So what do you do when a large chunk of gold shows up in your yard?

It was meant for Barry. Technically it was my yard, I supposed I could have challenged his ownership in court but we both knew it was meant for him. It was quite a circus getting that much gold to a secure location, and then turning it into cash. The government ended up with a big chunk, and there were lawyers to pay, but in the end it still left Barry a very wealthy man. And those who had accused him of chicanary were permanently silenced.

Barry bought a house near mine for more than it was worth. He built a large solid fence. His renewed notoriety meant that the paparazzi were permanently camped outside of his gate. He paid for a port-a-potty for them. He tried to come over to my place every week, but in the end it wasn't worth the hassle of navigating through the crowd outside his house. So instead I would go there once a week, sometimes with my dog, sometimes alone. Sometimes I'd have to miss a week, but usually I saw him once a week.

His appearances outside his house became more and more rare. He had someone coming in to groom his yard, someone to greet (and politely refuse) visitors. He used his newly found wealth to become a hermit.

He ordered books. Lots of books. Sometimes he had them delivered physically, sometimes electronically. When we'd visit, he'd tell me about what he was reading. Some mathematics, some philosophy, some sociology and anthropology, but mostly religion. Sometimes the visits began to resemble lectures about what he'd read. There was something going 'round in his head but I couldn't tell what.

Barry built a website with a recommended reading list. That was the whole website. No commentary, just a list of recommended books. Aside from his conversations with me, he told me he talked to almost no one. His security guy (if you could call her that) ordered his food and arranged everything he needed in return for a compensation package large enough to put her through school at night very comfortably. Turns out she was the daughter of the previous owner of the house he'd bought, a family down on their luck when both adults lost jobs because of the economic climate. She was nice enough looking, but it was clear there was nothing more than a professional relationship between them. I asked Barry about it ... he just shrugged. "Debbie's just a kid."

Just when I figured he'd laid out the pattern of his life, he proved me wrong. "Slither, I know the next step. I want to let you in on the ground floor ... this will change the world, and you can be an important part of it."

This was not what I'd expected to hear from him. "What are you up to, Barry? What next step?"

"I've decided to stop swimming upstream. Quit your job, join me, you can be my right-hand man. I'm going to give people what they want. You just have to trust me."

I told him I enjoyed my job, and wasn't interested in quitting. If I'd known what he had in mind I would have tried to stop him. Two weeks later he announced his new world tour. He hired acting coaches to improve his delivery, and writers to help him organize his message. News organizations interviewed me yet again, but I had nothing to tell them. They interviewed his security guy too. I give her a lot of credit: a lot of folks wanted her to release details of a salacious relationship, but she continued to insist that he was a model employer who never made a pass at her.

When the headlines broke about him admitting to his special connection to the divine I couldn't believe it. At first I figured the reporters just got it wrong. According to the press, his message hadn't really changed, he was still telling everyone they had to be mindful of what they were doing, but now he was saying that the being he had interacted with was some sort of angel, or archangel, or something divine. I never did understand that part very well.

I was pretty upset.

And of course I saw the video of the final stop of his world tour, when - in front of a packed football stadium - a big ship that didn't show up on radar hovered overhead and Barry ascended to it. The crowd cheered as Barry begin moving up slowly at first, and disappeared into the ship. And then the ship moved away impossibly fast.

Two days I got a note from an attorney informing me that an account had been opened in my name with an enormous sum of money in it. There was no information about who had done it. And an attorney contacted Debbie to inform her that she now had title to Barry's house. No further explanation for either of us, but we both knew who was behind it.

So Barry is gone, for the last time. Again.

The world got the messiah it wanted, and the new religion exploded onto people's consciousness. If he had asked me to choose between a new messiah for people of the world to worship and the company of my best friend I would have told him which I thought left the world richer.

Copyright 2011 by Gary Hughes-Fenchel