PEORIA HEIGHTS - The little old lady does not want to join the Ku Klux Klan.
Those are her words. She refers to herself as "a very small, elderly, inoffensive woman." She is 83, lives alone and doesn't get around much these days.
"I'm home-bound most of the time," she says.
Put that all together, and she's not exactly a top recruit to march in a white hood or light crosses on fire. So, she is befuddled as to why a recent day's mail brought a KKK membership application.
Actually, it's the KKKKK: the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK is known for various splinter groups, so it's hard to say where this one festers amid national Klan strata. The application is pretty minimal, asking for basic personal information, plus a $20 processing fee. After a background check, you're in.
Plus, you get a T-shirt. For that, you have to specify what size. Presumably, that's the same size you'd get for a hood and robe.
The application lists a website, which offers a little more info - mostly the typical KKK mishmash of overt racism, dull-minded babbling and first-grade writing ability.
The site offers spiritual (but no spelling) advice ("Sermans from our Imperial Kludd," a.k.a. "Bro. Angel"), an impeccable code of honor (it "will not tolerate any violent acts of crime or home-grown terrorism) and strict membership guidelines ("we reserve the right to deny membership based on Race, Sexual Orientation, Religious Beliefs, or if your character is questionable"). There's even a Wall of Shame, which calls out violators for various social faux pas, such as snitching to the cops or inviting blacks to cross-lightings.
"I sign my name to a lot of progressive petitions," she says. "And I have a sign in my window saying 'Proud Democrat.'"
She pauses, chuckles and adds, "I guess I'm not blameless in getting hate mail or something like this (KKK application)."
Politics is nasty these days. Still, it's hard to imagine someone would get so riled by a political sign to refer her name and address of the KKK.
Could the application be part of a mass mailing? Maybe, though Peoria Heights Police Chief Dustin Sutton says he has received no such complaints.
The scrawl on her envelope - "almost illiterate," as she calls it - suggests the handiwork and brain power of a drunken baboon. The return address states a post-office box from the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, which is also the municipality of the cancellation. But she has no connection there.
The envelope carries her address. But maybe it was a screw-up by the sender. Perhaps it was supposed to be sent elsewhere. That's what scares her the most.
Maybe the application didn't come as part of a dim-witted mass mailing. Maybe a neighbor requested it. That's why she hasn't surveyed other residents on her block whether they've heard from the KKK too. She shudders at the possible answer.
"I'm afraid to ask any neighbors," she says. "They might be the ones who asked to sign up."
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.