Something Saunders This Way ComesA Chapter by Joey Batz
“Hey, Jack, how's everything going?”
How's everything going!? How's everything going!? Well, let's see. I've been declared the Lord's mouthpiece on Earth, speaking on His behalf, and yet no one listens to me. I'm on the bad side of one of the four highest ranking Angels in Heaven. Each day is a constant marathon of humiliation and stress, and it's beginning to interfere with my non-divine work. I've got my boss on my a*s all the time trying to get me to do things that will piss off my clients, and I've got clients on my a*s all the time trying to get me to do things that will piss off my boss. I spend most of my free time researching religious history so I can have something to preach, and I spend most of that time procrastinating the research because the material is so damned boring! I'm tired, annoyed, I haven't been sleeping well recently because of this whole Great Prophet thing, and I got a homeless man who I have to give a hundred dollars to every week. How the f**k do you think everything's going!?
“I'm doing good, Ted. How's by you?”
Ted entered his cubicle and sat down at his desk. The top half of each of the cubicle walls was transparent, and we could see and hear each other as if there was nothing there.
“I'm alright. I got myself a nice lunch today,” my forty-something year old coworker answered. “A hero, with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, bacon--”
Now you might have guessed, but Ted was a pretty boring guy. He usually yammered on about his lunch, or about some crappy TV show I don't watch, or about a restaurant I'm not planning on eating at, so on and so forth. But he was a nice guy, and the fact that we were the two employees Samantha disliked the most meant that he was the coworker I disliked the least. It kind of brought us together to some small degree.
Right now, however, I was tuning him out. I had a client coming in and I needed to be prepared. I had to really hunker down and start making some strong sales numbers or else Ted might have to find someone else to tell about all the realty shows he watched last night.
“Oh, did you see that new show, Extreme Toll Booth Operators?” he asked, as if he could read my mind and find out what I wanted to hear about the least. “They have six guys and six girls and they force them to work as toll booth operators. They compete in these crazy challenges, and at the end of each week, they vote each other off--”
“Ted, I'm sorry, man. I got Mrs. Saunders coming in in about a minute and I'm trying to get her stuff together before she gets here,” I interrupted, before he started telling me about Hardcore Dishwashers.
Ted snorted sympathetically, turning towards his computer. “Good luck with her.”
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically.
Right on cue, in walked Mrs. Saunders. She was a middle-aged woman with frizzy brown hair and a serious look on her face. As always, she was all business. She was one of those customers who was polite enough to feign politeness (yes, you heard that correctly) and impatient enough to dish out some backhanded insult the moment things didn't go her way. She looked around the room. Though it was very subtle, I noticed her disappointed expression when she saw me approach her.
“Mrs. Saunders, how are you doing today?” I asked, my voice, posture, and presentation oozing professionalism and courtesy.
“Caitlyn's not here today? I'd rather have my appointment with her,” she said with disdain. Caitlyn was her favorite representative. She was the only one who Mrs. Saunders treated with genuine respect.
I shook my head. “No, she told you over the phone that she doesn't work on Tuesdays. She said that she would be available on Wednesday, but you weren't, so she booked your appointment with me instead.”
Mrs. Saunders sighed. “Oh well. You know how much I like Caitlyn. She's such a sweet girl and she's so helpful.”
Oh, get a f*****g room.
“Why don't you have a seat?” I offered, changing the subject. I gestured over to my cubicle.
“Is this going to take long?” spat the snotty voice of a teenage girl.
I turned around to see a short, chubby girl who couldn't be any older than sixteen or seventeen. She was dressed all in black, with black eyeliner and black lipstick, black nail polish, and dyed jet-black hair. Very black. The contrast of her clothing to her already pale skin made her look even more ghostly. She had to be either a goth or emo (I could never tell the difference and just always assumed they were the same miserable group). Perhaps she was both. Black wasn't just the color of her fashion; the miserable puss on her face suggested that the color also pretty well described her personality. Plus, I think just the sight of that face could have given me the Black Death.
Mrs. Saunders motioned for her to sit down in the chair next to her. The girl let out an extremely frustrated huff, stomping into my cubicle and literally letting her body go limp and collapsing into the chair. She stayed completely still in the exact position she landed in.
What's sad is that she's going to be the one that I'm going to hate the least by the time this appointment is over.
Mrs. Saunders shook her head in either disbelief or disgust. I think it was both. “This my daughter, Kaylah.”
“I hate that name,” grumbled Kaylah.
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
“Whatever,” she replied.
Never mind. This will end with me being charged with double homicide, I can already tell.
“It's a good thing you came in, Mrs. Saunders. Caitlyn was able to get me those forms you need to fill out for that wire transfer she did for you,” I said, reaching for the aforementioned forms.
“That's good. She's such a nice girl,” replied Mrs. Saunders.
“Yes she is,” I replied. Jeez, lady, seriously. I know you don't like me, but you don't have to be so condescending about it.
“I don't like Caitlyn,” said Kaylah. “She's totally fake.”
Shut up, Kaylah.
“Shut up, Kaylah,” scolded Mrs. Saunders, echoing my thoughts exactly.
“Well, let's just get these forms filled out,” I said, trying to keep us on track. I handed her the forms. “Caitlyn said over the phone you had a question or something? I assume that's why you called for an appointment?”
“What are you making me sign?” asked Mrs. Saunders, looking at the forms with a slightly annoyed look on her face. She gave me the same look, as if I were a cashier who couldn't figure out how to put a carton of eggs into a plastic bag.
I, of course, hesitated for a moment, my eyes darting back and forth as if there were someone nearby feeding me answers to a trivia question. I just told her what the forms were for. I literally just said, “Caitlyn was able to get me those forms you need to fill out for that wire transfer she did for you.” Those were my exact words from about fifteen seconds ago! Do you see what I'm dealing with here?
My voice faltering for only the briefest of instants, I nonetheless maintained a professional appearance and attitude. “This.....these are the forms that you need to fill out in order to show that Caitlyn authorized your wire transfer. You said you were in a bit of a hurry the last time you were here, so she never got a chance to have you fill them out.”
“I don't see why I should have to fill them out,” she spat. “The funds haven't showed up in my account yet.”
“Well that's because you haven't authorized the wire transfer yet. Once you authorize them, they should show up in your account within one business day.”
“Of course I authorized them!” she exclaimed, shrugging her shoulders as if to say “What, are you kidding me?”. “I told Caitlyn that I wanted to go ahead with the wire. You even saw me come in and sit down with her and do this. You all know me, so I don't see what the problem is.”
The problem is inside your skull, you old hag.
“Ma'am, there's no problem,” I said calmly. “It's procedure for legal purposes. We can't legally proceed with a wire transfer without some form of documentation authorizing it.” Gesturing at the forms, I added, “And so here is the documentation.”
“Oh, I see,” she replied. I'm sure you do.
I faked a chuckle, as if it was just some silly misunderstanding at work. My fake chuckles sound just like my real ones, by the way, so the condescending b***h wouldn't be telling me not to be a condescending b*****d any time soon.
“It's no problem, Mrs. Saunders,” I assured her. I handed her a pen. “I just need you to fill these forms out.”
“Caitlyn usually does this for me,” she said, pushing the forms back to me,
I paused for a second, the irritation of what I knew she was having me do giving my brain's capacity for rational thought a run for its money.
“Caitlyn always fills out whatever forms she needs from me. She just has me sign them,” clarified Mrs. Saunders.
“Do you want him to shine your shoes for you, too?” asked Kaylah in a monotone voice. She still hadn't moved from her limp position despite how uncomfortable it looked.
“Shut up, Kaylah,” scolded Mrs. Saunders again.
“He'd probably do it, too. You're both just cogs in the capitalist machine.”
Good God, I don't know which of these two I was going to slap first.
I glanced over at Ted in his cubicle. He was filling out paperwork, one hand massaging his temple. There's no way he didn't hear at least most of this exchange. I couldn't tell if it was the paperwork or the Saunders coven of witches in front of me that was causing his head to hurt.
“I said shut up! You're embarrassing me!” demanded Mrs. Saunders. “And sit up!”
Kaylah obeyed, sitting up in her chair in such a miserable, moody way that I think I can honestly say she moped her way into an upright position.
Mrs. Saunders turned to me. “But, yes, Caitlyn always fills out my forms for me and just has me sign them. She's very helpful.”
“Yes, so I've heard,” I said. With no spirit, drive, or enthusiasm whatsoever in my movements, I began filling out the forms for her. Hmm, what's the first line to be filled in? Customer's name? Well, I see how that would be too f*****g hard for her to do herself!
If you're wondering why I'm annoyed with this, it's because generally, filling out forms like this is something the customer does, not the representative. We'll gladly help you out if you get stuck, or do certain parts for you if you don't have specific pieces of information handy (account numbers, tax figures, income, etc.). We'll gladly help you if you have poor eyesight or if you can't write for whatever reason (I have filled out forms like this in full for plenty of customers and was genuinely glad to do it). But we usually have the customer fill out their basic information and such on their own, freeing us to take care of other things they might need for them. This saves time for both the representative and the client. Most customers are happy to fill out what they need to fill out. Some customers, however, think they're too goddamned important to engage in the soul-crushing manual labor of filling out a form. Mrs. Saunders is one of those customers. The world has always revolved around her and it always will.
I pulled up her information on my computer so I would be able to fill out her forms. After all, I highly doubt she'd be willing to tell me her Social Security number and annual income. Her income, by the way, was from Social Security. So I was pretty much paying her money out of my paycheck so she could come here and talk down to me. I hate irony.
Hmm, she doesn't appear to have any money in foreign investments. It's all in America. I think it's time to jump on a very lucrative sales opportunity. “And Mrs. Saunders, while we're doing this, can I also interest you in a Rafferty Global High-Yield Bond Investment Fund?”
Mrs. Saunders sighed. “What is this you're selling me?”
“Crap,” mumbled Kaylah. Her mother shushed her, but otherwise didn't say a word.
“It's a closed-ended bond fund,” I explained.
“Like a mutual fund?”
“It is a mutual fund.”
“It's just another capitalist tool of oppression,” grumbled Kaylah.
“As I said, it's closed-ended, so if you wish to divest from it, it is possible to sell it at a value that's higher than the net asset value,” I continued to explain as Kaylah droned on about how my suit was a prison for my soul or some bullshit like that.
“I don't know,” said Mrs. Saunders.
“The interest rate has been going up recently,” I added. “It's wouldn't be a bad idea for you to capitalize on an opportunity like this. If it starts going down, you can always offload it.”
“For a fee, of course,” said Mrs. Saunders, glaring at me like a little kid lying about whether or not he did his homework.
“No actually, there's no fee to divest,” I said. She looked at me like she didn't believe me.
In actuality, I was leaving out the fact that it was a “front-end load” mutual fund, which meant that while it cost nothing to sell, there was a sales charge for investing in the first place. Also, a closed-ended fund means that you can't sell your shares back to the fund. You can only sell it to another investor who is not obligated to buy at the net asset value (the actual market value of the shares you're selling). You may be able to sell it at a higher price, like I told Mrs. Saunders, or the other investor may buy it from you at a lower value. It depends on the situation.
These are the truths I have to bend in order to make the sales that keep me off the unemployment line. Everyone thinks we financial salespeople are shady because we can be shady. These mutual funds don't sell themselves, and these companies are literally ready to fire anyone who doesn't sell them like they're bottles of water in the Sahara. And don't say that this conflicts with my role as Great Prophet because lying violates Ninth Commandment. I didn't actually lie; I only bent the truth and the Ninth Commandment says nothing about that.
“I think he's just trying to make money off you,” grumbled Kaylah. Mrs. Saunders smacked her in the shoulder. I would have punched her in the mouth, but I'm not a parent.
“Perhaps I'll speak to Caitlyn about it the next time I'm here,” said Mrs. Saunders.
“If that's what you want,” I replied, shrugging my shoulders. I faked a chuckle, getting ready to lay the sales bullshit on real nice. “I don't know what the rate will be the next time you're here. And the more it goes up, the higher the price it is to invest. But if you don't want to do it....” I let my voice trail off, waiting for Mrs. Saunders to get the next word in. This is where she either agrees to invest, struggles with indecision (allowing me to pounce and go for the kill), or offers up some weak argument as to why she doesn't need it, allowing me to counterattack and seal the deal. Oh yeah, bring it on.
“Are you almost done with those forms?” asked Mrs. Saunders.
“Can I go now?” whined Kaylah to her mother.
“Uh, the fund is very secure,” I said, nervously hoping to get us back on track here. I needed to start really making sales here. Samantha was on my a*s all the time to start making my numbers and no matter what, she was never pleased with my results. “It's very diversified, with investments in domestic and foreign corporate bonds"a lot of that money is actually in emerging markets so there is a lot of growth potential"and also in municipal--”
“Wait, so you're putting my money into foreign countries?” asked Mrs. Saunders, her face contorting with disgust. Oh Jesus F*****g H. Christ, you've got to be kidding me.
“Um, well, it's a diversified mixture of foreign and domestic investments,” I answered nervously. “You'll have exposure to the growth potential of emerging markets, and--”
“Uh-uh, forget it. None of that for me,” she said, waving her hand in front of me as if I were offering her some stale potato chips. “I know what 'emerging markets' means. It means third world countries with brutal dictators. I don't know why you want my money supporting these anti-American, anti-Israel terrorist dictators, but I sure as hell don't.”
“He's too much of a goody two-shoes wimp to support terrorists,” muttered Kaylah to no one but herself. “I bet this company supports genocide in the Middle East and he doesn't even know it because he's too busy eating his apple pie and singing the Star-Spangled Banner.”
“Ma'am, neither I nor this company support third world dictators. This bond fund--”
“Plus I don't want so much as a cent of my money going to foreign countries, anyway. I only want to invest in America,” added Mrs. Saunders, leaning forward. She had an intense look in her eyes that, on a normal person, would be referred to as “determined” or “passionate”, but on her was more like “crazy”. “We're too obsessed with globalism in this country. We love to buy foreign cars and lead toys from China, but suddenly when it comes to war, we suddenly become soft. Let me tell you about great presidents like Lyndon B. Johnson, who was brave enough to make the necessary sacrifices to secure peace in Vietnam. Not like this president. He's a coward; and honestly this whole generation is a bunch of--”
Wow. Just.......wow. I am at a loss for words here. Let me just clarify real quick that an “emerging market” is not a third world country with terrorists and dictators in every alleyway. It's a country who's economy has recently been on the up and up, and has been engaging in rapid growth and industrialization. Third world dictatorships tend not to be emerging markets. Also, I really hate when my customers try to discuss politics with me. I don't follow it nor do I know anything about politics, but even if I did, that's a really awkward conversation to have with my customers and, frankly, it's a little unprofessional. Regardless though, let me say that whatever she has to say about my generation is nothing but her xenophobia and sense of entitlement talking; no generation is perfect and let me tell you, compared to her generation, the young people of this country today are a blessing. We can't possibly act more like animals than some of the previous generations did.
But there was no way in hell that I was going to argue. Nope. You can't. You cannot argue with the customer over stuff like that. It's not worth it. Trust me, just chuckle at their jokes, nod your head in agreement, and tell your coworkers and friends about it later; you'll all have a hell of a good laugh about it.
In the world of customer service, people will drive you nuts. People are rude and obnoxious and just plain stupid, and what's crazy is that they don't even know it. I was on line at the supermarket and there was a woman yelling at a man about how she is an American citizen and thus has more rights than him, all because he allegedly skipped her in line. Customers are insane and will always be insane, and I believe it's because they"because people in general"don't see each other from the point of view of others. We humans tend to have our own self-image built up, and unless you have a severe lack of self-esteem or have enough modesty for six people, that self-image tends to be a bit on the generous side. We only see of ourselves what we want to see, and thus we never learn how our actions affect others. We never see ourselves for who we truly are and we never see other people as fellow humans, only as faceless automatons there to ring up our groceries and serve our meals and drive our buses.
We are a weird species. We're worried about each other only to the most superficial of levels. We worry about how others may judge our actions, but never about how our actions actually affect others. As long as no one is pointing fingers and laughing, who cares if what we do helps people or hurts them? Even I'm the same way. I've agonized over how embarrassing it is to stand in that subway and preach the teachings of the Lord, but never have I thought about the consequences of someone actually listening to me. Will people be inspired to help others? Or will my actions as the Great Prophet cause tragedy and despair?
One thing's for sure; even considering this, nothing will change. I will still preach exactly as I've been doing and will still worry about nothing more than what others think of me. I'm no better than others. It makes me wonder not if I'm qualified to be the Great Prophet, but if anyone is qualified. Is any human being truly qualified to do the Lord's work?
“Good God, Mom. Shut the f**k up!” cried Kaylah, finally raising her voice above a mumble.
Mrs. Saunders smacked her upside the head. “What have I said!? Watch your mouth!”
Definitely not these two, that's for sure. Well, that sale is blown. She doesn't take me seriously anyway (and now that I'm apparently a terrorist-supporting hooligan who hates America, she'll probably demand that Samantha fire me) and would have only seriously considered the mutual fund if Caitlyn had been the one who offered it. Now I have to survive these two long enough to fill out these wire transfer authorization forms. A daunting task if there ever was one.
“Oh, and while you're doing that.....” said Mrs. Saunders, reaching into her purse. Pulling out her wallet, she flipped through the unorganized mess of clipped coupons and credit cards for a couple of seconds before she pulled out a check.
“What's this?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I want to deposit this check into my portfolio,” she said, handing it to me.
“You want to use the funds to make an investment?” I asked, hoping to clarify what she meant.
“No, I just want it to be available in my portfolio,” she answered. She definitely clarified what she wanted to do, all right. Figures she wanted me to do something I can't do. I can't just “make it available”. It doesn't work that way. “I want to be able to just have it there so if I find out about an investment I want to make, I could just do it without having to come in and speak to a representative. Or to be able to just take it as cash.”
I sighed wearily. Another forty-something years to retirement. “Mrs. Saunders, this isn't a bank. We can't just deposit a check for..........” My voice trailed off as I took a closer look at the check.
“But that check is for two hundred thousand dollars! Doesn't this place want money?” she asked, as if company policy and financial regulations ceased to exist the moment she walked through the door and it was common knowledge to everyone.
“Mrs. Saunders, are you aware that this check is made out to four people?” I asked.
“Don't worry. It's made out to me.”
“Yes. You and three others. Who are the other people on the check?”
“My ex-husband, his mother, and my lawyer,” she answered matter-of-factly. “Is there a problem?”
I don't even want to know how those four people wound up as the payees on one check. “Well, how were you planning on doing anything with this check if there are three other people on it? As far as I know, your lawyer and your mother-in-law do not have any joint finances together.”
“Oh, that's not a problem. I signed the check for them,” she replied, motioning for me to turn the check around. I did, and saw that she had signed it and printed the other three payee's names on it. “I want to get that check in before they find out about it. Otherwise, they'll try to take most of the money.”
“I believe that would probably be because they're legally entitled to it,” I said.
“They don't deserve a cent of it! I'd rather rip up the check than give any of it to them.”
“That's because you're trying to steal the money from them,” snorted Kaylah. For once, she said something that wasn't overtly crazy.
Still, I'm pretty confident that after they leave, I will be introducing my head to the wall. I do hope they get along well.
You know, if God really cared about those who served Him, He would see to it that I never saw those two escaped mental patients again. With my luck, He'd probably have me deal with one of them on a daily basis.
Have you ever heard of the Smurfette Principle?
Simply put, it is when you have a TV show, movie, book, or any other work with a mostly male cast and only one woman. That woman is the Smurfette.
At this point, me and Lucas were still hard at work preaching God's laws. I was on my way home, reciting excerpts from the Book of Joshua. Converting people to whatever we were converting them to was a difficult task (I have not gained a single convert, although Lucas says he's having much better luck than me). To be quite frank, I doubt it's possible for two hundred people to convince the world to live and treat others as the holy books command, let alone two people. Apparently, God was thinking the same thing, because today he sent me a second apostle. He sent us our Smurfette.
Now I know what you're thinking. A girl!? Awesome! If she was sent by God, then she's probably more beautiful than all the angels, than Paradise itself! Perhaps she and I will see something in each other, and it will be the start of something rewarding and wonderful. A beautiful relationship, full of passion and love, that will last for eternity; God's gift for his Great Prophet.
Ha! I'd say you read too many romance novels about sparkly vampires and haven't been paying attention to my never-ending string of bad luck. No, this Adam is not getting his Eve. He's getting a very dark and morbid practical joke from a God with a very sick sense of humor.
And the key words there were “dark and morbid”.
“You're a subway preacher now? You get fired from your job making billions for the wealthy capitalists?”
I whirled around, the voice fairly familiar. It took me a second or two to recognize the chubby goth teen staring at me with a look of simultaneous disdain and amusement. I had not seen her since she and her mom were bickering in my cubicle a couple weeks ago, but I couldn't forget Kaylah Saunders.
Not exactly the ideal situation for me. I don't care what this girl thinks of me, but her mother is an important client. I really don't need her finding about this and asking Samantha why one of her employees is preaching religion in the subway like an insane hobo.
“Uh, can I help you?” I asked, playing dumb. Maybe she'll think I'm someone else. Someone else who isn't me.
“You're the guy from Rafferty that my mom saw the other week,” she said, calling my bluff.
“No I'm not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Sorry, kid, I don't know what you're talking about.”
“Oh f*****g please. Do you think I'm stupid?” she spat. She pinched my suit sleeve. “No street preacher is going to come down here in such a prim and proper suit. You look like you just tried to sell the President some capitalist s**t or whatever.”
I think she knows it's me.
“You probably would have also cried just from being in the same room as the President,” she added. “Your obsessive love of America would have probably given you a boner.”
I sighed loudly. “Yes, you pretty much got my entire personality nailed right there,” I said sarcastically. “You're Mrs. Saunders' daughter, right?”
She put her hands on her hips and glared at me. I think my bowels rotted instantaneously just from her facial expression. Don't even ask me how that's possible, but I'm pretty sure it just happened.
“I'm not anybody's anything!” she declared. “I'm me!”
“I'm an individual. In a country that demands me to be skinny, wholesome, and love God and country, I refuse to be the same as everybody else,” she continued. She gestured at her clothing. A different outfit than last time I saw her, but the same style nonetheless. “Girls are supposed to wear pretty colors, right? Well maybe I want to wear something a little less cheery. Something that represents me, not what everybody else wants.”
Jesus F*****g Christ, all I did was confirm that she's Mrs. Saunders' daughter. I wonder what type of lecture I would have gotten if I had asked her what her foreign policy views are.
“So you're a non-conformist.”
“And you're wearing what all the other non-conformists wear. You conform well to non-conformity,” I said, receiving only a middle finger in return.
“You're one to talk, Jesus Boy,” she said, the nickname ripping itself from her tongue as if she was trying to rid her soul of the very concept of a religious believer. She looked me up and down. “I thought you were a goody two shoes before, but I didn't think you were this much of one.”
“Yeah, that's me,” I agreed despondently. Only about fifteen percent serious, I added, “I just eat, sleep, and breathe God, you know?”
Kaylah cringed. “You Christians are so f*****g full of yourselves that it's unbelievable. I don't understand why you all have such a holier-than-thou attitude, talking down to people just because you worship Jesus and are all morally pure and s**t.”
“Yeah, I definitely don't know what it's like to be talked down to,” I droned sarcastically. I should win an award for giving this little freak the time of day. I should have walked away but I was in the middle of preaching and I had to be there. Waiting for the train to take me home, I had nowhere else to go anyway.
“There! See? Now you're talking down to me,” she accused. Well, maybe I was talking down to her now, but was I really in the wrong? The correct answer is no.
“Yeah, it's because Jesus told me to,” I muttered, gazing around the subway out of boredom. I couldn't even get annoyed by this girl"I had a long, hard day at work and was too tired to get annoyed"but the conversation was just tedious. I don't really care what she thought of me, as long as she didn't tell her mom what I did in my spare time.
“Oh f*****g please,” she replied sharply. “Didn't your precious God teach you any f*****g manners?”
You know, I generally don't care about other people cursing, but she's so damn not subtle about it that it's really getting annoying. Learn how to swear, you f*****g brat!
“I'm assuming you're an atheist,” I said, ignoring her highly ironic rhetorical question.
She put her hands on her hips. “You wish I was an atheist. Oh no, I'm much worse,” she scoffed. A creepy little smile crept across her face. “I'm a Devil Worshiper.”
I rolled my eyes. “I'm sure.”
“I bet that scares the living s**t out of you, doesn't it?” scoffed Kaylah.
“What, this faze that you're going through in your teenage years?” I asked, turning away from her to peak down the subway tunnel so I could see if the train was on its way. “Not really.”
“It's not a faze! I worship the Devil and I'm damn proud of it,” argued Kaylah. My back was turned to her so I couldn't see her face, but I'm sure it was the same expression every teenager has when their parents tell them that their earth-shattering high school problems don't really matter in the end. “I guess you're just--”
“Look, Kaylah, I got it. You're a Devil Worshiper. That's nice. I'm going to do exactly what I did before you told me that and not give a s**t,” I interrupted her, whirling around so she could see the frustrated expression on my face. I held up the fliers in my hand. They were the same design that I've used since I started preaching. “Listen, you got me. I'm a street preacher. No, I didn't get fired from Rafferty Financial, but I'm doing this as well for my own reasons. Now I've got preaching to do and a train to wait for, so I really would be just thrilled if you would go bother someone else.”
“Nah,” said Kaylah, shaking her head. That smile formed on her face again. I wouldn't have complained if it went away again. “You're too much fun.”
“You're bored, aren't you?”
“You can't find a better source of entertainment?”
“On the subway, waiting for a train? No. Unless you count staring at the subway map to be entertainment,” she replied, gesturing over to the aforementioned map. “I love pissing off all the Bible Studies kids at my school. They get freaked out so easily when I talk about Devil worship. I do the same thing with the kids in the Business Development classes. I start telling them how awesome communism is, and it pisses them off so badly.”
“What do you do? Preach Marx to them?” I asked.
“Who?” asked Kaylah, cocking her head to the side.
I should have guessed. “Never mind. You just enjoy being as unlikeable and anti-social as possible.”
“If you're insinuating that I have no friends--”
“I'm insinuating that I don't care,” I interrupted.
“--then you can go f**k yourself hardcore,” continued Kaylah, without missing a beat. “I have a bunch of friends, and we hang out all the time. Plus, I've had tons of guys--”
“Stop. I don't even want you to finish that sentence.” I don't know what she was about to say, but I didn't want to know what she and “tons of guys” have done together, and I'm sure it was disgusting and possibly illegal.
“Besides, I don't think someone screaming to no one on the subway about his imaginary friend in Heaven can be criticizing anyone for not having friends,” commented Kaylah, pointing at the fliers in my hand. “Why don't you go out with your friends if you're so well liked and sociable? Maybe you don't have any friends and are just an attention w***e.”
My god, why was I even having this conversation? Why can't I just push her onto the train tracks and let the third rail fry her? And how is it that she refers to God as “imaginary”, but believes in the Devil? That makes no sense. Then again, she's only sixteen, so she probably hasn't thought it through that far. She probably thinks Devil Worship entails wearing all black, being moody, and acting like a b***h. She's a teenager, after all, and teenagers are stupid.
“I wouldn't call God an 'imaginary friend' if I were you,” I advised. “I wouldn't insult Him at all. You wouldn't want to put your soul at risk, would you?”
“Jesus f*****g Christ, can you take your mouth off of his dick for one minute of your life? I bet you spend all your free time worshiping this wonderful, loving God of yours.” She put her finger in her mouth, the puking gesture. “Like the world is so black and white and all that. I bet you just think that you'll convince people to stop being cruel to each other, and give food to the poor and not have sex until marriage and pray every night and all that s**t. God, I couldn't think of anything more boring than that.”
This little brat seriously has me at a loss for words. I can't tell if she's just saying what she thinks will push my buttons or if she truly believes what she's saying or what. Maybe she's just a spoiled but otherwise unpopular and unremarkable teenager lashing out for attention. Actually, I'd say that it's exactly that; she's the attention w***e who just wants to be noticed by someone who isn't her probably non-existent friends or her obnoxious mother. Fair enough, but does she really just approach people that she barely knows in public and harass them endlessly? I only met Kaylah one time, and I only said a couple sentences to her in total. To me, that qualifies us as total strangers!
“Actually, Kaylah, I don't worship God. I just work for Him,” I clarified. “So if you could do me a favor, since you apparently have no qualms about verbally assaulting random people in public--”
“What the f**k's a qualm?” interrupted Kaylah.
I sighed. Just one smack. Let me give her just one good smack in the face. “Doubts. Problems. Nothing stopping you. Since you have nothing stopping you from approaching random people in public and verbally assaulting them because they worship God, why don't you find one of them and leave me alone?”
Kaylah's eyes narrowed, a confused look spreading across her face. “What exactly do you mean by that? You just work for Him?”
“If I told you that I was told by an angel that I had to go around preaching this crap, would you just have one quick, final laugh and then leave me alone?” I asked.
“No, if you told me that, I'd want to know more.”
“Oh. Okay then. Never mind, that's not at all what happened.”
For a brief moment, the look of confusion remained on Kaylah's face. Suddenly her eyes went wide with realization. “That is what happened, isn't it?”
Now it was my turn to look confused. “Yeah, but...... you believe me? Just like that?”
“What's wrong with that?” Kaylah asked. “Don't you want people to believe what you're preaching?”
“Yeah.....no! I really can't answer that one. But weren't you just making fun of me for worshiping someone who doesn't exist?” I replied. Gesturing toward her with the hand that was hold the fliers, I continued, “Weren't you the one that said I was talking about my 'imaginary friend'?”
“Yeah, and didn't I tell you that I was a Devil Worshiper?” she reminded me. “What makes it so unbelievable that I would take your word for this?”
My jaw dropped. “You just said God was 'imaginary'!”
“And you literally don't question me at all?” I continued. “You just took exactly what I said about literally working for God at face value just after calling God 'imaginary'. Your views are so inconsistent. Must be because you're too young to actually have consistent views.”
She gave me a dirty look. “Actually, it's the only thing that makes sense. You don't need the money because of your fancy job destroying the economy and stealing money from the average person so you and your greedy rich friends can have it.”
I'm not even going to address that.
“You're making a complete a*s of yourself down here preaching, but you call it 'crap' that you have to preach,” she continued. “You're not doing it for money because you don't need it, and you're not doing it because you believe in the message because you just complained about having to do it. So either you're doing this on a dare"which I doubt because you don't seem like the adventurous type"or what you're saying about an angel making you doing this is true, which is more likely.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Plus, I find that option to be a bit more interesting.”
I nodded slowly. I must admit, I was impressed with her deductive reasoning skills. Her logic was slightly flawed, but still impressive. She got it right, after all.
“So let me ask, why are you so uninterested in the 'crap' that you preach?” she pressed further. “Maybe you're not as much of a morally pure little p***y as I thought?”
“Honestly, you're not going to find as much moral purity in the Bible as you think, Kaylah,” I told her. “Perhaps you should try researching a religion before you bash everyone who believes in it.”
I doubt my words of wisdom got through to her, but the idea of moral ambiguity in the Scriptures seemed to pique her interest, and she asked me to explain more about it.
The train finally arrived, and we got on the last car. Luckily, the car was relatively empty. Still, I brought her to the end of car as far away from the other passengers as I could and when I spoke to her, I did so in a low voice. I didn't want anyone to think I was trying to morally corrupt a teenager or anything like that. As if I could morally corrupt this one.
I sat across from her and told her everything. The whole story. I told her about Uriel and how I was the latest Great Prophet, about how I was the voice of God on Earth, the bridge between humanity and the Creator. I told her about how I have to get converts even though I don't really know what I'm converting them to.
And then I told her about the material I'm actually preaching. I told her about how I have to teach people to adhere strictly to biblical and Koranic law. I told her that religious scriptures don't tell us a black and white morality tale, but instead show a barbaric and savage code of conduct that Heaven wants us all to follow. I told her of how the Great Flood"the product of a sweeping judgment of a humanity that had no defense--wiped out 99% of the human race and is defended today as a necessity, while the Holocaust involved less than 1% of the global population. I told her of how God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the people of Canaan, as told in the Book of Joshua. I told her about how the Holy Books never condemn slavery; St. Paul the Apostle even returns a runaway slave to his Christian owner and neither he nor any of the other apostles (nor Jesus Christ himself) ever take it upon themselves to condemn the institution itself.
I tell her more and more about the messages of the Torah, Bible, and Koran. I go on about how these books are the literal word of God, and how it is my mission to make sure that people are following them as law. I don't know why I'm telling her these things; perhaps it's because she's the first person to actually believe me. Lucas doesn't care as long as he's getting paid.
Kaylah pondered what I said for a bit. Then she looked up at me, eyelashes batting in a kind of creepy way that I think was a failed attempt at being sexy. “That is so hot.”
I leaned forward in my chair, as if I didn't quite hear what she said. Perhaps I did hear that wrong, or perhaps one of us has gone off the deep end. “I'm sorry?”
“The fact that you're out there, promoting chaos and s**t like that. You're like a rebel,” she explained. She closed her eyes, sighing to herself as she became lost in her thoughts or fantasies or whatever. “Rebels are so hot.”
“Yes, I am a rebel,” I repeated dully. This was the first time I've ever heard someone call me a rebel without any irony. Yeah, I listen to some underground bands and I illegally download anything I can click on with a computer mouse, but I would say that I'm one of the last people on the planet to qualify as a rebel. Usually the rebellious types don't get jobs with major brokerage firms. “Kaylah, you do know I'm working for God. The highest authority in the universe. I'm mean, He literally created the very concepts of authority and rebellion. And I'm working for Him and obeying Him completely without question even though I disagree with His teachings.” I looked to the sky (well, to the train ceiling actually) and added, “No offense.”
“But you're arguing in favor of morals that society rejects,” argued Kaylah. “And you're doing so knowing that you'll have to single-handedly fight against mainstream moral and cultural values and will be ostracized by your peers and superiors for it in the end.”
I think my face probably went blank right around there. That was pretty eloquent for her, a girl whose vocabulary was roughly sixty perfect swear words.
“But you're still trying to change society nonetheless. One man on his own, from the bottom up. Against the very cultural socialization that is brainwashed into us from when we're children,” she continued. “Me and my friends have rebelled in our own way against the Man, but only passively. We dress different. We act different. We like different things than most. You are directly attacking the Man, and that's so hot!”
She smiled like the little schoolgirl that she is, her nose scrunching up and her eyes squinting. It was not particularly attractive, and the fact that she was only sixteen also wasn't doing it for me.
“But I know a great place where we can--”
“No, Kaylah!” I cried, raising my voice just enough so that the entire train heard it. Some people on the train turned their heads to look at us, but no one said or did anything and we thankfully lost their attention as quickly as we got it.
“But I'm a damn good f**k. I'll do things that--”
My face cringed with disgust. I didn't even think she was talking about sex, despite mentioning those tons of guys from before. I thought she just wanted to go out with me. “Kaylah, I never want to hear anything about that again. Even if you were my type"and s****y communist pseudo-rebellious emo kids are not my type"you're sixteen and I'm twenty-three. That would probably put me in jail until I'm forty-three.”
Kaylah slumped back in her chair and folded her arms, a mopey puss setting in on her face as she stared out the train window. Now that's the Kaylah Saunders I know.
“You're just intimidated by a woman like me,” she grumbled.
“'Intimidated' isn't exactly the word I'd use, but we'll go with it,” I shot back.
She grunted in response. From one moment she's a bitchy, empty headed teenager going through a goth phase, and then the next she's an eloquent speaker with pretty admirable deductive reasoning and logic skills. I will never understand this kid. I wonder if I was like that at her age? Well, not the whole mopey emo thing, but if I was either completely retarded or if I was smarter than people thought I was. You can never really judge until you're older, at which point you've probably forgotten what your younger self was like.
She definitely is an obnoxious little creep with no common sense and probably no book smarts either, but she is smarter than she appears. When she wants to be, that is. I wonder if most kids are and have always been like this. Hiding a staggering amount of intelligence and wisdom hidden behind a facade of bad grades, disruptive and rude behavior, and naivete. Well, I'm not a child psychologist and I'm not planning to figure it out. But this girl has a way with words and is the only person in the world who believes anything I say, and even supports my teachings even if it's only because most of the world would oppose them.
I hesitated for a moment. I rested my chin on my knuckle, pondering my exact words. Christ, I can't believe I'm doing this.
“You've got a way with words, I have to admit. And plus, you've got this chip on your shoulder where you really seem to hate society,” I said, my mouth struggling to form the words. I really wanted this girl to just leave me alone, but now I was about to ensure the opposite. Why do I keep doing this to myself? I think it's because God wants me to. Literally. “You claim you want to rebel. Instead of dressing different, why don't you engage in some actual rebellion?”
Her eyes lit up. “What did you have in mind?”
“I know where I can get some graffiti. I tag my school all the time.”
“No,” I said firmly. “And you shouldn't do that. It's illegal and my tax dollars go to cleaning it up.”
“Then what did you have in mind?”
I took a deep breath. “Become my apostle. I already have one, but one would never be enough for what God is having me do. And you're an eloquent speaker when you want to be, and you actually seem to like the stuff that I'm preaching, so you seem to be the type that would be fit to do it.”
Kaylah's gaze fell to the side. She was clearly mulling it over.
She looked up me. “At what point do we get to do something illegal?”
I sighed, massaging my temple slightly. “At no point.”
She groaned. Drawing from my sales expertise, I added, “But the stuff that you'll be preaching involves things that are illegal in modern society. Stoning nonbelievers and all that. Even if it's required by God's law, it's illegal in American law. So you're still advocating something illegal in some degree. Think of it like that.”
Kaylah nodded, satisfied with my bullshit spin. “Okay, so I'll be preaching like you? Sounds like a plan. I'll be your apostle.”
I don't know if that was music to my ears or a sound more terrible than party hip hop, but for now I was satisfied. “Great! Me and Lucas, my other apostle, meet on Wednesday nights at Grand Central at around eight. Meet us there and I'll explain everything that you have to do.”
“Is he hot?”
“Lucas? No,” I answered. “And seriously, stop that.”
“And just so you know, I'm not letting you preach at any station that isn't safe,” I told her. “No ghetto neighborhoods with gunshots and rapes for you.”
“I've been to those areas before, and I don't need you to baby me.”
“Kaylah, I care less about you than I do myself,” I replied. “But if something happens to you and it gets back that I sent you to the most crime-ridden area of the Bronx to preach, then I'm going to wind up in jail until I'm old enough to collect Social Security. So no, you're not going anywhere near those areas while you're working for me.”
“Well, I guess I can respect that,” said Kaylah thoughtfully, her shoulders shrugging slightly. “You go into the worst and most dangerous areas yourself so that your followers won't have to. I guess that makes you a decent leader.”
“Yeah, that's right,” I agreed.
Ha! I would never go into any of these areas"filled with crime, gangs, drug dealers, and psychos"to preach. Lower and Midtown Manhattan and the Upper East Side is where I preach, and rarely do I ever go outside of the stations that take me to and from work. Now if Lucas wanted to go to one of these mugger's paradises and try his luck getting converts, then more power to him. But you'll never get me to do it. I enjoy breathing too much to give it up.
Looking at the train's overhead display, Kaylah stood up. “Next stop is mine. I guess I'll see you next Wednesday. Then I get to go out there and start promoting slavery and genocide.”
“I'm glad to see you're so chipper about it.”
“As long as I get people riled up and questioning all the established pro-God social norms, I'm good,” replied Kaylah. “I have to go research this stuff. I always thought religion was just simply about being all happy-crappy and worshiping Jesus and not doing anything fun because that's pretty much how all the religious kids in my school are. Who'd have thought that there's so much stuff like this in the Bible, promoted by the Bible? I didn't know half this stuff until I talked to you.”
“You didn't know any of this stuff until you talked to me,” I corrected. As she walked towards the door, I called out, “And don't tell your mom about what you're doing. I don't need her to come to my office raising a fit about all this.”
“Why would I tell my mom about this?” questioned Kaylah harshly. She clearly thought it was a stupid question, but you can never be too careful.
“Just making sure,” I replied defensively. “You said you couldn't wait to get people riled up.”
She smiled coyly. Ugh. “I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid.”
Oh Lord, you got “crazy” right. Having dealt with her mother at work a number of times, I can see where she inherited her “crazy” genes. I'd say “so much for human evolution”, except that evolution is, as it turns out, a complete myth. Don't feel bad, I was fooled too.
The train slowed to a stop. One or two people on the other end of the car exited as the doors opened, and a couple others got on in their place. Kaylah stepped onto the platform, the station relatively busy due to the fact it was peak travel time. She poked her head back in.
“I'll see you soon, sexy,” she said in what I guess was supposed to be a mock-sexy voice, blowing me a kiss. Good, I don't think I've been having enough nightmares lately. That should fill my nightmare quota for the next week. She exited the train completely and the doors shut. Being the little brat that she is (and I don't mean in some endearing way), she slammed against the window directly in front of me with her body, making a juvenile “funny” face at me before walking away. Great, that should give me enough nightmares to last until the end of the month. I guess I can't say she never did anything for me.
I let out a loud, long, and exasperated sigh. I have a feeling I am definitely going to regret making her my second apostle, but what choice do I really have in the matter? God needs me to convince the world to live by His law and His words, and I can't do this alone. I can only hope that I have God's support, that He is watching over me and will have my back when the time comes, but the more I preach on His behalf, the more I feel a complete disconnect from Him, as if He has more pressing matters to tend to than the plight of His Great Prophet.
A man on the seat about fifteen feet to my left stood up and waited by the door for the train to stop. Suddenly, he turned to me.
“You know, I heard some of the stuff you were telling that girl,” he scolded, thankfully keeping his voice low. I don't think he wanted to make a scene so much as to let me know of his disapproval. “People like you are the reason parents should never let their kids ride the train alone.”
I didn't say a word. I was too tired, too stressed, and too wrapped up in my thoughts to care. Plus, like him, I didn't want to make a scene either. I wasn't going to convince him that I wasn't some creepy child stalker and wasn't about to try. Instead, I reached into my backpack and pulled out one of the fliers, handing it to him.
“Here you go, sir. Have a nice day,” I droned, not even looking at the man. My tone of voice said enough on my behalf; I just didn't want to talk to anybody.
He snatched the flier out of my hand, crumpled it into a ball, and threw it at my face. It bounced off and landed on the floor near my feet. I didn't even turn my head in his direction, even as the train slowed to a stop and he exited the train muttering something about how I'm probably a drug pusher or something. Despite not finding the exchange funny, I couldn't prevent a smirk from slowly spreading across my face.
Well, somebody was watching over me. It wasn't God like I was hoping, but I guess I can't win them all, right?
I do hope God appreciates what I'm doing for Him, because humanity sure as hell won't.
© 2012 Joey Batz
AboutI'm a hopefully up and coming novelist battling against the evils of Writer's Block and procrastination. It is a losing battle. more..