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04 February 2006

Desolate METROPOLIS, a podplay for the 21st Century

Desolate METROPOLIS is a fresh and daring drama by Scott A. Josephson, which mocks the Fashion Industry. Set in Greenwich Village, an eclectic blend of stylish couture enthusiasts, cynics, poets, and miraculous minds exchange souls in a tale as darkly delicious as it is haunting and hilarious.

Originally composed for the stage in the Summer of 1999 and completed on New Year's Day 2000, Desolate METROPOLIS makes its debut in a medium inspired by the golden age of radio -- the podplay.

The script was revisited and revised over the Summer of 2005, modified to add narration in place of stage direction. Auditions, callbacks, and rehearsals were all held via phone. Recording took place on a rainy Saturday afternoon on Long Island, the cast coming together for the first time in person to lay down this entrancing work.

Desolate METROPOLIS also features a potent original score and music by Jordan Pier and Farewell Redemption.

It is available for free, direct download at podantics.com

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31 January 2006

"The Wager": Part 3

(© 1998, 2006, Doug Tarnopol. All rights reserved.)

The Lord turned to Mephistopheles in frustration.

"I'd fire them all, but who'd replace them? Heaven's grown so much, even I can't keep track of it all without them. They've got Me by the balls."

Mephistopheles leapt at the chance to feign solace. "Listen, give me twenty-four hours to change Your mind."

"My mind's made up. I never change it. You should know that. I never let Lucifer back up here, did I?"

"Wild horses couldn't drag Lucifer back up here," Mephistopheles muttered.

"Excuse Me, I didn't quite catch that."

"Forget it. Look -- I think I can prove to You that humanity deserves to live."

Mephistopheles looked around the room desperately, drumming his claws on the table.

"Let me find a hundred righteous men."

"Oh, cut the crap. How senile do you think I am? You think I'm gonna fall for that shit again?"

"All right, all right."

Mephistopheles saw that his time was running out and he didn't actually have a plan. He considered giving up, but he was fond of human beings. They were chaotic and free; like children, they needed to be protected from themselves until they'd had time to mature. The Lord had never understood that.

You'd think an immortal wouldn't be so impatient! Mephistopheles thought. Even now, He's getting fidgety.

The Lord looked at His watch. "Look, Mephisto, I've go a lot to do today."

"Are You doing something new with Your beard? It looks terrific."

The Lord lowered His head and glared at Mephistopheles. "Don't patronize Me. What's the deal?"

Mephistopheles had an idea.

"What was it about those two that set You off?"

"What two?"

"Those humans. Henry and Helen."

No response.

"From Philadelphia? You know: the bus, he fell...."

The Lord looked at Mephistopheles blankly, fear furrowing His forehead. Mephistopheles sighed. Despite what the Lord said, His senility was getting worse. He had always been forgetful and it had caused problems in the past. For instance, Jesus was never supposed to die on the cross. But the Lord had just forgotten about him, and had been forced to give humanity an IOU, as yet unfulfilled. Who would have thought that the answer to "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" was that the Lord had been playing dice with a bunch of angels and had lost track of time?

"You mean, I wasn't supposed to die?" Jesus had asked incredulously, freshly arrived from Golgotha, rubbing his hands and feet.

The Lord shuffled His feet nervously. "Uh, well, no. Not really. Uh, I was going to save you at the last moment -- you know, like I did with Isaac?" He looked up at Jesus hopefully, but quickly turned away from His son's sad eyes. "Yes, well, uh, I thought it would have really given you a lot of credibility with the Romans. I was going to do it in style, with some birds and lightning bolts -- those guys would have eaten this shit right up. Omen city." The Lord scratched His head and continued addressing His sandals, growing increasingly uncomfortable. "I figured the Romans would adopt you as their leader, you know. They're ripe for a savior. The republic is gone, and Tiberius is no great shakes. Nobody believes in the old gods anymore, and people aren't digging the empire; the people want something more...an end to slavery, true class harmony, the pursuit of happiness, brotherly love. A new Golden Age, and so on. You were supposed to fulfull it."

"Yes, that's what I wanted. That's what I preached," Jesus said, his eyes welling up with tears. "What happened?"

"Look, I know what you're going to say, but I was in this dice game, and --"

"Oh, Father! Not gambling! I thought You promised me?" He burst into tears.

"Oh, Jesus, please don't cry. I'm sorry."

Jesus wiped his eyes and sniffled. He hugged his father.

"It's OK, Father. I forgive You."

That killed Him.

"Jesus, I'll make it up to you, I swear. I'll send you back for good as soon as I can. Hey, you'll make an even bigger impact that way!" The Lord smiled and held His son by the shoulders, shaking him gently, encouragingly. "I promise not to forget!"

All of Hell had had a pretty good laugh over that one. In fact, they had spent the rest of the first century rolling around in tears. Baalzebub wet himself around 98 AD.

Well, Mephistopheles thought, two thousand years and counting, and the Lord hasn't sent Jesus back yet. Keeps forgetting. Perhaps I should just leave now and hope He forgets to wipe out the human race? No, His angels would remind Him. They'd like nothing better than to lessen their workload; the Lord works them like dogs. A permanent lack of new souls to sort would be a great relief, and no one would be fired because everyone would still be needed to tend to existing souls.

Mephistopheles tried again. "The bus? Henry and Helen? Remember?"

The Lord studied Mephistopheles intently for a few seconds. Then it clicked.

"Bring Me My fire and brimstone! Those ingrates! Damn them!"

"Wait, wait! You already called for that. Don't You remember?"

"Oh, yes. Yes, I remember now." The Lord sat down at His desk, leaned forward and clasped His hands together. "So, what can I do for you?"

"I have a deal for You."

"What about?"

"Are You kidding me?"

"Right, right, humanity. OK, let's talk deal."

"Those two humans infuriated You today. Why?"

"They're just the last straw."

"A rather slender straw, don't You think? Look it's obviously something more than just these two grad students."

The Lord shuffled His feet uncomfortably. "Well, they just represent everything that's wrong with humanity. Human beings are sinful, selfish, unable to love, unable to understand each other. That's the trouble with those two, that dork and that oversexed vixen."

"She was oversexed?"

"What do you mean? That's all she was thinking about! She's lucky she didn't get hit by a car."

Mephistopheles shook his head slowly. "You've never gotten laid, have You?"

The Lord's ears turned red, but He didn't back down. "You've forgotten about Mary? I do have a son, you know."

"Trust me, having some dove fly through a window so a beam of light can fall on a woman ain't the same thing as getting laid."

"She got pregnant, didn't she?"

"Yes, she did. But we're not talking about impregnation. We're talking about knocking boots and liking it."

"I wish you wouldn't be so crude." The Lord's face was beet red now. He couldn't look at Mephistopheles, who kept pressing his advantage.

"You couldn't even approach her Yourself! You had to send an angel to set it up!"

"So, I was shy. Sue Me."

"Shy? What would Zeus have done?"

The mention of the Lord's illustrious predecessor was designed to goad. The Lord had been waiting in the wings for a long time, coveting cosmopolitan Greece from dusty Palestine, scorning what he considered the Olympians' lack of restraint. His son had been a key part of the plan to overthrow the Aegean gods. The Lord had managed to get the Jews to accept Him, but they had been too sequestered from the rest of humanity by the Lord's overly strict moral code to build enough support for a real empire. To be sure, the Jews were as vicious as any other tribe, and the Lord had no compunctions about sanctioning the genocide of the odd Canaanite tribe, but that was par for the course in human history. The problem was that the Jews tended to insist that everyone follow the Lord's suffocating morality. Not conducive to successful imperialism. What the Lord needed was a brutal and efficient tribe that didn't much care about imposing its metaphysics on conquered peoples. Better still if they lacked a metaphysical mindset. That's why He had concentrated on the Romans, and up-and-coming tribe of notable brutality that also happened to be gifted in all the things necessary for empire-building: war, law, and engineering. They also couldn't care less what the natives worshipped, as long as the tribute flowed and the peace was kept.

The Romans had prepared the way for the Lord admirably, conquering large chunks of the West by the turn of the millenium, by which point they had discarded their quaint republicanism for cities of marble. True to his genius -- or perhaps simply because he didn't want to end up a pincushion like Caesar, his adoptive father -- Augustus had kept up the appearance of republicanism just enough so that the Romans could continue, gratefully, to think themselves self-ruled. He'd even had Macaenas drop a few hints over stuffed flamingo that Virgil ought to whitewash Augustus' coup d'etat by connecting the First Citizen, via the Julian gens, to semi-divine Aeneas, son of Venus, and to Troy, the enemy of effete, envied Greece.

The Lord had liked that move -- the only god the Romans really worshipped was Mars, and here they were linking themselves to the Western incarnation of love! That was exactly the kind of self-delusion the Lord was looking for: any tribe that could think that flexibly was definitely ripe for a new religion.

The Lord's key angels had requested a meeting around the middle of the first century, BC.

"It's time to mix it up, Sir," Michael had said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, endlessly regulating all aspects of life has only alienated most humans. The Jews can barely take it as it is. If you really want to compete with Zeus, Cybele, Mithras, and the rest, You'd better come up with a tangible, charismatic figure."

"Like Alexander, or this Caesar fellow?" Gabriel suggested.

Without taking his eyes off the Lord, Michael pointed at Gabriel. "No. Military geniuses are a dime a dozen. We need some serious kick-ass miracles to get people to sit up and take notice."

"I'm listening," the Lord said.

Michael turned to Raphael. "You want to take it from here?"

"You bet." Raphael turned to the Lord. "Basically, Sir, with all due respect, no one gives a shit about Your so-called morality. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of humanity lives under crushing economic restrictions. The last thing they want is more restrictions. They want miracles, something out of the ordinary to take themselves out of their miserable lives of exploitation."

The Lord stroked His beard thoughtfully. Raphael continued.

"The common people need a religion that praises them. A religion that promises a wonderful afterlife to make up for this shitty life. Something to distract their attention from those that are exploiting them in the here-and-now." Raphael thumped a set of reports down on the Lord's desk. "We've gotten a lot of customer feedback, and our biggest clients are getting worried that the more people learn, the greater the chance they'll find out they're getting a royal screwing. Those fucking Greeks have, almost against their own desire, spread this...this" -- Raphael's face twisted in disgust at having to let the word pass his lips -- "democracy bullshit all over the place."

"I know," said the Lord. "It's a real problem."

"Absolutely. How the fuck are we supposed to keep the system rolling along if every filthy peasant thinks he deserves his due...just for being human? Luckily, if we can come up with the right kind of religion, we can keep the working classes in each tribe hating their opposite numbers so much, they won't realize that it's the throats of their masters they should be cutting, if anyone's. But the key is that the religion has to be based on love. People have to really believe that they are acting out of love for their fellow man or else they won't kill as many as we need them to."

"Plus," Gabriel interjected, "humans really want to love and be loved, so if we can lift that desire out of the world and project it onto a lofty, inhumanly perfect figure, we'll be able to satisfy that need without risking the growth of solidarity among the lower humans."

"Right," said Raphael. "And Michael's been doing a lot of eavesdropping on human desires recently." Raphael instantly turned white.

The Lord was silent. "Without My approval?"

The angels looked at each other. Michael finally piped up. "Well, we thought it was security issue. We never meant to tell You" -- he glared at Raphael -- "so that You'd always be able to deny it."

The Lord looked upon His angels and saw that it was good. "Deny what? Get on with it. What did you find out, Mike?"

"Well, it's amazing, actually. Humans are almost unbelievably suggestible, probably because they're social mammals."

"Yes, I created them that way."

"Right." The angels looked at each other and dodged that mine.

"Anyway, if we can find someone that embodies their most exalted, and thus most secretly hated, beliefs about goodness, they will worship that figure. After they kill him, of course, which will only increase the tie they feel, through guilt. What do You think?"

"I like it so far. But I don't want to just jettison all of Leviticus. I worked hard on that with Moses. He'll tear Me a new asshole."

"Oh, fuck Moses," Gabriel spat out derisively. "If he'd become Pharoah, he wouldn't have needed You. He'd have become a god himself."

The Lord considered this. "Be that as it may, I want this new religion to be seen as an outgrowth of the old. We've spent a lot of money on branding; I don't want to flush that all down the crapper."

"OK," Raphael said. "We can definitely do that."

"I have some other ideas," the Lord said.

The angels looked at each other, half-smiling. They knew their Chief; He was nothing if not clever. They had banked on His being receptive to their idea for a new religion. But the Lord was already way ahead of them.

He told them about His Roman strategy. It was clear He was sick of screwing around. He wanted to dominate the West...perhaps even make inroads into other lands.... He saw big opportunities for monotheism in Africa and Asia in six or seven hundred years. They were untapped markets. The angels gazed at the Lord in awe. He was now summing up.

"So, my winged friends, we stand on the brink of a new millenium. Incredible opportunites for expansion abound. This is a special moment in history; it won't come again. The other gods are weak or have fallen. Now is the time to strike hard. We must keep our eyes on the strategic objective: global leadership. We must stop being reactive. We must stop concentrating on short-term tactics. We must pre-empt all comers; we must meet crises before they happen. The only question is our own resolve. Are you with Me?"

The angles cheered in assent.

"Excellent. You supply the poor Jewish family; I'll supply the miracles. My son will take over Rome, and we'll be done with the Olympians for good." The Lord smiled and folded His thick arms over His barrel chest, nodding His head. "Oh, yes. Zeus won't know what hit him."

"What will You do with Zeus, and all the rest of them?" Michael asked.

The Lord laughed. "Oh, I have that covered, believe Me. Zeus and his crew will be spending eternity in Tartarus."

The angels were flabbergasted by the Lord's vengefulness.

"With Cronus?" Raphael gasped.

"Yep. I'm gonna moira his ass."

"Don't You think it might be a bit awkward down there?" Gabriel asked in disbelief.

"They'll all have a long time to work it out."

"Adonai!" said Michael. He was impressed. The Lord would not merely overthrow Zeus, He would humiliate him by meting out the same punishment Zeus had given his father, Cronus.

The Lord was reveling in His plan. "It's been an old-boy network around this pond for ages, now. Fuck this 'Earth Mother' shit -- I did all the work creating everything; they just sauntered in with their fancy literature and pretty togas and took over."

The angels looked at each other, but said nothing. No god had created the Universe; only the Lord claimed credit for that. They wisely let it slide.

"Well, it will soon be over. Uranus, Cronus, Zeus -- all of 'em. It will all end soon, all their violent, rutting, distasteful shenanigans. You'll all be there to see it."

The angels cheered again.

It had more or less come to pass, although the Lord's weakness for dice had thrown off the schedule by a half-millenium or so. By the time the Lord recovered and cut a deal with Constantine, the Romans were beginning to run out of steam. Heaven had had to readjust on the fly, sending Gabriel to Mohammed in order to use the Arabs to hold onto Roman gains, and to make inroads eastward. After a stumble, monotheism was again on the march. Thanks to Islamic and European imperialism, by the beginning of the third millenium, the Lord could claim sovereignty over about half the world. He was now working on a plan to oust the Hindu pantheon.

The Buddhists -- and especially the Confucians -- would be tougher. But the Chinese, the Lord thought, seem to like keeping to themselves...perhaps they could be ignored? Soon I will control the world...soon...soon....

"Hey!" cried Mephistopheles. "Aren't You going to answer me?"

(© 1998, 2006, Doug Tarnopol. All rights reserved.)

29 January 2006

"The Wager": Part 2

(© 1998, 2006, Doug Tarnopol. All rights reserved.)

Mephistopheles had nothing to fear; the Lord would never find out that Nietzsche had the run of the palace. Nowadays, He just routinely rerouted damned souls to Hell.

It was an interesting managerial problem. As the Earth's population had exploded, Heaven had been forced to adapt its methods. The days of individual attention in the cottage industry that had been the immediate afterlife were long gone. By 1850, souls were being collected in a huge warehouse on the banks of the Styx, and the backlog was becoming intolerable. With the deaths of Taylor in 1915, and especially of Ford in 1947 -- both favorites of the Lord -- operations had become far more streamlined and standardized, but the surge in population still forced a rise in the workforce necessary to manage the ever-increasing thruput. The Lord kept creating more and more angels to handle the volume, but each one was a fixed cost, with a salary and benefits. The Lord, finally, had been too cheap to keep pace with the population explosion. Ultimately, Heaven had been forced into batch processing, and quality control was more a topic for endless discussion at meetings rather than a reality on the shop floor. Thus, Hell now suffered from far less oversight than it ever had before, to the delight of its rapidly increasing citizenry.

The Lord continued pacing.

"I've been watching humanity very closely this century, very closely. I knew they could never outgrow their selfishness, but I thought maybe science and technology would make that unnecessary. Maybe with enough productive capacity, they would be able to improve everyone's lot without much of a sacrifice."

The Lord spat.

"Fat chance. Their capacity for selfishness will always outstrip their capacity to produce. Plus, they have a problem: the more food they have, the more mouths they create. There's no way out of that bind."

"That's Malthus, right?"

"It sure is."

"He's up here, isn't he?"

"Of course."

Mephistopheles shrugged, drummed his claws on the armrest, and studied the ash on his cigar.

"No great loss."

The Lord ignored him. "I should put them out of their misery. I owe it to the rest of creation, which they are rapidly destroying!"

Mephistopheles couldn't resist. He smiled sweetly.

"That may be, but didn't Darwin demonstrate pretty conclusively that -- "

"Silence!" the Lord thundered. "I do not permit his name to be spoken in My presence!"

He swiped at His chair, sending it through a wall. His eyes blackened with rage.

Mephistopheles sat up. This wasn't the usual tantrum. It started to dawn on him that the Lord might actually be serious this time. He was mostly somnolent these days, but, as His track record showed, when He did become truly enraged it was wise to tread carefully. And the Lord was now angrier than Mephistopheles had seen Him in a couple of millenia.

He might be old, Mephistopheles thought, but He still has the rage of a jealous desert god. I have to find a way to dissuade Him...

Some angels came rushing into the room through the hole in the wall. Two of them were rolling in a new chair.

"Bring Me My fire and brimstone!" He bellowed. "We'll start with Philadelphia, where those two sinners live. What hypocrisy! -- 'City of Brotherly Love' My ass! They can't love! I've always hated that town, anyway -- all that 'Enlightenment' bullshit and stoves in the middle of the room."

An angel moved toward the raving diety, Palm Pilot in hand.

"I'm sorry, Sir, but we're out of brimstone."

The Lord blinked.

"Out of brimstone?"

"Yes, Sir. We hadn't used it in so long, it got cut out of the budget. You did tell us to keep costs down."

"When, may I ask, did this happen?"

"First century-ish, Sir. I'd have to look it up. But it was sometime after You blew up Vesuvius to get back at the Romans for executing Your son."

"I don't remember authorizing that!"

"Blowing up Vesuvius?"

"No -- stopping the brimstone shipments."

"Well, You did sign the form."

The angel poked his Palm Pilot and a scanned document replaced the earth on the monitor. The angel tried to suppress a yawn.

The Lord saw the letterhead:

A World-Class Kinetic-Force-Projection Boutique
Helping You Dominate the Spectrum Since 5000 BC

His signature was at the bottom of the form.

"Yes, all right, fine." The Lord asked sarcastically, "We still have some fire, I assume?"

"Just a minute; I'll check."

The angel pulled out a cellphone and punched in a number.

"Hello? Gabriel 347938? Yeah, this is Raphael 290478. The Chief wants some fire, pronto. Yeah. OK, hold on, I'll ask Him."

Raphael 290478 turned to the Lord.

"He wants to know how much You'll need."

"Enough to turn the Planet Earth into a smoking cinder instantaneously."

"Gabe, He says, 'Enough to turn the Planet Earth into a smoking cinder instantaneously.' Uh-huh."

Raphael 290478 sighed.

"OK, hold on."

He covered up the mouthpiece.

"Well, Sir, there seems to be only enough to melt the polar ice caps."

The Lord threw up His hands and moaned.

"That would flood most coastlines, which tend to be densely populated," Raphael 290478 said encouragingly. "You'd kill at least a billion, I would think."

The Lord looked at Raphael 290478 with withering distate.

"And with any luck, the increased temperature would kill off enough plankton to topple the entire food pyramid and oxygen cycle. Or possibly reroute the Gulf Stream..."

The Lord was livid.

"Are you fucking kidding Me? I want real firepower! An overwhelming demonstration of force! Why the fuck did I send you angels to the School of the Americas -- to learn how to fix elections? Can't we do any real destruction anymore?"

"Hey," Mephistopheles interjected. "That's the second time today! Don't take the name of my home in vain!"

"Fine, fine. Take it easy."

The Lord rolled His eyes and flashed Raphael 290478 a look. The angel covered up his laugh with a cough. It was as unconvincing as it was meant to be.

Assholes, Mephistopheles thought.

The Lord cut off Raphael 290478's mirth. He was getting down to business.

"All right, Raphael 290488. I want you to listen to Me very carefully."

"290478, Sir."


"My name is Raphael 290478, not 290488."

"That's what I said."

"No, Sir. You said, '290488.'"

"No, I didn't, I said -- Wait, why the fuck am I arguing with you? I'm omniscient; I know what I said! Now, listen, all I want to do is wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. What can we do right now? Plague, locusts, what have you got? Talk to me."

"Hold on."

Raphael 290478 had a brief, quiet conversation with Gabriel 347938. The Lord smoldered with frustration. He turned to Mephistopheles, and in a bid for upper-executive camraderie said:

"Can't get a fucking thing done around here."

"So I see." Mephistopheles smiled.

The Lord gave him a dirty look.


The Lord turned to Raphael 290478.

"I think the best thing we could do at this time is to send a Divine Wind that will cast the humans into a deep sleep. Sooner or later, they'll starve to death."

"Will they feel any pain?"

"No, Sir. As I said, they'll be asleep."

The Lord was crestfallen.

"Not particularly dramatic, is it?"

"Perhaps not, Sir, but it's the best we can do on such short notice. This was not in the product-development queue, as I'm sure You know."

Before the Lord could unleash His frustration on Raphael 290478, Mephistopheles cleared his throat loudly. The Lord checked Himself and turned to the demon.


"I have a proposal for You."

"You do." The Lord was immediately wary.

"Yes. Look, You obviously lack the means to make Your point with Your usual subtlety -- "

"That will soon change," The Lord interrupted. "Raphael 590478, how long will it take to prepare a good, old-fashioned planetary smiting?"

Raphael 290478 began to correct the Lord, but thought better of it.

"One moment. I still have Gabriel 347938 on the line."

He spoke into his cellphone.

"Gabe? Have you been listening? Good. What's the best estimate? What? Oh, OK."

Raphael 290478 turned to the Lord.

"Forecasting's not his department. I'm being transferred."

The Lord exhaled impatiently. Raphael 290478 held up his hand.

"Hello? Gabriel 347938 told you the deal? Great -- how long? What? OK. Hold on."

He covered up the reciever.

"I'm sorry, Sir, Michael 721307 has to boot up his workstation. The mainframe is down again. This will just take a couple of minutes; he's got all the necessary data on the workstation."

The Lord was nearly at the end of His rope.

"Son of a bitch! Why did we build our information systems in-house? What did I say? I said, 'Buy, don't build.' We're not a fucking tech company. I knew we should have gone with IBM."

"We had no choice, Sir," Raphael 290478 replied. "As I'm sure You'll recall, IBM refused to sign on to our service-level agreement. It would have meant killing one of their employees every time we had a problem. Not that that bothered them, but we couldn't afford the replacement cost they demanded."

"We could have if your fucking union had taken the pay cut I suggested!"

Raphael 290478 shrugged his shoulders as Michael 721307 got back on the line.

"Yes? What? Mike, you're breaking up...Mike?"

The Lord was nearly on top of Raphael 290478.

"What? What happened?"

"I lost the call. It's tough to get reception in this office."

The Lord clenched His fists and closed His eyes, making a huge effort to calm Himself. He opened His eyes and saw Raphael 290478 looking placidly at Him like some immovable object.

"Raphael 690488, what is that contraption over there on My desk called?"

"Next to the printer?"

"Yes. Next to the printer."

"Oh, that's a telephone."

"It sure as fuck is. Now, why don't you go over there, pick it up, and call Michael 890-whatever-the-fuck back on the landline?"

"Well, it might be busy. He's probably trying to call me back."

The Lord screamed at the top of His voice: "Get the fuck over there and call him right the fuck now!"

Raphael 290478 stretched his arms, yawned, and said, "Whatever You say, Chief."

He picked up the line just as his cell went off.

"Should I answer that or call Michael 721307 on the landline."

The Lord was near tears. "Answer your cell." He turned away in disgust and paced up and down behind His desk.

Raphael 290478 shrugged his shoulders and answered his cell.

"Yes? Yeah, I lost you. So, what's the deal? OK, hold on." Raphael called out to the Lord, who was still pacing: "Forty-eight hours at the earliest, Chief."

The Lord stopped and spun around. "Make it twenty-four. I want every angel, cherub, and seraph off his fucking ass and on the factory floor churning out death. The more pain it will cause, the bigger the bonus will be. Capish?"

"Yes, Sir!" Bonuses were unheard of.

Raphael 290478, suddenly energized, saluted and left, talking rapidly into his cellphone.

(© 1998, 2006, Doug Tarnopol. All rights reserved.)