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.