The Virgin, the Devil, and the Chosen One
Chapter 2

June 12, 1980

. . . Carol, Amin, and I are together in the joy of the understanding that everything is perfect and shining and wonderful. I angrily jerked on my clothes. I’d slept for three hours.

I’d just finished putting Ariel and a pile of toys in the middle of a circle of three chairs in the living room when Amin knocked on the door. I let him in, holding my notebook in front of me in case he tried to hug me. He quietly sat down. Carol sat in the other chair. We watched Ariel play for a few minutes, then I said, “There are three people involved in this and I have only forgiven two of them. I need to reach an understanding so that I can live with myself. Is there a word in Afghanistan for 'cuckold'?”

“Probably.” He shrugged. “I don't know.”

“What do people think of such a man?”

“Everybody thinks something different.”

“If you were the owner of the store and Carol had sex in the office with Cary [my best friend], could you forgive him?”


I didn’t believe him. I was sure they shot people for less in Afghanistan.

“Amin, do you remember how you felt about the shoplifter who cried and repented? Whenever he came into the store after that you could not trust him.”

“Danny, I'm no shoplifter!”

“From my point of view you're an Afghan bandit!” He shifted uneasily in his chair. “How can you respect me, when you did something so disrespectful?”

“I always had great respect for you! I made a mistake, but it was separate. It was between me and her. It had nothing to with you.”

“You were a night watchman before the Bean Sprout. Did you ever think I could make you one again?”

“I gave you a gift of sword or forgiveness. You chose forgiveness because your higher self knew.”

“Don't talk to me about my higher self!” I shouted. “I could just as well say Marilyn's higher self is telling me to phone her right now! I, this me, forgave you!”

“Okay, okay,” he said nervously, his dusky skin turning pale.

I leaned back in my chair, and considered abandoning the concept of a higher self. When the dreams first began Carol could only remember bits and pieces, sometimes nothing at all. Amin thought she was lying. I had explained to him that her conscious dreamer was her higher self, which could do and know things her waking self could not. I thought of how lonely I'd feel without the comforting feeling of my higher self watching over me—an image intruded into my mind of shaking hands with Amin and accepting his word he wouldn't make love to Carol for the rest of the summer. Anger gripped me like a heart attack—“Nice Daddy, nice Daddy,” Ariel said, patting me on the knee and smiling beatifically as he looked up into my face. He went to Amin and Carol in turn and said, “Nice Amin,” and, “Nice Mommy,” as he patted each of them on the knee. He resumed playing with his toys like an ordinary little boy.

Even God was against me. Stubbornly, I persevered. “You said once you were never jealous of me. Yet Carol tells me things you said that indicated jealousy.”

He glanced piercingly at her. She flushed and looked away. “I treated the Bean Sprout as my own, as if I was an owner, just because I respected you so much.”

“Not because you had sex with the other owner?”

“Definitely not.”

I stared at him. He looked at the floor. Ariel made zoom-zoom noises and talked to his trucks. The knowledge slowly rose up from within me that I would be the main victim of any vengeance I exacted. The image that had shoved its way into my mind earlier came back to me, only this time as my own. “Can you promise me you won't have sex with Carol until after I leave Halifax at the end of the summer?”

“I give you my word,” he said, looking steadily into my eyes. I saw the harsh mountain redoubts of the Hindu Kush in his dusky-skinned face and knew I had just received an Afghan bandit's word of honor.

I turned to Carol. “Can you promise me you won't have sex with Amin until after I leave Halifax?”

“Yes,” she said quietly. Ariel looked up at his three parents shaking hands above his head and broke into peals of sweet baby laughter. The sound made me unbearably sad. Amin left. The door slammed shut behind him.

“I can let you out of jail now,” I told Carol. A door slammed shut on me. I had to move my family to a new house before I left for massage school in Massachusetts; my parents were coming for a long visit in the middle of the summer; and Carol was going to a three-week workshop in California after that. I couldn’t leave Halifax until the end of August.

Amin called from the store. He needed me to sign some checks. I told Carol to take a nap and hopped in the car. Halfway there a car crossed the yellow line and came right at me. I couldn’t pull off the road. There were concrete barriers on either side and no shoulder. I slowed down. He accelerated, aiming directly at me. I stood on the brakes. My tires screeched. At the very last second he swerved and roared past with inches to spare. I drove to the store, shaking and sweating. I knew what it meant. Firing Amin and evicting Carol from the house was a head-on collision with disaster that I’d avoided in the nick of time.

I walked into the long, narrow office at the back of the Bean Sprout. Amin sat forlornly at the desk piled high with undealt-with things. He had such a hard time with paperwork in English. I signed some checks, then touched him on the shoulder and said, “This has been a rough two days for you, too, hasn't it?”

“I haven't got sleep for the two last nights. Will you help me find an invoice?”

I sorted through the stack of papers and found the invoice. He stood up and a river of love poured down over the two of us. I was compelled to hug him. “Amin, I really love you, I—” My voice quit. I couldn’t talk, move, nor think. We stayed rooted like a statue of two men embracing for several long minutes, until the river of love dissolved into little sparkles of joy and released us. Into my sun-blinded mind came the words of an angel: “A human being does not have the power to deny love of this intensity.”

“I love you, too, Danny, and I always will.” His eyes were wet with tears.

I wandered around the Bean Sprout in shock, trying to remember what groceries to buy. So that’s how Carol, so much like a virgin nun when it came to sex, had managed to be outrageously adulterous. It was not lying, to say Ariel made them do it. I was still in shock when I got home, and discovered I'd left the groceries at the store. I told Carol about the river of love, then said, “You're right. It had nothing to do with me.”

“You were always so nice to me, loving my body through all its changes. Amin goes gooey-¬eyed over sexy young ladies, making me feel old and ugly, and he never tells me differently.”

“How did it happen?”

“I was walking up the steps to the YMCA for my exercise class when I met him coming out from karate. He told me to follow him in my car, so I did. We pulled into the motel. I sat in my car while he went to the office. I couldn't go in, just like that. I had to go for a walk first. We walked through the woods for a while, then went to the room. He was awkward and shy, which endeared him to me. He turned out the lights and undressed in the bathroom with the door shut. I used a diaphragm and jelly. He came twice, but I didn't.”

“What did I say when you came home?”

“You said, ‘You sure look good! You should go to the “Y” more often!’ When you said that I knew I shouldn't tell you anything.”

I lay awake until dawn, amazed.

The next morning I went to work for the first time in a year. I’d keep Magical Books & Letters open for as long as the inventory lasted at 50 percent off. Amin crossed the hallway from the Bean Sprout to say hi. “I'm glad I never learned before I did,” I said. “Forgive me for the terrible things I said.”

“I met you on the soul level last night, where all is love.”

“I have a great deal of respect for your and Carol's actions. If the energy I felt when I hugged you yesterday was what the two of you were dealing with, then what's really amazing is how restrained you were, to make love only three times in three years.”

“Two thousand times!” he said, leaning close and shaking his fist in my face. “Had it not been for how much we respected you!”

“I love Ariel more than ever, knowing you're his father too!” I said fervently, leaning close. He looked at me strangely, then went back to the Bean Sprout.

All day long I couldn't complete simple tasks. I was exhausted when I got home that night…and found I'd forgotten all the groceries again. Carol was coarse and grouchy, and I desperately wanted to get away from her and all her little needs. I was relieved when she left for karate. I could pretend I was a single parent.

After I put the boys to bed, I looked at Ariel, asleep in his crib, and wondered if he could love me as much as Carol and Amin, since there wasn't any of me in him. “Vanity, vanity,” I chided myself. I looked at the reddish tint in his hair and imagined saying to my parents, “Maybe he'll be a redhead like my sister.” I wondered if that would fool them. I couldn't believe how blind I'd been for two years. He looked like a miniature Amin. Yet up until June Sixth all I saw when I looked at Ariel was my little Tibetan, the proof of my spiritual purpose.

The next night, three times in a row, Ariel woke up crying when I tried to put him down in his crib. Finally, I put him down in Mommy's bed. I looked at the angelic beauty all little children have when they're finally asleep—then startled, as I remembered. It was just so strange to raise another man's child by my wife.

. . . I am remembering how I came to the knowledge of Ariel's origins—I must be dreaming! I concentrate on the image of Amin's apartment, then land on his balcony. “Amin!” I see his empty body lying exhausted in bed. “Amin!” He flies in through the window—I woke up, right at the good part. That morning, when I was unlocking the door to Magical, he walked across the hallway from the Bean Sprout.

“Do you remember me coming to your apartment last night?”

“Yes!” He looked surprised, as if he hadn’t expected me to remember.

“What did we talk about?” He smiled. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?” He left. I started re¬arranging the remaining books. All the good ones were already gone.

A week later I stood in the doorway to the lawyer’s office with Ariel in my arms and looked at Carol, Amin, and the lawyer. I thought about what I was going to do and couldn’t move for a minute. . . then I handed my baby to Carol and sat down in the empty chair. The lawyer handed me the document. “I, Daniel Baker-Toombs, do hereby remise, release, and forever discharge Carol Baker-Toombs and Amin Nasr . . .” The flicker of a migraine made the words look seasick. I signed anyway. Now they owned the Bean Sprout, and I could afford to go to massage school in the States. We all shook hands. The flickering gave way to a two-fisted punch behind my left eyeball.

Carol and I drove home in silence. I sat down and rested my sore forehead on the kitchen table. She put Ariel down in his crib upstairs, then came back to the kitchen.

“I think I'm ugly.”

I lifted my hurting head in disbelief. She was the most beautiful woman I knew. “That's not true, so you must be feeling something that makes you feel ugly. Are you horny?”

“It felt wrong the last time!”

“But that was months ago, and before you told me about Ariel!”

“I know, but I don’t want to destroy the new love growing between us.”

“Of course it felt wrong! I could never have had sex with you if I was lying about sex! No wonder you feel ugly. It was an ugly thing to do and to be. ”

She gazed out the window. “I have to be really careful around Amin. Sometimes I lubricate at the sound of his voice.”

Pain exploded through my head like shrapnel. Ariel shrieked. I raced upstairs, picked him up, and lay down on the floor with him on my belly. When we woke up together an hour later, the migraine was gone. They usually lasted 24 hours.

Amin and Carol’s words flowed unheard around me as we sat around the dining room table for the weekly business meeting. All I could see was them in a happy joining, with a little fish of delight that was obviously Ariel emerging from that joining. When the meeting was over, I asked Amin, “Did I really come to your apartment in my dream the other night?”

“Those who wish to know, don't. Those who knowing does not matter to, know.”

I looked at his craggy Afghan nose and knew that knowing mattered way too much to me. “What will happen with the three of us?”

“Our relationship survived you finding out about Ariel, so it must mean we have more to do together.”

“What about Ariel? He's one of several, right?”

“Always there are seven on the planet. They come again and again. Like Muhammed, for example.”

“Is Ariel Muhammed?”

His dark eyes glinted like the polished barrel of a Lee-Enfield, the British WWI rifle that Afghan bandits were famous for. “Ariel has to prove himself,” he finally said.

“Your genes he needed?” I asked, forgetting my English.

“Yes, because that's where he is from, the Middle East. He needed you and Carol because you're North American, and he has to be the same as the people he leads.”

“The feelings of my little self are hurt that Ariel didn't come from me. I know you understand that, since it's even more important in your culture than in mine.”

“I know,” he said, and his eyes were soft with sympathy.

In the middle of July, my parents arrived, towing their little trailer all the way from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mary, 59, had been a nurse and was now a high school guidance counselor. Gordon, 60, had started out as a minister and was now a therapist at the University of Manitoba. We took them to a restaurant two Bean Sprout customers had just opened. The husband was the chef, and the wife was the hostess. She walked over to our table with the menus and stared at Ariel. “He must be Amin's son!” she said loudly. “He looks exactly like Amin!” There was a stunned silence. She passed out the menus. My mother peered over the top of her menu at Ariel, sitting next to me in a high chair. The silence lengthened. The hostess said, apologetically, “It must be those dark eyes—” Ariel squealed, hid his face in his hands, then crawled into my arms, and buried his face in my neck. Everybody laughed.

“He knows when he's being talked about,” I said, in awe. He'd not only found a way to hide his features, he did it in a manner which established me as his father.

A few days later Carol and I sat in the kitchen of our new rented house on Wellington Street and talked about Ariel and the lucid dreams. The boys were in bed, and my parents had retired to their trailer, parked in the driveway. Dusk slowly deepened into night. After a long, easy silence, she looked out the window and mused, “Amin sometimes grabs me by the tits in the Bean Sprout and leads me into the office.”

Rage flashed my brain. Ariel shrieked like he was being butchered. I raced upstairs and lay down underneath him. We both fell asleep. I woke up an hour later, filled with heavenly peace.

The next morning it was obvious to me my fate was to be Amin and Carol's pet zombie for the rest of my days. Panic yawned like an abyss beneath my feet—I grabbed a pen and asked for help. To my intense surprise, someone else’s words poured out:

God has entered you and made you pregnant by His seed. All other thought constructs, and even Amin's spiritual claims are not necessary to you now. Do not attempt to squeeze yourself into a box of his mind or of your own mind, for what you really are can neither fit into a box nor be consigned forever as box builder. Like a chicken without a head, your body is filled with terror and spasms, but no amount of clutching can change things back to the way they were. You have already lost your old self and neither want to, nor could, recover it again.

The pen stopped writing. The panic was gone.

“We were upset about your news that you're separating,” my mother said on the last day of their visit. The boys were in bed, and the four of us were sitting around the dining room table. “You two have something that most couples aspire to but few manage to attain: a great deal of love and respect for each other and an enormous amount of love and caring for the children.” She got a little weepy and wiped her eyes. “Oh, I'm probably just being sentimental, but your marriage is like a crystal, something of great beauty and value. I was afraid you were into open marriage just to experiment, and that's an invitation to disaster!” Her pale-blue eyes flashed like dagger points.

“We could never go for an open marriage!” Carol said with heartfelt conviction, and that led to a discussion of the nature of jealousy that diffused the whole subject.

The next day she left for California for a higher-¬consciousness seminar with Brugh Joy, a healer we'd met at Findhorn. I had the boys to myself for three weeks: pure heaven.

“Carol and I are going to get divorced,” I told Cary. We were standing on the back porch in the indistinct dusk.

“Tell me another one,” he scoffed, peering at me over his wire-rims. He was over six feet tall but weighed the same as I did, about 150 pounds. He was mostly arms, legs, and angles.

“Remember my tour of New Age communities? I left for another reason besides being burned out, which was what we told everybody. The trip was almost over when I met a twenty-year-old in Iowa City who took a bath in front of me, then led me to bed. The ancient act of sexual betrayal made it real: our marriage was over.” Cary looked like I’d slapped him. Suddenly angry, I said, “There's nothing left but the kids.” He avoided my eyes and left soon after. I wished I could tell him everything, but no one could know the secret until Ariel decided on his own that it was time to tell the world who he was.

I walked aimlessly along Spring Garden Road. Amin was babysitting for me, but there was no place I wanted to go. The slanted light of the setting sun was harsh and orange. The house was dark when I returned. Amin was walking back and forth in the living room with his son in his arms, singing songs in Pashto. He looked shadowy and foreign in the dimness. I felt sad for him. Sons were so important to Muslims, and he had to deny his firstborn.

I took the boys for a long walk after breakfast. Heavy, gray fog rolled in from the sea until it was so thick, I couldn't even see the end of the backyard. After lunch the sun burned off the fog. I crammed wriggling boys into bathing suits, turned on the hose, and handed the spray nozzle to Ariel. Caleb and Wren and I tried to race across the lawn without getting sprayed. Ariel hunched over the nozzle and shrieked with joy whenever he soaked anyone. His voice still had baby in it. My heart nearly cracked open with grief to be leaving them.

One short week later I was woken up by a pile of boys yelling and bouncing on top of my chest. They were too excited to be shushed. Mommy was coming home today. In the airport lobby, I handed her Ariel, and the big boys jumped all over her. I turned away from her smile. She'd taken so much away from me, and now she was taking my babies too.

In the dwindling days, they stuck to me like weed seeds. I got them up and dressed them every morning, made all their meals, and put them to bed every night. A few days before the end of August, I flew away.

“This retreat is silent and intensive,” the Buddhist said at the meditation center in Barre, Massachusetts. “No sexual activity of any kind is allowed.” The rules reminded me of my marriage, except it was okay to sleep.

. . . “Did you have sex with Amin?” I ask Carol.

“I told you, no, I didn't.”

“Then why are you going out?”

“l thought we'd argue if we were together. “

“But we're redemptive, remember? We'd talk and make the sun come out.” A baby screams in terror. Caleb and Wren run to me for help.

But I couldn't help, because I was wide awake in the middle of the night in Massachusetts, while Carol and Amin were having sex in Nova Scotia. They probably talked about me before they started kissing. My eyes stung with tiredness, my feet prickled and burned, and, more than anything, I wished I could stop being telepathic with Carol.

Two weeks later, after a short Buddhist farewell ceremony, I sat on the porch with my luggage and waited for my ride to Amherst, Massachusetts, and massage school. As the leaves turned colors in front of me, I longed for the crisp smell of fall in the air when the brief, hot, sticky maritime summer gratefully rushes into the arms of cool sea breezes and everybody goes to the county fair. Nova Scotia was so nice compared to loud, rich, violent, sexy America. I suddenly needed to hear my children’s voices. I listened to the phone ring empty for a long, long time before I hung up.