“I told mama I wouldn’t cut through this alley no more and here I am doin’ it again.” Lamont muttered to himself. “It’ll be alright just one more time though. Sure, why I’m nearly home now.”
The noise and the light struck Lamont like a gang banger with a riot gun–it was that sudden and unexpected.
“What the h…”
“Watch your mouth, Lamont, you don’t know exactly who you talkin’ to.”
Lamont swallowed and felt his heart slide back down his esophagus. “I don’t even know exactly what I’m talkin’ to.” He said, rubbing his eyes. There in the middle of the alley, just underneath the yellow street light was a…Well, Lamont didn’t know what to call such a spectacle.
Whoever, or whatever it was hung suspended by a string attached to a chest harness. The string went up only a few feet before connecting to a bright yellow helium balloon, so the whole mess hung over the alley dangling from a kid’s toy that wouldn’t have floated a Barbie doll much less a full sized man.
Lamont decided it must be a man, a man dressed in a patched up choir robe with homemade plywood angel wings jury rigged onto the back of the harness. Over his head was a gold tinsel halo held cock-eyed by a piece of coat-hanger wire that disappeared down the back of his shirt collar.
“So, what you think, Lamont?” it asked.
“I think you a little early for Halloween. Just what you supposed to be anyway?” Lamont asked right back.
“Awh Lamont, imagination ain’t never been your long suit. Here I go to all this fret and bother to manifest myself, just like you see me in your head, and you still don’t get it. What’s it take to put you in the picture?”
The apparition was twisting counterclockwise under the balloon and had to speak over its right shoulder.
“Excuse me, do I know you?” Lamont asked, puzzled.
“Hang on a sec, let me change clothes; these sure ain’t workin’. The apparition snapped his fingers and nothing happened, his eyes cut toward Lamont, “misfire”, he muttered, “it happens sometimes”. He snapped his fingers again and a flash of blue light and a cannon-load of noise filled the alley.
“Much better,” he said, stepping out of the smoke. He was now dressed in a blue three piece suit with broad, cream colored pinstripes. He wore a white snap brim hat with a blue polka-dot band and a pair of patent leather two-toned shoes.
“How’s this, Lamont? You catchin’ on now?”
“Yeah, I am” Lamont said. “Somebody done slipped me a mickey at the church social and it’s just now startin’ to kick in.”
“Couldn’t have put it better myself, son. Yeah, I’m the big mickey slipper his’self, and I shore done slipped you a nice ‘un. Seriously, you having what we in the trade call an epiphany. I’m God, boy. Don’t you get it?”
“Oh yeah, I get it, God dresses up like a deacon in a cheap Christmas play, that or a Fourth Avenue pimp. Is that about right, God?”
“Sometimes I sure regret making you mortals so stupid. M’boy, if I appeared in my true nature you’d blow a fuse, strip a gear. You just ain’t got the eyeball capacity for it. What I did is take my image straight out of your head, Lamont. Believe it or not this is how you see me.” God said.
“Humm…” Lamont studied the situation, whoever he was he sure had a handle on special effects, “Okay, let’s suppose I buy all that jazz. What’s an epiphany?”
“Good question. Boy howdy, we on the right track now! An epiphany is like havin’ a dream while you still awake, or maybe a fit, but at the end of it you get to see God.”
“All right then” Lamont said, “it’s your quarter, what can I do for you?”
“I been watching you a long time Lamont.” God paused to brush a speck of imaginary lint off His vest. “You’re a real smart kid. I like that, and I can use a fellow like you in the business.”
“You know Lamont, the God business. I want to put you on the payroll. I’m making some organizational changes, an outsource kinda deal, and I could use a few good men. Like the Marine Corps without all the sweat, get it? Wait, wrong analogy, more like the NBA, yeah the NBA. You, Lamont, are my number one draft pick. Now how does that grab you?”
“Got to admit it sounds good, and I could use a job, but we got a sayin’” around here—maybe you heard it before… ‘What’s in it for me?’”
“Sure, Lamont, I knew you wuz smart. You mean somethin’ like a sign-up bonus? Every Big League draft pick gets a sign-up bonus. Let me see, hummm…. A Lexus wouldn’t do you no good, you ain’t old enough for a driver’s license. Sides, I can think of somethin way better than any car. How ‘bout power? Everybody likes power. All the boys on my team gonna have a heap of power.” God said. “Yessiree, I’ll add it right here in your contract.”
“Contract?” Lamont questioned. “This thing gonna be in writin’?”
“Sure, you bet, jus’ like the NBA only in High Church Latin—you can read High Church Latin, can’t you?” God asked as he looked at Lamont over a pair of half framed reading glasses.
“Well, I’m probably a little rusty,” Lamont admitted candidly “but I tell you what, you give me a sample of this power so’s I can see is it the real high grade stuff an’ then if you still want me to, I’ll sign up.”
“Now you talkin’, kid. Let me see what power I can give you….”
“Just give me what the ‘postles had. You know, somethin’ you got in open stock. I’ll try a little of it out and then sign right up. If you think that’s fair?”
“Great idea. You got it.” God snapped His fingers and Lamont felt a little tingle walk down his spine.
God busied Himself with the contract, “All these High Church Latin contracts gots to be sealed and then signed in blood, but of course you know that.” God laid the contract over a garbage can lid and fished a stick of red sealing wax from His coat pocket. He rubbed His thumb and forefinger together and a flame shot up for just a second before it flickered out into nothing but blue smoke, sighing, he took a Ronson butane lighter from a vest pocket and melted the wax. His thumbprint was the seal. “Now this blood part won’t hurt a bit—just need your pinky finger….”
“Sure thing, uh, just let me stretch this power out a little first. I believe the apostles could do cool shit like castin’ out devils, couldn’t they?”
“God” looked up quickly, staring at Lamont over the top of His half-rims, “That’s a little advanced for you, boy. Why not start out with the basics. Say, water into wine maybe. Yeah, I could use a drink my own self.”
“No, I think I can handle it.” Lamont snapped his fingers and quoted: “Get thee behind me Satan.”
The blue light returned and seemed to implode into the center of “God”, his face was equal parts surprise and anger. Instead of the loud noise there was a nasty sucking sound, like a toilet suddenly unclogging, and then “He” was gone. The contents of “His” pockets- the lighter, three Cuban Monte Cristo cigars, and about a dollar in change clattered down to the last known address of his two-toned shoes.
The contract drifted down onto the bricks of the alley and Lamont picked it up. It was warm to the touch.
“Epiphany, my ass,” Lamont said as he flicked the Ronson under the parchment. “I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.”
One Reply to “The Shortcut by Patsy Parsons Smith”
This was a little like watching a horror movie, all “Don’t do it! What are you thinking?” only to have the protagonist throw us a wink at the end, showing he was right there with us all along, and never missed a trick. Since I don’t get to watch enough horror movies, it was fun to get that experience in a short story 🙂