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           As he watched Sophia dance, Muammar wondered if the others dancing with her were only jinns, evil spirits. They looked like human beings, but perhaps that was just an illusion created by Satan. Were all westerners actually just jinns, including Miss Loren? Perhaps she was merely a temptation created by the devil, as were all women according to his uncle Abdullah, which hadn't stopped his uncle from succumbing to every female temptation he could get his hands on, if his uncle's stories in that regard could be believed. Muammar saw Miss Loren wave at him, apparently to come and dance. He pretended not to see her invitation, shocked.

           Muammar could not believe how fast and loud this music was, if it could even be called music. If these people weren't jinns, then they certainly had to be mad to listen to it. They acted like they were mad, the way they were yelling and dancing. What was the purpose of it? Looking around the room, Muammar noticed various strange objects hung on the walls, garments, an assortment of musical instruments, especially guitars. There were also framed black and white photographs of people, foreigners, male and female, none of whom Muammar recognized. There were also several colorful posters that meant nothing to Muammar until he thought he recognized John Wayne in one. It depicted the big American wearing a strange fur hat and holding a scimitar in a menacing manner. At least Muammar thought it was John Wayne, because the man in the poster had long black hair and a droopy black mustache. He could not read what the poster said, but guessed it was a role John Wayne had played in a movie, since other people pictured in other posters also seemed to be costumed in various ways, an idea Muammar found intriguing since more than once he had dreamed of the military uniform he would wear once he fulfilled his destiny and became the ruler of his country, Allah willing. He usually imagined an all-white uniform with a lot of gold braid and medals, but sometimes thought purple would be a better choice, not that there was any law that said he could have only one style of uniform or official dress. Fortunately, once he took power, there would be plenty of time to decide such details, Allah be pleased. Right now he wondered if he should tell Miss Loren about the picture of John Wayne since maybe it indicated that John Wayne came here often, but then Muammar saw something so offensive that he could hardly believe his eyes. It was a painting of an older man, an Arab, bearded, smiling, one hand raised in salutation, with a bronze plaque underneath that said Muhammad.

           Without hesitation Muammar rose, went to the painting taking out a knife that he always carried and quickly defaced the offending work of art with a few short, sharp strokes so that the face of the Prophet was no longer visible and the painting had been reduced to tatters. For good measure he took the frame off the wall and broke it over his knee, destroying the painting even more. He wondered if he should pry the plaque that said Muhammad off the wall, but decided that was not offensive. He went back to his table slowly, daring anyone to object to his actions and hoping one of these western foreigners, one of these jinns, would.

           Muammar resumed his disapproving pose, folding his arms. Nothing about these devils, these westerners, impressed or intimidated him in any way, he had nothing but contempt for their power and was determined to show it, especially here and now in his own land when he could sense that the time for all Arabs to regain their past glory, a glory they had not known since the time of Saladin, was not far off. He looked around for Miss Loren. For some reason he felt a great urge to tell her all these things and many more ideas and feelings beating within his breast that he had never told anyone before, but no longer saw her dancing. Had she gone, perhaps as disgusted by this club as he was? Perhaps not, but a man believes what he wants to believe. Muammar was wondering what he should do when a man came up to his table and sat down without invitation. It was the American who had visited his uncle's earlier that night with the two military officers and talked with John Wayne.

           "Hello," the man said pleasantly, in Arabic. "I'm looking for John Wayne. Seen him around?"

           "Why are you looking for him?" Muammar asked coldly.

           "Just trying to keep tabs. Name's Drinkwine, by the way. Hummer Drinkwine. Didn't I see you earlier tonight at Abdullah's?"

           "You may have."

           "Your uncle, right? Quite a colorful character. Did he teach you how to use that knife?"

           "No. My father did. He's in the Fezzan on business."

           "More than I needed to know. Can I buy you a drink?"

           Muammar bristled. "No."

           "Just testing. Not all Muslims are as ascetic as you, as you're probably aware. I admire a man with standards and self-discipline myself. Who do you think is going to win?"

           "Win what?"

           "The struggle between our two cultures, western freedom versus your religious fervor. Which side do you think will prevail in the long run?"

           The insane music kept pounding away in the background, giving Muammar a headache. He wondered what this devil wanted of him. "Allah is all-powerful, he answered finally.

           "Which makes it all the more ironic, doesn't it? Western cultural dominance in every area, business, politics, the arts, entertainment. What's a right-thinking person to do? Looks like we're headed to some kind of global monoculture, and I don't mean an Arab or Muslim one. Think it's all part of the Plan?"

           Muammar said nothing. Drinkwine smiled. "You know, young man, I think you've got a lot of potential."


           "Unlimited, and I can sniff out potential like a libertine in a convent, if you know what I mean. Well, you probably don't. Anyway, how would you like to be on the winning side?"

           Muammar responded by remaining silent. Drinkwine reached inside his suit coat and came out with a small blue booklet. "Here, read this," Drinkwine said, handing Muammar the booklet. "I'm quite proud of it, designed it myself. Take a look and tell me what you think."

           Muammar studied the front cover. In Arabic, it said: The CIA, a career. He opened it to a table of contents that included such headings as Risks and Rewards, The Fight Against Communism, Being an Asset, and You, Why Not You? Muammar closed the booklet and pushed it away. "You want me to spy for you?"

           "I just want to be your friend. Scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."

           "Scratch your own back. I don't want your help."

           "Now you don't. But later on, you might need it, because unless I'm mistaken, and I rarely am, you have ambitions. All I ask is that you don't forget me."

           "Who are you, the devil?"

           Drinkwine grinned. "If you say it. How do you like the music?"

           "It's satanic."

           "Is a bit loud. It's an assault on the senses, isn't it? That's progress for you, everything's just going to keep getting louder and faster, louder and faster. Well, I've enjoyed our conversation, but now I have to run. I'm a busy bee. Hope to see you later."

           Drinkwine pushed himself away from the table and disappeared into the darkness of the club. Muammar wondered if he really had been talking to the devil, which had seemed to be what the American wanted him to believe, perhaps to unnerve him. He got up and headed for the door with every intention of leaving this hellish place, but before he could make his escape a group of people burst in, one of whom was John Wayne, who appeared barely able to remain standing and went to a bar along with his companions. Muammar wondered if he should stay and wait, keeping an eye on John Wayne for Miss Loren, or go and look for her. Where could she be, not that he supposed he should care about these infidels and the strange games they were playing. The music was unrelenting and suddenly Muammar felt a great heat that brought him to his knees, again like that from a furnace. Protect me O merciful Allah from the fire of the unbelievers, Muammar prayed, head bowed, and waited for the heat to either subside or consume him entirely.

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