Back at Headquarters
July 19, 2010
Gabriel pushed the swinging door aside and let himself into Headquarters. He tossed his trumpet and sword onto a patched naugahyde sofa before flinging himself into a nearby chair. He stretched his tired wings and groaned wearily.
Looking up briefly from a stack of scrolls on his desk, God asked, “Rough day?”
“The usual,” the archangel sighed. “I think I’m just getting old. Today wasn’t as bloody as most, actually. The last job was quick. No lingering, no suffering.”
The Lord nodded. “It’s always good to end the day with a clean scoop.”
“Too bad they all can’t end that way.”
God glanced up at Gabriel again. “But they can’t, you know.”
Gabriel glanced away. “Yes, I know.” He looked down at his hands and scowled, then reached for the dagger in his belt. He began scraping at the dried blood under one fingernail. “You’ll never guess who I ran into on the last job.”
God looked up with a faint smile. “Asmodeus? Holy Me. Is that old dog still around? I thought he would have been retired years ago.”
“He’s got plenty of good millennia left,” Gabe remarked. “He’s still pretty sly.”
“He always was clever. I liked that kid.”
“He’s got the moves, that’s for sure. He almost got my last scoop this evening.”
God smoothed His fiery hand along the length of an open scroll and studied it for a moment. Without looking up, He said, “But of course he didn’t get your scoop. You’ve got better moves. That’s why you work for Me.”
Gabriel didn’t argue. He was the best; he knew it and, of course, the Boss knew it. “It was pretty close,” he said finally. “Another second and Az would have gotten the soul. He had his hand this close – “ He held his index finger and thumb about four inches apart. “Another inch and he would’ve gotten my scoop and I would’ve had to come back here and explain why I brought the wrong dead back to Headquarters.”
“You give him too much credit. He might be fast, but no one compares to you.” God pulled His hand away from the scroll and let it wind itself back into a tight cylinder. “I assume Az took his dirty dead back to his own headquarters.”
“And you brought your scoop here. So, what’s all this talk about how Asmodeus almost got the jump on you? What’s really on your mind, Gabe?”
Gabe didn’t answer. He went back to scraping his fingernail and for a moment the silence was broken only by the distant sound of the PA system: “Buchanan, Sean Patrick. Please take your paperwork to room 131. Buchanan, Father Sean Patrick.”
The wheels on God’s chair gave a plaintive squeak as He pulled it up closer to the desk and sat down. “Gabe?” the Lord prompted.
The archangel sheathed his dagger with a sigh. “It’s about Az, Boss.”
“What about him?”
“I was wondering if he might be due for a transfer.” Gabe looked up under his golden eyebrows. The smile on God’s face reassured him. “I just feel sorry for him, that’s all. He’s been doing Luc’s dirty work for how long now? Couldn’t he be considered for a promotion?”
God studied his Illuminated Warrior for a long moment. “You know I turned promotions over to my son years ago,” He said finally. “That’s why I brought him into the firm.”
“Yes, I know,” Gabriel pressed, “but somehow it doesn’t seem – well, it doesn’t seem fair. I know if we were to approach him in the right way, Az would join our team in a heartbeat.”
“He had his chance,” God reminded the angel gently. “Asmodeus made his own choice.”
“It’s just his pride,” Gabriel cried. Despite his resolve, tears began to run down the angel’s face. “His damned pride.”
God reached across the desk and held His hands out. Gabriel wiped at his wet face, then placed his hands in the Maker’s and felt His gloriously firm grip. “Gabriel,” God said quietly, “it’s always been about pride. It was pride that started this entire mess.”
Gabriel hung his head and slumped over the Lord’s hands. Steam rose around them both as his tears evaporated on contact. God waited patiently until, with a final sniff, Gabriel pulled away. He fumbled for the sleeve of his robe and wiped at his dirty face. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. “It was just – one of those days.”
“No one understands that like I do,” God assured him. He watched as Gabriel got up and reclaimed his weapons. “Go get some sleep, Gabe. You’re tired.”
Gabriel belted the sword around his waist and slung the trumpet around his neck. “You’re right, Boss,” he said. “Maybe after I have something to eat – “
“You’ll feel better,” God finished for him.
As the angel turned to the door, God called out, “And Gabriel, why don’t you stop down the hall and fill out a recommendation for Az?”
Gabriel stared. “Seriously?”
God smiled. “Sure. I’ll approve it if it gets up to My desk.” God leaned back in His chair, then snatched at the sides of the desk as the chair threatened to fall backwards with Him in it.
“Boss, why don’t You get a new chair?” Gabriel exclaimed.
“Oh, no, no, no,” God protested. “I wouldn’t dream of wasting profits on a new chair. The treasure we store here isn’t for us, Gabe. It’s for the shareholders.”
Gabriel smiled. “I guess a new mattress for the dorm is out of the question.”
God laughed and the room erupted in a riot of pink and yellow light. “Get out of here,” He said lightly. “And go get some rest. I have work to do.”