Not A Prayer Of A Chance

“No, Sariel, we don’t need any more angels in the choir, thank you for asking!”  Gabriel quickened his pace, hurrying down the golden hallway, his robe trailing the floor as his wings brushed the ceiling.

Sariel hurried to keep up.  “Then…how about messenger duty?  Surely there are some humans who could use some revelation!  I work well with others!”  Gabriel gave him a look, then kept going.  “Guardian angel duty?  I’m not picky—you could put me with anyone, even, you know, THAT guy.  You know the one.”  Still no response.  “Substitute seraphim?  Angel of death?  Polish the gold in the streets?  Come on here!”

Gabriel came to a sudden halt at a door that was banded with gold and studded with gems.  He turned to face the other angel.  “Sariel,” he said, “I promise you, we have the perfect job for you.  You’ll love it!”  And he reached a hand out to the side and pushed the door open.

Sariel stepped inside and gave a cautious look around.  Gabriel stepped in behind him.  The room was spacious, but empty except for a desk and chair.  “What will I be doing here?”

“Oh, it’s a simple job.  A very necessary one, too, I should say.  You see, when prayers come in from Earth, of course some of them are just frivolous.  It’s a waste of the Master’s time to have to deal with that, and so…well, we…weed them out.”

Sariel frowned.  “Really?  What do you mean?”

Gabriel smiled.  “Well, we bring the prayers into this room, and we look through them, and we find the ones that are worthwhile, and we pass them on to the Master.  We simply toss out the ones that don’t merit forwarding.  It’s really a simple task, suitable for just one angel.  You’ll be fine.”

Sariel appeared to be confused.  “And what determines if a prayer is not worthwhile?”

“Oh, well, little things.  Look at what it’s asking!  “Heal my sick grandma”—that’s a worthwhile one.  “Let me win the lottery”, or, my personal favorite, “Let my team win this tournament”—those can be tossed.  You understand?”

Sariel nodded.  “I suppose so.  But, I don’t see any prayers—“  He winced as Gabriel stuck two fingers in his mouth and gave a piercing whistle; and then, his jaw dropped, as one angel after another began carrying in large boxes.  Box after box after box, piled high with pages.  “These are the prayers?” he demanded, staring incredulously at Gabriel.

“Yes, well, there do seem to be a lot of them today,” Gabriel said breezily, “but I’m sure you’ll be fine!”  Then he ducked out the door.

Sariel shouted after him, “But what is this all about?  What is going on on Earth to cause so many prayers?!”

He didn’t expect an answer, but got one anyway.  Gabriel’s head appeared around the door frame, narrowly missing an incoming angel with a box.  “World Cup season!” he said, and vanished again.

***

Sariel sat at the desk, fuming, as he worked through the last pages in one of the boxes.  “Let’s see, we have “I need a new car,” followed by a “let my team win this game!”  Urgh.  Then we have a “My puppy has cancer”—aww—and three more “let my team win”.  Then, last of all, five more “Let my team win”!  Aghhhh!”  He tossed the last stack into the air and shoved the box off the other side of the desk, then slumped over it with his chin in his hand.  “Well, THAT was discouraging!       And that was only the first of…” he looked around at the room, now stacked to the ceiling with boxes.  “The first of I have no idea how many boxes!”

He stared around the room, and a thought occurred to him.  “You know, I bet…”  He leaped to his feet and grabbed another box.  He began pulling pages at random, tossing them over his shoulder as soon as he read them.  “Soccer.  Soccer.  World Cup.  Soccer.  Soccer!  Oh, look, here’s a “let me make it til payday”, that’s a good one.  Aaaaaand more soccer!”  In a fit of pique, he threw the box to the floor.  “Okay, THIS has got to stop!”  Grabbing a stack  of pages from another box, he marched out of the room and down the corridor.

The hallways grew more ornate.  Gold became less, well, golden, and more and more clear, until it shone like glass.  Gemstones became larger and more ornate.  More and more angels came and went.  From up ahead, seraphic singing could be heard.  Finally, at the ultimate end of the hallway, he stopped at an enormous, incalculably beautiful double door.  Papers in hand, he pushed it open.

The Master always appeared in the way He chose, tailoring it to the one who was approaching Him.  When Sariel opened the doors, he found himself in another office, one much larger and more ornate than his own, but warm and welcoming.  The Master sat with his back to the door, wearing the appearance of a kindly old man with spectacles; he turned and looked over His shoulder as Sariel entered.  “Come in, Sariel.  What can I do for you?”

Sariel nodded respectfully, and approached—carefully; one wasn’t casual in the Master’s presence.  “Master,” he said, “I have been assigned to screen your incoming prayers.  I wanted to speak with you about the job.”

“I see.”  The Master tipped his spectacles forward and gazed at Sariel over them.  “It seems dull, does it?  Would you like to be reassigned?”

“No, Sir,” Sariel began, “I mean—yes, but I wouldn’t—well.”  He paused and took a breath.  “Sir, it is not that the job is dull, although it is.  I don’t mind serving as you command.  Rather, it’s the magnitude of the job.”  He held out the papers.  “This is but a tiny fraction of what I am facing right now.  I will never keep up.  And I can’t help but think that the load is usually much lighter!”

“Ah.”  The Master frowned.  “What is causing the increase, do you think?”

Sariel blushed, realizing how it must sound.  “Soccer”, he murmured.

The Master frowned again.  “Could you repeat that?  A little louder?”

“Soccer!” Sariel shouted, then jumped at the echo of his own voice.  “Sorry, Sir!”  The Master waved for him to continue.  “Sir, it’s the 2014 World Cup down there, and, and, frankly, we are flooded with sports requests!  And I don’t know how to get through them!”

“If you think this is bad, wait til the Olympics,” the Master muttered.  Then He gave a longsuffering sigh.  “Sariel,” He said, “I’ve watched you.  I know you have a good and loyal heart.  After all, I made it that way, didn’t I?”  Sariel nodded.  “I want you to succeed at this job.  It’s a great privilege, you know.  So, how about I help you out, just this once?”

Sariel gave a grateful smile.  “I would be very thankful, Sir.”

“Alright.”  He made a “give-me” gesture.  Sariel glanced down at the papers in his hand, and hastily stepped forward to hand them off.  “Here’s what I’ll do,” the Master said, and he licked a thumb and began to flip through the pages.  “I’ll pick one of these soccer requests, and I’ll answer it…and when I’m done, no one will be even thinking about praying about the World Cup for a while.”  He flipped through the pages until one caught his eye, and  then pulled it out and showed it to Sariel.  “How’s this one?”

Sariel squinted at it.  “Sir, I don’t read German—“

The Master waved a hand.  “You do now.”

Sariel nodded, and looked again; then his eyes widened.  “Wow!  Uh, yes, sir, that would DEFINITELY do the job!”

“I thought so,” the Master said.  “Why don’t you go take a moment and check it out?  I think you’ll be pleased.”

***

“—THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!  GERMANY DESTROYS BRAZIL, SEVEN GOALS TO ONE!  FIVE GOALS IN THE FIRST TWENTY-NINE MINUTES!  I CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE THE NUMBER OF RECORDS THAT HAVE BEEN BROKEN HERE TODAY—“

The man at the bar hit the button on the remote, and the screen went dark, cutting off the commentator.  “Well,” he declared, “that’s that.  Nobody else has a prayer of winning the Cup now!”

***

Sariel sat at his desk, humming to himself.  The mountains of boxes were gone; only a very respectable three boxes remained to be sorted.  All’s well that ends well, he thought to himself—and then the door flew open, and angels carrying boxes came flooding in.  Sariel leaped to his feet, shocked, and then saw another angel walk in, unladen but wearing a sour look.  “Ithuriel?” he said.  “What’s going on?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know, Sariel,” Ithuriel growled.  “You did this, you know.”

“But…but, the Master determined the outcome of the Cup!  All the extraneous prayers sorted themselves!”

“Who said anything about prayers?” Ithuriel said.  “These boxes are full of South American profanity!  Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to need that desk.”

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