We got back to the hotel without further incident, and Eve headed across the street to the gas station to pick up a case of beer. We were all still pretty wound up over the events at the bar, so Cain picked the lock to the outdoor pool and we sat around outside drinking beer and soaking our feet in the pool for a little while to chill out after an eventful day. Junior had started to come around while in the car, and he just sat there at first with his jeans rolled up, feet soaking in the pool while the rest of us told lies about the size of the guys we beat up. Except Michael. He was sitting on one of those pool lounge chairs all by himself looking down at his hands, and then looking up at the sky like he was waiting for an answer from Father. Eventually his moping started to bring me down, so I went over to him with a fresh beer for each of us.
“Nice job today. We really could have gotten our asses kicked if you hadn’t stepped in when you did. And worse, some of the mortals might have gotten really hurt.” I started there, figuring if that wasn’t what he was moping over, he’d tell me. Turns out I got it in one. I was really starting to get a handle on this whole angelic therapy business.
“I’m not supposed to do that.”
“Do what? Keep people from getting hurt?”
“Interfere with the lives of normal people.” I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chaise at that one.
“Are you kidding me? You guys have interfered with my life almost from the beginning!”
“Yes, and you’re the reason for the rule. You and Eve. We were so involved in your lives early on that you were never really normal, so it was decided that we should remain aloof from humanity, to allow you to thrive or fail on your own.”
“Yeah, but what you did today wasn’t like that. You didn’t cause any great changes in the fabric of space and time, or whatever junk the sci-fi dorks would spew about here. You just broke up a bar fight. And none of us can die, and none of us were going to kill anybody, not even Eve. So there’s no butterfly effect going on, or any other Ashton Kutcher movie, either.” I could tell that hung him up a little, so I promised myself if he stuck around after this whole mess was over, and if I was still feeling uncharacteristically charitable towards him, that I’d sign him up for his very own Twitter account so he could be just as inanely involved with the lives of celebrities as anyone else.
“But I didn’t get involved to save lives, or to avenge a wrong. I drew upon the power of Heaven because it felt good. Nothing more. I enjoyed it, Adam. And I’m not supposed to do that. I’m supposed to remain aloof and impartial.”
“Yeah, but that’s boring.”
“If you’ve learned anything hanging out with us the past few days, it oughta be that it’s a lot more interesting to be right in the middle of things. Living life, like it was meant to be lived. Being human, even if you’re not, is about living, not observing. Maybe the form’s getting to you a little. Maybe you’re getting some corruption by playing human so long, like an actor that can’t get out of character once the play’s over. But really, when you look at the big picture, other than some cheap bar furniture, what did we permanently damage?”
“Well, nothing, I suppose.”
“Alright then. So look, it was just another night for those guys. They’re a biker gang, Michael. They get in fights in bars. It’s what they do. It’s kinda like Eve irritating me, it’s her whole purpose in life. In a day or so they won’t even remember you Hulking out or your flaming sword. They’ll chalk it all up to too many Jagermeister shots and too many comic books on the back of the toilet. So no harm, no foul. Alright?”
“So we done with the mopey angel face?” I made a goofy face like you would talking to a little kid, and the silly poof actually chuckled at me.
“You know you’re somewhat amusing at times, Adam.”
“Yeah, and I’m sure there are days when you’re not an insufferable assclown yourself.” I pulled him up and said, “Let’s get another beer.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask, how exactly can you drink this swill?”
“You think this is swill? Try mead sometime. At least there are no obvious rat bits in the beer anymore. I count anything without rat bits as downright palatable.” I led him over to the rest of my merry band of immortals, Chosen ones and waitresses, and we sat on the concrete with everybody else.
“What did I miss?” I asked as I popped open another Keystone Light tallboy. It looked like Eve couldn’t decide what brand of shitty domestic beer to buy, so she bought an assortment of probably three or four cases. Probably a good move on her part. This was shaping up to be the kinda night that needed a lot of fortification.
“We were just explaining our odd little family tree to Junior here. He was pretty familiar with you and me, and Cain of course, but it took a little convincing for him to understand that Emily is your daughter.” Eve said.
“Why do you all call me Junior? My name is Sidney Joseph McEwen, and there’s no Junior appended to that.” Junior asked.
“Well, kid. When we first met you said you didn’t like to be called Sid. And I’m guessing you probably don’t go by Joe or Joey, either.” I replied.
“That is correct, sir.”
“So Junior it is. Because I can’t really look at somebody with a couple of armfuls of ink and a face that can’t get through airport security because of all the metal in your head, and call you Sidney. For one thing, androgynous names bug me. And for another, guys named Sidney should all be middle-aged with pipes and leather patches on their elbows. So pick one: you can be Sid, Joe, Joey or Junior. And you need another beer.” I dug a PBR out of one of Eve’s shopping bags and tossed it to the kid. He caught it on the fly and popped the top. Good to see he’d gotten over all that “body is a temple” crap. That could make for tedious travel.
“I guess I’ll take Sid, then. It was what my mother always wanted me to be called, after all.” He took a long swig of his beer and leaned back on his elbows, looking up at the night sky. Well, what of it that could be seen through the orange glow of the parking lot lights. “Is it always like this?” He asked after a minute or two of thought.
“Is what always like what?” I figured if nobody else needed elaboration, that I sure did.
“Being around you. Is it always so,” he took a minute to search for a word that fit and still wouldn’t piss me off, I guess, “exciting?”
“Nah. Usually there’s just a lot of knitting. And the occasional scintillating night of Jenga.” Eve threw that one in.
“But seriously, we don’t go into every town looking to get into bar fights,” I started.
“Speak for yourself.” Interrupted Eve. “I personally try to get into a minimum of one bar fight per ten business days. Otherwise I get cranky.”
“And how would anyone tell when you get cranky, Eve?” I asked.
“I break more people when I’m cranky, dear. Remember Egypt?” Yeah, I did. Everybody thinks it was time that knocked the nose off the Sphinx. Not so much. Eve can convince some folks to do all sorts of stupid stunts for her amusement. That one took seventy Egyptian slaves and entire night, but when she was done, the Sphinx had a moustache. That did not go over well with the current pharaoh, one of the Ramses, I think. Anyway, long story.
“Anyway. Look, Sid. The fact of the matter is, we haven’t been together that long. Eve and I had a disagreement a few years ago and we haven’t seen much of each other until a few days ago. The same could be said for Cain and me, and I kinda bailed on Myra before Emily was born. So we really haven’t spent a whole lot of time together. So, uh, welcome to the party.” I finished kinda lamely and went into Eve’s shopping bag for another beer.
“So, Sid. What’s your mother like?” Emily to the rescue. I was really starting to like having that kid around.
“Well, you know, she’s an ordinary mom, I guess. She works most days, watches reality TV most nights. She and some friends from work do a girls’ night out thing a couple Fridays a month, and every once in a while she dates. Nothing too serious, I guess. I try to get by her place on Sundays for supper, but something tells me I’m probably gonna miss this week.”
“Good call, kid.” Cain said around the mouth of his beer bottle.
“So what am I supposed to do? I mean, you said something about a Choice, but I don’t think I really understood exactly what I was supposed to do.” The kid looked like he had finally gotten it out, what he had wanted to ask all night. Too bad I didn’t have any answers for him. I looked over at Eve, thinking if I could, I’d defer to the one who’d actually made a Choice, but it was Cain that chimed in.
“We don’t know yet. You never know the moment of your Choice until it’s upon you. I didn’t really realize that mine had happened until it was all over, and by then it was too late to overthink. That’s when it works out well, I guess. When you don’t overthink it.”
“Yeah. It’s one of those things that comes on you and you just make a decision. If it’s really a capital-C Choice, then you’ll probably get a glimpse of the future behind both options, and then you’ll make up your mind. There will be a representative of both sides there, they’ll each plead their case, and you’ll Choose. And the world will live with the consequences.” Eve finished her explanation, which was more than I’d ever heard her talk about her decision to take the Fruit, and polished off the last of her beer. “And with that, I’m going swimming. Anybody with me?” She pulled off her jeans and jumped in the pool in her t-shirt and panties. The water felt good splashing over me, but I was too lost in thought about what she and Cain had said to really enjoy it.
“I didn’t bring a suit.” Protested Emily, but then she skinned off her jeans and dove in just like Eve. Myra followed soon after, then Cain. So I was left there with the Chosen one and the archangel as my family and girlfriend swam around.
“Why aren’t you in there, Michael?” I asked.
“I, um, I don’t know how to swim.” The angel admitted sheepishly. I guffawed at this, then thought about it for a second. He hadn’t had a physical form for very long, so he’d never needed to learn how to swim. It made a kind of sense, if you thought about it. I didn’t think about it for very long, just stood up, walked over to him, and shoved him into the pool. He spluttered, then came up shaking water out of his face.
“No time like the present to learn, Mikey. Enjoy.” Since I knew he couldn’t drown, I left him to figure out the doggy paddle on his own and walked back to sit next to Sid.