His mind played back how he had gotten here and how destiny worked in one’s favor if it was given a little push sometimes. Growing up, he had always wanted to be an actor in the theater, but his middleclass family had steered him toward politics at an early age. His uncle was a TV evangelist, so Leroy had easily picked up on storytelling while he asked people for money in exchange for salvation. Leroy chuckled to himself as he recalled his ingenious blessing of a common water goblet on TV. He had offered it to the mesmerized viewers for a mere nineteen-ninety-five each or a set of six for two hundred. One time, he offered a set of twelve for five hundred the week before Easter, so families could pretend to be like the twelve apostles at their Easter dinner. Their little operation was so swamped with demands that they had to make several runs down to the local neighborhood Shoppers-Mart for more glasses just to fill the orders.
Leroy’s training as a charlatan hustling common household items as religious artifacts had gotten him ready for politics and his fateful meeting. He smiled at the thought that his life’s ambition to be an actor was being carried out every day, whether he was selling bogus items over the TV or conning a government official for sympathetic treatment and additional funding for this project. A curious thought occurred to him; wasn’t it odd that all his early days as a charlatan had led him to arrive at this destiny, on the cusp of being able to live forever? All of his role playing and confidence-man hustling had provided him with the necessary toolset to help achieve the nearly impossible!
He thought about his chance meeting with Xavier Pekoni and how he had become acquainted with the Fountain of Youth project. Leroy reflected on the purpose he now felt in his life, and he had a sense of pride at being Dr. Pekoni’s procurer of necessary resources. He had seen enough positive results to have captured his imagination at the prospect of living nearly forever. Xavier had promised him near immortality if Leroy but served as his primary field operative. Leroy knew it made sense to do the legwork while Dr. Pekoni concentrated on the necessary research.
Leroy snapped himself back to the present and focused on the updated information he needed to convey. Using the encryption call program, he dialed the number.
Xavier, who sounded rather sullen, answered, “Hello, Leroy. What progress can we discuss, because progress is all that matters at this stage of the project?”
Leroy immediately picked up on the despondent mood of his director and cautiously asked, “Dr. Pekoni, you seem distraught. Have I caught you at a bad time, sir? I can call later if this is not an appropriate time.”
Xavier shrugged and replied, “I’m sorry, old friend. I didn’t mean to let my poor mood seep into the conversation. We just had two program participants exercise their right to leave the program. Nothing I could say or do would convince them to stay, so I watched them leave.
“But, be that as it may, we still need to press on with our research. Perhaps you have some new information leads for me, yes?”
Leroy, now a little concerned for his director’s state of mind, advised, “Sir, you must not allow the defection of a couple of test subjects to poorly color your vision for humanity!
“I must point out that Louie Pasteur did not succeed in his first efforts in vaccination and microbial fermentation. Madam Curie had to work to get to the stage where she was experimenting on neoplasms with radioactive isotopes and had many false steps before her breakthroughs! Nor was every song that Lonnie Lupnerder wrote a hit! We must all acknowledge that some setbacks are part of the process and, by overcoming these, make the final solution that much sweeter when we finally divine the right combination!”
Xavier was thoughtful for a moment and then asked, “Who is Lonnie Lupnerder?”
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