Untitled Angle the Angel Story
Pastor winced as Donaldson gave him a long, sloppy kiss on the cheek. It scratched and even tickled quite a bit due to Donaldson's mustache. His styled facial hair was so full and long that it had long since passed Creepy Street and was now cruising straight down Ridiculously Awesome Boulevard. The awesomeness of the 'stache didn't make the kiss any less awkward, though. Donaldson stood back, smiled, and left, proud of himself for fulfilling his perceived biblical duty.
With a slightly audible sigh, Pastor shook his head. He didn't have the heart to inform Donaldson that the “love kiss” probably wasn't the polite, European kiss on the cheek. It's more likely that it was a straight on lips-on-lips kiss.
It's not gay. It's culture. Most people, though, have a hard time accepting or even understanding culture.
The conference room used for official board meetings was actually just a Sunday School room. Pastor stacked up the larger folding chairs the adults used and replaced the small, orange, kiddie chairs around the table. He took the flannel graph and easel from the corner and set them back up at the front of the room. On the flannel graph was a tall, very white Jesus talking to a group of other tall, very white men. The scene looked like a toga party held by the Perfectly Groomed Beard (Pi Gamma Beta) Fraternity of the University of Wisconsin. Not one of the characters looked like they belonged in 1st century Palestine.
He retreated to his office, sat down behind his desk, and surveyed the plethora of books filling the shelves that lined the walls. Those would be a pain to pack up. He sighed again. What was the use of even packing them up? He would never read them again. He didn't have the time. And he certainly couldn't take them where he was going.
A man standing in front of his desk startled him. “Woah, man! I didn't see you come in. What can I do for you?”
“First,” the stranger said in a deep, flat voice, “you can quit referring to me as a man.”
Pastor sat back. Great. Another transvestite that wanted to pick a theological fight.
“For I am not like you,” he continued.
His tone swelled in a dramatic crescendo. “I am a messenger of the Lord God Almighty!”
A beat of silence passed as Pastor frowned at the man. “So, you're not a transvestite?”
The man's face dropped. “What? No!” Gone was the deep, dramatic tone. Pastor could swear he actually heard the man's voice crack. “How would you...Why would you think...? No!”
“Oh,” replied Pastor. “My apologies then. So, who are you?”
“I'm an angel!” he nearly shouted with noticeable frustration.
“You look like a man,” Pastor calmly pointed out. He wondered how close the nearest mental institution was and if they had any recent escapees on the loose.
“Of course I look like a man! Look at how much I startled you by appearing as just a man. Imagine what you reaction would have been if I appeared in my normal form. And before you get cocky, we don't look like that pop-cultural lady with a pair of wings and a harp floating on a cloud crap.”
“Are angels allowed to say 'crap?'” Pastor interrupted.
“Shut it!” the man snapped. “I'm talking about you looking up and suddenly before you there's a 13 foot tall monstrosity with four faces, three pairs of massive wings, and carrying a seven foot long broadsword, which is on fire! On Fire! Now what do you think your reaction would have been, then?”
“Well, I, um...” Pastor began, but was quickly cut off.
“I'll tell you what your reaction would be. It'd be the same as everybody else's reaction when they see an angel: they crap themselves. I mean they crap themselves! Literal, uncontrolled, involuntary bowel movement.” The man, or angel, or still possibly mentally unstable transvestite, pointed his finger straight at Pastor's face.
“Why do you think the first thing,” he continued ranting, “that an angel always says to someone is 'Do not be afraid?' It's because they just crapped their pants out of sheer terror! But they tend to leave that little detail out of Scripture. I guess no one wants to read about Joseph or the Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother, crapping themselves at the sight of an angel.”
“That's disgusting,” Pastor said before taking a deep breath. “Listen, maybe you can help me out. I'm trying to think of the name of that psychiatric hospital two counties down. I think it's called Arkham...”
The man threw up his hands. “Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane is in Gotham City. This is not Batman!” The man let out a huff. “You don't believe me at all, do you?”
Pastor just stared at him.
“What's it going to take?” he asked.
“Well, if you really are an angel, then show me this true form of yours.”
Fifteen minutes later Pastor walked back into the room, adjusting his belt around a new pair of pants. “Well, that was embarrassing,” he grumbled.
“I tried to warn you,” the angel said. Yeah, he was definitely an angel.
“Yeah, well,” Pastor shook his head and sat down behind his desk again. He grabbed an aerosol can and sprayed it into the air, showering the room in a mist of green apple.
The angel cocked his head to one side. “Why do you keep a clean pair of underwear and pants in your office?”
“There's a lot of kids in this church. Kids tend to puke, pee, and, err, poop without warning. Believe me, I learned the hard way. I once gave a whole sermon with some kid's vomit all over my leg.” He shot a little more green apple into the air. “So, Mr. Angel, what's your name?”
Pastor bit his lip. “You're an angel named Angle?”
“Angle the Angel?”
“Yes,” Angle rolled his eyes. “Look, in other parts of the world it is just fine. But in your stupid language it comes out sounding like a bloody typo.”
“Fair enough,” Pastor replied. “The nature of language can be a humorous thing.”
“It's not funny,” Angle countered. “There's nothing funny about my name.”
“Sure, sure,” Pastor said in a soothing tone. “So, Angle, why are you here? What do you want with me?”
Angle stretched. Switching between angelic and human forms was not the most precise of tasks. Sometimes the assumed appearance just didn't fit right. He felt like he had an extra joint or two in his right leg. He lifted it slightly and tried to flex. It bent at right angles in five different places. Hmm, he'd have to adjust that.
“Well, Pastor,” he finally said. “I'm aware of you and your situation.”
“You mean my unexpected illness.”
This frankness caught him off guard. Angle was trying to be tactful and sensitive. “Um, yes. And we both know that your journey on this earth is coming to an end.”
“Listen,” Pastor offered, “if you've come here to heal me, it's really okay. I've come to terms with dying. I'm ready for Heaven.”
Angle swallowed. “Yes, of course you are. In all honesty, you are a truly devout, godly man.”
Pastor nodded. “Thank you.”
“Tell me, you believe in free will, right?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
From behind his back, Angle brought out a book and placed it on the desk. “You really shouldn't.”
Pastor reached out for the book. It looked like a small, paperback novella. It couldn't have been much longer than a hundred pages. He casually flipped through the crisp pages, skimming some of the text. All that was written was names. Every page filled completely with names, from the very first page to the very last.
“It's the Book of Life,” Angle explained. “It contains all the names of those saved who will enter into Heaven.”
Pastor eyed Angle curiously. He flipped again to the very last page. “It's not a very long book.”
“And it's complete. There's not even room on the last page for one more name,” Pastor pointed out.
Angle nodded. “The book was written and completed before the Earth was created.”
Pastor set the book down. “You mean predestination. God chose all of the Elect before this whole earthly drama even began.”
“Yes,” Angle confirmed.
“But that means that we don't have free will or a choice to follow God or not. God's already decided for us.”
“More or less,” Angle agreed again. He then revealed another book he had with him. “And this was also completed at the same time as the Book of Life. Only this is the Book of Damnation.”
With thoughts running faster than his mind could process, Pastor watched as Angle placed the book on the desk next to the Book of Life.”
“Double predestination,” Pastor bitterly grumbled. “That's a dick move.”
Angle's eyes went wide. “Excuse me? Did you just call God's divine plan for humanity a 'dick move?'”
“Actively damning people to Hell before they're even born? Creating people with the sole purpose of having them suffer unending tortures for all eternity? Arbitrarily choosing who's saved and who's damned? Yeah, I'd consider that a dick move,” Pastor retorted.
Pastor looked back down at the Book of Damnation. It was a flat, black slab that was actually thinner than the Book of Life. “You can't write very many names on that,” he said quizzically.
“Oh, it's written with a special, heavenly, ineffable ink that makes it possible to write millions, even billions, of names on a single page.” Angle smiled at the elegance of it all. Sometime the ways of Heaven were impressive even to an angel like himself.
Pastor held up the black slab skeptically. It was heavier than it first appeared. The heft of it strained his wrist at first, but he adjusted his grip. The book was solid, yet had a quality of finesse to it.
“You can scroll through the names just by swiping your fingers across it,” Angle added. “It also has a great feature that allows you to even search for a specific name.”
Pastor touched the front surface of the slab and a list of names instantly appeared. Some of the names, though, were obscured by glare pouring in from the window behind him. He frowned, swiped at finger down the screen and watched the names scroll. Looking back up at Angle, Pastor scowled and exclaimed, “This is an iPad!”
The angel looked shocked, Shocked! at such an accusation. “It's not!” he doth protested. “It is the Book of the Damnation!”
Flipping it over in his hand, Pastor saw the distinct Apple logo clearly etched into the back of the iPad of Damnation. He held it up to show Angle and repeated himself. “It's an iPad!”
“Okay, so it's an iPad!” Angle confessed. “But it's really handy. I mean, so we adapted iPad technology for divine uses. So what? We've been doing the same thing since the beginning. This is no different. You guys, you humans, are just so creative that it's fantastic.”
Angle took the Book of Damnation from Pastor and looked at it fondly. “At first we just had everything painted in pictorial form on all the walls of Heaven. Then you geniuses came up with the written language. The guys up in Heaven thought that was so cool. So we undertook the grand process of converting all the names into cuneiform, hieroglyphics, and the like. We chiseled it all out on tons of stone tablets.
“We were quite proud of ourselves for accomplishing that. But then you guys kept developing smoother, more precise languages. And you started writing it all down on papyrus and scrolls. Scrolls! Instead of a warehouse full of heavy stone tablets, we eventually had a library full of scrolls. Scrolls! You can write a bunch on this really long page and then just roll it all up to save space. Seriously, dude, pat yourself on the back for that one. For us in Heaven, scrolls were a godsend. Err, well, a humansend, I guess.”
Pastor shifted awkwardly in his seat. Angle was starting to sound like a crazy person. Again. Maybe he should call that mental hospital, just to be sure. Then he saw Angle's right leg bend inward at a sharp, unnatural, um, angle, just below the knee. Plus, there was that small fact that Pastor had just crapped his pants a few minutes ago. Yeah, Angle was definitely an angel. He was just a very eccentric angel. Or maybe all angels were equally eccentric. He'd never actually met any angels before. For all he knew, every angel could be this crazy.
“But the real genius was when you started slapping pages of uniform size into piles and binding them together. Books! Incredible! And as you can see, we haven't advanced the Book of Life past the book stage since it works so well.”
“It must help that it's so relatively short,” Pastor managed to slip a thought into Angle's monologue. It barely interrupted the angel's flow.
“It does! That's why we see no reason to alter it at this time. The Book of Damnation, on the other hand, was still pretty unwieldy as a huge multi-volume work. Come on, that's a hell of a lot of names,” Angle laughed and slapped his knee, which bent inward. “Get it? Hell? Damnation? It's a joke!”
It is an odd sight seeing an angel. It is an even odder sight seeing an angel laugh enthusiastically. But it is just a sad sight seeing an angel laugh so much at his own joke.
Angle composed himself and continued his story. “Anyway, the invention of computers was a huge turning point for us. We were seriously begging God to get us a computer so we could digitize the Book of Damnation. But God was all, 'You angels are just going to look at porn all day.' And we were all like, 'God, it's 1957, we're just going to put everything on punch cards!' It was a pretty fun meeting of the Divine Council.” Angel coughed. “Anyway, technology kept advancing, we kept up, and behold, the Book of Damnation is now on an iPad.”
This was rather bizarre. Pastor squeezed the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb. “You expect me to believe that Heaven copies whatever technological advances we develop on Earth?”
“Cultural, too!” I love wearing blue jeans. Always hated togas, but blue jeans are so comfortable. I love them. Oh! And The Matrix. Have you seen The Matrix?”
“No,” Pastor shook his head slightly. “I don't watch a lot of movies.”
“That's right, you're not too keen on modern cinema. You should make an exception for The Matrix, though. Seriously, we built a special theater in Heaven just to screen that movie. The angels all love it.”
Somewhere, Pastor felt, this conversation had gone drastically off course. He attempted to steer it in a more fruitful direction. “Let me ask again, why exactly are you here?”
Angle paused. His face bunched up as if he had forgotten the purpose of his presence and was straining to remember. Finally, his eyes lit up with recollection but then darkened again and his face became grim. He stammered for a moment, trying to find the words. “Can I be blunt?” He asked after giving up.
“Please do,” Pastor replied. He was eager for a straight answer instead of all this meandering, angelic rambling. So far, Pastor wasn't too impressed with God's messengers. They seemed to have trouble getting around to actually delivering the message. If all angels were like Angle, then their dialogue in the Bible must be incredibly abridged. Scripture must skip the bits about pants-crapping and the angel prefacing his message with an hour long oration on the magnificence of Roman aqueducts.
Pointing to the paperback and iPad, Angle explained, “Your name is obviously in one of these two books. The thing is, it’s not in the book you’d think, or hope.”
Pastor sat back in his office chair. The tall, leather back seemed to engulf him as he sunk into the soft padding. For a fleeting moment he had the impression that he was lying back in his own coffin, entombed and doomed. No, not just doomed. Damned.
“But I’m a pastor,” Pastor stated the obvious. “And not one of those fake TV pastors that only cares about money and political power.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Angle cut him off. “You’re not in the Book of Life. God didn’t choose you. You’re not part of the elect.”
“But I believe! I’m saved!” Pastor insisted.
Angle shrugged. “According to the Books, no, you’re not saved.”
Pastor started shuffling papers on his desk. His head whipped around, eyes scanning the bookshelves for some sort of source he could cite. He was saved. He knew he was. “Wait, isn’t the standard claim about predestination that only those in the Elect can come to Christ? I’ve obviously come to Christ, therefore…”
Angle interrupted him again. “That’s a cop-out answer and you know it. That’s like saying God only destined some people to be mechanics, and the proof is that those who are mechanics were, well, predestined to be mechanics. It doesn’t really say anything other than the saved are saved and the mechanics are mechanics. While it’s true that most of the damned never show much interest in God, sometimes they fall through the cracks.”
“But I’ve spent my life serving God!” Pastor exclaimed.
“You’re just one of the damned doing God’s work. It’s not unheard of. It happens. But as far as benefiting you in any spiritual or salvific manner…eh, you’re wasting your time.”
The room seemed to spin. Pastor was shocked, aghast, and becoming nauseous. “But I love God!” he spouted with tears bubbling in his eyes.
“Yeah,” Angle scratched the back of his neck. “But God doesn’t love you.”
“Yes he does,” Pastor was now pleading. “He loves everyone! Jesus loves me! Jesus loves all the little children! It says so in all the songs.”
Angle glared at Pastor with fierce, fiery eyes. Pastor assumed it was some sort of angelic power or attribute of heavenly beings. In truth, Angle's contact lens had merely slipped out of place and the room’s florescent light was hitting the edge of the displaced lens and creating a rather neat, rainbow-like flare. It was perfectly natural. Or, it was as natural as an angel wearing contacts was.
When Angel spoke, his voice was flat and grave once again. “He damned you to hell before the world was even created. If that’s what you think love is, then you have the strangest definition of love I’ve ever heard.”
Grabbing the edge of the desk, Pastor tried to steady himself. “Think,” he breathed. His life, his time on earth, was running out. And it turned out all that awaited him was eternal torment. He had to change that. “Well, I must be Exhibit A when it comes to evidence that someone in that book,” he pointed to the iPad of Damnation,” can’t get into that book,” he pointed to the Paperback of Life.
A mere grunt indicated that Angle concurred. It was actually a burp from all the soda Angle had drank before he had come here. But he had managed to turn the burp into an affirming grunt and Pastor was never the wiser. Angle was a classy angel. He was also an angel that had to pee, which was another consequence of his love for carbonated beverages.
Pastor was still pointing at the Book of Life when his eyes lit up. “But what about if someone from that book went into the other one?”
“What?” Angle didn’t follow.
“It’s simple,” Pastor explained. “I find someone in the Book of Life that hasn’t yet converted to Christianity. Be he eventually will convert because he’s predestined, right?”
“Right,” Angle was getting worried. Pastor’s face was becoming almost maniacal as his heretical notion blossomed inside of him.
“So I find this person and make him do the most depraved and abhorrent things in the eyes of both God and man.” Pastor smiled an exuberantly vindictive smile worthy of a James Bond villain. “And then I kill him before he can repent.”
“What?” Angle still didn’t understand. “That’s horrible! And I don’t see how that would get you into the Book of Life. If anything it would validate your place in the Book of Damnation.”
“I’m damned anyway,” Pastor said as he reached for the Book of Life and started skimming through it. “But this person I find will have committed such horrendous atrocities, and not sought forgiveness, that there’s no way God could let him into Heaven. And if God sends someone from the Book of Life to Hell, then that means the Book is wrong. And if this book can be wrong, then the Book of Damnation can be wrong, too. And if these books are wrong, then God will have to reassess this whole, faulty system of predestination and salvation.”
“No, no,” Angle said, extremely worried now. “God wrote those books, and God is never wrong!”
Pastor grinned. “Then that’s my task: to prove God wrong.”