“Penny for ‘em, kid.” I said as I sat down. He took a long minute to gather his thoughts, and then it all started to flow.
“What if I screw it up? I mean, I’ve spent so much of my life as a punk kid, getting all pierced and tatted up to try and be different. And now you guys come along and say that I am different, but that it doesn’t have anything to do with how I look, or with the fact that I like punk music and still believe the Bible, or any of that. That I matter just because I’m me. That kinda makes me think my whole life is a waste, you know. I’ve spent all this time inventing myself, and now you guys tell me that fate of the world is in my hands, and it’s got nothing to do with any of the stuff I’ve tried to become.” He looked almost anguished, and I guess I could understand. It couldn’t have been easy being different in the South growing up.
“I dunno, kid. All that stuff you did probably has more to do with you being Chosen than we’ll ever know. Well, any of us except for Michael, who kinda has the hotline to the Father. But he ain’t talkin’. So you gotta think that everything you went through went into making you who you are. All the decisions you made and all the ones that people around you made, those are all part of what make you unique. So without any of that stuff, you’d just be another funny-looking street preacher getting your ass kicked in bars. If that helps at all.”
“It does. Thanks. But how will I know when it’s time to Choose? And how will I make the right decision?”
“I don’t have a single idea. But if you come up with the answers, will you let me know?”
“Seems you’re not the only one with a Choice coming up, Junior. I’m not just chaperoning this ride because I’m older than everybody else. Apparently my time as the observer is about over, and I’m gonna have to make a Choice of my own. And I don’t know a damn thing more about it than you do.”
“But what about the last time?”
“What last time?”
“When you chose to take the fruit from Eve. When you were thrown out of the Garden of Eden.”
“That was Eve’s choice, not mine. Me taking a piece of fruit from my wife was a little-C choice. She’d already been confronted with the big one, and made it.”
“Do you regret it?”
“What, getting tossed out of the Garden?”
“Yeah. Do you?”
“Every single day, kid. Every. Single. Day.”
“What was it like?”
“It was a lot like you’d expect from the stories. It was peaceful, mostly. We had plenty to do, we were raising crops and learning about the world. We were exploring our surroundings, and exploring each other. You know, doing what young people do. There were lots of animals around, and we got to play with some fairly exotic pets, but it wasn’t all sweetness and light. It’s not like we had pet lions babysitting antelopes and everybody was vegetarian. The animals still had to eat, and so did we. I killed my fair share of beasties, and it’s a lot easier now to go to the grocery store than it was to butcher a water buffalo. And when there are only a few people in the world, there’s not a lot of help to get a water buffalo onto dry land so you can butcher it in the first place. So it was nice, but the best thing was just being around the Father.”
“So you really were in direct contact with God?”
“Yeah, pretty much. I mean, he didn’t come down and walk around in a long white robe or anything, but his Presence was always there. And if I had a question, I asked. And he answered. Now sometimes his answer was ‘you’re a bright boy, Adam, figure it out,’ but it was an answer. That’s what I miss the most, just that connection.”
“Yeah.” We sat there in silence for a few minutes before he piped up again.
“Yeah, what about him?” I was afraid we might be heading into dangerous territory here, but I figured I owed it to the kid to let him know about the folks he was supposed to save the world with.
“Did he really murder his brother?”
“Abel? Yeah, he did. As far as we can tell, Cain actually invented murder. Not many people can claim to have their own Commandment, but my boy was always an overachiever.”
“Do you take anything seriously? I mean, he killed your son, and now you’re traveling with him. I don’t think I get that.”
“I probably don’t either to be real honest with you. But you gotta remember, in addition to having killed my son, he is my son. And I love him. That’s what being a father means, you love the little shit no matter what. I managed to forget that fact for a long time, but I’ve been reminded here recently.”
“So is he a good guy or a bad guy?”
“Both. Look, there’s no question that Cain killed Abel. And there’s no question that it wasn’t the best thing that’s ever happened in any of our lives, but it just might be that it had to happen for a bigger reason. And I’m not gonna pretend to be smart enough to understand that reason, but after all these years, I’m not gonna ask too many questions, either.”
“Do you trust him?”
“With my life.”
“Okay. I guess that’ll have to do.”
“Good deal. So what’s your story, kid? What is it about you that makes you the Chosen? Are you the offspring of a Seraph and a mortal woman? Are you the Dahli Lama of Tennessee? What is it?”
“I’ve been asking myself that question ever since you picked me up off the sidewalk. I mean, I hate to question the wisdom of an angel, but do you think it’s possible that Michael may have picked the wrong guy?”
“Nah. He’s been too smug about the whole thing for him to harbor any doubts. And his intel is usually pretty good on these things.”
“Okay, then. Well I have no idea. I try to live a righteous, Christian life. Maybe that has something to do with it?”
“Can’t imagine it hurts, but it probably isn’t a big part of the process. After all, I’m not the least bit Christian, and apparently I’ve got to make a Choice soon myself.”
“You’re not a Christian? How can that be? I mean, you’re Adam, you’re right out of the Old Testament yourself. How can you not…” I cut him off there.
“Junior. Take a deep breath. Now let’s remember, I am the Old Testament. I predate Christianity by about 50 millennia, give or take a couple thousand years. I met the Carpenter. The Nazarene was a good kid, but he wasn’t the first or the last to speak that speech, so I’m not inclined to follow some hippie kid just because he says the Father loves us all. I know the true face of my Father’s love, and I know I don’t need an intermediary to get me there. All I need to do to talk to God it to talk to him. I don’t need to do it just on Sundays, or just in rooms with a lotta stained glass, or just through a mouthpiece. Now I liked the Carpenter. He did some good things, and he had a fantastic speaking voice. And I was a big fan of that water-into-wine trick. But I’m a little more old school in my religion. A little more direct, if you get my drift.”
“I never thought about that.”
“You probably never thought you’d be sitting around a swimming pool drinking beer with the main characters from Genesis, a dog-paddling archangel and a couple of waitresses from Texas, either.”
“Good point. Hey, thanks for talking to me. I was kinda freaking out a little.”
“No sweat. I’ve gotten kinda used to people freaking out lately. Including me.”
“Yeah, me. Look, kid. I don’t really know what we’re coming up on right now, if it’s the end times, or what. But there’s a lot of new and different stuff happening, and when you’ve been around as long as I have, you some to understand that there really isn’t that much new stuff to happen. So when new things come in clumps, it’s a little disconcerting.”
“Makes sense. Now, um…I guess I’ve just got one more big question?”
“Where do we go from here?”
“You know, I have no idea.”
“Maybe I can help with that.” Shit. That was not the voice I wanted to hear.