remembered something. "Oh! Could you do me a favor?"
"You gonna issue me instructions in a sealed envelope again?" Harriet eyed him warily.
"There isnít time. Iíve got Lydia picking up some party favors on her lunch hour. Could you possibly pick up the cake at the bakery?"
"Sure thing, baby," Harriet said. "What do I say to the baker? ĎThe plane is overheadí or ĎThe chicken has crossed the freeway?í"
Larry stared at her for a moment. "Try ĎIím here to pick up a cake for Mr. Appletoní."
Harriet nodded intently. "Works for me!"
"Iíve got to finish this research and get home to decorate the apartment," Larry sighed. At that moment they both heard Balki Bartokomous just before he entered at the top of the stairs, singing the theme song to Threeís Company as he danced down the stairs.
Larry motioned to Harriet to hush their conversation, which she already knew. Harriet winked at him and said, quietly, "When the cows are sleeping . . . right." She said hello to Balki and then walked back into the elevator and closed the door.
Balki stopped at Larryís desk and looked down at his cousin with a questioning look. "Cousin, if you needed to know about cows, why you didnít ask me?"
Larry stared at Balki a moment, then decided it was best to ignore the question altogether, turning back to his work.
"Is it for the article youíre researching?" Balki asked.
"Uh huh," Larry answered without really having heard the question. He picked up a file folder and held it up toward his cousin. "Would you file this for me, please?"
Balki took the file from Larry and walked to the file cabinet below the stairway. "What is your article about?" he asked, still trying to engage Larry in conversation.
"Itís about employment problems in Chicago," Larry answered.
Balki stopped and looked at Larry with surprise. "Cows have employment problems? Cousin, thatís udder nonsense!" He laughed at his own joke, throwing his hands into the air. "Where do I come up with them?"
Larry looked at Balki, then realized how Balki had misunderstood him. "No, Balki, the article isnít about . . . . "
Larry wasnít able to finish his sentence because heíd just seen Lydia Markham enter the basement from the top of the stairs carrying a few packages of party favors. He tried to motion for her to stop but she was talking and not looking in his direction at all.
"I picked up the things you asked me to, Larry. It took me a while to decipher your shopping list."
Balki stepped out to greet Lydia, startling her. "Hello, Miss Lydia!"
Lydia quickly tried to hide the items behind her back. "Oh . . . hello, Balki! What a surprise to see you here!" She looked to Larry, who was placing the paper heíd been working on into a manila envelope.
"But you always see me here," Balki pointed out. He tried to look over her shoulders to see what she was hiding behind her back. "What that?"
"Whatís what?" Lydia replied a little too nervously.
"Oh, I know this one!" Balki said excitedly. "Whatís on second!"
"Whatís on second?" Lydia asked with confusion. At this point Larry stepped between her and Balki.
"Whoís on first?" Balki asked with a smile.
"I donít know," Larry answered.
"Third base!" both Larry and Balki answered in unison, which caused Balki to start laughing with glee.
Larry held up the envelope which heíd brought over with him. "Balki, would you run this upstairs to the editorís desk for me?"
Balki took the envelope willingly. "Another package to go upstairs? Iíve gone up and down so much today . . . I feel like the price of gasoline."
Balki stood looking over the envelope as Larry waited for him to leave. "Balki, could you hurry? There are jobless cows roaming the city as we speak!"
"Oh, I take it right away!" Balki snapped out of his study of the envelope and hurried up the staircase.
Lydia handed Larry the party items and he hid them in a drawer of his desk. "Iím sorry, Larry, I didnít see him."
"Donít worry," Larry assured her. "Thereís been several close calls already today."
"So, do the sheep sleep in the cornfield or is the sun setting low over the cows?" Lydia asked.
Larry gave her a confused look. "No, no, no . . . the cows are sleeping on the sheep. I mean . . . . " He picked up a stack of papers marked "Party Plan" that was hidden under some loose pages on his desk. He rifled through them for a moment, then sighed and gave up. "The party starts at eight-thirty."
"Okay," Lydia nodded, then paused. "What does that mean?"
Larry didnít answer . . . his attention seemed to be distracted towards the staircase. Lydia turned to see a man and a woman coming down the stairs. Both were wearing robes and carrying books and flowers. They approached Larry and Lydia, smiling broadly.
"Can we help you?" Larry asked tentatively.
The woman stepped forward. "The question is, can we help you?"
"In that case, I think we know the answer," Larry commented.
"We wish to share with you the key to true happiness," the man smiled.
"Wouldnít you like to see a world where there are no problems?" the woman added.
"Are you kidding?" Lydia cried. "Iíd be out of a job!"
The man shook his head gently. "With all the suffering in the world, this is not a time to be selfish."
"Itís not a time to be without major credit cards, either!" Lydia countered.
The man continued unabated. "But you, too, can achieve complete happiness by following the teachings of true meditation as taught be Professor Raja Houston."
Lydia stepped back and turned to Larry, motioning to the man and woman. "I know! These people are from that religious cult profiled in the Sunday supplement last weekend!"
"This newspaper has printed many detrimental things about our way of living," the man confessed, not showing any anger. "What better way to show the true love behind our beliefs than to help the skeptics find happiness for themselves?"
"Just how much does this happiness cost?" Larry asked suspiciously.
"You cannot put a price on happiness," the man smiled.
"So the books are free, then?" Larry asked.
"Theyíre $12.95. But compared to the spiritual rewards you will receive, that is but a mere drop in the bucket!"
"Or a drop in someoneís pocket anyway," Larry countered. "Weíre not interested."
At that moment Jimmy the security guard appeared at the top of the stairs, doing a double take when we saw the two robed people below. "Hey!" he called as he started down the steps. "I thought I told you to leave the building! We donít allow soliciting here!"
"Sir, would you say that spreading the word of pure joy can be considered solicitation?" the man asked calmly.
"When itís for money . . . yes." Jimmy gently took them by the elbow and led them both up the stairs. "Come on now."
"Do you realize that uniform is channeling your positive energy into a negative field?" the woman asked when they reached the top of the stairs.
"Really?" Jimmy asked, looking down at his shirt. "Maybe a light blue would be better?" The three of them disappeared from sight.
Lydia turned to Larry. "Do you believe the nerve of those people? You canít turn around these days without someone interfering with your given right to be miserable!" She headed for the elevator and pushed the button. "Donít worry, Larry. Iíll be at the party before the sheep fall asleep."
The elevator door opened, revealing Harriet and Balki standing inside. Balki stepped out as Lydia stepped in. "Thank you, Harriet," Balki smiled. "I was getting pretty windy running up and down the stairs."
"Thatís winded, baby, but youíre welcome," Harriet offered.
Balki leaned against the elevator door. "Would either of you like to do something tonight? Maybe go to a movie?"
"Sorry, baby, but my husband will want dinner the minute he gets home . . . maybe some other time," Harriet apologized quickly as Lydia spoke simultaneously.
"Oh Iím afraid I canít, Iíve got so much to so . . . fix my hair . . . you know . . . . " The elevator door closed on their continued excuses.
Balki walked sadly over to Larryís desk. "Cousin, I wish you didnít have to work on that article tonight." His face brightened suddenly. "Maybe I could help you!"
Larryís was quick to intervene. "No, Balki, Iíd better work on it alone. But just because I have to work tonight doesnít mean you canít go out."
"Mary Anne said she was busy tonight. Come to think of it, sheís been busy a lot lately." Balki sighed. "Maybe I just go home with you and put my shoes up while you work."
Larryís eyes widened. "No! Um . . . I mean . . . it would really help me if you could stay out for a while . . . say until . . . oh, I donít know . . . eight-thirty?"
"Well . . . okay. If it will help with your article."
"More than you know!" Larry nodded, throwing various papers into his briefcase. "Iíve got to get going. Remember . . . . "
"Donít come home before eight-thirty," Balki stated clearly.
"Right. See you later!"
Balki walked to his work table while Larry watched, making sure Balki wasnít looking as he grabbed the party favors from his desk drawer and threw them into his briefcase as well and hurried to the parking garage.
Balki sat at his mail table, finishing his dayís work, as he talked to himself. "Iíll find something to do. Just because everyone is busy . . . and just because Cousin Larry donít want me to help him with his article . . . and just because my friends are avoiding my like plaque . . . " He stopped as he sadly came to a conclusion, " . . . I must have make them mad at me."
Trying to forget his troubles, Balki continued with his work. He was so busy sorting mail that he didnít notice the man and woman in robes who had sneaked back into the building through the parking garage. Seeing Balki was alone they approached his table.
"Hello there," the woman said.
Balki looked up at them, saying "Hello," then looked them up and down incredulously. "Wwoowww! You two must have got up quickly this morning! You didnít even get out of your bedsheets!"
The man laughed slightly, fingering his robes. "No, no, these are robes. We wear them as a symbol of our commitment to the purity of the universal energy."
"Oh, Iím sorry," Balki offered genuinely. "I thought you just didnít have any proper clothes."
The woman walked around Balki, her arms outstretched towards him. "Oh! This person has such a strong essence about him!"
"Really?" Balki asked, sniffing at himself worriedly. "Maybe thatís why no one wants to be around me."
"Donít you have any friends?" the woman asked sadly.
"I have wonderful friends!" Balki assured her. "Only I think maybe theyíre angry with me."
"Thatís sad," the man sympathized. "Negative energy is breaking down the elements of our environment."
Balki looked at him in confusion. "I thought that was aerosol sprays."
"If only more people would learn to channel their negative energy into positive forms," the man continued.
"That would be nice," Balki agreed. "But I donít think they offer that course at my college."
"Our group has discussion meetings on the subject. In fact, thereís one tonight! Would you like to come?"
"Really?" Balki asked excitedly. "Could I?"
"Certainly!" the woman beamed. "Youíll like the teachings. Our goal is world peace and happiness for all. You would like to see world peace, wouldnít you?"
Balki tilted his head and huffed. "Well, of course I would! Donít be ridiculous!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Larry paced from the kitchen to the front door as Jennifer Lyons and Mary Anne Spencer watched. Larry paused to eye the uncut cake still sitting on the coffee table and the party decorations which were taped up around the room. He checked his watch again.
"Where is he? Itís eleven-thirty!"
"Calm down, Larry!" Jennifer urged. "Iím sure Balkiís all right!"
Larry moaned in frustration. "All those people sitting here until eleven! Then I have to tell them there isnít going to be any party!"
"Are you sure you told Balki to come home at eight-thirty?" Jennifer asked.
"Yes, Iím sure!" Larry insisted.
"Maybe Balki is still on Myposian time," Mary Anne offered, which caused Larry and Jennifer to give her a strange look.
Jennifer turned to Larry again. "But some people came at eight and others at eight-thirty. You codes were a little confusing."
"I told him to come home after eight-thirty!" Larry repeated, then sighed sadly. "I had this party planned to the tiniest detail . . . "
"Except making sure Balki would be here," Mary Anne observed.
Larry stared at Mary Anne in disbelief but then he heard a key rattling in the front door. Desperately Larry lunged at the door, shouting before reaching it. "Balki, where have you been??" he cried, throwing the door open.
To everyoneís shock Balki was standing in the doorway dressed in robes and holding flowers. He gave Larry a big smile. "Oh, cousin! You didnít have to wait up for me!"
Balki entered the apartment, oblivious to everyoneís stunned stares. Larry, still stunned, closed the door behind him.
"Mary Anne! Jennifer!" Balki cried. "What a nice surprise!" He handed each of them a flower. "Here. For you."
Jennifer took the flower, still stunned. "Thank you, Balki," she managed to say.
Larry found his voice more easily. "Balki, we were worried sick about you! Why are you dressed like that?"
"Cousin, I found something to do tonight!" Balki said excitedly.
"Donít tell me. You mugged Ghandi."
"I made some new friends!" Balki continued. "They invite me to a meeting and teach me about their beliefs."
"I told you to come home after eight-thirty," Larry cried.
"It is after eight-thirty," Balki pointed out, then paused. "Did you mean in the morning?"
Larry was losing his patience altogether. "We were having a surprise party!"
Balki gave his cousin a hurt look. "You had a party and you didnít invite me?"
"It was for you! For your birthday!"
"Thatís funny," Balki said, thinking. "I thought my birthday was still two days away."
Larry ran a hand over his forehead, trying desperately to keep his cool. Seeing Larryís frustration, Balki walked over and patted his cousinís back. "Oh, Cousin, it was a nice idea but the church doesnít believe in birthdays."
"What church are you talking about, Balki?" Jennifer asked.
"The Scientific Church for the Advancement of Meditation. They say I have a strong scent about me that can help combat the negative aerosol sprays which are breaking down our environment."
Larry gave Balki a stunned look. "What do they worship? Roll-on deodorant?"
"Well of course not! Donít be ridiculous!" Balki scoffed. "They believe in the use of meditation for thorough cleansing of the soul."
"Does this cleansing of the soul include washing of the brain?" Larry asked accusingly.
Balki reached into his robes to remove a brochure, thumbing through it. "I donít remember . . . let me check."
Larry snatched the brochure away roughly. "Give me that! You are not going to any more meetings of this group!"
"I donít have to!" Balki said happily. "Iíve already been accepted! And I have been asked to spend the weekend at the their Chicago Headquarters! Oh, I have to hurry. Professor Raja Houston is waiting for me downstairs." As they watched Balki ran to the telephone stand to get his checkbook. "Cousin, why you donít come with me?"
"Not on your life!" Larry huffed. "Iím not about to fall in with some crack-brained religious organization!"
"Whatís wrong with cracking your brain?" Balki asked. "Itís good to keep an open mind."
Larry dropped the brochure on the end table in disgust. "And while youíre opening your mind, theyíre opening your wallet and taking you for everything youíve got!"
Balki eyed Larry wearily. "Cousin, why are you always so suspended?"
"Thatís suspicious," Larry corrected, "and Iím not!"
"Is that why you asked a Girl Scout for references before buying a box of cookies?" Balki asked, grabbing Dimitri from the bookshelf.
Larry was really starting to lose his patience. "Balki, you are not going to spend the weekend at a religious retreat!"
"But Iím all ready to go," Balki said. "Iíve got my checkbook and Dimitri . . . . "
"Balki, go to your room!" Larry commanded loudly.
Jennifer ran to Larry, putting her hands on his shoulder to calm him down. "Canít we discuss this rationally?"
"Thereís nothing to discuss!" Larry insisted. "Balkiís not going!"
"Well youíd better tell him that!" Mary Anne commented.
Balki was already heading for the door. In desperation, Larry threw himself across the door, blocking Balkiís exit. "Youíre not leaving this apartment!"
Balki very calmly picked up Larry and set him aside. "Cousin, if you decide to open your brain later, please come to the headquarters."
Balki walked out the door and Larry moved to follow but Jennifer held him back. "Larry, you canít order Balki around!"
"You expect me to just stand here and let Balki get kidnapped by a religious cult?" Larry cried.
"At least heís being kidnapped in style!" Mary Anne commented as she looked out the window.
Larry and Jennifer crossed the room to see what Mary Anne meant. "What do you mean?" Jennifer asked.
"He just got into that limousine down there," Mary Anne pointed out.
They watched as the limousine pulled away from the curb and disappeared down the street. Together they moved to the couch and chair, sitting down.
"You see that?" Larry asked. "What else do you expect from an organization whose anagram spells S.C.A.M.?"
"He may be right, Jennifer," Mary Anne commented. "Some religious groups are formed by a charismatic person with a knowledge of mind-control techniques to take advantage of the open-hearted individuals of our society."
Larry and Jennifer stared at Mary Anne in surprise.
"Geraldo had a special," Mary Anne explained.
"About religious cults?" asked Jennifer.
Mary Anne rolled her eyes at her best friend. "No, it was about pet psychics!"
Jennifer and Larry both stared at Mary Anne for a moment before Jennifer shook her head and turned to Larry. "I donít doubt but youíre right about this organization, Larry, but you should trying talking to Balki about it . . . and in a lower decibel."
Larry thought this over a moment. Finally he picked up the brochure and stood up. "I suppose youíre right, Jennifer. How about if I go down to the headquarters building and try talking to Balki calmly and rationally?" He walked over to retrieve his coat from the closet.
"That sounds like a good idea, Larry," Jennifer agreed.
"And if that doesnít work," Larry continued, "Iíll drag him out of there by his robes!" He raced out the door, slamming it shut behind him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Larry was rushing back and forth down hallway after hallway, trying to get his bearings while avoiding any of the security guards he had to sneak past to get in. He paused to pull the robes he had hastily thrown on over his clothes as a disguise, cursing the fact they kept falling down and making him stumble. He heard someone coming down the hall around the corner and quickly ducked into a room, listening at the door as he heard footsteps rush by outside.
Letting out a sigh of relief, Larry turned and saw he was in a run-down former office space with a few, cheap decorations scattered about and tattered sheets acting as curtains. Sitting in the middle of the room was Balki, seated in the lotus position, eyes closed, humming gently. Dimitri stood next to him, draped in small robes of his own.
"Here you are!" Larry said with relief. "Iíve been running all over this dilapidated building looking for you! Balki? Balki!" He bent down and shook Balki roughly until Balki looked up at him.
"Oh, hi Cousin! You decided to join after all! I know youíre going to like meditation."
"Are you out of your mind?" Larry cried.
"You mean out of my body," Balki corrected. "You have a lot to learn. Like not wearing your robes over your regular clothes."
"Balki, these people donít care about you! They only want your money!"
"They havenít asked me for any money yet," Balki explained.
"You mean theyíre giving you free room and meals for the weekend?" Larry asked in disbelief.
"No meals. Weíre going to speed."
"A few days without eating will clean out my intake system," Balki said.
"Youíre going to fast!" Larry corrected.
"Oh, Iím sorry," Balki apologized. "Iíll try to slow down. A . . . few . . . days . . . . "
Larry grabbed Balki by the robes, pulling their noses together. "Balki, think about it . . . . "
Balki twisted his face into an expression of pained thinking.
"They made sure you brought your checkbook, so theyíre going to ask you for money," Larry continued.
"Cousin, please. They said I could donate something at the end of the weekend if I want to, so I decided to bring my checkbook. No one ask me to."
"Oh sure, sure. And do you think this dump costs them anything? The only thing theyíre going to teach you is how to sell a book and bother people in airports!"
Balki looked down at the violent grip Larry had on his robes. "Oh yes, and this is a much better alternative."
Larry looked down at his clenched hands and released his grip.
Balki looked at Larry, wanting him to understand. "Cousin, Iím not leaving until I learn what I am doing wrong."
Larry sat back with a sigh, taken aback by this statement. "What are you talking about?"
"Professor Raja Houston says I can make myself into a better person through meditation, and I want to do that so my friends will like me again."
"Wh . . . what makes you think your friends donít like you?" Larry asked worriedly.
"I have eyes! I concede! Everyone has been avoiding me all week and tonight you donít want me to come home."
"Balki . . . I asked you not to come home because I wanted to surprise you for your birthday! And everyone was just trying to keep the party a secret because . . . I asked them to."
"Wait a minute," Balki said. "I think Iím beginning to make the French Connection here. Everyone has been treating me like dirt because they wanted to help you surprise me for my birthday?"
"Something like that," Larry confessed.
"Oh Cousin!" Balki said with a smile. "Thatís the nicest thing I ever heard!"
"Really?" Larry asked in a meek tone. "The way you put it, it sounds kind of nauseating. I was so worried about everything going smoothly I didnít stop to think how you might be feeling."
"Thatís okay, Cousin," Balki assured him. "If Iíd known you were throwing me a party I wouldnít have missed it for all the T-shirts in China!"
"If anyone needs self-improvement around here, itís me!" Larry sighed.
"Does that mean youíll spend the weekend here with me?" Balki asked hopefully.
"Youíre not still planning on staying, are you?" Larry asked with surprise.
"Why not?" Balki asked. "I can learn about meditation just in case my friends ever do get mad at me!"
"Balki, I donít think you . . . . "
Larry was interrupted by the sound of the door slamming somewhere nearby, followed by the sound of loud footsteps.
"Someoneís coming!" Larry cried, jumping to his feet and looking for a place to hide.
"I donít think anyone minds you being here," Balki said.
"Donít bet on it," Larry huffed. "They wouldnít let me into the building!" He ran to the makeshift curtains and grabbed hold of them tightly, intending to hide behind them.
"Oh Cousin, donít mess up the room," Balki pleaded.
The sheets pulled away from the wall, revealing boarded up and broken windows. "Someone already beat me to it," Larry pointed out, trying to somehow throw the sheets back up into place.
"I guess the building is still under destruction," Balki commented.
"That goes without saying," Larry snapped, finally just throwing the sheets over his head in a ridiculous attempt to hide as the sound of footsteps grew louder. After a very tense moment the footsteps faded away again and Larry sighed with relief, pulling the sheet off his head. "That was close!"
"Cousin, youíre a nervous wrench!"
Larry ran to Balki, leaning over to talk to him quietly, his back to the door. "Balki, look around you! Canít you see whatís going on? They tried to keep me from seeing you!"
"Professor Raja Houston says that isolation is essential for our meditational development," Balki explained. "But I donít see why we canít be isolated together."
"Yeah, well, I wouldnít mind having a word with this Raja Houston fellow!" Larry asserted.
"What would you like to talk about?" a female voice said.
Larry wheeled, surprised to see a woman had entered the room. She was dressed in a sharp business suit and stood with his arms across her chest. "Youíre Raja Houston?"
"Thatís Professor Raja Houston, P.M.S.!" Balki exclaimed excitedly.
Larry shook his head. "Uh, Balki, I donít think you mean . . . "
Professor Houston scowled angrily at Larry. "It stands for Professor of Meditational Science!" she stated firmly. "What are you doing here?"
"Iím Balkiís cousin, and Iíve come to take him home," Larry said firmly.
Professor Houston crossed to Balki, patting him on the head. "Youíre not leaving, are you, Balki? You showed so much promise!"
"I know I promise," Balki started, "but Cousin Larry doesnít think I should stay here."
The Professor turned on Larry. "Iím afraid Iíll have to ask you to leave. My disciples need isolation so they can concentrate on their studies."
"And so you can manipulate their minds?" Larry accused.
"Your negative energy is so distressing!" Professor Houston cried. "I canít have this in my building!"
"Miss Houston?" Balki said, getting to his feet and immediately having to shake out a painful charlie horse. "Maybe you could teach Cousin Larry to get rid of his negative energy. He has much more than his share."
"I donít think so."
Balki looked at her with surprise. "But you could help relieve him of his mind."
"There are no more rooms available," Professor Houston said curtly.
"He could stay with me!" Balki suggested.
Professor Houston put her arm around Balkiís shoulder and took him to one side. "Balki, you remember I told you that an important part of your studies would be recognizing the elements harmful to the cleansing of your karma?"
"Well of course I do, donít be ridiculous," Balki answered.
"Your cousin could be very detrimental to the process."
"But . . . heís my family!" Balki protested.
"Balki, weíre your family now! This is your home! We have an important goal to work for and that is world peace! You belong at home where you can devote your life to that purpose!"
"Youíre right," Balki nodded. "I belong at home." He stepped away from Professor Houston and walked over to Larry, placing an arm around his shoulder. "And home is with my Cousin Larry."
"What?" Professor Houston asked as if she hadnít heard correctly.
"Miss Houston, you say you are working for world peace, but you ask me to turn my back on my own family. Cousin Larry and I donít always agree with each other, but we care about one another. If you canít have peace in your own family how can you hope to achieve peace for the entire world?"
Professor Houston glared at him angrily. "Have you written a best-selling book?"
"Not that I know of," Balki admitted.
"Then leave the philosophy
to me!" She stepped to the door. "I'm going to call
security to have your cousin removed and we'll have a nice long talk about your
feelings . . . and what's wrong with them."
"There's something wrong with my feelings?" Balki asked, looking confused. He eyed Larry worriedly.
Larry patted Balki's shoulder with confidence. "All right, no need to call security . . . I'll leave. I'm sure Balki will be fine on his own. I look forward to seeing how this weekend affects him . . . as will the readers."
Professor Houston was about to call down the hall but stopped. "Readers?"
"Oh, didn't Balki tell
you? He works with me at the Chicago Chronicle. I'm sure a follow up
to the Sunday supplement story would be very valuable to dispel any
misconceptions the public might have about your organization. Balki's
insight into his experiences this weekend . . . or his lack of communication
with me afterward . . . would make very interesting reading . . . don't you
Professor Houston's eyes burned with rage. She stepped back into the room, forcing a smile as she approached them. "Balki . . . you know, I think I might have been wrong. I don't really think you belong here. We would never force anyone to do anything they don't feel comfortable with."
"That's good," Balki said, "because my 'wrong' feelings tell me I should go home."
Professor Houston eyed them both with contempt. "l expect this room to be vacant in ten minutes." She stormed from the room.
Larry turned to Balki with a smile. "Balki, that was a wonderful thing you said about family."
"They can ask me to give up food or money but no one tells this Mypiot to give up his family! I was a fool to listen to them at all."
"An open mind is a good thing," Larry observed. "Just remember to keep your eyes open as well!"
"I think youíre right," Balki nodded. "Thank you."
"Well, Iím sorry I yelled at you."
"Thatís okay, Cousin," Balki smiled. He picked up Dimitri from the floor and they headed for the door. "You know, I feel kind of bad about letting Ms. Houston down."
"Somehow I think sheíll get over it," Larry sighed.
Balki nodded. "I just hope she can find someone else to polish her Rolls Royce on Sunday."