Strong Roots Amongst The Clay

Clay Boy

Once there was a kindly woman who was known all about the town as Lovely Lucy, not so much for her appearance, for she was endowed with plain features—which wasn’t a bad thing at all—but she was called this because she was arguably one of the sweetest people who ever walked the face of the planet. The only parts of her life that suffered were her love life and her inability to bear children.

One morning, Lucy went to market and spoke with the town sculptor, who made statues large and small, some for himself and some which he sold. Lucy hadn’t much money so she explained what she wanted to do and begged the sculptor to spare some clay and promised to pay him another day. The sculptor remembered how Lucy had brought soup and sat by his bedside when he had taken ill, and gladly gave her as much of his special clay as she could carry, free of charge.

Thanking the sculptor for his kindness, Lucy rushed home and began working on a life-sized statue of a boy, aged five. She made the little boy perfect. His reddish-brown features depicted an unblemished beauty and innocence such as no real boy had ever possessed. Although she had no skill at sculpting, she crafted the statue with such love that upon first glance it seemed to be a live boy standing still. She took great care in painting her little angel, making his eyes blue like the sky, his lips and cheeks pink like the sunset and his hair black as twilight.

Lucy marveled at her creation. She held his little clay hand, kissed his rosy cheek, and told him many times a day how much she loved him. When she went out to market, he was always in her mind, and she searched for presents for him – flat, smooth rocks for skipping across the lake, seashells for tooting like horns, and twigs and vines woven into a ball. She bartered her baked goods for hand-me-down children’s clothing and dressed him in different outfits each day. She even brought him a puppy from the neighbor’s litter for company while she was away.

Lucy was not able to manage the other part of her suffering as easily. For reasons unknown to anyone, she attracted the wrong sort of suitors and was far too kind of heart to dismiss them, despite their many transgressions against her. It pained the townsfolk to see a woman so intelligent in all other respects remain so foolish in love.

Her most recent failed relationship was with a traveler who suspected her of being unfaithful one day when she had gone out to market, so he barred her from her own house and drew obscene pictures of her and posted them about town. Lucy begged and pleaded with the traveler and after a week or so, he changed his opinion and let her back into her home to be reunited with her clay boy.

That evening the traveler fixed her dinner and his mouth was sweet with words of love and a possible reconciliation. Cautious at first, Lucy finally let her guard fall, assured that his feelings and his intentions were genuine. That was the last thing she remembered before she awoke the following afternoon, face down in her bedding. She felt groggy and her body ached in unspeakable places as though she had been violated. She knew she had been drugged.

Lucy reported the incident to the authorities. The traveler confronted her in public, on the road from the market, after the authorities questioned him. Wishing to avoid an argument, she simply turned to walk away. Her next waking recollection was being bound to a chair in her home. The traveler had struck her a cowardly blow to the back of the head. She was helpless as he raged against her with rock and branch. But fortune smiled upon her when a neighbor heard her cries of anguish and contacted the authorities. This time, he was imprisoned.

From his prison cell, the traveler requested an audience with Lucy, and she, having a forgiving nature, went to visit. And his tongue was dipped in honey and he spoke sweetness and there was yet again talk of a possible reconciliation, which she honestly considered.

All was calm and happy between Lucy and the traveler when he was once again a free man. They sat together and talked, went out to the seashore and walked, and the traveler also lavished attention on the clay boy. All seemed right with the world and Lucy’s life was as close to being perfect as it had ever been.

Until one night she bolted upright out of a sound sleep and found the traveler standing over her, eyes doused in rage.

“I know you play me for a fool!” He spat through gritted teeth. “I know you have taken a lover! Who is it? The neighbor? The sculptor? Tell me who it is or you will never know a moment’s peace ever again!”

When she did not answer, he stormed out of the room and Lucy hoped he would leave the house but instead the sound of his thunderous footsteps headed in the direction of her private room—the room where the clay boy lived.

“No!” she cried as she dashed from her bed.

In the private room, she found the traveler with the wood axe resting over one shoulder. He stood next to her perfect little boy.

“Shhh,” he said. “If you wake him up, I will have to kill him.”

Lucy hadn’t a clue what to do so she started begging for the statue’s life, whispering as not to anger the traveler.

“What can I do?” she kept asking him. “What can I do to make this right?”

The traveler commanded her to her knees and she did this without a second thought. “Down on all fours.” And she complied. Then he made her crawl from the room backward, back into her bedroom.

“Now, on your knees,” he said, closing the door behind him. “Close your eyes and smile.” She was nervous, of course, but she obeyed. The next thing she felt was the ax handle as it smashed into her mouth, shattering her front teeth.

“Your life is mine! Your sad statue is mine! You both will cease to exist if I so wish it!” the traveler ranted.

She felt his foot on her shoulder, pushing her over, toppling her flat on her back. She wanted to look at him but was afraid, so she squeezed her eyes shut as he straddled her and beat her. Her head swam with pain, but Lucy knew she couldn’t scream for fear of this madman destroying her little boy, so she took the beating until she passed out.

Lucy dreamed she that she was an eagle soaring through clouds misted with morning dew above a river where children frolicked and although she was too high to hear the sounds of their tiny voices, she knew they were happy and having fun. But something tugged at her tail feathers like a dragging weight, pulling her back down to a place she did not want to go, a place of pain and sorrow—

When she woke up, regaining consciousness piece by piece, she was surrounded by the sharp claws of searing pain that pawed at her like a hungry animal. As her mind struggled for clarity she wondered where she was. In her bed? But how did she get there?

All around, the walls were covered in blood, so much blood. Too much to be her own. Then she saw the bits and pieces. Parts that belonged at one time to a whole, red soaked clumps of the remnants of the traveler. Divided from one another and from life itself by the wood ax buried in the man’s severed head.

She looked at her hands. Had she done this terrible thing? Then she heard a voice, tiny tingly, that chirped in song, “Not to worry, not to fear, everything is fine, Mama, I am here.”

She stared at a living boy whose eyes were blue as the sky, cheeks the color of the sunset and hair as black as twilight.

He hugged her neck and kissed her cheek and whispered, “I love you, too.”

©1989 & 2017 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

About Strong Roots Amongst the Clay: As a kid I never had much interest in fairy tales. In fact, I hated them. My mother told me that someone had given her a book about Squanto, also known as Tisquantum—the Native American of the Patuxet tribe who assisted the Pilgrims after their first winter in the New World—thinking it was a book of fairy tales. And where Mother Goose and The Brothers Grimm failed to put me at rest at night, the adventures of Squanto did the job nicely.

And I wouldn’t fully appreciate the cultural richness and power of fairy tales until revisiting them in the 1980’s. For the longest time I searched for something to spark an idea for a fairy tale story that I probably would never bother writing—there’s a difference between the wanting of a thing and the doing of a thing.

Then one day a story was relayed to me about a coworker at a retail job that I absolutely hated and the first thought that popped into my mind—after showing proper concern for my coworker, of course—was to give my fairy tale story a spin.

At the time I wrote the story, I wasn’t a fan of the fairy tale narration. I didn’t like reading it and I didn’t like writing it. I’m still not a big fan of a lot of the story’s voice,  but finally sitting down and writing a fairy tale piece taught me appreciation of it.

I’m still not sure if I like the ending or not. There’s a fine line between chilling and cheesy and I’m not sure which side I’m on.

So What’s The Deal With Deal Breakers?

Welcome back to the Infobahn Chronicle Channel! My name is Kari R. Wade and I’m coming to you live from the internet with our ongoing discussion regarding dating. Tonight’s topic: Deal breakers.

We all have’ em. You know, the things that are absolute turn-offs even if they come wrapped in the prettiest packages.

I have several and they’re all fairly obvious:

  1. Racism
  2. Sexism
  3. Cruelty to kids
  4. Liars (I won’t deal with them, but it takes me damn near forever to spot those sons-of-bitches!)
  5. People incapable of forming a logical argument (although I might keep them around for a laugh, because, you know, they’re fun to tease)

What about you? What are yours? What about a person would make you immediately cut them out of your prospective mates/friends list without a doubt?

And we have our first caller. Go ahead, you’re on the air:

BMWbird: Deal breakers? Here we go:

Atheists. Anyone carrying on about Christianity and how it’s irrational (read whining). Anything other than heterosexual males who were born (and stayed) males. Anyone who’s “experimented” with anyone of the same sex. Anyone who’s poly anything. Anyone who’s status is anything other than completely single. Anyone who’s against monogamy. Anyone who thinks marriage is nothing more than a paper contract (read people who are happy to shack up for life). Anyone who’s racist. Anyone with more than 1 kid (and even that’s pushing it). Anyone who’s for abortion (read excuse for not taking responsibility for the potential outcome of having sex).

cherrie_pi: Deal breakers: Super religious (of any variety), lack of compassion for the earth and all its creatures (including humans), lacking a sense of humor, conservative politics, liars, and hypocrites.

Cindyplex: Cherrie, is that for ALL friends, or just potential mates? I get the feeling you won’t like me much.  No big deal. Not everyone can be buddies.  But notice there is overlap. Just curiosity though, how do you feel about Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater?

cherrie_pi: @Cindy – Real (US) “conservatives” are people with whom one can debate and disagree, but they still believe in following the Constitution and laws.  The current batch of NeoCons are hardly “conservative”.  I bought and read John Dean’ Conservatives Without  Conscience, and read Paul Craig Roberts’ columns all the time. Goldwater (at the time) was far too conservative; now he would be seen as a moderate. Sad, truly sad.

Whippets: My dbs:

Extreme cockiness: Not to be confused with self-confidence (bringing this up before someone else does).  It’s one thing to have good self-esteem, it’s another to be extremely cocky to the point where you won’t pay attention to anything that doesn’t have ‘you’ in the equation.

Imposing beliefs: Having an opinion is nice.  Intellectual discourse and good conversation/debate are also healthy.  However, trying to force your beliefs on me is not.  I don’t like anyone who tries to give me ultimatums on how I need to live my life.  Fear tactics, anger, and this type of behavior will make me lose any/all respect for you.  I’ve made my choices about things in life, and while they may change, that’s solely at my discretion.   I don’t impose my beliefs on others, I expect the same respect in return.

Drama: If you can’t talk out an issue with me in a respectful manner, constantly start arguments, bring my personal business into my workplace/family life/friends, start tantrums, cry, make small issues big ones etc.. I won’t have time for you.  I understand that arguments can occur, and problems do happen at times:  I don’t need it as a constant thing.

Clingyness: Anyone who is clingy to the point where they can’t let me breathe.  I need to have my free time, interests, life and space.

Being close-minded: I understand if someone’s not into certain aspects.  If you can’t respect certain facts about me (I’m an atheist and vegetarian), then I really want nothing to do with you.  Like I said before, I don’t impose my beliefs on others, I expect the same thing in return (I don’t care if you’re a vegetarian or not btw). 

Animal Abuse: If you don’t love/respect animals it’s just not going to happen: This is a serious deal breaker for me.  I’m spending all my time in college in order to help animals.  It’s my passion – you break an animal in any way and I break your face.

Lying: If you can’t be honest with me, then there’s no reason to be dating. Be direct and honest. I extend this courtesy to everyone. I was already lied to by my ex in the worse possible manner: I REFUSE to ever go through that again.

Intelligence/Curiosity: I like people who like to discuss topics/ideas. You don’t need to be Einstein, just have an interest in discussion once in a while.

BMWbird: Add to list of deal breakers…those who think they are too grownup to just be silly on occasion… and who think I should get rid of my stuffed animal collection…

The stuffies have held me together through watching J. die, they are my buddies.  But would “they” also argue with my collection of medieval hand weapons?

woofwoof: “and who think I should get rid of my stuffed animal collection…” You admit that here? Watch out! I agree with you though. Childish is uncool. Childlike is a requirement.

BMWbird: I’m not sure I could or even *should* come up with such a list; it’s a rather cut and dried proposition. I’ve reached a point in my life where I really evaluate each person as an individual without drawing immediate lines in the sand.

It’s difficult to have an extremely high enemy score with me at this site given the number of questions for whom I made my matches’ response “irrelevant.” If I could think of even one friend or past lover who exhibited that quality or belief, I could not in good faith denounce it.

That’s not to say I don’t have a strong moral compass or personal ethics, for I do. But I would have missed out on some fascinating people in my life if I had immediately discarded them when we didn’t agree on something, even if it was somewhat important.

Example – cherrie and I have little common ground when it comes to politics. I think geography and life experience play strongly into our present views. Politics is important to me – anyone that isn’t a bit worried about this next election and the 4 years to come isn’t paying attention – but I’d miss out on so much about her that is wonderful if I were to dismiss her friendship over politics. We could talk for hours about music and countless other things over coffee, and leave Goldwater out of the conversation 🙂

People also make mistakes – it’s what we do. I want to try to give others the benefit of the doubt and hope they can extend the same courtesy to me. There are hot button areas that will get someone on my red flag list very quickly, though:

Discrimination in any form – race, gender, sexual orientation, religion

Pure cruelty to others – I have my own schadenfreud, but there is a limit on what’s funny vs what’s just outright cruel. Applies to animals as well as fellow humans

Intolerance – I’m a live and let live person for the most part as long as the above two points don’t come into play.

NailedSalon: being an Italian guido.  you know the kind… with the nasty gelled hair, thinking they’re the shit.  ew.  EW.

Monkeypants: “Discrimination in any form – race, gender, sexual orientation, religion”

I will discriminate over things you have control over.  I don’t think people have much control over those that you listed.  But being out of shape?  I will pick the person with a min amount of fitness and discriminate quite openly against a person for their choices. I will discriminate against drug abusers, drunks, and the willfully ignorant.

How does that thought grab you?

BMWbird: “But I would have missed out on some fascinating people in my life if I had immediately discarded them when we didn’t agree on something, even if it was somewhat important.”

There are 7,000,000,000 people in the world.  By spending time with someone who you don’t have a lot to earn from apparently, you are taking away from the time you can spend with others.

“being an Italian guido.  you know the kind… “

Ha!  I have a buddy like that.  Great guy when he is off the crack. But it’s like watching a cartoon or something.  Women either love the guy, or despise him. I would say that if I was a woman, I would stay FAR away.  But he and his current are a pretty cool couple.

You will notice that I did not, in fact, list attributes over which one has the ability to change. I should include age in there, given the views of some on these forums.

I understand where you’re coming from on the examples you give here. After making major steps to improve my personal health and fitness level (You haven’t even seen the true befores – they are not on FB), I find it hard to not be negative about those that won’t make a similar investment in their futures. I’ve caught myself being very judgmental since then about the lazy and obese, especially when I was at the beach last week.

Watching a 90lb 3 year-old eating fries, ice cream and hot dog(s) with a big soda (while sitting with bikini-clad 400lb mom) incensed me. Mom doesn’t respect herself, but she has now endangered her child. That’s a problem.

But I let myself get to almost 200 because I made grad school and two jobs a higher priority over my own health, so I feel it’s hypocritical for me to pass judgment on others without knowing the whole story. Seeing them eat ring dings while riding in a cart at Walmart is pretty damning, however.

Willful ignorance (see above) is also on my short list, but life is too short to call these people out. What I am finding is that by unabashedly exhibiting the qualities I find most virtuous and good in myself, this draws others to me (and vice versa) that share those views. Those that don’t tend to stay away – live and let live. Doesn’t always work in the virtual world, however. Pretty effective in the real one though.

And in response to your other point – if I didn’t learn from them, I did indeed move on. The differences helped to broaden my world view. Again, life is to short.

Fonzisgrrl: @Monkeypants – I think some of these things are factor in on a case-by-case basis.  Without understanding the entire backstory, it’s hard for me to place a discriminatory thought on someone for their problems.

I have no list; I have no pre-conditions. There are probably some types of people who are more likely to be partner material than others, but even that isn’t definitive.

ImPrecious: Individual basis for me, besides huge things like “touches children sexually,” “is abusive”, or “is a Bears fan.”

I agree with the sentiment that if I write someone off for petty things, I could be missing out on a good friend. I lean to the conservative right, several of my friends (including my 2 best friends) are both staunchly liberal left.

I think it’s childish to make a list of superficial things and say “if you do any of these, I don’t like you NYAH NYAH!”

Zamboni: “Discrimination in any form – race, gender, sexual orientation, religion”. Yeah ok, isn’t that pretty much everybody?  Are there a lot of bigots on this site?

Mine is long online dating profiles, I am willing to accept pretty much anything (well except that discrimination thing), but I am just not going to read a really long profile.

Easypickens: There are a lot of bigots everywhere. Cut them from your life, an let them know their attitude is unacceptable. Well, if they say they are gay… that’s pretty much a deal breaker!

Sportyspice21: @Zamboni – There are plenty of bigots and homophobes on this site. I don’t really interact with them, nor have any of them comes across as datable/friendable for other reasons. Hasn’t really been an issue.

Fonzisgrrl: Apparently middle aged, overweight  white guys are a deal breaker for a lot too.

Cindyplex: Being middle aged male and white is not a handicap. In fact, I think them a distinct advantage.  Overweight yes, but that is curable.

BMWbird: ^^ No, I just think there is an influx of men that meet that description on this site to compete against.

“Being middle aged male and white is not a handicap.” TRUE, I think that in the non-cyber world we live in, those attributes are actually an attractive thing!

Sportyspice21: Some friends asked me last week about prejudice against Christians? What’s up with that? I was thinking, “Intolerance of the intolerant? That’s called political correctness, isn’t it?” 

Hey, how about political freedom instead of political correctness? Let each to his own? A revolutionary thought there. Would I tolerate a biker not liking gays? yah. Would I tolerate a gay not liking bikers? yah.

            Each to his own, including what he does or doesn’t like. But then, guess I wouldn’t ever be PC with that sort of non-judgmental attitude, wood eye?

Cindyplex: “Would I tolerate a biker not liking gays? yah. Would I tolerate a gay not liking bikers? yah.” No, and yes.  Being gay and being a biker are not the same.  One is a choice, one isn’t.

And you do have freedom. You can be whatever you wish to be. But you MUST accept that others are going to judge you for your choices. You don’t get to whine about how it isn’t fair and how being PC is wrong.

Fonzisgrrl: I really don’t like political apathy. I don’t understand people who don’t vote. I don’t understand the view that politics are a “waste of time”. Voting is a dealbreaker. You have to vote.

Angiepanda: I live in DC, which doesn’t have a Representative or a Senator and where Obama will crush McCain like a bug.  I can see people in this city thinking its a waste of time, not saying I agree with them, but I can see it.

Cindyplex: Back to deal breakers…that’s mostly it.  I’m not keen on people who see things in black or white, everyone can be reformed.  That’s why on all those bleeding match questions that ask ‘would you consider dating…’ I answer yes, because, sure, I’ll consider it, might not do it though.

That said, racist & xenophobic, sexist, homophobic & fundamentally religious are likely to fail.  And that’s partly due to the often accompanying narrow-mindedness, which leads  to long lists of deal breakers.   Liars might be difficult to reform, mind, as are boring people only interested in the superficial.

Hah, the list gets longer, I’m in self parody. Almost.

Fonzisgrrl: Some girls list so many ‘deal breakers’ in their ‘message me if’ sections it’s quite dispiriting.  Mind you, they’ve probably been inundated if they’re even vaguely attractive, such is the numbers imbalance.  It does seem to make a lot of the girls passive though. Especially in this country.

***

And that’s about all we have time for tonight. What an interesting debate and it’s a shame we have to leave it but even though the broadcast has ended that doesn’t mean the conversation has to stop.

Please feel free to leave your comments below and if you’ve found this interesting, don’t forget to click “Subscribe,” hit the “Bell” icon for notification so you don’t miss our next broadcast and if you’re so inclined, visit our Patreon account and consider making a donation so that we can continue creating interest content.

This is me, Kari R. Wade, thanking you and wishing you nothing but the best from the bottom of my heart. Remember you’re magnificent no matter what they write about you on the bathroom walls! Good Night!

©2008 & 2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

One Hell Of An Offer

image

Modestine was aware of the gap in her memory, the section of consciousness that was removed and two separate events seamlessly spliced together in a non-jarring, dream jump-cut fashion.

The first partial memory was of Modestine stepping out of the shower. Her petite foot missed the rubberized shower mat by inches and instead slid along the wet tiled floor. Her vision shifted up toward the ceiling and her eyes locked on the one hundred watt energy saving fluorescent light bulb. The next instant, at the point of the splice, she found herself standing inside a pair of pearlescent gates, as patient as the lamb she was in life.

She was dead, of this there was no doubt. There was also no cause for alarm. She had no memory of either fear, pain or the precise moment of her death. That was the portion that was mercifully removed from her awareness, no doubt to aid in her acceptance of events.

Modestine watched the hubbub of nervous yet joyous chatter and a flurry of feathers as angels tested their wings in the air above her. They flew from structure to structure — she hesitated thinking of the impossibly tall spires as buildings because their various shapes defied her limited perceptions of architecture — getting the lay of the land. Though no one told her, she somehow knew this commotion was normal for the first day of new arrivals in heaven.

While she waited, Modestine’s eyes drifted over to an ornate pulpit offset to the right of the gates. This, she assumed, was where the welcoming saint was supposed to have been stationed, but Peter was nowhere in sight. She noticed a few pages had fallen from the ledger on the pulpit, so she spent a little of the time laying the leafs out, deciding the order they should go in, and locating the exact spots in the book they had fallen from.

Finally, an angel arrived, tall and thin with black horn-rimmed eyeglasses he no longer needed. A remnant of his physical life that he clung to, a misconception that it was a permanent part of his appearance. A trapping that would fade in time. This was yet another thing Modestine had known without being told.

The glasses made the angel look bookwormish and out of place in their surroundings. Then she felt guilty for judging his appearance. Who was she to do this? She, who had always been short and mousy in the physical world, what her mother affectionately called the uns — undertall and unassuming. She wondered what she looked like to him and if the same rules of beauty still applied here.

“Hi, I’m Modestine.” she offered a hand and a smile simultaneously.

Bookworm eyed her head to toe and back to head again, before taking her hand for two firm pumps. He opened his mouth and let out a high-pitched screeching noise, intense enough to rock her celestial molars.

Modestine, who graduated magna cum laude in never let ’em see you sweat university, replied, “Pleased to meet you…” and she tried her best to match the noise he made… but came up a little short. A lot short, actually.

Bookworm let out a burst of short laughs like a semi-automatic weapon. “Just messing with you. My name’s Phil. Welcome to Heaven!”

Modestine didn’t really get the joke but smiled anyway. “Are you here to give me the guided tour?” she asked.

“Heavens no,” Phil replied. “That’ll come later, once all this dies down. Saint Peter sends his apologies, by the way…”

“Oh, that’s no problem at all.”

“I’m here to take you to class.”

“Oh, okay.” Modestine followed behind Phil, a little unsteady on her wings, but through sheer determination managed to keep up.

Phil led her past fields of flora and fauna, the likes of which she could never have dreamed existed and finally into a structure that housed a vast amphitheater that was unmistakably set up like a classroom. Packed to capacity, its seats were filled with the most grotesque and vile creatures imaginable.

“Here you are.” Phil gestured in the direction of the amphitheater and was about to fly off.

“Wait! Wait!” Modestine caught his forearm and pulled him down to eye level. “Where do I sit?”

“At the podium, where else?” Even in Heaven, the duh look had a sting.

“What? Why?”

“Don’t tell me no one let you know?” Phil looked at the class with his best can you believe some people look. “You’re a teacher, right? Or were, before, you know…”

Modestine nodded, “Underprivileged kids. Twelve years.”

“Well…” Phil swept his arm in the direction of the class as if to answer.

“Oh, no… no way. I’m not qualified for this. I barely know what I’m doing here.”

“It’ll come to you as you need. Heaven’s cool that way.”

“But, this class…” Modestine whispered. “Not to be rude but what are they?”

“Our version of underprivileged students. They’re bussed in every day.”

“From Hell?”

“We tend not to use that term in front of the students. We call it The Basement.” Phil checked the invisible watch on his bare wrist. “Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but I’ve gotta run. Too many new recruits and not enough ushers. You’ll be great. I’ve got a feeling about you.” he smiled and shot into the sky, leaving Modestine’s jaw swinging on its hinges.

The once and now future teacher straightened out her ethereal robe, cleared her throat, turned and faced the class. “Pleased to meet you, class. My name is Modestine. Welcome to Introduction to Heaven.” The name she took off the lesson booklet on the podium. The completely blank lesson booklet. Beside it was the roster. “Hopefully you’re all in your assigned seats because it’s the only way I’m going to learn your names with a class this size.”

Modestine went through the attendance sheet and called her students one by one, each responding with a grunt or bodily noise that she assumed translated as “Present!” When she completed her check, surprisingly every student sat quietly or whispered inaudibly to their neighbor.

“Well, class, as some of you might have figured out, I’m new here, but don’t let that stop you from asking questions. My goal is to teach you everything about heaven, which means I’ll be learning it as you do, and if I don’t know an answer to your question, I’ll do my best to find out as quickly as possible. Today, though, I’m going to outline my expectations of you, and how you’ll be graded.”

The time passed swifter than Modestine had anticipated. Quite frankly she was surprised to be aware of the passing of time at all. For the most part, her students were orderly. A few class clowns, but nothing she couldn’t handle. She’d straighten them out before the course was over.

The entire class watched her closely, she never felt so scrutinized before, and a good deal of the period was spent answering questions about Earth. It wasn’t long before she realized these students were born in Hell and Earth was like some mythical place to them. When the earth questions began dying down, she introduced several icebreaking games before the class broke for recess.

As the class filed out of the amphitheater, some by flight, a few in a puff of eye-watering brimstone, and the rest on cloven feet, one student hung back.

“Miss Modestine,” the young demon said when all the others had left.

“Just Modestine, and, yes… ?” she searched the attendance sheet for the section he came from, hoping one of the names would jog her memory.

The demon shook his head. “You won’t find me on your list. I’m not one of your students.”

“You’re not? Then who… ?”

“Many names have I, from those who live and those who die, but for you, I wish to be known as Mister Thatch.”

Modestine frowned, looking down at this creature who straighten itself in an odd regality. “All right, Mr. Thatch… what is it you want?”

Thatch pulled a file folder from seemingly nowhere and opened it. “Interesting session today. I’m assuming you taught the class off the cuff, as I am unable to identify any of what was discussed in the pre-approved syllabus, correct?”

“As I stated at the beginning of class, this assignment was thrust upon me at the last moment, so if you have any objections…”

“No, please, you mistake my meaning. I’m not here to condemn you, I was simply assessing your performance. It’s what I was hired to do.”

“By whom?”

“Your superiors would call them Basement Management.”

“And do my superiors know you’re here?”

“They should. It would make for a shoddy operation if they didn’t. Now, as to my assessment,” he pulled a document from his folder, stapled in the top left-hand corner. “Here is an offer from my employers for you to teach your course to a larger audience of underprivileged students. Please study it carefully and feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. Please be aware that agreement to the terms as stipulated in the contract will require you to abandon your post here. Out of curiosity, are you willing to relocate?”

Modestine stared dumbstruck at the professionally worded document in her hands. An immediate and instant “No” rested on the tip of her tongue but never quite made it past her lips, because, in her quick scan, she found a list of perks that tickled each and every one of her many interests, as any temptation worth its salt should have done.

“I’ll need to read this more closely, Mr. Thatch, before I can respond, of course.”

“Of course. I think you’ll find the compensation quite reasonable. If you have questions, you may ask me at any time. We have high expectations and we’re positive you can fulfill them, Miss Modestine.”

“Just Modestine, and why me?”

“You’re new and, as yet, unjaded by the caste system. We look forward to working with you.” Thatch held out a hand, which Modestine took. It was remarkably soft, despite its texture. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

Modestine watched as the demon simply evaporated from the room. She looked at the contract. Am I willing to relocate? she asked herself as she walked over to her desk, sat and read the agreement more thoroughly. Again, she found it difficult to verbalize the word “No”. Chiefly because she loved working with underprivileged students and they didn’t come more disadvantaged than the denizens of The Basement. The second reason was she’d always preferred warmer climates and there was an odd constant chill to the air in Heaven.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys