I might have mentioned that I have remarkable children. I might have mentioned that it’s sometimes a pain in the ass. If I didn’t, then I’ll say it now: it’s sometimes a pain in the ass to have remarkable children. And to find out 23 years into her life, well after the time that she’s learned enough to not hold back the truth just to spare her elders’ feelings, that you have a daughter that’s blessed (or cursed?) with the type of insight that leads Asian men to sit on mountaintops and burn incense is the kind of unwelcome surprise that I’d had just about e-damn-nough of this week. But it happened, and then Cain happened, and then Emily dropped one of her little insight bombs on me and I did my best impression of a four-year-old with a bloody knee wailing on the carpet in a cheap motel in Texas. It wasn’t my most dignified of moments, to say the least.
After a few minutes I stopped crying, stood up and made my way over to the cheap dresser. I leaned on it for a minute, grabbed the bottle of whiskey, and knocked off the last of the bottle in one long pull. Then I turned around and untied Cain. Something told me he wasn’t going to try to kill me anymore.
“Is it true?” He asked after a long moment of us just looking at each other, while Myra and Emily watched us watching each other.
“I don’t know if I could have put it so succinctly, but yeah, it’s true.”
“Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
“We were always a little busy trying to beat each other’s brains out. It seemed easier just to work with the status quo than to try and change things.”
“You mean easier than admitting you were wrong?”
“Yeah, well that’s never been one of my strong points. Ask your mom.”
“She might have used the term ‘pig-headed’ once or twice.”
“Among others,” I replied.
“Among many, many others.”
“You mother is a well-spoken woman, in many languages. I’m sure her descriptions of me were unflattering in at least a dozen.”
“At least.” He paused, then took a deep breath. “I really am sorry, you know.”
“I know. You loved him as much as any of us.”
“More most days.”
“Then why? What would possess you to…” I trailed off as I looked at the doorway, where Michael was suddenly trying to look very small. That’s tough to pull off when you’re a 6’3” blonde Adonis with eyes the color of lapis jewelry and a hair color that has spawned an entire line of Clairol products. I looked at the angel and worked diligently to keep my voice steady and my hands from shaking as I asked him “Did you have anything to do with this?”
“Anything to do with what, mate?”
“I’m going to ask you this once, calmly, and I’m even going to give you once chance to answer me truthfully with a limited time offer than neither myself nor any of my progeny living now or yet to be born will take any retribution on you due to the answer.”
“Attempt to take any retribution. Remember exactly who I am, Son of God.” I saw the faint outline of wings glowing behind him, and it seemed like a ghostly fire engulfed the air around his right hand.
“There is no attempt, Michael. Remember exactly who I am, Angel. I am the first earthborn son of the Lord Almighty, and I understand exactly what I can and cannot do, as do you. Now, I will ask this only once, did you have anything to do with the death on my son, Abel?”
“Emily, hold your brother down. Michael, explain to me exactly what happened.”
“You don’t need to know everything about it, Adam. You aren’t part of that story, but I will tell you that there were forces other than mere human jealousy at work on your sons that day. Another Choice was made, and you and Cain are just now dealing with the consequences.”
“Cain, what was the Choice? What did he make you do?”
“I don’t know what either of you are talking about. I didn’t see Michael that day, or any other day until just now. Remember, you were already long out of the Garden by the time Abel and I came along, we just heard the stories. We never cavorted naked with the seraphim.”
“It wasn’t like that. And if he didn’t force you into the Choice, then…fucking Lucky” I trailed off, knowing that I was going to have to kick his ass for this one.
“He didn’t choose, Dad.” Emily said from the bed.
“Huh?” I swear, some days I sound like a Neanderthal. Or Al Bundy.
“He wasn’t the one to make the Choice. Look at them,” she said, gesturing to Michael and Cain. “Cain has no idea what kind of Choice you mean, and no clue why you keep giving it emphasis, and Michael can’t look either of you in the eye. Cain didn’t choose to kill Abel. Abel chose to die in Cain’s place.”
Nobody spoke. The silence stretched past uncomfortable well into downright disturbing when finally Cain asked “Is it true? Did Abel choose to die?”
Michael never looked up, and when he spoke it was almost a whisper, as though he was looking back all those years at my son’s broken body. “Yes.”
Cain stood calmly, walked over to Michael and said to him in a low voice that made my blood stop moving altogether for a moment, “I will abide by my father’s promise and I will take no vengeance upon you for my brother’s death. Nor will I exact my due recompense for the thousands of years of suffering I have endured thanks to your meddling, but I will, just one more time, let enough of the beast loose from my soul to do this.” And with that, he grabbed the angel by the shirt front, spun him around until his back was to the room, and punched him straight in the nose. Cain watched him fall, clutching his freshly rebroken nose as he crawled towards the small bathroom, and then walked out to lean on the railing outside our door.
I stood for a moment looking at the bloodied angel, then glanced up at Emily and Myra. “You’re gonna want some clothes at this point. Pajamas no good for the next step.”
“Next step?” Myra asked.
“Yeah. The next step is where the healing starts. Follow me when you’re dressed. Em knows where to find me.” With that, I walked out into the morning sun and leaned on the rail next to my son. I looked over at him as he held his head in his hands like it weighed a thousand pounds.
“Come on, son. We’re blowing this pop stand.”
“Where are we going?”
“Intensive therapy. Follow me.” And I walked down the stairs and back to the bar where I’d bought the whiskey the night before. The morning shift didn’t recognize me, but when I tossed ten twenties on the bar and said “Bring good whiskey ‘til that’s gone, then you can bring cheap stuff for the next couple hours,” it was like we were long-lost friends. I took a seat at a table near the far wall and lined up eight shot glasses. It didn’t take long before all four seats were full, and we commenced to processing all the events and revelations of the past twenty-four hours. I figured by the time Michael got himself cleaned up, we’d all be too drunk to want to hit him again, or at worst too drunk to actually connect with a punch.