Chapter One: Dilemma

If it were possible for a glowing ball of energy with arms to pace, Flick was doing it. Since the ordeal in Hell, he had been splitting his time between keeping an eye on Satan and Death and his usual duties as assistant to the current incarnation of God. Now that he was satisfied that no further trickery was afoot, he had little to do to keep himself busy. Flick was bored.

The new sun sparkled on the horizon signaling the beginning of a new morning and it was time to get ready for the days activities. Flick departed the cloud where he had been pacing with a slight "pop" and teleported to the main palace to begin the daily briefing.

The palace had changed considerably since the new Boss took over. What was once a gleaming palace of white marble surrounded by stairs on all sides was now a simple two story country house with picket fence and neatly trimmed lawn. He obviously felt that He did not need to impress or remind anyone of His stature with a huge and foreboding seat of power.

Comfort and simplicity. Flick liked this new God and silently hoped that the former incarnation of the position stayed on permanant vacation. Flick noted that the new gardener had missed some of the trim near the hedge. He would have a discussion with the Dept. Of Heavenly Hedges and Shrubberies later in the day about their shoddy workmanship. It simply wont do to have His home looking anything but perfect.

Flick moved to knock on the front door and before he could reach for the knocker.....

"Come in Flick."

"Damn! Got me again." he said as he entered.

The inside of His home was even more impressive than the out. The walls were paneled in a beautiful polished teakwood and covered with various pictures both of a personal nature as well as for esoteric reasons. A Red Skelton original painting of his famous hobo character was the centerpiece and was bathed in a gentle light from just above by a small portrait light. He told Flick that it served to remind Him that regardless of His position, He had come from humble beginnings. It kept Him grounded and mindful of others.

"One of these days Sir, I'm going to surprise You!"

"Just make sure that you tell Me ahead of time alright?"

"Certianly Sir....uh...WAITAMINNUT!"

"Ha ha! Got you again!" He said as Flick's orb turned a slight shade of red. "So...what's on the agenda for today?"

"Well, for starters, Michael and Tantrus need a reprimand."

"Oh nonsense! They were just blowing off a little steam. After all, neither one of them really got to see any action in that mess in Hell."

"I hardly think that brawling with a drunken choir of angels in a bar befits those in Your service. You have a reputation to uphold and their actions are hardly representative of Your office."

"Ok Flick, I'll have a talk with them." He said reluctantly.

"You knew they hung the entertainer from a lamp post outside the bar didn't You?"

God chuckled. "I would have given anything to see Elvis hanging in the air like that......hehe."

"Well HE didn't think it was so funny! His Royal Fatness has threatened to file an action with the musicians union for damages."

"Send him a new sequined outfit with My compliments, that should take care of it. Oh and send him a ten pound box of chocolates, six fried chickens and a bucket of gravy and mashed potatoes. If that wont shut him up, nothing will."

"I'm certian he and his colon will thank you Sir!" Flick replied in an exaspirated tone. Then added without thought; "I need a vacation."

"That's a great idea Flick! You certianly have earned one. Why don't you take a couple of weeks off?"

"B-b-but Sir! The word has no real meaning to me....I only used it as a metaphor."

"You mean to tell me that you have NEVER taken a vacation in all the time you have served this position?"

Flick seemed a bit flushed at this personal revelation. "Well, there was that one time where I lost a day after having a bit too much to drink and I wound up on Earth in a rather embarrassing position with a street lamp."

"Ok....um...that's a picture I could do without. In any event, I want you to take a couple of weeks off and relax." Before Flick could register a complaint He added, "And THAT'S an order!"

"Uh....very .....well....Sir."

Before he knew what hit him, Flick found himself outside the house and the door closed firmly behind him.

"Well, that was interesting." He said as he walked towards....where the hell was he going again?

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After giving Flick his much deserved time off, I decided that it was going to be a bit much running the day to day operations without some kind of assistant. I left the comfort of the house and started walking towards City Hall. Glancing at My freshly trimmed yard and hedges, I noticed that the new gardner had missed a spot.

"Starting to feel more like home every day!" I chuckled to myself.

The day was starting off fairly well. Several citizens were up and about preparing for the days activities. A fair number of Cherubs were flitting about outside the Post Office in anticipation of delivering the days mail and Gabriel, in a snit as usual, took his post at the gates to begin the morning intake of new souls.

"Good morning to you Gabe!"

Gabriel had not seen Me coming up behind him and at the sound of My voice, promptly fell off his chair with a scream that sounded vaguely like someone's kid sister. He had been fairly jumpy since that bizarre incident involving the two priests and a hooker a few years back.

"Oh! Good morning to you Sir! Terribly sorry about that but, well, You know sir."

"I think you have suffered long enough Gabriel." I laughed. Gently, I reached out and touched his forehead. Immiediately, his demeanor changed and the fear left him.

"Well now.....that's a load off! Would you care to observe for a bit today Sir?"

"Perhaps later Gabe. Im off to the Heavenly Temp Agency to find a replacement for Flick." And without another word, I turned and headed towards my destination. This, as I would later come to find out, was the worst mistake I could have possible made.

Gabriel had a really big mouth and like his horn, blew it as loudly as he could to anyone that would listen. *****************************

Flick had walked for quite awhile before realizing that he had absolutely no idea of where he was going. When he finally started to take note of his surroundings he found that he had floated all the way to the edge of Purgatory. Nearly half a day had passed him by without knowing it.

"Oh that's just great! Perhaps I can just WALK AROUND FOR TWO WEEKS!" He yelled at no one in particular. He continued in the same direction towards Purgatory, deciding at last to visit The Keeper.

It had been some time since he last spent any time with Peeper The Keeper. One of the more interesting personalities Flick had encountered in his many years of service to Heaven to be sure. For the most part, Peeper was humanoid in appearance but with an enlarged head containing fifteen sets of eyes. Hence the name.....Peeper. It took every one of those eyes to keep watch on the mischevious souls in Purgatory. Flicks previous encounters with Peeper had been relatively pleasant but his personal tastes always seemed to be something of a nuisance. He liked to listen to modern music when at work...oftentimes at a decible level that rattled God's teeth. Flick had been dispatched more than once to Purgatory to tell The Keeper to turn down the volume. As he approached the entrance he knew that today was not going to be any different.

Flick arrived in Peepers office just in time to catch the guitar solo from Metallica's Master Of Puppets. Peeper was in the center of a massive room full of television screens which showed every nook and crannie of Purgatory. The Keeper watched dutifully while at the same time in the middle of a full tilt head bang, his long rock star like hair touching the floor with each whip of his enlarged head. Every now and then, Peeper would stop to speak into a microphone to warn one of the spirits or touch a button. Even though Flick could not make out what was being said due to the volume, he knew that the microphone was magically enhanced so as not to pick up anything but the sound of The Keepers voice.

Peeper was a firm but fair Keeper of Purgatory. Every now and then a spirit would have to be sent to Hell because of his or her history of inappropriate behavior. Purgatory was a place for souls who were right in the middle...neither good nor bad...that still had a chance of redeeming themselves. Whenever a special assignment was needed on earth, often God would call on one of the Purgatorials to complete the mission and thus, earn their entry through the Pearly Gates. Failure did not necessarilly mean an automatic ejection to Hell. Often the soul was returned to Purgatory to await another chance at redemption somewhere down the line.

Flick moved closer to the center of the room. Without warning the music stopped mid scream and he realized that he had tripped some kind of alarm which alerted the Keeper to anyones presence in the room other than himself. Peeper turned quickly, turning all thirty of his eyes towards Flick and after realizing that there was no danger greeted Flick enthusiastically.

"Flickster! Wow dude.....been a long time amigo!"

"Last time it was the Beach Boys if memory serves me correctly."

"California Girls my little party ball. You live up to your rep as always. Mind like a steel trap. So....what brings you to my neck o' the woods buddy? Music too loud again?"

"No...no....just thought I would come by for a visit. I have some spare time on my hands and decided that since I was in your um...neck of the woods......"

"You would stop by and pay your old compadre a visit huh?" He finished.

Flick had been glancing at the monitors and noticed something odd. "Um...Peeper....it looks like General Patton is mounting another attack on Marie Antoinette."

Peeper turned to look at the monitor and grabbed the microphone. "General...I have told you that Marie is off limits. Please remove your hands from her Western Front and put the troops back in the barn or else."

Patton simply held up a white flag signaling his surrender and walked away in defeat.

"Thanks Flickster. Nice to have a spare pair of eyes once in awhile."

"Yes....well....always nice to be of service."

"Marie is so out of his league anyway."

"Perhaps you should set her up with a nice baker?" Flicks reference to Marie's famous "let them eat cake" line seemed to escape Peeper's sense of humor.

"So...You hungry? I got some wicked tunafish in the fridge."

Flick thought for a moment and replied. "Sure...I could eat a bite. Got any beer to wash it down with?"

"Always stocked for those unexpected visitors. Can't have a party without the brew dude!"

Three beers later Flick was thinking about a cute little street lamp back on earth.

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As the morning progressed, I was still no closer to finding a suitable temp for Flick while he was on vacation. Finding someone who understood the cosmic significance of keeping balance in the universe was a daunting task indeed.

It suddenly occured to me that I had been approaching this all wrong. Certianly, there had to have been someone in the position prior to Flicks creation, however My memory was still incomplete in some matters. The former incarnation of My position ( I still hesitated to use the word "God") had only given Me what he felt necessary to get Me through the coming crisis when he went on vacation. Now that the crisis had been abated, he had decided to extend his vacation even longer and took my earthly mother along with him for the ride. Perhaps he thought that when I saw him, I might have a mind to perform some bodilly harm upon his person and was hesitant to return. In this respect, he was absolutely correct.

My mother had always been a strange bird to say the least. My father had passed at a very young age and Mom hardly waited for the corpse to cool before starting to look for a relacement. They were not very happy together and Mom, ever the practical one, decided that it was what Dad would have wanted. After interviewing several likely candidates, she settled on an investment banker from Chicago and we settled down just outside Joliette.

Ben was a good man and never shirked his duties to My mother or Me. Sometimes it seemed that Mom had married him because he was so much like her. Practical to a fault and dutiful as well. Between the two of them, they taught Me the value of a hard days work and encouraged me to follow my dreams whatever they may be. In retrospect, it was a good arrangement. Never really having much memory of a real father, Ben filled the gap admirably and I always thought of him as my Dad. Sadly, we lost Ben while on a family outing in the Adriondaks after My final year in college. While skiing down a black slope, he had misjudged a jump....by about five hundred feet. Practical did not always mean overly intelligent.

Having formulated this new approach to the situation, I went to the desk of the registrar and asked to see the ancient records. The young woman in charge politely directed me to a dusty room which held, among other things, the lost Ark Of The Covenant as well as many other highly sought after earthly religious artifacts which were either created or inspired by My office.

"Indiana Jones eat your heart out!"

"Indiana who Sir?"

"Indiana Jones. A fictional character created by two of earth's finest directors and made into a trillogy of movies. You do watch movies around here dont you?"

"Sorry Sir. I died during the Cival War and fourty years ago wouldn't have known a movie from a German Shepherd."

"So how do you know about German Shepherds?"

"Rin Tin Tin works for the post office."

"And he didn't tell you about his movies?"

She seemed amused at this question. "Uh...no Sir....he's a dog."

Apparantly dogs couldn't talk even in Heaven.

"Ah! Gotcha. Well, Im going to have to institute a movie night in the park so everyone can see what they have been missing."

"If You think it's important Sir."

Seeing that I was not going to impress her with things beyond her own experience and noting the lack of desire to learn anything new, I dismissed her to her duties. I silently wondered how many other souls here in Heaven were similarly uninspired.

"Flick, make a note to...." I said aloud suddenly realizing My mistake and laughing at My foolishness.

Normally, at the sound of his name, Flick would instantly "pop" into being before Me ready to undertake anything that was asked of him. I had severed that connection when I ordered him to take his vacation.

"Now to the business at hand." I said as I reached for a very old volume that appeared to be an autobiography entitled My Life With The Big Guy by Socrates. As soon as I touched the book, I absorbed the contents and knew instantly that I had found a suitable temp for Flick.

Amazing! THE Socrates. I was finally going to meet one of My earthly idols. Having studied Philosophy in college, this was an opportunity too good to pass up.

My thesis at the university focused on the trial of Socrates. As history tells us, in 399 B.C. the philosopher drank a potion of hemlock after being convicted of corrupting the youth of ancient Greece with his teachings as well as another charge of refusing to do reverence to the gods recognized by the city. I had attempted to answer some of the many questions surrounding the trial itself and presented evidence gathered mostly through the Applolgies of Plato and Xenophon, two of his most noted students who were present at the trial. In ancient Greek the word "appology" means "defense." Xenophon tells us in his appology that Socrates' inner voice prevented him from making his defense against the charges and remained silent during his trial. My summation was that Socrates wanted others to come forward in his defense after a life devoted to his homeland but that since none of them stepped forward to argue his case, his embitterment kept him silent. It was a good concept and I was given high marks for my research and presentation.

Having located his spiritual energy, I transported to the Greek section of Heaven. My first action upon arrival was to change form to something a bit less intrusive. The ancient Greeks were a cagy lot and many still refused to accept the concept of a singular entity which ruled the heavens. Even though many had been here for a few thousand years, some still believed in the existance of Zeus and the other Greek gods. Ignorance, apparantly, was not a crime which prevented entrance through the gates.

Not long after assuming My position, Flick had brought Me here as part of the grand tour. Many of the ancient traditions were still being practiced but after some lengthy discussions and a threat to send the lot of the practicioners to Purgatory, I put My foot down on animal sacrafices. They might not believe that I was the One God but when I waved my hand and their version of the Parthenon disappeared, they were more inclined to listen to reason and accept the decree. After that incident, I had tried to stay away from this particular section and looked to Flick to keep me updated on the situation there.

I narrowed my search for Socrates and located him inside a nearby establishment. The sign above, translated from the Greek, said "Plato's Pub" and the words below advertised "Best roasted goat in the afterlife."

"This should be interesting." I sighed to no one in particular.

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