Want humor, speculative fiction, and part of the Christmas story all at once? “Fun with Humans” is it.
Fun with Humans
by S. A. Miller
Dragons, Knights, & Angels, April, 2007
John the Baptist touched Bob’s shoulder. “Watch this.”
Bob’s wasn’t paying attention. He was chewing with his eyes closed. “This is amazing. I never liked plums on Earth. These are delicious.”
“Yo. Bob. Here. Ooooover here.
Bob washed his hands in the Water of Life River.
“Oh, never mind. Too late. He’s gone.”
Wiping his hands on his t-shirt, Bob caught John’s look. “What? Isn’t washing hands in the river okay?”
John shook his head, chuckling. “Hey, Ariel! This guy just asked me about manners.”
The angel laughed. “You? You’re nothin’ but an old bug-eater. What do you know about manners?”
“That’s what I think. Hey, Bob. Just wipe your hands on your jeans. I do it all the time.”
“This is so cool,” said Bob. “I’m in heaven, and John the Baptist tells me to wipe my hands on my jeans.”
“What were you expecting?”
“Um…a robe and a harp?”
“Riiight. Oh–there’s someone you gotta meet.”
“You’ve been saying that for the last…” Bob looked at his wrist. “Hey, how long have we been here, anyway? I left my watch behind.”
John pulled Bob by the arm and nodded to an angel with a dark complexion and enough muscles to tip a cow. “Hey Gabe. This is Bob. Bob, this is Gabriel.”
Bob stared at the angel. “Gabriel? You’re one of the big boys, aren’t you?”
Gabriel looked sidelong at John. “How long has he been here?”
“Uh-huh. Has he learned the truth about halos yet, has he?”
“No, he’s really new. Tell him the story of my parents.”
“That is a good one. But I think I’ve told it too many times.”
“You love telling that story, and you know it.”
“Well…okay! Come right over here.” Gabriel snapped his fingers. Three recliners appeared on the grass, under a pair of coconut palms, by the river.
Bob’s jaw dropped. “You have recliners in heaven?”
“Yeah, the place has been popping with new inventions since the Japanese, American, and German engineers got over the shock of finding each other here.”
“They like working on stuff like that? It doesn’t sound much like heaven to me.”
“It is to them. They’ve been like kids playing with the seventeenth dimension. Have a seat. John, you can stand.”
John sat in the third recliner. “Thanks, Gabe. I love you, too.”
“Humor!” shouted Bob. “We have fun, backslapping humor in heaven! This is great! I think I’ve…died and gone to heaven!” Bob guffawed.
John groaned. “That joke is so old.”
“Yeah,” said the angel, “but that didn’t stop you from telling it when you got here.” He cleared his throat, and started his story.
Zach and Lizzy lived two thousand years ago in the land of Israel. The temple still stood back then. Zach was a priest, and a good one, too. The priests cast a lot to find out who would burn incense—
“They cast a lot of what?” asked Bob.
Gabriel glanced at John. “He interrupted.”
John grinned. “He did, didn’t he?”
“I get the arms!” Gabriel grabbed Bob’s arms, and John grabbed his feet. They swung Bob back and forth and threw him into the river. When they sat down in their chairs, the angel spoke a word, and three tables appeared. On each of them stood a tall glass of lemonade.
Laughing, Bob walked out of the river and sat in his recliner. “So…now that you’ve dunked me, you guys mind answering the question? What did they cast a lot of?”
“An Israelite ‘lot,’ was like American dice,” said John.
“They decided things by rolling dice? I thought Zach was a good priest.”
“I don’t get it.”
John took a sip of his lemonade. “Nope. That’s okay. Understanding won’t come all at once. Let Gabe finish his story.”
The angel picked up where he stopped.
As soon as old Ananais cast the lot, I gave it a good spin to make it fall to Zach—
“Wait,” said John, “You said once that it took you three days to get that spin right.”
“Did I say that?”
Gabriel looked at Bob, raising his eyebrows.
At that moment, Bob knew he would have an eternity of fun with the angel. “John interrupted, didn’t he?”
“Are you thinking what I am?”
“I get the arms!”
Gabriel and Bob carried John the Baptist to the river and threw him in. They sat back down, the angel spoke another word, and a second lemonade appeared on Bob’s table.
When John returned, Bob said, “Let my buddy Gabe here finish his story.”
John nodded. “Right. You learn fast. I think you’ll like it here.”
Gabriel continued the story.
The lot fell to Zach to burn incense. God had already told me with a wink that Zach’s heart was fine, so I stayed invisible at first. When Zach finished his job, I popped out from behind the altar of incense. I turned myself visible, and said, “Boo!” The old guy jumped straight up into the air like a cat. He must’ve cleared more than a cubit. It was hilarious.
I told him not to be afraid. By the time he realized the joke was on him he had settled into a pretty sour mood. But I was about to give one of the best one-liners of all time, and I wasn’t about to let him spoil it. I could hear God chuckling even as I said it. I told ol’ Zach that his ancient wife Lizzy was going to have a baby.
Zach snorted. “Uh-huh,” he said. The permanent account doesn’t record it, but that’s what he said. I was there.
I continued giving Zach the rest of the message, about what kind of person John here would become, and I watched ol’ Zach’s face the whole time. He didn’t believe the story any more than Sarah did millennia earlier. Humans just don’t have a good sense of history, you know.
So I had to give Zach the bad news. He’d be tongue-tied for a while. He tried to protest, but of course he couldn’t say anything at the moment. His face just knotted up into a wrinkly old ball. When he came out of the temple to face the people, they knew something was up. He’d been in there a long time, and then he couldn’t say a peep. He started making motions, and someone said, “Charades!”
Zach nodded. He held up one finger.
“One word,” said several people in the crowd.
Zach tucked his thumbs under his arms and flapped his arms. It was the most ludicrous impression I’ve ever seen of angel wings.
“Chicken!” said a boy named Lucas. “You’re a chicken!”
The impression really did look more like a chicken than an angel.
Zach waved his hands no, and tried again.
“Flying. You were flying in the temple!”
Zach fixed a look on the boy that would’ve vaporized Wormtongue.
Lucas simply looked up innocently at the priest and smiled. “Give me another hint.”
Zach spotted me in a corner at that moment. He pointed at me. “Hrmmm! Hrm hrm hrm!”
Everyone in the crowd turned. I had my wings folded neatly away under my tunic, and I wasn’t about to get them back out. I looked like any other Jew. The crowd didn’t know who or what Zach was pointing at.
Zach stomped his feet and walked in a circle. That grabbed everyone’s attention. “You’re an ox!” said Lucas. “You’re an ox turning the stone at the millwheel!”
Zach waved his hands no again. He pulled his ear.
“Sounds like…” said fifty people.
Zach thought. Clearly he hadn’t thought what the word “angel” sounded like. He stood thinking a long time.
The crowd started thinning out. “Mommy,” said Lucas, “the funny priest doesn’t play charades very well.”
“Come along,” said his mother. “Let’s leave the funny priest alone.”
The months that followed went by especially well for Lizzy. She was tickled enough being old and pregnant, but having a silent husband at the same time was hilarious. When Mary came to visit, they not only had the time to speak without interruption, they even figured out how to do it in verse.
Finally Lizzy gave birth to John. You could tell ol’ Zach was expecting to speak at the moment the boy was born. But Zach couldn’t speak any more at that moment than he could the day before. The look on his wrinkly, old face was enough to make God laugh. Have you ever heard God snort?
There was some scuttlebutt about what John’s name would be. Zach’s family and friends came to ask Zach, but you know what they did? Instead of speaking to him, they made signs to him! That was hilarious! He could hear fine. Why didn’t they just speak to him? You humans are just too much.
So Zach made signs for a tablet, and he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately he could speak again.
Then God prophesied through Zach. Isn’t God good? The funny thing was that Zach had been listening to Lizzy and Mary speak in verse so long that he actually prophesied in verse.
Lizzy didn’t have any more peace until the day Zach died.
Gabriel took a sip of his lemonade. “So what do you think?”
A voice behind them, “I think it’s my turn to tell the story.”
Gabriel turned his head. “Uh, hi Zach.”
Zach’s risen body was no longer old. He had resurrected into the prime of youth. He snapped his fingers, and a fourth recliner appeared. As he settled into it, he said, “As I recall–”
Gabriel hurriedly drank the rest of his lemonade. “Well, I think I should be going along. It’s been fun, guys.”
Zach said, “Gabriel interrupted my story.”
John looked at Bob. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Get him!” bellowed Zach.
“I get the hands!” yelled Bob.