I don’t know what I expected to find in Lafayette Square in the middle of the night, but Myra dancing in a drum circle wasn’t anywhere on the list. And Michael beating a tambourine and singing folk songs was even further from what I thought we’d find. But that’s exactly what we encountered when we got there. Michael was sitting at the base of the statue of Henry Clay keeping time with a kid playing a battered Martin acoustic while a half-dozen or so dreadlocked white kids beat on djembes around a portable fire pit and Myra danced with two or three hippie chicks who looked like they hadn’t shaved legs or armpits since well before Katrina.
As we walked up to the love-in, I looked incredulously as Michael and a couple of college-aged kids sang “A time to dance, a time to mourn, a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together…” Michael set the tambourine down beside Henry Clay’s bronze feet and came over to us, his face positively glowing. I swear I could see an outline of wings around the angel made flesh.
“Adam, isn’t it beautiful? They remember the old Books! They haven’t lost faith, these children of yours remember!” It was all I could do not to laugh in the exuberant angel’s face.
“Michael, lemme ask you something. In all your time up there among the heavenly host, have you ever heard of a guy named Pete Seeger?” I was trying to keep a straight face, but it was tough, let me tell you.
“No, who is this Pete Seeger? Is he a minister? A man of God?” Michael asked.
“Kinda. He’s a folk singer. And he took the words from Ecclesiastes and set them to music. He made it into a protest song against a war a few decades ago.” As much as I disliked the archangel and all his brethren for meddling with my family for thousands of years, I hated to watch people’s illusions shatter, and that’s what happened to Michael as he realized that these smelly kids weren’t holy after all, just a little dirty.
He walked over to a park bench, looking for all the world like he’d lost his only friend. Since I never considered myself a friend of his in the first place, I followed along more out of a morbid curiosity than out of any real concern for his feelings. I mean, let’s face it; I really didn’t like Michael on his best days, and this hadn’t been my most stellar week. He put his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands. If I didn’t know them to be cold emotionless bastards, I’d have thought the archangel was about to break down and cry.
Myra came over from her dancing, a little breathless, and sat next to Michael on the bench. She looked from the shaken angel to me, and her tone was less than friendly. “What did you say to him?” she demanded.
“I just told him that Pete Seeger used the book of Ecclesiastes as a basis for a protest song from the Vietnam War. He got all weepy when he realized that the kids weren’t quoting scripture and I came over to see what was up.” I noted with no small hint of irony that in the background I could hear a girl singing in a lovely soprano Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try…
“Oh, Adam, what did you have to do that for?” Myra asked me with a glance that was more pitying than accusatory. It read something like “you hapless bastard, why did you have to stick your foot in it up to the nuts this time?”
“Well, aside from the fact that it’s the truth, I don’t really know!” I was starting to get a little defensive. I mean, it’s not as if I wanted to turn the Sword of Heaven into a blubbering pile of goo in the middle of a public park in the wee hours of a Louisiana morning. But for the record, if I’d known that a little folk music was all it took, I’d have trotted out some old Buffy St. Marie records a long time ago.
“The truth doesn’t matter, he was happy. And we need him. If it makes him feel a little better to think that people are still reading the Bible, then let him think that.” She patted Michael on the back for a minute before she got up, shot me a look that spoke volumes, and went over to join Emily, who was singing harmony with the soprano.
I sat there for a minute, trying to figure out what to say to a distraught seraphim whose faith in humanity was restored for one brief, shining moment before I reached in and ripped it away. “Uh, Michael?” I started tentatively.
“Go away, Adam.” He didn’t look up; he didn’t even take his hands away from his face.
“I can’t. For one thing, Myra will kick my ass. And for another thing, we kinda still need you. And we need you with your head in the game. Because, well, because you’re the only one who has any idea where we’re supposed to go next. We got Eve. We got some traveling money, and we’re all here, ready to roll. Except we need you to tell us exactly where to roll to.” Maybe not comforting, but it was all at least honest.
“I don’t care. If the people have no place for The Book, or God, or angels, why should I even bother trying to help them? Why waste my time?” Wow. He had gone from zero to suicidal in .4 seconds. This might require some tough love. Or it would get me skewered on the flaming sword of heavenly retribution. One of those.
“What else are you supposed to do with your time? Tune your harp?” I went for snide, hoping if I behaved the way he expected me to behave, he’d cut out the sniveling and behave the way I expected him to behave. Not that I really liked the way he usually behaved, but at least over the past few days I’d grown accustomed to that Michael. That Michael was an insufferable tightass with an Archangel complex (although I suppose it’s not really a complex if you really are part of the heavenly host), but at least he wasn’t a whiny little bitch.
“You’re immortal, Michael. And immortality is something I know a little about. If there’s one thing the past seventy-five odd eons has taught me, it’s that there’s nothing less precious to an immortal than time. It’s practically impossible to waste your time, because you have so much of it that it’s meaningless. It’s nothing for one of us to put tape measures on the ocean floor and check it every hundred years to see if the earth is expanding (Yes, I did. Yes, it is.). It’s less than nothing for one of us to spend eighty-three years counting every grain of sand on a mile of sea shore (Again, yes, I did. But no, I don’t remember the exact number. I also admit to having lost count a lot and become quite distracted by some of the scenery at the beach. It was Italy, it was several hundred years ago, and while the Italian women of that era may not have been as enhanced as young women are today, they were every bit as lovely, and every bit as unselfconscious at the beach. And that is all I shall share on that topic.) So how can you waste your time? You’ve got nothing but time. So get your head out of your angelic ass and let’s get moving.”
I thought that was pretty good as far as motivational speeches go. For me, it ranked right up there. But Michael didn’t move. Okay, he raised one hand to flip me off, but he left his head bowed and never even looked over at me when he did it. I got up and headed over to Emily, figuring that she would be less likely to chew me out for getting us in this spot than her mother, and more likely to help get us out of it than Eve or Cain.