The last chapter of Hell on $5 a Day publishes in 8 days, a week from tomorrow. Wow, we're almost done. So I'm going to take an informal poll...
Post your opinion in the comments section on this chapter or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The numbers from Feedburner and analytics are encouraging, but a personal message will mean the world to me.
Getting back to the story, Kurt brought Mick to Heaven to teach him how to make miracles...
Hell on Five Dollars a Day
A Novel By Greg Bulmash
Copyright © MMVIII - Greg Bulmash - All Rights Reserved
Mick smiled blissfully and stretched his arms out turning his face to the sky. "I know it's not Sol, but it's infinitely better than that giant rocket exhaust that passed for a light source back in... well, you know."
Kurt wanted to get down to business, but he didn't want to break into Mick's joy. Take a sunny summer morning on the streets of Manhattan and people would still be bulling along, their heads down, their eyes bleary, joylessly sipping at complicated coffee drinks. But Mick's joy in simple things like sunlight and clean water was so pure and unabashed that not letting it fade at its own pace felt almost sinful.
Kurt motioned for Marie to follow him and led her back into the house. "Let's give him a little time to acclimate," he said. She nodded her assent and preceeded him back into the living room where everyone was trying to pretend they weren't interested in what was going on in the garden.
"I guess you're all wondering what just happened." Ten heads nodded in unison. Kurt quickly described how Mick saved him in the second ring, leaving out the jucier details since Junior was one of the 10 heads. Then he told them about his latest trip to Nowhere, the big red emergency button by God's throne, and how Mick was going to be his instructor in miracles, although he realized he hadn't yet informed Mick of that pertinent fact.
"See," Leonardo said, raising a hand and pointing a finger in the air. "I told you we needed miracles. Now we shall have them."
"So be it," Arthur said, "but how shall they manifest? Curing a leper or turning water into wine will not get us into that throne room."
"Well, hey now," Elvis said, "if there's one thing I know about, it's drawing a crowd. If Kurt did it on the steps of the Celestial Palace, it might just pull out enough angels to watch that one of us could sneak in."
"And if my mother had wheels, she would have been a trolley car," Eleanor interjected. "We cannot formulate a plan that relies on a number of unpredictable factors to go our way. If there is an angel posted at the throne room doors who does not abandon its post, or better yet, they're simply locked, what then?"
"Maybe he could 'orb,'" Barbara said.
Everyone looked at her, puzzled. "My daughter got me hooked on this TV show, 'Charmed', before I died. So, in the show, angels are called 'white lighters' and they basically do a sort of dematerializing in one place and then materializing in another called 'orbing.'"
Leonardo leaned forward. "So you are saying he could teleport into the throne room, right in front of the box, and push the button before any angels could stop him? The simplicity of it is pure genius."
"But could I do that," Kurt asked?
"If you can perform miracles, why not teleportation," George asked. "Come on. This is one of those no-brainers like 'why doesn't the bad guy just shoot James Bond?' If this was a movie, wouldn't you be asking yourself 'why doesn't he just miracle himself into the throne room?' We can come up with a thousand 'I Love Lucy' schemes to get in there, but give me one good reason why you can't just miracle yourself into the throne room."
The room was silent. George looked over at the two angels. "You guys know any reason?"
Nybras shook his head in the negative while Duke held up both hands. "Hey," Duke said, "I'm just an assistant angel."
"Then it's settled," George's face took on a deeply satisfied look. "Kurt has a few lessons with the professor out there, miracles himself into the throne room, pushes the button, God comes running."
"And what do I do when He gets there," Kurt asked.
George scrunched up his face and raised a hand. "That part I haven't figured out yet."
Eleanor stood up and walked over to Kurt, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You talk to Him, dear. Tell Him why Alain deserves to be saved."
"How do I do that? Tell God he's a good guy, not bad for a vampire?"
Eleanor lifted her hand from his shoulder, put it on his head, and turned his gaze to Marie sitting in the chair with Junior in her lap, George standing next to them. "You have his family right there. Between miracle lessons, maybe you could ask them why Alain is worth saving."
Albert walked away from the bucket with an eye-dropper in one hand and a new beer in the other. He'd filled the eye dropper from the bucket, but the beer was still sealed. "Don't worry," he told Alain, "I filtered out the nasty bits. I was only going to evaporate it for the chemicals, but after Kurt healed Ty, I decided to experiment."
Over in the corner there was something that looked to be a box with a blanket over it. Albert lifted the blanket to reveal a wire rabbit cage with an imp in it, seemingly asleep.
Alain had never seen an imp before. This one was about 5 inches tall, a miniature version of Nybras or Mammon, but with no horns and no clothes. It lay curled up, a thumb in its mouth, and it kicked a leg as the light hit it. The whole thing might have been cute if the imp itself wasn't so ugly. Albert dripped a single bead of liquid from the eyedropper onto the imp and the placid scene erupted.
The little demon leapt up into the air with a screech and ran circles around the cage, trying to outrun the smoking pit on its rear end. Somehow it manifested two voices, one howling, the other cursing as it climbed the sides and hung from the cage's top, rattling the structure and screaming steaming bloody murder. While the little demon screamed, Albert popped the top on the beer. He smacked the top of the cage, knocking the imp loose, and it fell to the cage floor where it lay on its stomach, whimpering loudly.
Albert poured a little bit of the beer on its smoking wound and the sizzling stopped, the imp breathing a sigh of relief and visibly relaxing. He put the beer down, picked up the blanket, and covered the cage. "Sleep now," he said, then picked up the beer, taking a sip as he walked back to the table where Alain sat.
He sat at the table. "I've got the equipment to make acid-filled paintballs. If a drop does that to an imp, we can do a cubic centimeter per ball. I'm betting it'll only take one or two direct hits to put one of the big thugs out of commission, and I've got enough filtered urine to make up about 1,200 paintballs. So, as long as we wouldn't have to fight off more than 500 demons, we've got the ammunition. I can also get us the men."
"Through Kolya," Alain said with an undisguised hint of disgust.
"You've got a problem with Kolya?"
"He beat up a kid." Alain thought of Ty falling through the door, battered and bruised. Beating up kids had a very special place on Alain's shit list.
Albert shrugged. "Who hasn't on this ring? You think Ty didn't intimidate and beat up smaller children when he was alive? This is a ring for people who hurt people. Now, we can get nine men, capable of following orders, with skill in the controlled and practical application of violence... or I can get you a lamp and you can wander the seventh ring, searching for 9 altar boys who got sent here by mistake."
"Don't you mean ten men?"
"You're looking at number 10." Albert's eyebrow raised. "You thought I'd miss this?"
"I don't know how many times I can say 'thank you,'" Mick said as he and Kurt sat at the garden table. "I am forever in your debt."
"Good," Kurt said, "because I need another favor."
"Teach me how to perform miracles."
Mick looked puzzled. "You seem to be doing a pretty good job of it without my help."
"Yeah," Kurt said, shifting in his chair, "see, the thing is... I have no freaking clue what I'm doing. I don't perform miracles so much as stumble along and let miracles happen. I need to get a handle on it, and I was told you wrote a story where a guy learned how to perform miracles."
Mick stopped lounging and sat up in his chair. "Who told you that?"
"Long story. But he said you wrote a story about a guy who got to be God for a week and had to learn how to do miracles."
Mick thought for a moment, smiled for a moment, then got a look on his face like he'd just smelled a fart. "That piece of crap? It was terrible. I wrote it while tripping, thinking I was having amazing metaphysical insights. And then, when I read it sober, I wanted to cry. It was so hokey."
"Apparently it wasn't, or I wouldn't have been told to summon you."
"Oh come on," Mick said, laughing derisively. "You know what I came up with for how you do a miracle? Get a vision of it happening in your mind's eye..."
"Yeah," Kurt said, leaning forward.
"Then bless the vision." Mick snorted. "'Envision it and bless it.' That was the story's mantra. 'See the miracle, bless the miracle, make the miracle.' It's like some new age self-help seminar."
Kurt wanted to agree with Mick, but he had it on good authority that Mick knew the process, even if Mick apparently didn't believe it worked. But what was a good test miracle to try? Who was he going to heal? The whole burning bush thing was tempting, but he didn't like the idea of frying Marie's garden. Maybe manna... not manna.
Kurt looked at the table and envisioned his wish. But how did he bless it? He tried blinking and thinking "bless it" like a sort of "I Dream of Jeannie" move. Nothing happened. He got the vision again and wiggled his nose "Bewitched" style while thinking "bless it." Nothing happened.
Mick peered at him. "You're actually trying it?"
Kurt nodded. "Well," Mick said, "there's a sort of trick to blessing the vision. You have to reach down into yourself, find a little bit of love, push it into the vision, and then say 'Amen' in your head."
Kurt got his vision, reached down into himself, found a little bit of love, pushed it into the vision, and thought 'Amen.' The next moment there were two glasses of cold Bass Ale on the table. Mick jumped in his chair, then leaned forward to peer at the glasses. Kurt handed one to Mick and took one for himself. "A toast," Kurt said, smiling, "to little miracles."
Mick held up his glass of ale, looking at it. "Well, I'll be damned."
"Not anymore," Kurt said with a wink, then took a sip of the ale.
After the experiment with the ale, Mick was a true believer and set himself to the task of helping Kurt learn how to teleport. Kurt started off with small jumps of a foot or two, seeing where he wanted to be, creating a mental snapshot of being there, and blessing it, but soon enough he was bouncing around the garden. He even shuffled Mick around the garden in his chair. There was no momentum acquired by teleporting. It was sort of like one of those stop-motion movies where something just shifts from one place to another, then another.
But teleporting to places you could see was easy. The trick was teleporting somewhere you couldn't. How was he going to teleport into the God's throne room, right next to the button if he couldn't get a vision of it in his mind?
"Envision yourself seeing that place, then bless that vision," Mick suggested. "Maybe it will allow you to see the place you need to see. Try a room in the house, then we can go to the room and see if you got it right."
Mick scratched his chin. "Guest bathroom?"
Kurt stood and envisioned himself envisioning the guest bathroom, found a bit of love, pushed it into the vision, and said "Amen." The vision was replaced by a view of the guest bathroom. There was no toilet, but a nice sink and mirror provided a place for guests to freshen up. Kurt wondered what he was going to do about the lack of a toilet because he was starting to feel the need for a wicked dump. Kurt took his vision of the guest bathroom, altered it to add a toilet, and blessed it.
He must have given off some physical cue that he'd performed another miracle. "What did you do," Mick asked.
Keeping the vision in his head, Kurt added himself to it. "I'll tell you in a few minutes," Kurt said, then blessed the vision.
A few minutes later, he envisioned a roll of toilet paper.
[To Be Continued April 6th, 2009]
Hell on $5 a Day is a work of fiction, serialized by its author on Brainhandles.com. Excerpts may be used for blog posts or articles about the novel. The length limit on excerpts is 4 paragraphs. Any more extensive usage requires permission.