Monday, December 7, 2009
Christmas wasn't originally a religious holiday. No, the Pagans laid claim to those few days around the New Year early on and everyone stripped down to their birthday suits and danced around a really warm, really big, fire for a few hours, laughing and carrying on. God can't, for the life of Her, understand why Her Father didn't approve. She'd much rather be carousing in the Pagan Wing than sitting through Her hundredth meeting on all things Christian.
"Remind Me again when Jesus was born," She whispers to Metatron and the lanky Brit stifles a laugh. She frowns at him. "Seriously, I thought it was March."
"July, actually," he says around a quiet laugh.
"Then why in My name are we celebrating it in December?"
Before Meta can stop Her, She raises Her hand and the little Mormon Office Manager, a man who obviously volunteered for his position as Committee Chair because he thought it would bring him closer to God, stops mid-sentence and nods at Her. "Yes, hi. I'd like to know why we continue to celebrate Christ's birthday in December when he was born in July."
Metatron is laughing outright now, shaking with the hilarity of watching his Boss question the dogma of Her own religion. The little Mormon Office Manager - whose name is Norman, according to the name tag on the breast pocket of his short-sleeved Oxford shirt - seems baffled.
"Excuse me?" he squeaks - literally squeaks - and God shrugs.
"I'm just saying that we're constantly five months late with his birthday celebration. Did you ever think that maybe it bothers him that we throw a huge party five months afterwards but don't do anything on the actual day?"
Everyone in the room, excluding Meta, is staring at God like She's just grown an extra head.* Meta is simply laughing his ass off, quietly and as professionally as he possibly can.
"I'm not sure I follow..." Norman the Mormon says, his voice still high and confused.
God huffs a sigh. "Nevermind," She says and waves Her hand. "You were droning on about centerpieces, I believe," She says. "Please continue. I'm on the edge of My seat with anticipation."
Everyone in the room blinks, settles back into the monotony of the meeting. She leans back in Her chair and crosses Her arms over Her chest. Meta leans in close.
"Admit it," he says, "You do it just to screw with them."
She says nothing but the grin that spreads across Her face is more than a little telling.
* * *
She's having lunch with Jesus on the veranda of Her office, which just so happens to be the tallest point of the Pearly Gates Corporation. This is important to note because it also just so happens that Jesus is afraid of heights.
"Can we please go inside?" he whines, violently stabbing his fork into a piece of chicken.
She frowns at Her half-brother. "You know this fear of heights thing is getting old," She says. "It's not even that high, for Mysake."
As though to prove Her wrong, an eagle swoops past and drops what looks like a small piece of intestine on the veranda floor.** Jesus frowns at the entrails and then at Her. She shrugs, takes a bite of Her roast beef.
"So maybe it's a little high up," she says around Her sandwich.
"Why am I up here, Ellie?" he asks.
"Because I have a question for you." She swallows Her bite of sandwich, dabs at the corners of Her mouth with a pristine white napkin, and settles in for a conversation. "When would you prefer to celebrate your birthday - in December or in July?"
This is a difficult question for him and it makes him pause long enough to forget that he's 600 stories above ground (which is technically already a million miles above the actual ground).
"But I thought my birthday was in December," he says, confused.
"It's actually in July, but we can celebrate it in December instead if you'd like."
"Well don't we always celebrate it in December?"
She tries not to smite him, explains in great detail to Herself the consequences of smiting the Holy Savior of Mankind, and in the end opts for a frustrated sigh instead of turning Christ into a smoldering pile of ash.
"J-Dawg, I'm trying to explain to you that there's an option here, that those dingbats downstairs have been celebrating the wrong day all along and that if you'd like, I can get them to start celebrating the right day."
"Oh." He closes his eyes, gives the option serious consideration for all of a moment or two. When he opens his eyes again, he's smiling. "Let them celebrate it in December if it makes them happy. What do I care?"
The nervous tick in the corner of Her eye She thought She'd outgrown is back with a vengeance. She can't smite him, but She can definitely make sure the eagle's aim is a little better the next time it flies by. A little intestine in the eye never hurt anyone.
* * *
"I can't believe You asked him," Michael says with a laugh as he pours God another shot of scotch. Behind them, Metatron, who is currently on his third glass of the strong amber liquid, is attempting to perfect a bow tie with his cravat. It isn't going altogether that well.
"I was honestly curious," She says in Her defense. "And besides, Atla said she could definitely get those viscera stains out of his robes."*** This statement receives a loud snort of laughter from Metatron and God turns to glare at him. "I can't believe you're laughing at Me right now," she says, "you, who has his hand stuck in a bow tie."
Meta sticks his tongue out at Her and attempts to free his hand. She turns Her attention back to Michael.
Michael shakes his head as he grins at Her. "You had Prometheus' eagle land a large piece of nastiness in the center of Your half-brother's forehead because he was annoying You with his typical flightiness."
It's God's turn to giggle slightly. "You should have seen his face."
"I'm quite glad I didn't, seeing as how it was covered in gore." Michael sips his scotch thoughtfully. "So what's the verdict, then?" he asks. "July or December?"
"December. Humans are not as adaptable as they used to be, sadly." She downs the last of Her scotch and hands Her glass to Michael for a refill. "I mean, really, I've been trying for hundreds of years to convince the religions of the world that I'm a woman and still the new arrivals think St. Nikolaus is their guide through the afterlife."
This makes Michael chuckle. "I love when they finally realize he's actually Father Christmas."
God grins. "Even better is when they ask him why they didn't get a red Schwinn bicycle for their 10th birthday and he goes off on a rant in German about not being a damned magician." God laughs at the memory of seeing St. Nick smack a fifty year old dead investment banker upside his head when the man asked that very question.
"Um, guys," Metatron says and they turn to look at the Voice of God, having both forgotten that he was behind them. He's somehow gotten both of his hands tied into the knots of his cravat and as a result, the index finger of his left hand is stuck up his left nostril. "A little help, please."
They'd like to help, they really would, but it's just impossible to help someone when you're laughing too hard to see, much less untie a knot.
* She hadn't grown an extra head, mind you, but that's not to say She couldn't...or even that She hasn't on past occasions. It's the main reasons She no longer drinks the punch at the Greek wing's Annual Summer Festival.
** She's requested on more than one occasion that Zeus move Prometheus and his damnable eagle to a different part of the Pearly Gates complex - preferably somewhere far away from Her veranda - but the Greek Father of the Gods has seen fit to ignore Her each and every time. She's tempted to make Zeus eat lunch with Her one afternoon so he can end up with entrails on his plate by accident. Yummy.
*** Atla is a Norse water goddess...and a giantess. If the stain won't come out with water, God is fairly certain Atla will just scare it out.
Monday, November 16, 2009
This statement, coming from God, cannot bode well. In fact, Metatron has seen his fair share of bad ideas stem from God declaring She's bored, including the time She failed to separate the Chinese Goddess Hu-Tu (fertility) from the God I-Ti (wine) and the entire Roman wing ended up in a crazed orgy for a week.*
"You have a stack of intake forms to sign," Meta says, frowning at Her over the rims of thick black glasses that they both know he doesn't need. "Those poor people are sitting in limbo right now because You haven't signed off on their intake forms."
She sighs and waves Her hand. "What's a few more days stuck in limbo?"
"Have You ever been to limbo?" he asks and She shakes Her head, curls bouncing. "It's a pea green waiting room with magazines dating back to the Big Bang and coffee so thick it has to be cut with a knife. Sign the forms."
She frowns and picks up the stack of forms, begins to scrawl Her signature across the bottom of each one. She's made it through half the stack when the door to Her office bangs open and the Archangel Raphael appears. He's wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt that says I'VE GOT WINGS, BITCHES and he's carrying a basketball under one arm. He's out of breath, so much so that it takes him a moment or two before he can explain why he's just burst into God's office, unannounced.
"Thanks for knocking, Raph," God drawls and Raphael bends over, gasping for air, holding a hand up in the air as a signal to give him a moment.
"That's six hundred flights of stairs," Metatron says quietly.
"He has wings, Meta."
"It's still six hundred flights of stairs, Ellie."
"Maybe we should install an elevator," She says, tapping Her finger against Her chin. Meta doesn't mention that he's told Her this a hundred times. She likes to think everything is Her idea. "Talk to Loki about it."**
Raphael straightens and he seems to be breathing a little more normally. He points over his shoulder, to the open office door. "I'm sorry I didn't knock," he says, "but it's an emergency."
"What's wrong?" God asks, suddenly alarmed.
"The dragons in the Eastern Religion complex got loose."
This doesn't strike Her as an emergency demanding a six hundred flight workout. "So?" She asks.
"So they ate the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse's horses." His shoulders slump slightly. "All of them, including the four back-ups. They even ate Conquest's horse." He rests his hands on his hips. "Of course he's super pissed because he's just an alternate."
God looks at Metatron and he gives Her a blank expression.
"Still bored?" he asks dryly.
* * *
Oddly enough, it's Death who seems to be the most broken up about losing his two horses. In fact, he appears to be crying very slightly. It's off-putting and more than a little disturbing.
"Not to downplay the loss or anything, but what the hell are we supposed to ride now?" Conquest asks and the other Horsemen look at him with narrowed eyes and a hint of malice.
"You're just an alternate," Famine says, dusting ash from her shoulders. "You don't get to ride anything."
"Hey, my horse got eaten, too," he says petulantly.
"Your horse was ugly," she says.
"Your face is ugly."
"Enough!" God roars. She's listened to their childish sniping for the last half hour while the seraphim and a few satyrs swept up the charred remnants of the heavenly horses. She's covered in residual ash and becoming less and less impressed with Her Horsemen, including Conquest, by the minute.
"Look, the Dragon Kings have apologized profusely for the mishap and they've agreed to get you all new horses, but it's going to take awhile."***
"And how long is awhile, Madame?" War asks, his accent prim and proper as always.
"They're heavenly horses, War. These things take time."
"Ballpark?" he asks.
She sighs. "Another century or so." The Horsemen all begin to complain at the same time and She silences them with a glare. "Hey, I know it's inconvenient, but it's not like there's an apocalypse coming up any time soon, so just relax and We'll fix it somehow."
She leaves them in the capable hands of Raphael and heads back towards the main building with Metatron in tow. He's frowning at Her again.
"What?" She asks. "What did I do now?"
"You forgot about that meeting You had with Mephisto, Lucifer, and Hades a few Pearly Gates weeks ago, didn't You?"
"What meeting?" She asks, completely drawing a blank.
Meta arches an eyebrow at Her. "The one where the four of You decided to have an apocalypse because the world wasn't paying enough attention."
"Oh..." She says, vividly remembering the two hour conference on all things sharp, pointy, and firey. "Shit."
* * *
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Conquest are waiting impatiently for God to arrive and unveil Her surprise. She called an hour earlier and asked them to meet Her in the parking lot of the Pearly Gates Corporation. She didn't exactly say what She wanted, just that She had a suprise for the five of them.
"Did you hear?" Conquests asks. War, Famine and Death ignore him, but Pestilence takes the bait.
"Hear what?" he asks. A locust drops out of Pestilence's ear and Conquests watches with thinly veiled disgust as the insect lands on the ground and hops away. Sometimes, he's very glad that's he's just an alternate for this traveling circus.
"She forgot to tell us about an apocalypse. We've only got a month or so in Pearly Gates time before we need to be downstairs for Armageddon."
"First of all," Pestilence says, raising his hand to tick off a list of things on his spindly fingers, "there is no we. It's the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, not five." Conquest wonders what would happen if he punched a Horseman in the face. He immediately thinks better of it, though, when a cockroach crawls out of the Horseman's nose and pauses on his cheek. "Second of all, what's a month in Pearly Gates time equal to downstairs?"
"About five hundred years." Conquest points at Pestilence's face. "You've got something on your cheek."
The Horseman swats at his cheek and the cockroach scuttles away from his hand, coming to a full stop atop Pestilence's nose. "Did I get it?" he asks.
"Nope. Here, let me." Conquest hauls off and smacks Pestilence across the face, hard enough to send the cockroach flying through the air and onto Death's bald head, who idly flicks it onto the ground. "Got it," Conquest says and Pestilence glares at him.
"You did that on purpose," Pestilence whines.
"Maybe," Conquest says with a wide grin.
Conquest is about to suggest the Horseman go blow his nose with some sandpaper when a honking sound reaches the group's ears and they all turn in unison to see God and Michael roll up in a Volkswagon minibus. A green and white Volkswagon minibus. A green and white Volkswagon minibus that technically won't be invented for another four hundred sixty years.
"What is that?" Famine asks and from the driver's seat Michael grins at her.
"This, my dear, is a Volkswagon Mini Bus." He pats the driver's side door affectionately. "Seats eight comfortably, takes diesel so it's not horrible for the environment, and I'm pretty sure there's a stash of doobies in the side compartment in the trunk."
None of them know what a Volkswagon is or what diesel is, or, for that matter, what the hell a doobie is, but they do know that none of what Michael just said equates to a horse.
"Turns out we do have an apocalypse coming up," God says. "So, We had lunch with Porrima and Cassandra**** and asked them what all the hip kids in the future would be driving and they gave Us the idea for this." She's beaming like a proud parent. "Vulcan was kind enough to build it and Loki got it working."
All Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are staring at Her like She's just told them they need to be more touchy feely. Conquest, however, is silently laughing. In fact, he's laughing so hard there are tears streaming down his face.
"What are we supposed to do with it?" Death asks, his voice dripping with disdain.
She stares at them, confused. "You'll use it in the interim, just until your horses are ready." She turns to look at Michael. "Am I speaking in tongues or something?"
"They're just in shock, is all," Conquest says around a mouthful of giggles.
"The Four Volkswagon Minibus Occupants of the Apocalypse," Michael says with a grin he can't contain. "Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
* It would have made Hieranymous Bosch blush, and that's saying something.
** Loki is the Norse God of Mischief. God of Mischief making an elevator. Right. That one will end well.
*** Not only are the 4 Dragon Kings incredibly apologetic, but even the dragons themselves seem a little ashamed of themselves. There's a large gray one not too far away from God at the moment who is hanging its head and sighing. She knows this because every now and again the hem of Her dress catches on fire.
**** Porrima and Cassandra are the resident psychics at the Pearly Gates Corporation. They're far more accustomed to visions of death and destruction, so it was a welcomed change of pace when God asked them to dream up an alternative to horses. It helped, too, that She bribed each of them with a box of chocolates She'd stolen from Aphrodite's Love Closet...a place She never ever wants to go into ever again.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
"How many kids this year?" Michael asks and Nick sighs around a bite of roast beef sandwich.
"Too many," he says, his German accent thick and tired. "The mortals, they can't stop having children."
Michael laughs at this and brushes crumbs from his beard. "Too many Christians downstairs," he says and Nick nods his head in agreement. "Not enough heathens if you ask me."
"Speaking of heathens," a voice says behind them and Michael cranes his head around to to smile at his Boss.
"Hi, Ellie," he says and motions to the chair next to him. "Nick and I were just talking about Christmas."
God sits down next to Her favorite archangel and steals a french fry from his plate.
"Is it really That Time of Year already?"
Nick's red pen makes a violent scratching noise and both God and Michael look at the saint with wary expressions. He looks up from his List, pen still poised over it, and smiles slightly.
"Gunther Parkinson was a particularly bad boy this year," he says and shrugs.
God waits until Nick has gone back to pouring over the names in front of him before She turns to Michael and quirks an eyebrow. It's an expression that says I should really give St. Nick a vacation. Michael returns the look with an expression of his own which says Don't worry, he's always been this crazy.
"Moving on," She says with a quick shake of Her head. She hands Michael a slip of paper. "A new charge for you," She says, stealing another fry. "I just put her in the prophet program."
Michael looks at the paper and reads the name. He looks up at God, his eyes wide.
"Isn't this Kate's daughter?" he asks and God nods. "Why are you giving her to me?"
"Because it's a conflict of interest to allow her own mother to be her guardian angel." She grins suddenly. "And because she's going to grow up to be a pain in the ass."
Michael frowns. "This is because of that thing in France, isn't it?" he asks and God's grin widens. "I told you I'm sorry."
"You blew up a convent."
"And killed a demon in the process."
"You still blew up a convent. Demon or no demon, those poor nuns had to move in with the neighboring Franciscans." She glares at him. "You know how I feel about Franciscans."
He laughs, pockets the slip of paper. "I'll get down there this week."
She stands and pats his shoulder. "You'll get down there today," She says and Her tone of voice bears no arguments.
"I'm on my way." He waits until she's disappeared down the hallway that leads to the Celtic wing before turning to Nick and getting the saint's attention.* "I need you to check a name for me," he says. "Be nice to know what I'm getting myself into."
* * *
Claire Elizabeth Rogers is a very cranky six year old at the moment. Her attitude has nothing to do with the weather outside, which is rainy and cold though it's December and should be snowy and freezing, but instead has everything to do with being grounded for having decided to make a snowman out of mud - in her school clothes. She's been relegated to her bedroom, without her coloring books and crayons, until she agrees to say she's sorry.
Claire feels as though she may be in her bedroom for a very long time.
She's halfway through a Nancy Drew mystery when there's a knock on her door and a man with curly golden hair wearing a dark blue robe appears in front of her, smiling. "Hi Claire."
She frowns at him over the top of her book. "Who are you?" she asks, eyes narrowed.
"I'm Michael, the Archangel." He flutters his wings for dramatic effect. "Maybe you've heard of me?"
Claire has not heard of the strange man with wings wearing a robe standing in her bedroom and so she does what her teacher told her to do when approached by a stranger. She screams.
"Holy crap!" Michael hollers and he runs from the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. A very pregnant Kate is waiting for him in the hallway and she's smiling. "You've really let yourself go, Kate" he says.
"Hello to you, too. And I'm pregnant, you idiot."
"Your daughter has a serious set of lungs," he tells her as she comes closer.
"She takes after her mother," she says, her smile wider than before. "How about we try this again and I'll introduce you this time." Michael nods, wings rustling under the robe. "When did you get to be such a scaredy cat?" she asks, reaching past him to open up Claire's bedroom door.
"Right about the same time your daughter started screaming like a possessed monkey."
* * *
It takes only a few words from her mother to calm Claire down and a few more encouraging words from Michael to get her to understand that he's her guardian angel. In fact, once Claire understands exactly what's going on, she thinks the whole thing is pretty great.
"Can you bring me a pony?" she asks over chocolate milk and sugar cookies later on that afternoon.**
"No, but I can make sure you never get thrown off of one." Michael's blue robe is covered in sugar cookie crumbs and the pattern reminds Claire of a starry sky.
"What good is that?" she asks, her mouth full of cookie.
Kate smiles at her daughter and steals a cookie from Michael's plate.
"I'd say that's a whole lot of good, little one," he says and pats Kate's stomach for good measure.
* God has lunch every Pearly Gates Wednesday with the Celtic goddesses Anann, Badb and Macha. They're the triplicate goddesses of war, though since they learned about Cosmopolitan, they've become more like the triplicate goddesses of fashion. Today's lunch has something to do with what's in season for the summer...
** Archangels, like small children, love chocolate milk and cookies. Michael's partial to sugar cookies - the side effect of spending too much time with St. Nick.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
"Go away," Claire says with as much petulance as a fifteen year old can muster.*
"Claire," Katharine Rogers says as she opens her daughter's door, "this is ridiculous. You've been up here since you got home from school and your father and I just can't take one more Hall & Oates song." She stretches her neck a little. "We're Peter, Paul and Mary people, Claire."
"You ruined everything!" Claire says, slamming her pen down and closing the diary on it. She'd just been relating to the book the torment of having a mother who insisted upon driving her to school everyday...in her bathrobe. "Sarah Cotter saw you and she told everyone that my mom is a freak, which means I'm a freak. I'll never live it down!"**
Katharine stares at her tearful daughter and comes to a very quick, very irrational decision. She steps further into the room and closes the door behind her. When she turns a serious expression on her daughter, Claire sobers immediately, only a small hiccup belaying her previous emotional state.
"What I am about to tell you does not leave this room, do I make myself clear?" Claire nods her head, her eyes wide. "Good. Now, you are not a freak. I don't care what Sarah Cotter tells you, she's a horrible little child who's been spoiled by her rich parents and who thinks it's perfect manners to treat the rest of the world like her plaything. You, Claire, are better than that for two very important reasons.
"First, because in three more years you're going to become a prophet of God and no one in your graduating class will ever have something so incredible on their resume, and that includes that Hannemaka kid who's already been accepted to Harvard Medical School."
Claire hadn't realized that her mother knew about the job with Heaven, Inc.
"You know about the prophet thing?" she asks and Katharine's expression softens slightly, the corners of her mouth turning up into a small smile.
"That's the second reason." Katharine stands, shakes her shoulders like she's trying to get kinks out of the muscles, and in an instant fills the empty space of Claire's room with wings and feathers and white light.
"Tah-dah!" Katharine says, spreading her arms and wings wide. "I'm an angel."
Were Claire a normal everyday teenager, her first reaction would have been to freak out, but given her past history of having tea parties with God and Metatron in the backyard, Claire is far more prepared for something like this than any mortal should be.
"Holy shit!" she says instead.
"Claire Elizabeth Rogers! Language!"
Claire gets off the bed and takes a few tentative steps towards her mother. The elder Rogers woman is still wearing her work clothes so the wings are highlighted by a very bright polyester pantsuit. Claire doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"You're an angel," Claire says and her mother nods, the wings shifting slightly and filling the room with a sound not unlike plastic moving against itself. "Do you work for God?" she asks.
"Of course I work for God," Katharine scoffs. Even at fifteen Claire has perfected the raised eyebrow. Katharine sighs. "Well I used to work for Her, but I beat Her at cribbage one night and She let me pack up and move down here. I met your father shortly thereafter and the rest is history."
"So when I was little, and I fell through the ice and I told you and dad later on that I was going to work for Heaven, Inc. when I was older, you believed me?"
Katharine smiles fully. "Of course. Who do you think recommended you for the job?"
Claire stares at her mother for a few silent moments, processing the events in her head. She's a future prophet of God who just so happens to also be the daughter of an angel and a mortal. Sarah Cotter is the daughter of a man who owns a poultry packaging plant. Claire decides she's definitely more awesome than her classmate.
"Does dad know?" she asks and Katharine shakes her head.
"No," she says, shaking her shoulders once again. Claire watches as the wings disappear under the jacket of the pantsuit, leaving no indication behind that they'd ever been there. Katharine sits down on the edge of the bed and Claire joins her. "I've always thought that it was the kind of thing that would freak him out."
Claire stares at her mother, her expression serious. "You have a ten foot wingspan, mom. What's to freak out about?"
As Claire's elusive smile breaks out, Katharine begins to laugh and the entire house fills with light.***
* * *
Downstairs, in the dining room, nine year-old Patrick Rogers pauses in setting the table for dinner and looks up at his father. The entire house is filled with light and the little boy is a little confused.
"What's going on, dad?" he asks his father and Harry Rogers, ever the knowledgeable man, simply smiles at his son.
"Your mom's laughing," he says.
Patrick shrugs and finishes setting the table. If he thinks it's odd that his mother's laughter means the house is full of light, he doesn't show it. Even at nine years-old he's learned that somethings are better left unexplained, especially when they deal with either his mother or his sister.
* Fifteen year olds invented petulant expressions. Seriously, a group of them in Norway sat down one day and made different faces at each other until they finally settled upon one which conveyed just enough emotion to say they were upset but not enough to say they actually cared about it.
** Too bad for Claire that her ability to see the future pertains only to Heavenly events. Otherwise, she would have been able to see that in ten years' time, Sarah Cotter will be working with the Chattanooga Traveling Circus as the Tattooed Lady in their Freakshow. Oh, the irony.
*** Not to mention most of a three block radius around the Rogers' house on Beacon Street. Angelic laughter could light an entire planet with one well-timed comedic routine. In fact, when he heard Abbot and Costello's "Who's on First" routine, the Archangel Michael lit up the planet Harpsichord for an entire month. Of course, with Harpsichord being full of invisible beings, no one really noticed a difference.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Yes, all in all, God has a pretty sweet bachelorette pad. Sure, it's kind of lonely, what with the seraphim and cherubim being a little too young at the moment to pay much attention to anything other than their toys, but that's the downside of taking over in the middle of a rebirth.* She spends a large portion of Her time alone, in Her office, avoiding the few adult members of Her staff simply because She's not quite sure how much they've heard and She'd like to avoid any awkward conversations about The Angel Who Fell To Earth And Ruined Everything.
So when there's an unexpected knock on Her front door in the middle of the night, She's more than happy at the prospect of company so She doesn't think twice about answering it.**
There's a large bearded man standing on the other side of the door and he's taking up the entire expanse of the frame, quite a feat considering how large the doorway to Heaven is. God is eye level with the bottom of his toga and She has to crane Her neck up to see him completely. He's frowning at Her and tapping a lightning bolt against the palm of his hand.
"What's this monotheistic crap?" he bellows and if She'd had feathers, his voice definitely would have ruffled them. Behind him, hidden by his girth and height, She hears a chorus of agreement and she sighs heavily.
"You might as well come in," She says and stands aside so the huge hulking frame of Zeus can fit through the doorway. He's followed by a whole hoard of gods and goddesses, Greek and Roman, Eastern and Western. By the time they've all made themselves comfortable in Heaven, God has just enough room to close the door behind Her and politely ask Thor to take his hand off Her ass.
"Shall I make some tea?" She asks and is only slightly relieved when no one says 'yes'.
* * *
"How many times do I have to say this, I never suggested monotheism."
It's been two hours of ranting and raving from every god, goddess and lower demon within a million mile radius of Heaven and God has just about lost Her calm demeanor. She's tired and She'd very much like to go to bed, but the stairway to Her bedroom just happens to be blocked by Shiva and while She's all for multiple appendages, his fifteen finger symbols are freaking Her out.
"Then who did?" the dragon asks from the back of the foyer.***
God sighs and pinches the bridge of Her nose. "If I had to take a guess, I'd say My Father had something to do with it."
"And who made him the supreme god?" Jupiter asks and while God realizes that he's going for thundering and commanding, She can't help but laugh at the whiny feminine tone to his voice.
It's at this precise moment that a door opens somewhere in Heaven and a very tall, very thin creature appears. God can't be certain, nor would she pass judgement considering her own unicorn pyjamas, but She thinks that the orange pants and leopard print sweater are a bit much for a heavenly gathering.
"Ah, good, you're all getting along." The poor fashion sense is accompanied by a very uptight posh accent and God has a sudden sense of foreboding. The lanky creature, who has purple hair cut in very haphazard spikes, turns to look directly at Her and he flashes Her a cagey smile.
"And who the Hell are you?" Hades asks from his spot near the stairway.
The lanky creature draws himself up to his full height - a towering 8 feet, 6 inches - and settles his icy green stare on the gods and goddesses before him. Even God is impressed.
"I am Metatron and I am the Voice of God." He looks over his shoulder at Her and winks. "Your Father sent me," he says and God immediately wishes She'd simply stayed in bed instead of answering the door.
* * *
An agreement is reached after a few more hours. It's intention is to unite the many afterlife options into one large corporation - from the Greek Hades and Elysian Fields to the Christian Heaven and Hell, from the Norse Valhalla to the Celtic Otherworld and absolutely everything in between. God even came up with a great name for this new capital venture: The Pearly Gates Corporation.
Now, when Yahweh left Heaven in pursuit of a retirement community someplace less stressful, He left it in the midst of repairs and expansions so that by the time God finished unpacking Her meager possession She had more space than She knew what to do with. Heaven is a sprawling estate, of sorts, with wings and annexes and three hundred floors of offices and conference rooms. Even the basement is a maze of sorts, filled with offices and kitchens and a sauna for the demons who work in the cooler regions of Earth.
In essence, it's a wonder no one thought of this before.
"I call dibs on the Penthouse," She says as Metatron writes down a list of who wants what. Zeus frowns at Her and She stands Her ground. "I've lived here longer," She says. "Heaven, Inc. will take the Penthouse and the angels will work with the other agencies on the floors near the foyer."
Hades elbows his way to the front. "I want the basement," he says and God shrugs.
"Fine by Me, but you'll have to share it."
"With a former employee of Mine who was recently re-hired. Hell, Hades & Purgatory, Ltd. Has a nice ring, doesn't it?" She asks with just the hint of a smile. Hades thinks it over and agrees, then immediately disappears outside to bring his bags in from the car.
"Put the Elysian Fields Agricultural Volunteer Group down there, too, Meta," She says and he nods, scribbles the name down on his parchment. The rest of the group is easy.
Every last remaining polytheistic religion of the world takes the floors in between Heaven and Hell. The Olympians claim the offices in a wing near God's Penthouse, while the Romans stick close to the Mezzanine because of Jupiter's fear of heights. Not surprisingly, the Celts and the Druids take the Atrium and the gardens in back. She agrees to add on a Reincarnation Wing for the Hindu gods and a Paradise for the Muslims. Most of the Eastern religions claim the outer buildings and annexes because of space issues associated with keeping dragons.
Hell, they even manage to have a unicorn, thanks to the Celts.
At the end of the evening, with everyone moving into their respective offices and living quarters, God finds Herself sharing a glass of what the Celtic goddess Anu said was Scotch with Her newest employee, Metatron.
"Thank you for your help," She says.
"All part of the job," he says and toasts his glass with Hers.
"Do you think it'll work?" She asks.
He shrugs. "I think we'll just have to wait and see."
She nods and sips Her drink, mellowed by something called alcoholic content. In fact, She's so mellow that when a squeaky toy thrown from the nursery above bounces off Her forehead, She singes it only slightly instead of smiting it completely.
* Not to mention She's had it up to Her holy Afro with the squeaky toys and rattles. She's had Her patience tested at least a hundred times a day since the nursery opened and while She isn't an advocate of violence, She's one loud and obnoxious noise away from ripping someone's halo off.
** In hindsight, She probably should have changed out of Her bright blue unicorn pyjamas. Then again, with the crowd waiting for Her on the other side of the door, the unicorns most likely kept Her from getting strung up by Her perfectly pedicured toes.*** She's never met a dragon before, but She suspects they don't typically talk. Unless they're Lucifer in disguise and then it's a whole other situation entirely.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Claire has been, since her birth, precocious. She prefers her books to friends and, on occasion, her own family. Precocious or not, though, Claire is a horrible listener. In fact, while her father explains the finer points of staying on the thick ice - a truly genius statement that Claire should have really paid stricter attention to - Claire's mind is wandering to the stack of Nancy Drew mysteries she unwrapped three hours earlier.
"I got it, dad," she says smartly and Harry immediately knows she doesn't have it, but he's freezing his ass off and so instead of explaining it yet again, he helps his daughter up off the snowbank and pushes her out onto the ice.
"Remember to stay off the edges!" he calls after her and she waves a purple mittened hand at him as she sprints off towards the six other little girls who have all received the same lecture and have all pointedly decided to ignore it.
He should be more surprised when the ice cracks and Claire disappears, but he's not. Truth be told, he's really only surprised that it took so long - he'd been betting on three minutes, tops.
* * *
Claire's first reaction to her situation is to immediately regret having not listened to her father. Her second is to immediately regret having worn heavy ice skates while going for a dip in a frozen pond. She thinks that sinking would be a terrific feeling if she were capable of breathing under water.
And then she's out of the water, bone dry, and standing in front of the prettiest woman she's ever seen. The woman is tall and elegant and Her skin is the color of caramel, Her hair a wild nest of brown curls that look as though they've been spun with gold. It's the eyes, though, that make Her so pretty. They're bright green, the color of spring grass after it's rained, and they're staring at Claire.
"Hello, Claire," the woman says and smiles. "I'm God."
Claire's mother has told her a million stories about the woman in front of her. Katharine Rogers has described God to a T, right down to the dimples in Her rosy cheeks. Claire knows that the woman in front of her is God, just like she knows she must be dead. Only dead people meet God.
Well, dead people and crazies but the last time she checked, she was pretty much sane, so dead she must be.
"I like your ice skates," Claire says, pointing at the pristine white skates. God smiles, twirls a little so Claire can see the flapping gold wings that stick out from the backs of the skates.
"Hermes gave them to Me," she says and Claire makes a mental note to figure out who Hermes is. "Hence the wings."
Claire considers her situation and, being the precocious and well-read little girl that she is, decides to be as adult about it as she can.
"Am I dead?" she asks and God, to Her credit, doesn't lose a beat.
"Not technically, Claire," She says. "I brought you here, to Limbo, so we could chat a little."
"Chat about what?"
"I'm sending you back with a gift," God says and Claire's attention becomes immediately focused.
"Is it a pony?" she asks. "I've always wanted a pony and my daddy says that if I'm really good then someday he'll buy me a pony but he won't tell me when so I have to be good all the time and it's starting to get really boring."
This lengthy explanation causes God to pause slightly and reconsider her decision.*
"No, honey, it isn't a pony..."
"Is it a little brother?" Claire begins again and God fights the urge to clamp Her hand over the child's mouth. "My mommy says that I could have a little brother if my daddy wasn't so busy all the time with his work. Daddy says that if I have a little brother, it better not look like the milkman because then we'd have to find a new one and good milkmen are hard to find."
God, being the responsible and somewhat omnipotent being She is, realizes at this point that a proper response to all of these admissions is lacking and therefore chooses a different tactic.
“Right. Okay. Well, Claire, here’s My gift to you: you’re going to be My assistant when you get older. You’ll tell people things for Me.”
“Like that telephone game Sarah Truman plays?”
“Yes, just like that telephone game Sarah Truman plays.”
“You know Sarah Truman?”
“She doesn’t believe in You.”
At this point, God decides to cut Her losses and run and leave the paperwork for someone more patient than Her, someone like Her archangel Gabriel (his penmanship is simply to die for). So, She snaps Her fingers and sends Claire back to her body and her family and jets on back to Her offices at Heaven, Inc. She does, however, make a point of filling out the HI-245 form, Sibling Requisite Form.
She hopes a little brother will be just the kind of balance Claire needs.**
* * *
"I got to meet God," Claire says when she's finally awake and warm.
"Really, and how is She?" Katharine asks her only daughter.
Claire considers this question as she sips her hot chocolate. Harry pauses in the doorway of the living room to eavesdrop on the conversation.
"She's gorgeous," Claire says, "and She had the coolest ice skates. They had gold wings on them!"
Katharine laughs at her daughter. "Hermes made them especially for Her a hundred years ago, so She'd always be able to stay standing up in them. She's a horrible ice skater."
"I'm going to work for Her when I'm older," Claire says and from the doorway Harry laughs. "A nice big office at Heaven, Incorporated."
"Of course you will, dear," Katharine says, unaffected as always. "Now, who wants more hot chocolate?"
* Because of this one incident with Claire, God no longer contracts young children to be prophets. She learned Her lesson the hard way by trying to explain to a six year old the concept of prophetic dreams and visions. Like explaining the difference between a holy vision and an acid trip to a nun, which She’s also done once before...
** When Patrick is born that Christmas, it means Claire is no longer the center of attention, which means she has to learn how to fend for herself, which in turn means she starts listening better. It also helps that later down the line, when Patrick turns fifteen, he decides he wants to be an accountant, a much more down to Earth profession than Claire's. Literally.