Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Tiny Hands of Fate (or an Approximation Thereof)

Metatron is used to having terrible days. He's a glorified mediator most of the time and constantly having to deal with fighting immortals and creatures (both natural and unnatural) takes its toll on his cheery disposition. There are days when God tasks him with explaining things to those gods and goddesses who have a hard time understanding Her, either because they've chosen not to or because they don't necessarily speak the same language and Meta ends up on the wrong end of someone's lightning bolt (Zeus) or hammer (Thor) or googly-eyed fern (Charles Darwin).

Sometimes, though, it isn't an aspect of Meta's job that leads him into a terrible day, but instead he simply wakes up and things rollercoaster downhill from there. For instance, when he woke up this morning, the Voice of God knew he was going to have a craptastic day from the start. He hit his head on a low-hanging rosary as he was getting out of bed. Then, on his way to the bathroom, he stubbed his toe on the oversized cross in his hallway and the hanging idol of Jesus laughed at him.(1) He's learned over these last few thousand years that when a molded stone imitation of the World's Savior laughs at you, it's never a good sign - especially in light of Jesus' off-beat sense of humor.(2)

He survived his morning meetings - all six of them - and is currently standing in the line to the dessert bar in the Pearly Gates Corporation's lunchroom. Dionysus had been in charge of the last meeting, a twenty-minute diatribe regarding the catering for the annual Fall Harvest Festival in the Greek and Roman levels, and all the god could talk about was the Death by Chocolate cake the lunchroom had planned to serve with lunch. Now, three hours later, all Meta wants for lunch is a glass of milk and a slice of Death by Chocolate Cake. The minion in front of him grabs a bowl of pudding and Meta sees that there's just one slice left. The minion moves out of the way and as Meta reaches out for the plate and that last piece of chocolately goodness, his hand is swatted away by one of the many arms of Shiva, which then swoops in and steals the plate.

He whirls on the Hindu god. "Did you seriously just smack me so you could get that piece of chocolate cake?" Meta asks, shaking out his injured hand.

Shiva shrugs. He has plates of food in each of his four hands, including the chocolate cake. "Maybe," he says. He licks chocolate frosting off his finger. "Thanks for the cake, Stringbean," he says.

"Considering the size of your stomach, fatso, you might want to have the fruit cup instead," Meta grumbles.

Shiva looks down at his protruding stomach and shrugs. "I don't know. Seems to me the ladies like it," he says and moves to leave the dessert line.

Meta holds his arm out to block Shiva's retreat. "That's my piece of chocolate cake," he says.

"Oh, in that case," Shiva says and holds the plate out. Meta goes to reach for it but Shiva pulls it out of his reach before he can grab it. "Too slow," the Hindu god says, grinning.

Meta, if asked, will always deny that he threw a plate of coconut cream pie in the face of Shiva the Destroyer. He'll say that the pie came out of nowhere, that someone very kind must have seen what happened with the chocolate cake and felt the need to defend The Voice of God's dessert-time honor. He'll call the Hindu god a liar and a cake thief and he'll demand reparations.

He should have instead remembered he was The Voice of God. It would have made things a lot easier.

* * *

His hands are tiny. They are not usually tiny but are instead usually very long and reminiscent of spider legs in the way the last two bones of each finger curl inwards. With his arms at his sides, the tips of Meta's fingers almost reach his knees.

Today, they're barely poking out the sleeves of his jacket.

"My hands!" he hollers as he runs into God's office, holding the offending appendages up so that She can see them.

She looks up from the stack of intake forms on Her desk and shrieks in terror. "Holy hell, what happened to your hands?!" She asks, Her voice high and panicky. He takes a step towards Her desk and She stands quickly, Her chair falling over as She backs away from him. He stops moving.

"I don't know!" he shouts. "I woke up and they were like this." He waves them and She shrieks again, holds Her own hands up to block him out. He pauses, frowns at Her. "What's wrong with You?" he asks.

"Nothing," She says, smoothing out Her toga and attempting to look put together and calm. He takes another step towards Her and She immediately retreats backward, bumping into the card catalog behind Her desk.(3) "Just stop moving," She says. "Please."

He does as She asks and his arms drop to his sides, his sleeves hiding his now tiny hands. With them out of sight, She seems to lose Her manic edge and come back to Her senses.

"Now, let's think about this rationally." She motions for him to sit in one of Her visitor chairs. She stays standing with Her back against the card catalog. "You started a food fight with Shiva in the lunchroom yesterday," She says and he nods. "He has a penchant for making things small, something you might have remembered before you threw a pie in his face."

"I maintain I didn't throw the pie and even if I had, he deserved it. He took the last piece of chocolate cake, Ellie," Meta whines. "And he smacked me." He mimes his hand being smacked by his other hand and the sight of two tiny hands hitting each other has God wanting to hide under Her desk. A muscle in Her cheek twitches and Meta looks at Her funny. "You're afraid of tiny hands, aren't You?" he asks, suddenly understanding.

"No," She says, instantly flustered. "That's ridiculous. Why would you ask Me something like that?"

"Because You're sitting on top of Your card catalog instead of at Your desk across from me. And these." He waves his hands at Her and She screams before She can stop Herself. He smirks.

"Okay, fine" She says, a little breathless. "I may be a little afraid of tiny hands."

"And by little, you mean...?"

"Very. Bordering on terrified."


"I haven't a clue. Now would you please put those damn things in your pockets so I can get the hell down from here?"

He does as She asks. "The easiest thing to do here, for both of us, is for You to fix it," he says.

She eyes him warily. "I wouldn't even know where to start," She says. "It isn't permanent, though. That much I do know."

Meta's eyes go wide. "You've seen this before, then?"

She nods. "He shrunk Jupiter's head after the god had accidentally bumped into him and spilled his coffee."(4) God hops down off the card catalog and cautiously sits at Her desk. In an effort to focus on anything besides the tiny hands across from Her, She begins signing the intake forms once again. "I really wouldn't worry about it, Meta," She says, not looking up. "I give it a day, or two, tops."

"And if they don't go back to normal, then what?"

"Juno is looking for a new administrative assistant," She says, managing a smile. "I've heard the goatskin armor really grows on you after awhile."

* * *

It lasts six days. He's banned from God's office for the duration of it and because he's always been just slightly inclined to certain acts of mischief, he waves at Her whenever he sees Her around the building. Each time, She shrieks in terror and runs in the opposite direction. It loses its novelty, however, after She throws an alarm clock at his head and he ends up with the actual clockface embedded in his forehead for a couple of hours...during which the dials keep perfect time.

He keeps his hands to himself after that.

He's back in the lunchroom on the seventh day, his hands having returned to their normal size, and he finds himself standing behind an oblivious Shiva in the dessert line. As they near the plates of cakes and cups of puddings, Meta sees the prize - one delectable looking piece of chocolate cake, all by itself. Shiva goes to reach for it and Meta smacks his hand out of the way, grabs the plate off the bar, and turns an evil grin on the Hindu god.

"Ha ha!" he shouts. "I win."

"You do know I'm the Destroyer of Worlds," Shiva says, attempting his best menacing glare. Meta thinks he'd look a lot more imposing if there wasn't a bowl of Jell-o in his second left hand. Whenever he shifts his arms, the blue substance wiggles and it makes Meta want to dance.

"Oh, yes, of course. How silly of me to forget." Meta holds the plate out for Shiva to take. He snatches it back at the last minute, though, and the god's face clouds over. Meta, who's since realized the error of his ways since his first cake-snatching encounter with Shiva, leans in close and uses the voice his maker gave him.

"TOO SLOW!" he bellows and Shiva's perfectly coifed (matted) hair blows straight out from his head. He's left teetering on his bare heels, dazed and confused from the full force of (literally) the Voice of the Voice of God. Most of his lunch items have been blown away, including the blue Jell-o.

"Pleasure doing business with you, Destructor," he says, patting the dazed god on the shoulder as he walks past him. "And thanks for the cake."

(1) A few Earthly years earlier, Meta had done some work at a church in Buenos Aires and as a thank you for all his kind words - which were, in fact, his own words because the message God had sent him downstairs to deliver had needed tweaking before he thought it appropriate to say within the confines of a house of worship - Father Amalda had given him a gigantic rosary and a gilded cross. His sense of honor forbade him from getting rid of them; his sense of interior design, however, begged and pleaded with him to turn them over to the Salvation Army and put up a Georgia O'Keefe instead.

(2) Well, if you'd been strung up on a crucifix, left to die, and had subsequently risen from the dead three days later your funny bone might be just a little left of center, too.

(3) Whatever you do, don't open those drawers. Should you ever find yourself alone in God's office and have the urge to open those drawers, just remember I told you so. And for the record, souls are much easier to take out of a drawer than they are to put back into one. Keep it in mind.

(4) Jupiter's never been right in the head - he's a big, powerful god who's afraid of just about everything in the known (and, at times, unknown) universe, including bunny rabbits - but for the three days his head was shrunken, he seemed almost normal. His wife, Juno, has been scheming to have it happen again ever since.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Breaking the Fourth Wall...Sort Of

Hi. It's me, Meg, the author whose photograph is posted to the right (your right, while you're staring at the computer) of this little blurb of chaotic text. I'm taking a moment to break the fourth wall (sort of) and let all my readers (all 22 of you glorious people) know that The Unbelievable Adventures of Claire Elizabeth Rogers is now a Facebook page.

It's hit the big time (seven people like it as of this morning - amazing!).

So, if you're a reader with a Facebook page and you feel like clicking on the Pearly Gates Corporation logo to the right (still your right), you'll be transported to a magical land of still-under-construction-please-bear-with-me Facebook awesomeness. And if you're a fan of the blog, you can become a fan of the Facebook page.

Hell, you can become a fan of the Facebook page even if you're not a fan of the blog...though it begs the question of how you found either in the first place...hmmm.

Anyway, this is a big thank you to all you wonderfully nice people who continue to read Claire and Company's many adventures (some good, some terrible, some hilarious). And I can say, without a doubt, that the third draft of the novel (The [Absolutely, Positively] True Adventures of a Religious Prophet) will be finished by the New Year - if it isn't, I give you all full permission to throw rotten fruit at me.

That's right. Rotten fruit.

Now click on something and have a happy Thursday.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The IDIOT'S Guide to Getting Bounced out of Eden

In the beginning, God created the universe and the Earth and the animals and, eventually, man. So says the Bible.(1)

In actual fact, She really only created the Earth – by accident, no less - before jaunting off for a supposedly much deserved spa vacation and leaving the angels in charge of finishing it off.

Later, after Adam and Eve, who wasn’t even the first Mrs. Adam(2), had been dropped off for playtime in the Garden of Eden, God stopped by and explained the rules: do what you want, eat what you want, and enjoy yourselves. All She asked of them was that they stay away from that one lone shady tree up on the hill – the only tree in all of Eden with big, shiny red apples hanging just low enough to be picked easily by hand. She figured those rules were easy enough to remember so She left the kids to their own devices and headed home to Her Penthouse in the sky.

Had God fast forwarded a few thousand years, and read a couple of Brothers Grimm stories, She would have realized just how seriously She had underestimated the appeal of a shiny red apple. Not to mention the fact that She put the tree on display, making it incredibly easy for curious hands to do things they shouldn't. And then there was Leo, the Serpent who lived in the higher branches of the tree - the Serpent God so irresponsibly forgot to mention. And Leo loved his apples, wanted to share them with whoever he could, so when Adam and Eve came close to the tree one afternoon while exploring the Garden, he convinced the pair of them that the shiny red apples were just apples and that the booming voice in the sky didn’t know what It was talking about.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Adam convinced Eve to pick an apple, but then, at the last minute, decided he’d rather have a peach instead. Unfortunately, it was too late; Eve had an apple from the Tree of Knowledge in her hand and, not wanting to waste a perfectly good piece of fruit just because the only man in the whole freaking universe couldn't make up his damn mind, took a bite and handed it over to Adam.

A few bites of apple later and they suddenly realized they were naked (knowledge being carnal at times) and decided they should probably cover up (what, with decency being an issue and all). With the kind of impeccable timing that only a Heavenly creature can have, God chose that precise moment to stop by for a visit and when She saw the fig leaves She lost Her heavenly cool and kicked them out of Perpetual Bliss and into the real world, where they landed on their bare asses with uncomfortable awareness.

Seriously, it’s all in the Bible - Ellie's version of it, at least.(3)

When good old Johan Gutenberg got his hands on it in the mid-14th century, he made a few edits that She never actually approved, edits that always struck Her as terrible bits of writing. Like blaming the whole thing on Eve - not cool, Johan. Not cool at all.(4)

Then there was the fact that he cut out Her favorite bit of the whole story, those last two lines right at the end of Genesis.

As they were leaving the Garden, Eve turned to Adam, smiled sweetly, and whispered, “Next time, pick your own Goddamn apples.”

(1) Well, at least it does in some old guy's Bible. God's own diary tells a much different story. See here.

(2) That would be Lilith. The problem with being God and creating a woman in Your own image is that said woman is most likely stubborn, independent, and headstrong. So was Lilith and after a short while of being told what to do by Adam, she told her 'husband' to kiss off and walked herself straight out of the garden and into the arms of sweet independence. God attempted to bring her back, more out of laziness than true want, but Lilith had seen what lay beyond the Garden and she liked it. So, resigned to actually having to do work, God created Eve from one of Adam's ribs and was a little less liberal with the stubborness. Realizing, however, just what a little twat Adam had become, God breathed a whole heap of independence into Her newest creation and sat back to watch the hilarity unfold below Her.

(3) She'd tucked it away in what would eventually become a pasture in France, with the idea it would be safe from prying eyes (safer downstairs than upstairs), only to have it dug up by a French farmer in the early 8th century, who of course ran off and translated it incorrectly because he spoke three words of Aramaic and just made up most of the rest of it. A few centuries later, it landed in Gutenberg's lap.

(4) When Gutenberg eventually died, and arrived at the Pearly Gates Corporation's front door, God made sure She was there to meet him so She could have a 'polite' conversation with him regarding the difference between artistic license and bullshit.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Beginner's Guide to Hell, Hades & Purgatory, Ltd.

Good afternoon and welcome to the lower levels of The Pearly Gates Corporation. My name is Hecate, Miss Tress for those of you new to damnation.* I'd like to take a moment to review the intake process with you before I begin the tour.

When we begin the tour, please mind your step and keep your hands - whatever may be left of them - in your pockets. If you are without pockets, then you've obviously misjudged the needs of your afterlife attire and should have paid more attention to your fashion sense while alive. If you're without hands, just wave a stump and we'll see what we can do for you.

Now, to your right is the hallway leading to Hades and his subsidy company, the Aelysian Fields Agricultural Volunteer Group, or AFAVG for short. Please note that the AFAVG is behind the Great Green Door, not the red door. Do not open the red door unless you fancy starting out the afterlife as a pile of dog poo in the morning, as Cerberus has absolutely no sense of humor and believes everything standing in front of its three heads is either a bouncy toy or a midnight snack.

To the left are the primary offices of Hell and Purgatory. These include the Minion and Demon Lounges, both Lucifer and Mephisto's offices, all training classrooms, and the lower level kitchens. Some of you may have been given forms to fill out regarding head size and overall posture. Please report to the Quartermaster to be outfitted with horns and tails - this is to your right, the first door on the left.

Those of you who will not be joining the demon ranks, please note the color coding on your index cards. This will tell you which door to knock on. For instance, if you're holding a blue card, please move to your right. You'll be joining the offices of Purgatory. These offices are easily recognizable by the number of faces bearing bored expressions and the fact that the doors are blue. If you're unsure of whether or not an office is associated with Purgatory, you're not trying hard enough.

Now, if you're holding a yellow or purple card and have the nagging feeling you forgot to repent your sins whilst you were still alive, you'll be joining the offices of Hell. These are the doors that are neither blue nor green nor red nor paisley. And before you ask, no one has a paisley card but yes, there are paisley doors.** Yellow and purple card holders should knock on the yellow and purple doors corresponding to the number indicated in the upper right hand corner. If you knock on a door that does not match the number on your card, you will be politely referred to the taxidermist at the end of the hallway and your head will be fitted for a coat rack. Or some other handy piece of home decor, depending on the mood of the taxidermist.

Now, I believe you've all got index cards and have some idea of where you're heading. If you're still unsure of why you're down here instead of upstairs, you should take a minute to consider your most recent actions and ask yourself if you could have done anything to prevent your current predicament. Not that asking yourself this question will help - you'll still be standing in the Underworld - but it might help you to better understand just how big a shit you were when you were alive.

Now, should any of you have any questions - any questions at all - please hesitate to contact me and remember it's Hell. It's hot, it's uncomfortable, and there's the greatest possibility you'll be bunking with a horned demon whose idea of a good time is ripping you limb from limb. And for anyone preparing to question anything I've just said, please read the fine print on those index cards.

There is, indeed, a special room in Hell for complainers, corporate executives with spending accounts, and people who talk loudly on their cellular phones while standing in line at the grocery store.

* When God assigned positions in the Underworld, She didn't realize just how seriously Hecate would take her job. Nor did she realize just how much of an acquired taste the goddess' humor was. Ellie supposes that's what ambivalence gets you.

** They're bathrooms. Paisley doors, paisley walls, and paisley fixtures. Nothing screws with your head more than attempting to pee while in a room completely decorated in a swirling multi-colored pattern.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are You Experienced...And Other Terrible Pick-Up Lines

Claire is a month away from her 29th birthday and she's home in Boston, visiting her parents for a few days while she waits for her things to arrive from Detroit. She's found a place to live in the tiny lakeside town of Tuttle, Maine but she can't do much without furniture and the last time she checked the truck carrying most of her material life was slowly crossing the great (not really) state of New York, with an estimated arrival time of three days from now. She's not exactly sure when the distance from New York to Maine became a three day drive, but she thinks the truck might actually be a horse-drawn carriage instead.

"I'm bored," Claire says while sitting on the couch next to her father. When Harry chooses to ignore his eldest child and instead buries his head even deeper into his newspaper, Claire throws something at him. And edge of the newspaper curls down of its own volition.

"Ah, Claire," Harry says, glaring at her over the top rims of his glasses, "I didn't see you there. You were being so quiet, so well behaved."

"I'm bored," she repeats with a small smile at her father's sarcasm.

"We live in one of the most interesting cities in the world and you're bored." He straightens the newspaper and continues reading. "I know for a fact you haven't explored this entire city. Take my Metro card and go adventuring."

"I've never been to the South End," Claire says, actually considering it. The newspaper edge curls down once more, only this time Harry's hand has helped it.

"Planning on joining the Irish mob, are you?" he asks.

Claire shrugs. "I've done stranger things," she says. Her father's smile is somewhat cryptic and not for the first time Claire thinks he knows and understands more than he's letting on.

Harry closes the newspaper and folds it up, sets it aside, and stands.

"Dad?" Claire asks, confused.

"I'm not letting you wander around the South End by yourself, Claire," he says. "You're a gorgeous red head and the freckles on your face might as well be a map of Ireland. They'll kidnap you for sure."

She laughs and gets up from the couch. They step into the mudroom, just off the front hallway to the house, and begin pulling on winter gear. It's early February and the city's just dug itself out from under a Nor'easter that left an Arctic gale in its wake. Any exposed skin is likely to either freeze and fall off or stick to something.

"There's a record shop down there I've been meaning check out," Harry says, pulling on his parka. "Can't remember where I heard about it*, but supposedly it's the premiere seller of punk and rock vinyl in the city."

"I'm not giving you grandpa's RCA," Claire says with a smile.

Harry opens the door and they cringe at the blast of cold air. "Well, then," he says as they step outside. "I'll just have to survive the apocalypse and steal it when you're not looking."

* * *

It's late when they finally make it down Massachusetts Avenue. Harry insisted on driving, even though he knew there would be rush hour traffic, and so instead of taking fifteen minutes by T, it's taken them an hour by car. The record store doesn't look like much from the outside - in fact, it looks like an old garage from the outside, complete with two large bay doors and a faded sign painted onto the brick above them proclaiming the space to be Paddy's Auto Repair.

A bell above the door rings as they walk inside and the two men at the center register of the store look up at them, one with a vacant expression and the other with something in between disgust and hopefulness. Harry and Claire are the only people in the shop.

"Are you getting ready to close up?" Claire asks, taking her hat off. She can practically feel her hair getting bigger in the warm store.

The younger man, wearing a Rogue Brewery t-shirt and dark jeans, steps down from the register and makes his way across the store to where they're standing. His expression no longer resembles a sour lemon; in fact, he appears to be smiling.

"It's just a slow night." He holds out his hand. "I'm Jack Hardcourt, the owner."

Claire pulls her mitten off and takes his hand. It's warm and slightly calloused. "Claire Rogers." She points over her shoulder to where Harry is already flipping through albums. "That's my dad, Harry. He's a Pink Floyd fan," she says.

"45s only, though," Harry says, looking up from the records to smile at Claire. He looks at Jack, takes stock of the unshaven jaw, dark jeans and obnoxious t-shirt. As a father, he's unimpressed; as a beer drinker, he's appreciative. "Nice to meet you, Jack," he says and immediately goes back to sorting through the records.

"So, Claire, anything I can help you find?" He smiles fully at her and she takes a minute to notice the difference in his face. The smile makes him look younger, smarter somehow, and definitely more attractive.


"Hendrix," she says. "'Are You Experienced?'"

"Depends on what we're talking about," Jack says and Claire feels the blush all the way down to her toes.

"The album, on a 45," she says and he smiles.

"Ah, well, that I can absolutely help you with." He leads her away from her oblivious father** and they weave their way through the sales racks of records to a black bookshelf near the back of the store. "If it came out before 1978 it's back here," he says.

Claire stares at the wall of music and feels overwhelmed. "It's incredible," she says. She turns and smiles at him. "You have an amazing job," she says.

He shrugs. "I'm sure yours is pretty amazing."

"I'm a librarian...sometimes a prophet."

He laughs at this. "A prophet librarian?" he asks. She grins, shrugs. "I've met stranger people in the universe." He points over his shoulder towards the older guy at the cash register. "Like him." The clerk is staring off into space and twirling the fringe on his suede vest. "He used to be a business man, until he was introduced to the late sixties and forgot all about his MBA."

Claire knows that Jack doesn't believe her - half the people she talks to don't believe her, including some of the ones who really should - and she's okay with that. She's there to buy a record, not convert an atheist - which Claire knows he is because he is so obviously an atheist it makes her want to laugh.***

He pulls a record down from the top shelf and hands it to her. It's Jimi Hendrix and he's definitely experienced. She smiles and hugs it to her chest.

"What else?" he asks.

"Van Morrison. And maybe some Cream. Or Jethro Tull."

Jack looks at her, arm outstretched and poised to grasp a battered looking Van Morrison album. He looks a little dumbfounded.

"What?" she asks, suddenly self-conscious.

"A librarian with a love of classic rock," he says and she nods. "Will you marry me?" he asks and he almost sounds serious.

She tilts her head to the side and considers him. He definitely looks serious. She files it away for further analysis later on when she's home.

"Maybe later," she says. "For now, though, let's just listen to some music that won't make my ears bleed."

* * *

She's in the car with her father headed back to the house in the Back Bay. There are six albums in total in a very large paper bag in the back seat of Harry's old Volvo, a paper bag that bears the Hardcourt Records label and a very large phone number, handwritten in permanent marker just underneath it. Claire smiles, first at the bag then at her father.

"You seem awfully pleased with yourself," Harry says.

"Most of those are one-of-a-kind, dad," she says, "and Jack practically gave them to us."

"Jack is it?" he asks, struggling with an impish grin.

Claire shrugs. "He seemed nice," she says.

"You should check back in a couple weeks when you come down for your birthday," Harry says, turning onto Arlington. "See if he's gotten in any new vintage collections."

She'd never tell him, because he's her father and his ego would swell far too much, but there are times when Claire thinks Harry Rogers is the most wonderful human being in the world.

"We'll see," she says. Almost as an afterthought, she kisses her mittened hand and pats his cheek with it. "Thanks, dad."

He winks at her as he pulls into their driveway. "Anytime, kiddo. Anytime."

* * *

"That chick was groovy, Jack man," George says as they close up shop.

Jack rolls his eyes. "Indeed she was, George." He takes a moment to pray that the old man leaves it alone, but he's never been that lucky...which is why he's an atheist.

"You should take her out," George says. "I think she'd dig the Clary House."

"The Clary House is a pit where good food goes to die. It's fit only for the likes of you and me, my friend," Jack says as he pulls on his coat. His apartment is just above the store, but he has to go outside and up a fire escape to get to it and it's just cold enough and he's just that much of a wuss that he needs a jacket. He opens the front door and George steps out into the dark Boston night. "Do you need a cab?" Jack asks. He drives him crazy, but Jack often worries about the old stoner. Good help is hard enough to find; mediocre help is impossible.

"Naw, man. I rode my bike in." He points over his shoulder and Jack looks, expecting a Harley or a scooter. Instead, he sees a Schwinn three-speed that's an obnoxious orange. "The streets are pretty clear. Just gotta watch out for those icy spots is all." Jack nods, forces himself not to ask why George is riding a bike in the middle of winter. "I've got good vibes about that girl, Jack," George says in a moment of sure clarity - even his eyes look clear. "If she calls you, go for it."

At that moment, a man in a long duffel coat rides up on a battered road bike. He waves at George and George waves back. Jack can't be certain, because it's dark and the street lamps near the shop never throw off enough light, but the man's helmet looks almost like a halo above his golden head.

"What's up, my man?" George says.

"Gettin' my bike on, that's what," the man says with a lopsided grin. "You ready to roll?"

George pulls a helmet out of his backpack and straps it on, which alleviates some of Jack's worry. He grins at Jack. "That's my bike buddy," he says, unlocking the Schwinn. "Michael," he calls over his shoulder, "this is the Boss Man, Jack."

Michael stares at him for an odd second - during which Jack feels as though he's a book being opened and perused - before grinning and nodding. "I've heard good things, Boss Man Jack."****

Jack watches as the two men ride off down the street and he thinks that he must be more tired than he realized because for just a second, he thinks he sees wings hanging out the bottom of Michael's coat.

* Harry read about it on a $20 bill one day. Written next to Jefferson's bulbous head was the following: HARDCOURT RECORDS, FOR HARD ROCK PEOPLE. Little did Harry know that it was in Michael's handwriting. Archangels...they meddle.

** Fathers are never as oblivious as their daughters think they are. Case in point, Harry has already started a mental catalog of all the things wrong with Jack Hardcourt. He does, however, give the man a few credits because of his excellent taste in music and beer.

*** He's either an atheist or a domestic terrorist "against the establishment". She prefers to think he's far too handsome to be a terrorist, but she's been known to be wrong before. She
did date a minion for awhile in college, afterall...

**** He has heard good things from George, but also from Porrima, one of the Roman seers. She keeps telling him about a man named Jack who will help Claire at a trying and difficult time. She failed to mention that he was also a record store owner, which makes Michael a whole lot more willing to accept the fact the guy's an atheist because he's an atheist with good taste in music.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Big Bang Theory...For Beginners

God wakes slowly, the sunlight filtering through Her bedroom window warm on Her face. She shifts under the weight of the blankets and is immediately reminded of the evening before, the multiple shots of something called alcohol and the bright red tie Lucifer had decided to wear tied around Her head while She demonstrated the yet-to-be-named Running Man dance move.*

She feels like Her limbs are not necessarily attached to Her corporeal body. Deciding to test Her theory that Her arms got up and walked away in the middle of the night, She attempts to move Her left arm. It drags across Her chest like a weighted sand bag.

Her naked chest.

Her naked chest which appears to be just to the right of Her other naked chest.

Since when do I have two naked chests?

Her green eyes fly open and She bolts upright in Her bed, limbs suddenly awake and very much attached. Beside Her, a body stirs as She smacks it with a newly functioning hand and She turns Her head to look at Her bed mate.

"Oh holy Me," She says and immediately begins to push at the body next to Her.

Lucifer grumbles as God finally pushes him off the mattress. There's a loud smack and snort as he lands face first on the marble floor of Her bedroom.

"Ow," he says, pulling himself into a kneeling position at the edge of Her bed. He rubs his forehead, a purple mark appearing on his pale skin where it connected with the floor. "What happened?"

"Out!" God yells, pointing at the door to Her room. She's on the verge of hysterics and getting closer every second.

He starts as though slapped and quickly stands, wrapping the discarded comforter around his waist. "Why are You yelling at me?" he asks. "And did You just throw me out of bed?"

"No, I pushed you out of bed and I did so because it's My bed and because you aren't supposed to be in it!" She grips the sheet wrapped around Her tighter. "I'm your boss, Lucifer. You're not supposed to sleep with your boss."

"Says who?" he asks, awfully indignant for an angel who just did a naked face plant on a marble floor.

"You," She says. He looks at Her, confused. "It's in the Employee Manual you helped My Father write, or don't you remember that little side project you took on a few years ago?"

"Oh," he says. His eyes seem to catch sight of something in the window behind Her and they wander from Her face to a point just over Her left shoulder. "Oops..." he says quietly.

"That's all you can say? Oops?" She asks.

He sighs, points at the window behind Her. She turns and, upon seeing the giant blue and green ball sitting outside Her bedroom window, squeaks in a very non-professional, non-Godly way.**

"Oops," he says again.

"What the frick is that?!" She screeches, no longer just on the verge but instead mid-way into a full on hysterical fit. Lucifer says nothing and She whirls on him, golden afro flying around Her head like angry springs. "Lucy, what the hell is that?!" She stabs the glass behind Her, wincing slightly when a crack sounds through the room.

He crosses his arms over his pale chest and glares at Her. "It's a planet and don't call me Lucy."

"A planet?" She asks, turning to look out the window again at the little green and blue orb. There are white clouds swirling around and it looks inviting, far nicer than the gaseous balls Her Father left behind. Something in Her chest (Her actual chest, not the chest She mistook for Her own) tugs and She puts Her hand up on the glass, smiles in spite of everything.

"Technically, our planet," Lucifer says.

The smile disappears and She bangs Her forehead against the window glass. "Shit."

* * *

Lucky for them both, the Archangel Michael came of age a few hours earlier. Yahweh had designed His archangels to be level-headed problem solvers. Raphael and Gabriel were still in training, but Michael had managed to con the seraphim teaching him into letting them out of class a little early. Hence, why it was lucky - otherwise, Lucifer and God would have spent another hundred years fighting over who had the right to the little blue and green planet God had immediately named Earth.

"The planet is Hers," Michael says around a mouthful of ambrosia. "This is fantastic," he says to God. "Like Heaven on a spoon." God smiles, flattered, and Lucifer (now dressed in a three piece suit, pink tie, and pointed loafers) almost immediately turns purple with rage.

"Bullshit! That planet is half mine! I helped create it!"

Michael shrugs, keeping an eye on the pointed purple guy. He doesn't trust anything that turns purple when it's angry.*** "That may be the case, Pointy, but She's not only the Earth's Mother, She's also the boss up here, which means that if She wants the planet, She gets the planet."

"I can't believe You're doing this," Lucifer says to God. "First You get the company and now You get the planet." He crosses his arms over his chest. "Is there anything You don't have control over?"

"You still have the ability to walk and speak, so yes, it looks like there are a few things I can't control." She frowns at him, mimics his stance. "It's not like I asked for the damn thing," She says. "How was I supposed to know that what happened between us was going to lead to this?"

"How did you think Mercury and Venus were created?!" Lucifer asks, incredulous. "Or did Your Father never tell You about the Planets and Planes?"****

"He was a little busy being a single father and running Heaven!" God hollers, Her patience running out. "Cut the poor guy some slack!"

Michael looks between Lucifer and God and props his chin in his hand on the table in front of him. "Are you two always this annoying?" he asks.

"Yes!" they shout in unison.

"Right, then." He stands, shakes our his newly matured wings, and rolls his neck. The bones crack audibly in the quiet of God's office. "I'll be back in a little bit."

"Where are you going?" Lucifer asks. He looks at God and She shruggs, just as confused as he is.

"To check it out," he says, pointing at the planet. "I want to see why this place is such a big deal." He opens the door to God's balcony, stretches his wings out as far as they'll go, and leaps off the edge. They hear him shouting in glee the entire way down.

"That's impressive," God says, Her green eyes following Michael's descent to the world below.

"Please," Lucifer says, "anyone can do that."

"Maybe you should go with him, then," She says, still watching the angel fly towards Earth.

Lucifer straightens his tie. "I just had my suit pressed." God smiles but says nothing. Lucifer frowns at Her. "Wrinkles are very hard to get out of wool."

"Of course they are," She says and hops over the edge of the balcony to follow Her new archangel down.

* * *

When God catches up to him, Michael is lounging under a shady tree, eating a red ball. He throws one to Her as She approaches.

"I'm calling them apples," he says. "Don't know why, but it seems to fit."

She takes a bite, smiles. "It's good."

He motions to the land around them. "There are millions of trees on this planet. Some big, some little, all green and wonderful." He grins widely at Her. "I'm kind of diggin' this place. There's room to stretch my wings down here."

She settles on the ground next to him, takes a bite of Her apple. "What am I going to do with it?" She asks.

"Fill it with animals and mortals and see what happens." She looks at him, surprised. "What?" he asks. "You can't just leave a place like this empty. It's far too fertile."

"Mercury and Venus are empty," She says.

"Because Your Father accidentally made them uninhabitable," he says.

"You weren't even alive when those things happened. How would you know?"

He smiles. "Archangels know everything, Boss." He bumps Her shoulder with his own. "We're born with the knowledge of the universe packed tightly into our thick skulls." He taps the side of his head. "Mind like a steel trap, whatever that is."

"Lucky Me," She says, laughing.

He points up. "That pointy guy is a pain in the ass," he says.

She sighs. "Lucifer has his moments." She frowns at the sky above them. "He used to work for My Father. I think he thought he was getting the keys to the kingdom when Yahweh retired." She shrugs. "Dear old Dad had other ideas."

"Probably a bad idea, then, for the two of you to get involved."

"We're not involved," She says a little too quickly. His left eyebrow arches up. "It was a one time thing. A one time, absolutely terrible thing." She looks at him, frowns. "Never get involved with co-workers, Mike."

"Duly noted, Boss."

She stands, holds Her hand out to him. "Call me Ellie," She says and he takes Her hand. She helps him to his feet. "My Father always did and I like it better than Boss or God."

"Sounds good, Ellie."

"I'm going to need help getting this place ready. Think you can help Me?"

He shakes his wings out. "Your wish is my command."

She's not completely certain, but She thinks Her archangel winks at Her as he takes off from the ground. She also thinks he's all kinds of trouble.

* * *

Lucifer is waiting for Her in Her office when She gets back upstairs. He looks even more disgruntled than he did earlier. In fact, She thinks there might be smoke coming out of his ears.

"Well?" he asks.

"I'm going to fill it up with animals and mortals," She says, pulling bits of cloud out of Her afro. There was a weather system moving as She headed up and She had to climb through a pack of cumulonimbus. "I'd like all the angels to help, at the direction of Michael."

"He just came of age a few hours ago!"

She sighs. "And he seems very responsible and capable of the task."

He plants his hands on Her desk and leans forward. "I've worked here since the beginning," he says quietly. "Your Father trusted me most of all."

She sits down and looks up at him, Her green eyes losing their earlier mirth. "My Father no longer runs this joint, Lucy, so I suggest you suck it up and move on."

He straightens. "You'll regret this, Ellie."

"Probably not, Lucy." She smiles sweetly and sits in Her chair at Her desk in Her office. "Now be a good boy and run along."

He turns on his heel and stalks out. She watches him leave and wonders if She will, someday down the line, regret it. Then She begins to think of all the different things She can do with Her new planet and Lucifer's warning is forgotten.*****

* * *

Lucifer, however, is just getting started. He's had a thought on his way back to his office, a thought that requires a detour to the Heavenly Library so he can consult the Heavenly Dictionary. He flips to the "E" section and scans the pages. When he finds what he's looking for, he taps his hand on the page.

"Evident," he says to the empty room. "That sounds badass." He scans a little further and happens upon the word "evil". When he reads the definition, he rolls his eyes. "Or evil. I could go with evil." He reads the definition again, comes to a conclusion. "In fact, I think I'll reinvent the definition of evil."

He nods to himself, pleased, and takes a couple steps away from the book. Yet another thought strikes him and he stops. He reaches back and steals the Dictionary to take with him. He flips to the "R" section as he walks out of the sparsley populated room.

"Reinvent means what, again?"

* You know you saw that one coming.

** Eeek! In the words of Yahweh: This shit just got crazy, yo.

*** Michael doesn't trust anything purple, period. He doesn't know why but he thinks it might have something to do with Gabriel. Most everything does.

**** Birds and bees, for all you mortals out there. Immortals have planets and planes, for existential and philosophical reasons only Socrates will eventually understand. And you all know what happens to him.

***** Thank goodness the Home & Garden channel hadn't yet been invented. The Garden of Eden might have turned out far differently if God had been given access to a Home Depot.

Friday, August 6, 2010

In Which God (Maybe) Learns Her Lesson (Sort Of)

This is dedicated to all the new moms, the women who just pushed watermelons out of pinholes, the unrecognized saints of the universe. What the hell was God thinking, anyway?

She likes to stand outside nurseries at random hospitals throughout the world and admire Her handiwork. She usually does it on bad days, when the paperwork on Her desk has piled up to the ceiling (literally) and Metatron won't shut up about signatures and PG-98 forms and how hard he works to make Her look good.* Today was one of those days so when Meta's back was turned, She slipped out the side door to Her office, took the express bus down to Earth, and popped into the Maternity ward of a little hospital in Glasgow, Scotland.

There are ten little babies wrapped in alternating pink and blue blankets inside clear plastic cribs and each of them is asleep, their faces slack with the dreams of the newly born. They look peaceful, wonderful, and God leans Her forehead against the glass and sighs.

"Just wait until they wake up," Michael says from right beside Her and She's so susprised She bangs Her head against the glass.

"Ow," She says, rubbing the pink mark on Her caramel skin. "I've told you a million times, don't sneak up on Me."

"You're supposed to be omnipotent," the Archangel says with a knowing smirk and She frowns at him.

"We both know that statement is ninety-seven percent false." Not for the first time, She wonders who started that ridiculous rumor about Her omnipotence. She wouldn't be surprised if Gabriel had something to do with it or, worse yet, Lucifer. "What are you doing here?"

"Meta sent me to look for You."

"Since when do you do My Voice's dirty work?"

Michael shrugs. "Since You started shirking Your duties as the so-called Known Creator of the Universe."

"Hey, Zeus and I agreed to share that title, thank you very much. As such, I can disappear from My office whenever the Hell I want to." She turns back to look at the nursery. "I couldn't take another day of paperwork and that whiny voice Meta uses when he thinks I'm not paying enough attention to him."

"The one that sounds like a three year old on helium?" Michael asks and She nods.

"I feel like slapping him when he starts with that voice," She says. She turns, then, and looks at Michael. She's in a place where no one - mortal or immortal - should have known to look for her and yet, here he is. "How exactly did you find Me?" She asks.

Michael grins. "You're predictable," he says, "and a lot less complex than you think you are."

She smooshes Her lips together in an exaggerated frown. "I hate you." He laughs.

She doesn't, actually. She couldn't. Of all the angels in Heaven, Inc. Michael is by far Her favorite. He's...normal. He has flaws and vices and an unhealthy obsession with the mortals living on Her accidental planet and if She gave him just an ounce more of freedom, he'd run amok and break something, but for some reason She likes him. It helps that he isn't perfect, like his Archangel counterparts Gabriel and Raphael. Thankfully, those two broke the mold. Literally.**

"So why the babies?"

"I like to admire My handiwork."

He steps up to the glass and She looks at him from corner of Her green eye. He's wearing a dusty green overcoat over what She suspects are jeans and a t-shirt and his wings. He looks vaguely like a homeless person, especially with the beard he's started sporting recently.

"Have You seen the kind of work that goes into getting one of these little bundles of joy?" he asks.

She rolls Her eyes. "Duh. I'm God. Of course I know what goes into making a baby." Without verbally agreeing to do so, they both decline to mention Her own adventures in Motherhood, i.e., the Earth.***

He chuckles and the sound echoes in the quiet of the hospital corridor. "Not making a baby; delivering a baby."

She laughs and it's awkward. "Of course I know about delivering a baby. I'm an expert on deliveries."

"Oh really?" he asks and She nods. He checks his watch. "Well then. The other reason I came down here is You scheduled me for an onsite at 6:08 pm. The McConnells and Baby Abigail." He holds his hand out. "If You're such an expert, You should really see this. I have it on good authority that Baby Abigail has big things in her future."

She narrows Her eyes. "The Moirae or the Parcae?" She asks.****

He grins. "Both. I like to hedge my bets when it comes to newborns." He wiggles his fingers at Her. "Come on," he says. "We're already three minutes late."

* * *

Michael rubs circles on Her back while She tries to get Her breathing under control. She hyperventilated a few minutes earlier and passed out on the delivery room floor. Thankfully, no one can see them, so it wasn't too big of a deal, but Michael will never let Her live it down. They're sitting on a bench outside Baby Abigail's room and Michael has magically produced a can of Orange Slice and a straw and God is slowly, but surely, feeling better.

"That was horrible," She says and She can tell without looking that Michael is silently laughing at Her because his circular hand motions take on a decidedly free form. "Stop laughing at Me. It isn't that funny."

He leans forward so She can see him without having to sit up. "You're absolutely right. It isn't funny. It's fucking hilarious."

She scowls at the floor and hopes he can see it. She holds Her hand out for the can of soda and he gives it to Her. There are few things in the universe that make Her feel better than a can of Orange Slice. It's the drink of the Gods - literally. There are cases of it in the cafeteria at the Pearly Gates.

"Who would volunteer to go through that?" She asks, finally sitting up. Michael moves his hand away from Her back and She has to stop herself from whining at the loss of contact. I shall not have unprofessional feelings towards my employees, She chants in Her head. Look where it got Me the first time.

"Unfortunately, it's the only way to get one of those tiny bundles You thought were so adorable twenty minutes ago."

She looks at him. "Tell Me the truth, Mike - did I do that to women?"

He begins to laugh again and She punches his arm, hard. "Ow. Yes, Ellie. You did that to women."

She leans her head back against the wall behind them and frowns. "I am a terrible diety. I don't even remember doing that! I wonder if I can get it reversed..."

Michael shakes his head. "No dice. That was a PGX-007 order. Not even Yahweh himself could get one of those reversed." He steals the can of soda from Her hand and takes a long sip. "I'll bet it was one of those forms Meta dropped in front of You and demanded You sign."

"I never read those forms," She says.

"No kidding." He points over his shoulder to the delivery room. "Probably why Mrs. McConnell is currently pushing something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a pinhole."

God takes a moment to think about the logistics of it, remembers She, too, is a woman, and moans in sympathy for the heroic Mrs. McConnell. "I'll say it again - I am a terrible, terrible, terrible diety!" She rolls Her head to the side and stares at him. "Planets are so much easier. I went to sleep, woke up, and BAM. Planet."

"That happened to me once," Michael says.

"You woke up and had a planet outside your bedroom window?"

He winks at Her. "Where do you think Saturn came from?"

* * *

Metatron is waiting in Her office with a stack of intake forms, a green pen, and an attitude problem. He doesn't even wait for Her to sit down before he starts talking.

"Where have You been?" he asks and She hopes it's rhetorical. "I've been collecting intake forms from that train crash in Russia since ten this morning. Zeus and Hera have called three times, as have Jupiter and Juno - You know how those four have to do everything equally. Joan gave up around lunchtime and went in search of the French Army to convert. I've been here on my own the whole day and You've been doing who knows what down on Earth with Michael!"

God stares at him for a moment and comes to a decision. She reaches out, knocks his hands, and sends the stack of intake forms flying through the air. The office is covered in a rainfall of paper and in the middle of it all, Meta stands with his mouth open, apparently trying to scream but not sure how it'll be received.

"Meta, darling," God says in Her sweetest tone of voice. Meta nods, still silent. "I've had a tiring day. Go away before I strangle you with your cravat and sell you to the British Museum as a dress-up doll." She cocks Her head to the side and smiles, reaches out and pats the top of his head. "Okay, pumpkin?"

Meta nods and silently leaves Her office. She cleans the mess up with a flick of Her finger and sits down at Her desk, pulls the bottom left drawer all the way out and roots around in it for a minute or two. Her hand finally finds what it's looking for and She pulls out a nearly full bottle of Glenlivit.

Orange Slice may make Her feel better, but Glenlivit makes Her feel spectacular. And as Her holy hoo-ha cringes at the thought of what She witnessed today, She decides that there is absolutely nothing wrong with spectacular.

She pours Herself a glass and turns to Her giant window. "Cheers, moms," She says and clinks the glass against the window. "May they be worth all that trouble."

* PG-98 Forms are the worst. It's sixty pages of bureaucratic hell with lots of check boxes, text fields, and places to initial and sign. And it's all so the newly damned get their due process. God personally thinks that being a dick in one's life is all the due process for an eternity in Hell one needs, but She was overruled by the Council. Hence the PG-98.

** Gabriel and Raphael popped out, perfect and wonderful, and before Yahweh had a chance to change the settings, the mold literally broke into six solid pieces and He had to create Michael from scratch. If nothing else, it explains why Mike is the only of the three Archangels who can grow a beard and who doesn't know all the words to "Bat out of Hell".

*** Babies and planets have a lot in common. One unprotected drunken indiscretion later and BAM. You've got a baby or a planet. And one hell of a hangover.

**** He gets along better with the Parcae, the Roman Fates, but the Moirae, the Greek Fates, serve better cakes with their tea so he usually stops by both offices whenever possible.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear France, Stop Digging Sh*t Up. Love, Claire (Part 4)

The Franciscan is barely five feet tall and he's missing most of his hair, save for a pair of gray tufts on the sides. His nose is oversized for his small face and Claire can't stop staring at it. She thinks this is maybe why God sent Michael with her, to keep her from making an ass of herself by staring at the monk's bulbous schnoz. The little man is talking, too, and Claire hasn't been able to pay attention to a word of it.

"Claire?" Sister Josephine asks and Claire shakes her head slightly to clear the haze. She turns away from the monk and looks at the Mother Superior. "Zee Friar wants to see zee book. Could you get it for 'im?"

The older nun winks and Claire considers breaking down in hysterical laughter. It's been that kind of day - an evil address book, an art forger, and the Devil. Sister Josephine is lucky Claire is still functioning.

"Of course, Mother Superior." Claire walks into the vault and picks up the forged Legemeton. Sister Magdalene, true to Michael's assumption, had copied the book. It's a perfect forgery, practically indistinguishable from the the book that Michael took with him, save for one tiny difference: you can actually read from this one without fear of a demon popping up and eating you. Claire's already skimmed over a few pages. It left her wondering if Crowley, the Serpent from the Garden of Eden, still lives in Baltimore, Maryland.*

She bundles the book up in an old piece of oil cloth and takes it out to the waiting Franciscans. The little Friar is tapping his sandaled foot impatiently, his giant nostrils flaring in time to his foot. Claire wonders if he got marbles stuck in those nostrils as a child. She begins to giggle at the thought of it, loses track of her feet, and trips.

The book, of course, flies out of her hands and lands on the floor at the Friar's feet.

"Claire," Sister Josephine says with a sigh. "What am I going to do wiz you?"

The Friar is berrating her in French, which is lucky for him as Claire can't understand more than a few words of the language.** She does, however, recognize "Vous fille gauche" as "you ridiculous girl" and she rolls her eyes at the little man.

"Oh can it, Friar Tuck."

* * *

After a long week at the Pearly Gates, God is indulging in a bit of pampering. She's listening to Fleetwood Mac while brushing a second coat of Holy Roller Pink on Her toes. She's just about done Her left foot when the door to Her office bangs open and Michael walks in, followed closely by Lucifer.

She stares at them, Her hand poised with the nail polish brush over Her foot. She stares at the two intruders, both of whom are staring back at Her in surprise.

"Michael," She says. "Lucy." She finishes Her foot, puts the brush back in the bottle and closes it up. "To what do I owe the displeasure of your company?"

"Is that pink nail polish?" Lucifer asks.

Michael arches an eyebrow at Her. "And Fleetwood Mac?"

She frowns, points at the stereo system across the wall. The opening chords of Go Your Own Way fade out and Michael coughs, poorly covering a laugh.

"What the hell do you two want?" God asks, annoyed.

Michael opens up his robe, pulls out the Legemeton. "I brought this up for You," he says. Lucifer tries to snatch the book out of his hands, but Michael is faster and he moves it out of the Devil's reach. "It's the Legemeton."

"Legemeton?" She asks.

"The grimoire You asked Claire to pick up from St. Luac's?" Michael asks. God continues to look at him blankly and he sighs. "Lucy's address book?"

Recognition flashes across her face. "Right! The address book. Let Me have it. I'll put it in the big vault." Lucifer whines and they ignore him. Michael doesn't move, though. "Mike?" She asks.

His mouth curves up in the tinniest of smiles. "I have a better idea," he says and opens the book, begins ripping the pages out of it. God stares at him with big eyes and Lucifer squeaks each time a page is ripped out. When Michael's finished tearing out pages, all that's left is the outer covering. He hands it over to Lucifer and tucks the torn pages into his robe.

"My gorgeous book..." Lucifer moans.

"I'll make you a deal, Lucy," he says. "For every good deed you do, you get a page of your address book back."

"What?!" God shrieks, standing so quickly Her chair falls over. She stares at Michael like he's lost his mind.***

Lucifer does the math in his head. "But that's two hundred good deeds!" he cries. "Do you know how long that's going to take?"

"At least a century in Earth time. I suggest you get started." Michael grins. "Don't worry. The warm and fuzzy feeling eventually grows on you."

"Michael, those pages are full of evil," God says. "You can't just give them back to him."

"Good and evil, Ellie. You're the one who's always saying there has to be balance." He pulls a page out of his robe, hands it to the Devil. "For helping Claire out earlier."

Lucifer looks at the page, calms a little. "Uriel," he says. "She was fun."****

"And she had those huge..." Michael begins, holding out his arms. He stops, though, when God clears Her throat. "Wings. Huge wings."

"Get out of My office, Lucy." God says, Her eyes never leaving Michael. Lucifer doesn't hesitate to run. Two angry women in one day is enough for the Devil. He's barely cleared the doors when She points Her finger at them and they slam closed.

"Did You know what the book was when You sent us to St. Luac?" Michael asks.

God hesitates. "I'm not sure how to answer that without you throwing a fit."

"You wasted a Prophet's time in search of an address book for Your own nemesis." She opens Her mouth to object, but the Archangel raises a hand to silence Her. "Claire has enough on her plate with Armageddon coming up without You sending her on a fool's errand to France. I could have gone by myself." He crosses his arms over his broad chest, frowns at Her. "I know You don't get along with that little prick, but the bad news is You're stuck with him. Learn to deal. And don't ever again use Claire to do Your dirty work where Lucifer is concerned."

God's eyes narrow. She hasn't ever appreciated being told what to do. It's one of the main reasons She now enjoys being the boss. "Don't overstep your boundaries, angel," She says quietly.

Michael uncrosses his arms, walks over to God's desk, and leans in close. "She's my charge. When You put her in harm's way, You overstep YOUR boundaries." Their eyes lock and if either of them feel the electric current that passes through the office, they decline to mention it. Both blink and the tension is gone.

Michael straightens, shakes out his wings, and takes a few steps towards the door.

"Where are you going?" God asks, suddenly insecure. She doesn't often fight with Michael and something about him just leaving doesn't sit well with Her.

He smiles over his shoulder as he pulls open the office doors. "To check on Claire. I left her with a handful of nuns and some Franciscans. She's either been converted or she's hit someone." He winks. "Don't miss me too much."

"You wish!" She calls after him. "So mature..." She mutters to Herself, thinking he's out of earshot.

He pops his head back in the office and smiles so brilliantly at Her, Her eyes hurt. "Don't You know it, darlin'," he says and disappears completely.

It takes all of Her holy willpower, but She doesn't stomp Her foot like a petulant child.

She throws something instead.

* * *

"You called him Friar Tuck?" Michael asks around laughter and Claire nods, all smiles.

He caught up with her at the airport in Paris and agreed to keep her company on the flight back to Detroit. He had actually offered to fly her back himself, but she declined on the pretense that an airplane would be safer. A short argument ensued at that point regarding angel wings versus plane wings and a little old woman sitting next to them solved it by politely asking them to shut the hell up because she couldn't hear her iPod over their "squawking".

"He looked just like Porky Pig, too, so all I could hear in my head the whole time was yoyks and away." She pulls her seatbelt across her lap, motions for Michael to do the same. "I kept waiting for Daffy Duck to show up with his buck and a quarter quarterstaff."

Michael's laughter is so loud he's drawing attention from the other passengers and, to his great pleasure, an attractive flight attendant with big "wings". The angel actually has tears streaming down his cheeks.

"Did you get the book back to God like you were supposed to?" she asks once he's calmed down enough to talk.

He nods, wipes his eyes. "Kind of."

"Kind of?" Claire asks. "What does 'kind of' mean?"

"I ripped the pages out of it. Every time Lucifer performs a good deed, he gets a page of his address book back."

Claire's shocked smile is reward enough for Michael. "I'm going to bet She wasn't happy with that."

"Not at all." He pulls a handful of tiny liquor bottles out of his overcoat pocket.

"How did you make it out of Her office with all your feathers intact?" she asks.

"Angelic charm," he says, picking out a tiny bottle of Jameson.

"You left before She could smite you, didn't you?"

"Yup." He holds the bottle up. "Ever wonder how they make these so tiny?" he asks.

"The bottles are regular size, Mike. Your hands are just so big they make them look tiny." She smiles, closes her eyes as the plane begins to take off.

It's quiet and Claire cracks open her right eye. Michael is holding his hand up to his face, examing it. When he hears her start to laugh, he drops his hand into his lap and frowns.

"My hands are not that big," he says and she closes her eye, her smile widening. "They're not."

"You're absolutely right," she says. "They're not big."

"Thank you," he says.

"They're ginormous."

"I kind of hate you."

* He does and gee, doesn't that explain a lot...

** If she could understand more, the Friar might fear for his little bald head. As it is, Josephine is deliberately translating only the nice words so Claire doesn't throw something at the Hobbit-like man.

*** Michael has a bad habit of making up his own rules as he goes along. He's never reckless, per se, but he's never one hundred percent safe and sound either. Truth be told, however, that character flaw is the reason God loves him. Like a brother. Loves him like a brother. Absolutely.

**** Later that day, Lucifer will look at the fallen angel before him and say "Uriel, my darling dear, my how your wings have grown..." He'll make a mental note to thank Michael for giving him back that particular page first.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dear France, Stop Digging Sh*t Up. Love, Claire (Part 3)

Author's Note: So I lied...it's actually going to be a four part trilogy. :)

Just after they accidentally created the Earth and God decided Motherhood suited her just fine and Lucifer's plans for taking over Heaven, Inc. went horribly awry, the Devil hatched a plan. He decided to fall to Earth and cause a little chaos, wreak a little havoc. See, angels on terra firma can do things that angels upstairs can't; they can engage in acts that are considered illegal and forbidden in Heaven.* His plan hinged on the assumption that God would notice his absence, realize She missed him and couldn't do Her job without him, beg him to come home to Heaven, and be willing to give him anything he asked for just to see him return.

Because he was just that important.**

So Lucifer fell to Earth, caused some chaos, and engaged in a few illegal and immoral acts while he waited to hear from God. He waited...and he waited...and he waited. After a month, he ran out of bad things to do and out of boredom, gave in and crawled back to Heaven. It looked different, larger, and there were more inhabitants than he remembered. Unwashed and scraggly, with a full month's worth of beard covering his face, he stopped the first angel who crossed his path and asked what had happened.

"There was a merger," the angel said. "All the religions in the universe have been moving into the complex." The angel pointed to a large, gilded sign hanging over the lobby's grand staircase. "Welcome to the Pearly Gates Corporation," the angel said. Then, sniffing the air, it frowned. "You should probably take a shower."

Lucifer rushed up to Her office and demanded to know why he hadn't been informed of such drastic changes, why he hadn't been consulted. He went so far as to say Her Father never would have done something so irresponsible. She brushed him off.

"You were on vacation," She said. "I didn't want to bother you."

"I fell to Earth, Ellie! I caused chaos and strife and other nasty things!" He crossed his arms over his chest and looked down his filthy nose at Her. "I ate meat on Fridays and I liked it."

She looked up at him and smiled. "That sounds lovely, Lucy. Your offices are in the basement and your minions have moved everything down there for you." She opened a drawer of Her massive desk, took a box out, and tossed it to him. They were business cards. "Hell, Hades & Purgatory, Ltd. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

* * *

"You called?" the Devil drawls and Claire fights the urge to scream. Not in fright, mind you, for she's dealt with her fair share of evil things over the years, but in frustration.

"Goddamnit Mike!" she says, whirling on her Guardian Angel. "First you tell me not to touch the book, then you tell me not to read from the book. And then, to top off this particularly strange day, you do both those things and the friggin Devil shows up!"

"Stop cussing," Michael says. "And calm down. I know what I'm doing."

"Um, not to interrupt or anything," Lucifer says from the doorway, "but could someone please tell me what I'm doing down here?" He frowns. "And why am I prickly all over?"

Michael sighs, puts down the book. "You're here because I called you and you're prickly all over because we're in a convent."

Lucifer looks around him, takes in the vault, and then pokes his head outside the door. When he comes back into the room, he's itching his arms. "I can't believe you called me to a convent." He pauses, frowns. "This is payback for that thing in Belize, isn't it?"

Michael smirks. "No, but that would be pretty great. And stop panicking - the convent itself used to be a manor home. It's the cloisters you have to worry about and they're one hundred feet to the left of the front door." He points to the Legemeton. "I believe this is yours."

Itching once again, the Devil takes a few steps closer to the book. He leans over, flips back the cover, and grins. "You found my address book," he says. "I've been looking for this for ages."

* * *

They're locked inside the vault. Shortly after Michael grabbed Claire to keep her from punching the Devil in the face, Sister Josephine arrived and announced that the Franciscans were on their way. Instead of asking for advice on what to do, the 85 year old nun took the situation into her tiny hands and shut the vault door, turned the handle three times, and effectively locked the Devil, Archangel and prophet inside.

"Worst day ever," Claire says quietly. She turns her head to the side and frowns at her Guardian Angel. "Please tell me you have a plan. Please tell me you didn't get me locked in a vault where I'm going to suffocate to death while the two of you reminisce about the good old immortal days."

"Balthazaar!" Lucifer shouts and he comes to stand in front of Michael and Claire, the book open. He points to a particularly nasty looking creature, all horns and red skin. "I haven't talked to him in ages. Do you remember that afternoon in China with Balty and the Dragon Kings?"

Michael chuckles, but sobers when Claire glares at him.

"Not the time, Lucy," Michael says.

"I rest my case," Claire grumbles.

"Alright, look. Here's the plan. I take the book upstairs, Lucy busts you out of here, and you ask Sister Magdalene if you can borrow the forgery of the Legemeton she's been working on ever since Sister Josephine let her examine it."

Claire's eyes go wide. "What forgery?"

Michael grins. "Trust me, Maggie has an exact copy of that book somewhere in her room." He reaches out, grabs the Legemeton from Lucifer's hands.


"I hate to break it to you, pumpkin, but there is absolutely no scenario in the universe which involves me letting you keep this book. It needs to go somewhere safe where it won't be found by inquisitive minds." He opens his robe and tucks the book inside.

Lucifer's skin tone begins to change. He looks flushed, his cheeks so pink that they're nearly...magenta?

"You've no right to take my address book from me!"

Definitely magenta. And as Claire watches, the Devil seems to grow in size, the seams on his expensive Armani suit tearing.

"It's always the same, isn't it?! She gets Her own way because She's God and I have to give up everything!" He stomps a cloven hoof. "It isn't fair!"

He has horns now, pointy ones that are peaking out of his dark hair. He looks like a magenta version of the Incredible Hulk and while Claire should, by all rights, be freaked out and scared, she instead finds the situation hilarious. And so, in the middle of the Devil's temper tantrum, she begins to laugh.

"Good lord, Lucy, you're purple," Michael says and Claire laughs harder.

"Oh, fuck off." Lucifer deflates like a balloon and his once perfect Armani suit hangs off him in tatters. He's pale once again and the horns and cloven hooves are gone and the expression on his face is petulant.

"Do you know how long it took me to put that thing together?" he asks, pointing to where he believes the book is hidden inside Michael's robes.

"I'll get you a new one," Michael says. "Now, are you going to help or are you going to sulk like a wounded puppy?"

"Technically, I could just leave," he says.

"You could," Michael says. "And technically, I could punch you in the nose."

Lucifer squares his shoulders, straightens his shredded tie. "No need to get violent, angel." He turns his head, looks at the vault door, and blinks twice. The handle turns three times and the door swings open. Claire sometimes hates how immortal beings make everything look so damn easy. "Ms. Rogers, I believe you have a date with a forged address book."

Claire turns to look at Michael, but the angel is gone. The only evidence he was ever there is a large white feather on the reading table. She picks it up, pockets it. When she turns back to thank the Devil, he too is gone.***

"Claire!" Sister Josephine says from the other side of the door. "What iz going on?" The nun peers inside the vault. "And where iz Michael?"

She sighs. "I'll explain it later, Mother Superior. Right now, though, I need to speak with Sister Magdalene about a book."

* Lucifer wasn't exactly sure what these acts were, but he was determined to engage in as many of them as he possibly could before She figured out he was gone. He'd heard something about meat on Fridays...and it sounded naughty.

** For the record, the Devil really is an arrogant little bastard.

*** Knowing there were nuns on the otherside of that vault door, Lucifer did what was asked of him and immediately got the Hell out of there. He may be a lot of things, but the Devil isn't stupid.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dear France, Stop Digging Sh*t Up. Love, Claire (Part 2)

As convents go, St. Luac is a pretty sweet pad. Twenty five rooms, a grand hall for dining, an overstocked kitchen run by a local woman who doesn't speak a word of English, or French for that matter, and a conservatory in the back with a panoramic view of the village and hills beyond it. Sister Josephine led them to the conservatory then disappeared back inside with mumblings about lemonade and making themselves comfortable. Claire is lounging in the chair closest to the door while Michael is sprawled out on the settee, his eyes closed and his wings rustling with contentment.

"Tell me again what a grimoire is," Claire says.

Michael's eyes stay firmly shut. "It's a spell book. This one in particular is the Legemeton. Belonged to King Solomon at one time."

"And why does She care about it so much?"

Michael's mouth curves upward in a coy smile. "It's one of Lucy's oldest and finest. He misplaced it a few thousand years ago and he has absolutely no idea where it is, most likely because it's been hidden in a convent for the last ten years." He opens his eyes and turns his head to look at her. "And lucky you, She trusts you enough to get it out of here in one piece, without any damage to life and limb, before either the Franciscans or the Devil himself realizes it's been here."

"Right. Lucky me." Claire frowns. "I understand keeping it hidden from Lucifer, but why from the Franciscans?"

"Because zey are just as great a nusiance as zat horned goat." Claire starts at the Mother Superior's voice. She cranes her neck around to look over the back of the chair. Sister Josephine stands in the doorway to the conservatory with a tray of glasses and a pitcher of lemonade and Claire instinctively sits a little straighter. Michael, on the other hand, sinks lower into the settee.

"For zuch an old soul, Michael," she says as she sets the tray down on the side table, "you have zee maturity of a zmall child." She smacks the soles of his Converse sneakers. "Zit up, old man."

Michael obeys without comment, though the expression of mirth on his face says most of what he's thinking. Josephine hands Claire a glass of lemonade and motions for Michael to serve himself.

"How did you find the grimoire, Mother Superior?" Claire asks. The glass is sweating in the humid air of France in August. She puts it down for fear of it slipping out of her hand and crashing to the slate floor of the conservatory.

"We were having work done on zee vault, to expand it for zee Cardinal's vizit in zee autumn. Zee workman hit a looz group of bricks, and voila, zee grimoire tumbled to zee ground." Josephine takes a sip of her lemonade and her mouth puckers almost instantly. "Coraline haz an annoying aversion to sugar," she says and sets the glass down. "Anyway, Zsister Magdalene used to be an art forger in Paris and she knew what zee book waz and we immediately locked it away."*

"How is Maggie?" Michael asks with a barely concealed grin. "Still painting your bathroom walls with Da Vincis and Michelangeos?"

To Claire's immense surprise, Sister Josephine smiles. "She haz moved on to zee impressionists. I have a Monet on my bedroom wall at zee moment."

"Mother Superior, not to rush things, but may we see the grimoire?" Claire asks.

Michael's frown is instant and sharp. "Curiosity killed the cat, Claire. Remember that when you're in the vault with that book. Lucy may be a joke Upstairs, but the things he did down here still cause problems."

Josephine snorts and rolls her eyes. "You are alwayz zo dramatic, Michael. Zee girl iz a prophet. I zuspect she would not be here now if she waz inclined to zee dark zide." The words dark side are said with an accompanying eye roll and air quotes and Claire wants to laugh.

"Mike, I'll be fine. This isn't the Death Star, you're not Yoda, and that book most definitely isn't Darth Vader."

"I'm just saying it's evil."

Claire smiles. "Well, duh."


The book is gorgeous, despite the fact it's close to thirty thousand years old and glowing unnaturally in the darkness of the vault and overall very evil. Despite all those things, the Legemeton is one of the most beautiful books Claire has ever seen. She surreptitiously checks to make sure she isn't drooling.

"Beautiful, izn't it?" Josephine asks and Claire suddenly remembers she isn't alone in the vault. "Zere iz zomezing mezmerizing about it."

"It's glowing," Claire says.

"Because it's evil," Michael sing-songs from the back of the vault. He refused to come any further into the room than the doorway when they arrived. He's leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed and wings out and rustling aggressively.

"Technically, it's what's written on those pages that's evil," Claire says. "The book itself is just leather and linen." She turns to Sister Josephine. "Do you have cloth gloves, Mother Superior?"


"Please tell me you're not thinking of opening that thing up," Michael says, pushing off the wall and straightening. "Have you forgotten what happened with Pandora?"**

Claire frowns. "Don't worry, Mike. I'm a librarian. I can handle just about anything."

Famous last words, really.

Claire puts the gloves on, reaches for the book, and immediately drops it on her foot. She howls in pain, the book opens as it lands, and the lights in the vault flicker. Claire pauses in her hopping to look up at the antique light fixtures, wondering if it's a coincidence or something decidedly less easy to explain.

"Oops," she says and Michael sighs.

"I thought you said you could handle anything," he says. "And yet, you, the librarian, drop a damned book."

"The world didn't end," she says, bending down to pick up the book from the floor and set it, still open, on the reading table.

"Yet," Michael mumbles.

She rolls her eyes and turns to check on Sister Josephine, only to find the elderly nun doubled over with laughter. "Zat," the Mother Superior says, breathless, "waz zee funniest zing I have zeen in decades." She straightens, wipes her eyes, and pats Claire on the shoulder. "I zink you may be zee clumziezt prophet I've ever met."

"You should see what she does with roller skates and small children," Michael says.***

"Shut up, Mike."

* * *

"Now remember, don't read aloud anything in the book," Michael says from his position at Claire's left elbow. "There's no telling what might pop up unannounced."

Sister Josephine left them a few minutes earlier to call the sisters to dinner. They have about twenty minutes before she'll return and after a short argument regarding the fundamental morals involved in stealing a holy relic from a French convent (Michael was for, Claire was against - as per their usual debates), Michael relented and is allowing Claire to look over the book while he supervises.

"You're hovering."

"I'm your guardian angel, Claire. I'm protecting your ass from evil."

"Can you protect it from another foot to the left? Your wings are making my arm itch." He shuffles back a few inches and she breathes deeply at the newfound freedom. "Thanks." She runs her fingers over a set of symbols on the inside cover and immediately feels the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Note to self: don't do that again.

"So if the only reason Lucy doesn't know the location of this particular grimoire is because it's within the walls of a convent, what happens when we take it out of the convent?" She leans closer to inspect an inscription on the first page and flinches back when she realizes it's written in blood.

"He shows up and makes a stink and we fight. Maybe."

"I hate fighting. I've ruined more good clothing due to impromptu fights with evil than I ever did working for that children's library in Boston." She shudders at the memory of a $100 winter white wool dress and fifty tiny hands covered in finger paint. "That place was horrible."

He shrugs. "Or I can just take it now, head up without you and hope he doesn't get wind of it."

She suppresses a smile. "Sister Josephine is old, but I'm pretty sure she'll notice an angel shaped hole in her roof."

He thinks about it for a few minutes while Claire continues her inspection of the book. She's just come to the realization that the leather covering isn't really leather but something far nastier when Michael grabs the book from her.

"What are you doing?" she asks.

"Most likely something stupid and regretable." He flips through the pages, finds what he's looking for, and recites a few words in a language she doesn't understand. He puts it back on the table. "Now we wait."

"For what?" she asks, suddenly filled with the kind of dread she associates with evil and calculus tests.

The lights in the vault go off and they're plunged into darkness. Unconsciously (or consciously - Claire's never been good with psychology), Claire searches out Michael's hand in the dark and when her fingers find it, they curl around it. When the lights come back up a few seconds later, Claire instinctively tightens her grip on Michael's hand.

Lucifer adjusts his tie and smiles.

"You called?"

* How, exactly, does an art forger become a nun? By stumbling upon St. Luac while on the run from Interpol and impressing the Mother Superior with her knowledge of not only the great Renaissance painters but also the best American baseball players. Josephine has a weakness for the American past-time and Patricia Hart, formerly of Witchita, Kansas where she was an honest artist and daughter of the local Lutheran minister, needed a place to hide. As Josephine said that evening over tea, even St. Jude would have recognized a lost cause like Patty Hart, even if she was from Kansas.

** And he doesn't mean Pandora and the box, he means Pandora and Claire and the urn in Zeus' office. Pandora convinced Claire to open up the urn and look inside, forgetting that Pandora's Box was actually Pandora's Urn of Terrible Horrible Things. Claire's clumsiness got the better of her and she dropped the urn on the floor, where it broke open and released one final evil into the world: reality television. Truly and utterly terrifying.

*** You really should. It's hilarious and, at moments, gravity-defying.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dear France, Stop Digging Sh*t Up. Love, Claire (Part 1)

They're headed to France to save an ancient book from a group of even older Franciscans. It wasn't how Claire had planned to spend her much needed - much deserved - week long vacation from the Houseman Library in Detroit, but all things considered there are worse places she could be headed. Like the mouth of a volcano, which, according to God, was her other option if she didn't like France.

God is mildly unpleasant when argued with before Her morning coffee.

"I hate flying," Michael says from his cramped position next to her on the airplane. She can't complain too much - God sprung for first class seats so at least she has some leg room.

"You're an angel, Mike. You have wings."

He turns his head and frowns at her in such a way that she wants to laugh. "Yeah, so?"

"You, by definition, fly on a daily basis."

"Airplanes are unsafe."

"No, they're not, and what does it matter anyway? You're already dead. I'm the one who should be freaking out right now." She took a Tylenol PM (or three) before they boarded the plane, so while a small part of her wants to freak out, the rest of her is too numb to care. "Besides, you didn't have to fly with me. You could have just met me there."

He turns to look at her and the look on his face suggest he never considered that possibility.


She smiles and closes her eyes. "Wake me up when we get there."

* * *

Claire has to hand it to the French - they know what they're doing with countryside. The convent at St. Luac is at the very top of the only hill in all of France without an access road, so she and Michael have had ample opportunity over the last hour to admire the gorgeous rolling green of Southern France. Beautiful or not, though, she'd donate a kidney for a four-wheeler.

"How's work?" Michael asks from beside her. They've paused for a few moments to catch their breath and he's been doubled over, hands on his knees and chest heaving, the entire time.

"It's fine. The Houseman is nice." She takes a sip of water from the bottle she stole off the plane and points at him. "You wouldn't have this problem if you stopped smoking cigars."

"I wouldn't have this problem is She just sent someone else to watch over you." He straightens, snatches the bottle from her hand, and finishes it off. "Christ, it's hot down here."

"It's August and you're wearing an overcoat."

He looks down at himself, shakes his head and covers his face.

"You forgot you were wearing an overcoat, didn't you?" He nods and she can see red starting to climb up his bearded cheeks. "You kind of suck at pretending to be human."

"It's been a long week, alright?"* He sighs, shrugs off the coat and leaves it on the ground for someone else to find. Almost as an afterthought, he shakes out his wings and stretches. "Much better." He grins at her.

"You look like a cockatoo."

The grin falters. "You can be a real twit sometimes."

"I love these bonding moments," she says. "They make me feel so warm and fuzzy." She starts walking again, turns around when she doesn't hear him following.

He winks at her. "Race you to the top," he says and takes off through the tree canopy.

She shields her eyes and stares at the Michael shaped hole in the branches. "Ass," she says.

"I heard that!"

* * *

The woman frowning at Claire is barely five feet tall, possibly older than Jesus, and carrying a ruler the size of a redwood branch. Despite her size and traditional black tunic and habit, Mother Superior (a.k.a. Sister Josephine) is hella imposing. Claire is trying very hard not to flinch every time the ruler smacks against the nun's palm.

"Who are you?" she asks and taps Claire's arm with said ruler, punctuating each word.

"My name is Claire Rogers. I'm here about the grimoire."

The woman's crystal blue eyes go wide and the ruler disappears into the sleeve of her tunic and the hard line in her forehead smooths. "Zee holy Mother sent you?" she asks and there's a tone of conspiracy to it. Claire nods. "It took you long enough! I called Her three days ago."

Claire knows better than to be surprised.

"We took the earliest flight, Mother Superior. I'm sorry it took us so long."

"We?" she asks. "Who did you bring with you?"

Michael's timing is impeccable. He appears in the sky, attempts a fancy manuever, and trips himself up just badly enough that he crashes onto the ground in front of Claire and the Mother Superior. He looks up at the old woman through messy hair and grins, waves his hand.

"Good morning, Josephine."

She sighs, turns towards the doors of the convent. "All zeez yearz, Michael, and you are still a child." She motions inside. "Zee grimoire is in zee vault."

Claire offers Michael a hand as the Mother Superior disappears inside the dark convent. "I take it you two know each other," she says as she pulls him to his feet.

"I saved a local girl from a minion once." He brushes the grass off his robes. "She didn't approve of my methods."**

"What did you do?" she asks as they walk towards the doors.

"I singed off his tail."

Claire shakes her head and follows the Mother Superior inside. Michael stares after her, hands raised.

"What?" He shakes out his wings, heads towards the door. "I apologized eventually," he murmurs. "Not that the bastard deserved it."

Josephine's voice filters out from the darkness. "I heard zat."

* A long week in the Pearly Gates is like eight long years on Earth. Like two terrible Presidential terms. Like failing high school - twice.

** It was the one time in his existence that Michael was actually wrong. The minion wasn't actually going to hurt the girl, just take her out for ice cream. In hindsight (no pun intended), he should have asked why the little girl looked happy and what the spoons were for.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let Me See Your "Evil League" Card

Claire isn't entirely sure how it happened, and if asked she'll chalk it up to Irish luck or something equally implausible, but she, crazy Claire Rogers who talks to herself in the quad at lunch and who, occasionally, breaks into long streams of Aramaic, has a date.

A real one, with a real boy. Or man. Or minion. He could, conceivably, be a minion. She has that kind of luck.

"What if he's a minion?" she says to her roommate, Veronica. Her voice is muffled by the closet. She pulls her head out and frowns. "I have nothing to wear."

"Well," Veronica drawls, her eyes never leaving the page of the magazine in front of her, "if he's a demon then it doesn't really matter what you wear."


"What's the difference?"

"I'm not really sure, but I think it has something to do with the number of evil deeds performed in a workday."

Veronica looks up from the magazine and one sculpted eyebrow arches up over one violet colored eye. There's a calm expression on her face, but Claire can tell she's having a hard time keeping her comments to herself. Veronica half smiles, the left corner of her mouth quirking up in surrender of Claire's "alternative" lifestyle.*

"Wear the green dress, the one you bought at Macy's for that Christmas party we never went to."

Claire looks in the closet, sees the dress, and immediately remembers why they didn't make it to that particular party that particular evening. "I apologized for that, right?"

Veronica smiles and her eyes go back to the magazine. "You did, but it wasn't a problem. I'd never been to Alberta in winter."

"God, that was cold," Claire says, shivering at the memory.


* * *

His name is Leonard Hart and he's an architecture graduate student from somewhere in the midwest. He looks like the love child of a farm boy and Brad Pitt and Claire, in all her post-Armageddon-realization horniness is having a very hard time not jumping him in the waiting line at the restaurant.

She can practically hear God's voice chanting in her ear.

I will not jump my date in public...I will not jump my date in public...

"What did you say you were studying?" Leonard asks when they're finally sitting at their table and Claire shakes her head to clear all inappropriate thoughts before attempting to talk, lest she open her mouth and a comment about his absolutely gorgeous ass come spilling out.

"Library science."

His farm boy face lights up with a smile. "You mean I'm on a date with a sexy librarian?"

Men this attractive do not ask Claire out on dates. Men who look as though they've never left their mothers' basements and who often have imaginary conversations with people Claire cannot physically see (and she can often see imaginary persons) ask her out. So the fact that there's an incredibly attractive man seated across from her calling her a sexy librarian is just enough to make Claire wonder if it's possible to spontaneously combust.**

"It looks like it," she says with a smile.

They order drinks - hers is a Tom Collins and his is a scotch, a nice one, nearly 50 years old - and talk a little more about where they came from, where they're hoping to go. In fact, they're getting along so well that Claire actually starts to feel normal for once in her life. She's envisioning Sunday mornings spent reading the newspaper in bed while her super hot farm boy boyfriend makes coffee in the kitchen.

In this scenario, Claire isn't a prophet of God. Instead she's a librarian. A sexy one. With glasses.

But then Leonard coughs and Claire catches a whif of brimstone and all wonderful, fluffy thoughts fly out the window as she realizes the super cute, super adorable man sitting across from her is a minion. Either that, or he's swallowed half a dozen charcoal brickets before dinner.

"Sonovabitch," Claire says and Leonard pauses, his glass of scotch halfway to his lips.


She frowns at him, instantly aware of exits and escape plans. She doesn't get along with little Lucy's henchmen, especially the pointed ones.

"You're a minion," she says and his mouth opens in suprise, "aren't you?"

Leonard seems to shake out of his surprise, brings the glass all the way up to his lips and finishes the remaining scotch in one long sip. He sets the empty glass on the table, rests his forearms in front of him and leans forward slightly.

"Let me guess: you're a prophet?" Claire nods and he hangs his head. "I should have known."

"Should have known what?" Claire's a minute or so away from realizing one of her lifetime goals of having a hysterical fit in public.

"That it was too good to be true." He leans back in his chair, motions for the waiter. "I knew there was something off about you."

Claire is relatively new to dating, having spent the better part of her adult life thus far in the service of God, but she does know that in this scenario, she isn't the strange one.

"Something off about me?" She throws her napkin on the table. "You're one to talk, considering you're evil."

"Excuse me, but that's mostly a matter of opinion."

"You're a minion of Lucifer," she says. "Of course you're evil."

His head snaps up and his (gorgeous, simply gorgeous) green eyes go wide. "You thought that because I was a minion, I worked for Satan?" he asks, offended. Claire nods and he snorts in disbelief, creating another small cloud of brimstone. "That's profiling and it's just plain rude."

"You work for Hades, then?" she asks and he nods. "What are you doing up here?"

"Persephone just got home, so he gave us all the month off. I'm finishing up my degree."

Claire spends a few seconds processing the fact that he's a minion finishing a Master's Degree - they may be an annoying bunch, but even the undead have a right to an education - before moving onto the fact that he works for Hades and not Lucifer. She really should have figured that one out, considering he doesn't have any visible horns. All of Lucifer's minions wear a terrible toupee of some sort so they can cover up their nubby horns. It makes them very hard to take seriously.

"I suppose, then, that I owe you an apology," Claire says. She hates being wrong, yet another terrible personality trait she's learned from God.

"Yes, you do," Leonard says and while his face looks serious there's a hint of amusement in his voice that makes Claire smile.

"Look, you work for Her long enough and you start stereotyping everyone and everything. I should have realized you weren't evil."

"The hair?" he asks.

She shakes her head. "Your name is Leonard and your jacket has elbow patches."

The farm boy smile lights up his face and Claire's legs tingle. This time, God's voice is chanting He's evil, don't sleep with him, and Claire is pointedly ignoring it.***

"How about dessert and a cup of coffee?" Leonard asks.

Claire weighs the pros and cons.

Pros: he's ridiculously attractive, he finds her attractive, and there's every indication she could get lucky if she plays her cards right.

Cons: he works for one of the founding members of Hell, Hades & Purgatory, Ltd, and most probably has coffee with Satan at least once a week.

To be honest, it's a fairly balanced list. Then he smiles again and Claire's legs tingle and her hormones tip the pro scales.

"Dessert and coffee sounds good," she says. "Breakfast sounds better."

"Check please!" He stands, holds out his hand. "Best apology ever," he whispers as he pulls her to her feet, then he rests his hand on her lower back and this time it isn't just Claire's legs that tingle.

*Understatement of the year. Being a Goth is "alternative". Being a Prophet of God is "super crazy nutso".

** Claire knows that it's possible, thanks to that one night in Florida two years earlier. Not even minions, who toil in the ridiculously hot sub-levels of the Pearly Gates, can withstand the heat of August in Florida. Interesting bit of trivia: minions don't just die when they overheat - they explode. Kaboom. No amount of dry cleaning will get exploded minion nastiness out of a silk dress.

*** Someday, God will regret the immense impact She's had on Her favorite prophet, especially when it comes back to bite Her in Her holy ass.