Chapter Eleven

[Start from the beginning here.]

After leaving Gus in the kitchen to presumably cleanse himself, Ron returned to Miranda’s room to figure out the variables in this strange problem. To begin with, Miranda was clearly missing. There was no sign of her under the bed, in the closet, hiding under the sheets or lying still in the bottom of the bathtub. The note she had left was in her scrawled crayon penmanship and there was no mistaking that she had said she was going with God. The second question was where this God person went. Had he meant to take Miranda or had she slipped away with him unexpectedly and in that case, would he bring her back once he realized the mistake? Ron was certain of one thing. This man was not God. There was no such thing as God, in any form. But what did this strange man want with the Lukenglasse family?

The only clue, besides the note that Miranda left, was a shiny satin bowtie he found laying across one of Mira’s shoes in her closet. He picked it up and looked it over but there was nothing suspicious about a bowtie. It told him nothing about this God fellow either, besides the fact that he had good taste, so Ron laid it along side the note in Gus’ makeshift altar. 

Ron’s mind was beginning to formulate a plan around a number of these variables, but the main variable was Gus himself. The man would not call the cops, would not look for Miranda, would not think rationally and would not call Mom. This left only a few options for Ron and none of these included Gus. In that case, his best plan of action would be to vacate the house and find help.

Unfortunately, there was only one problem and the narrator assumes that it won’t be hard for the reader to guess what that problem was: Damascus Lukenglasse, of course. As Ron exited the room he heard a strange noise coming from the other end of the hall. It was a soft wailing noise that drifted in and out in short intervals. Between the wailing was the sound of a wet slap, a lured almost medieval sound, like ripping and whipping all at once. Not knowing where the murderous man who called himself God had snuck off too, Ron could only assume the worst and dashed into Gus’ room grasping a large flower vase from the hall as his only means of survival.

Oh, if only poor Ron knew what he was getting himself into. If only the boy had the frame of reference in all his studies to handle something like this. If only Bertrand Russell had written a philosophical treatise on what to do when your host family goes crazy, then perhaps Ron would have had the analytic and rational powers to deal with what he witnessed when he walked into the room. But alas, the poor boy was out of luck.

There, kneeling in the center of the master bathroom, was an old hippy with his graying ponytail. A hippy who had seen pacifist rallies and peace rock shows, a househusband that put no flowers in the hall vase, not for the random moments that one might need to grab it to ward of intruders, but because he did not believe in picking flowers because it caused them to die prematurely. There was a vegan, half clothed, whipping himself with what looked to be a jump rope tied around a garden claw. Gus, eyes closed, head bowed in submission, lips mumbling an inane prayer, flung the impromptu torture device up into the air letting it land with a thud onto his back then dragged it upwards so that the claw dug into the skin on his back. The only time his absurd mumbling stopped was when the device scratched against his back and he would let out a low whimper between his clenched teeth. It was a despicable sight.

As Gus swung the garden claw up into the air again, Ron accidentally dropped the vase to the ground and watched as it shattered to pieces. Not knowing he had company, Gus stopped mid swing and let the contraption dangle in front of him. Rather than look ashamed or confused at Ron’s appearance, Gus looked down at the broken pieces then back up at Ron with a smile.

“Ah, I’ve seen you’ve come to help boy. You always had a sharp mind,” Gus reached out across the bathroom floor and grabbed a bit of broken vase. He placed the porcelain against his arm with the intentions to slit when Ron scrambled across the room and knocked the porcelain from his hand.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Ron shouted with fear in his voice.

“I am in penance for my sins. This is an act of contrition,” Gus stated calmly while beckoning to his instruments of torture.

“How? What? When?…” Ron’s voice left him and he just gaped his mouth open and shut like a fish flapping its lips together.

“You were right, Ron, about what you said earlier. Like you often are. And I realized I was full of sin myself. Couldn’t go about trying to cleanse the rest of the world if I was so gummed up in the works, if you catch my meaning. So I thought I might just skip up here and have a good solid fest of repentance. And what better way to do that than by torturing myself. Like, I’ve always said, you can’t get something clean until you put some blood and piss into it.”

“You’ve never said that before.”

“Well, I should have. That’s a right good saying right there if I’ve ever heard one.”

Ron’s hands began to tremble with a mixture of anger and the assurance that no matter what he did, nothing good would come of it. He felt sweat start to tingle in droplets along his forehead. His words rushed in his head so fast that they came in groups of three and were often in different languages. How would he stop this man? How would he get Miranda back safe? And would he even want to bring her back to this madness? “Look, Gus. Your daughter has not ascended to heaven. It is not the Rapture. There is no God and you are not some holy redeemer that needs to cleanse himself of his sins. You are just Damascus Lukenglasse, the father of one and the husband of Theresa Lukenglasse. I repeat, your daughter has not gone to heaven with God, she is missing, and we need to get her back.”

On a normal day, Gus was not a man that listened well. He tended towards abstractions and only taking with him what he thought suited his needs. On an abnormal day, one could only hope for the best. In this particular situation, one would have to wonder what Gus took from the speech that issued from his exchange student’s young mouth. Good thing I’m here to explain it.

Though Ron should have been persuasive enough and made a fine point, Gus did not understand a word out of Ron’s mouth. Gus did hear the words, took them in, looked them over and understood them in a raw, basic sense, but in meaning Gus went a whole other direction. If Ron had been saying, the world is ending, head to Canada. Gus would have turned due South and made a quick march towards Mexico. When Gus saw Ron standing in front of him, telling him that God did not take Mira to Heaven with him, the one core thing that Gus believed in with all his soul, the one true fact that seemed to emanate from his head like the only thing he knew, as if it were his name itself, Gus decided that the messenger must be wrong. And if the messenger was wrong, then it was because he was lying to him for a reason. And if he were lying to him for a reason, then he must be hiding the truth. And if he were hiding the truth then the answer must be rent from him.

This is what Gus had now deduced and was his new belief. If Ron was right and God had not taken Miranda, then where was she? And if Ron knew that God had not taken her then Ron must know where she was. If Ron was wrong, and God had taken Miranda to Heaven in the first few moments of The Rapture, then Ron was lying to him and must have a reason for lying. And that reason could only be to stop Gus from cleansing himself and going up to Heaven along with his daughter. Either way, the truth needed to be found and Ron had to be punished. Gus reached for the garden claw.

Chapter Ten

[Catch up on missed chapters by starting at the beginning here.]

God followed Miranda through the door. He shook his head. Of all the doors for her to have chosen. There was no mistaking this vast lobby filled with marble pillars and granite floors. 

“Hey kiddo, whatcha say we try another door,” God motioned as he kept one hand on the doorknob and the other waving towards Miranda as she skipped across the gold-veined, pink floors.

Miranda gazed up at the expansive ceiling and the huge gold doors of the elevators that ran up and down the lobby and she shook her head, “You said I had to find us the way out and this place is great. This will be sure to take us to Room 129 in no time.” She paused in front of one of the elevators and fingered the intricately carved figures inlaid in the gold.

God smacked his hand across his forehead and walked towards Miranda, “I was speaking figuratively. Your house isn’t actually in Room 129, besides these aren’t in connection to the doors out in the hall, these are floor levels.” God said as he watched Miranda press one of the down buttons, which glowed deep red indicating that an elevator was on its way.

“Then where are these taking us?’ Miranda asked as she stepped inside the elevator. God paused in front of the door and contemplated whether or not he was going to enter. “What are you waiting for,” she motioned with her finger poised over the button, “Lets go!”

God cautiously stepped inside. “Fine, if we must. But lets not muck around down there. I know where we’ll end up no matter what floor we stop on, so why don’t we just take the short cut.” God reached into his vest pocket and brought out a small silver key. He inserted it into the lock next to a big letter B and turned it to the left. Quickly, the elevator jerked into motion and dropped swiftly down the shaft zooming past floor levels with ease and tenacity. Miranda barely had time to daydream about marshmallow cookies which her tummy was gurgling for, before they came to a sudden halt.

The doors swung open and God removed his key from the slot placing it back into his breast pocket. Light gleamed in through massive floor to ceiling windows that surrounded them on either side. It was so bright they could hardly make out the scenery beyond the windows. Miranda shielded her eyes and stepped into the room. It was a large post-modern house full of steel and white furniture. The couches were long, rectangular and flat. Miranda was filled with a strange urge to roll across the top of them. The walls were white, the carpets were white, the paintings were even white. There was a strange discordant music piping through the house, some sort of strange atonal opera. Miranda thought it was hideous. But there was one thing she liked about this strange house, there was delicious smelling food coming from somewhere and if Miranda could trust her nose worth its salt, she knew exactly where it was coming from.

Mira headed down the white hall and stumbled upon the treasure trove she had been looking for. In an alabaster room there was a sleek glass table laid out with rich delicacies. There was fresh sashimi with big, round fish eggs adorning the plate. She saw plump pomegranates torn apart with the seeds dripping onto the sterling silver serving trays. Perfect little cupcakes with perfectly iced tops sat in a ring in the center of the table. Everything looked like it was from a posh bakery in a quaint little city neighborhood.

There was a menu printed up on accrue colored paper with disheveled edges and a matte finish. The top of the menu simply read, “Eat Me,” and below it the names of each food item followed:

Sweetbreads with an orange jus served with Chanterelles soaked in Bourbon

Honeycomb topped with minced escargot and a side of carrot pilaf

Skinks on a skewer served with Arugula and Roma tomatoes

Huhu salad with blue cheese crumbles and a sherry vinaigrette

Borewor sandwich smothered in barbeque sauce and covered with melted jack cheese

Miranda stopped reading. She had no idea what any of it was but it all sounded delicious and everything on the table smelled so good. She was sure that Gus would have loved it. Mira reached her hand out for a cookie that had “Eat Me” written across the top of it with white icing. As she was about to put the cookie to her lips, God knocked it from her hand and sent the cookie flying across the room.

“Why’d you do that?” Mira shouted.

“You can’t eat anything here. That’s why.”

“But they all say ‘Eat Me’,” Miranda whined.

“That’s the point. To get you to eat them.”

“Then why can’t I eat them?” Miranda was becoming more and more perturbed.

“Because then you’ll be trapped here forever,” God reached for the white napkins along the table and began laying them over the food as to remove temptation.

“So why do they tell me to eat them then? Why don’t they all say in delicious white frosting, ‘Don’t Eat Me,’ instead?”

“Because that’s what they want—to trap more souls.”

“Who are They?!!! And why are They so confusing.”

At that a beautiful woman entered the room. She had stick straight blonde hair that hung down to the middle of her back. She wore a perfectly tailored grey suit jacket and skirt to match. Her shoes had points at the toes that could kill a man and if that didn’t finish him off the stiletto heels would. She wore chic rectangular glasses with sharp black frames and she carried a portfolio in her arms. “I see you’ve found my cookies. How are they?” the woman asked.

“I wouldn’t know. I didn’t have a chance to try them,” Mira grumbled.

“Maybe the cookie didn’t suit you. Try this,” the woman said crossing to the table and grabbing a cupcake.

God stepped between Miranda and the woman. “Persephone, we’re not here to eat. We were just stepping through.”

“Well, if it isn’t Mr. Elohim himself, stopping by to pay little ole me a visit. If I had known I would have had a proper feast ready. This is just a little snack I set up for a business meeting.”

“This is quite sufficient, Perse. Really you’ve outdone yourself.” While God was stuck bantering with the fair woman, Miranda tiptoed away from his reach and snuck to what she could only assume was the kitchen door. She could smell even more beautiful cooking smells piping from beneath the frame. Mira swung the door open and was instantly struck with the blast of multiple running ovens. There were about fifty people within the small confines of the kitchen who all halted with fear when the door was thrown back. Spoons stopped stirring, mixers stopped whirring, knives stopped chopping. The heat was unbearable and the kitchen glowed with the deep orange red of more than one stove lit at one time in the small space.

“Girl!” Persephone shouted. “Shut that door!”

Miranda let the door swing shut and she instantly dropped her guilty hand to her side. A small bead of perspiration broke out across Persephone’s otherwise flawless complexion. She forced a small laugh. “I didn’t mean to scare you, darling, really.” She crossed the room and took Miranda into her arms. “I just wasn’t expecting anyone to go into that room. So unkempt. You know how help is these days. Always making a horrible mess,” she laughed again. “Why don’t you both follow me out to the porch. I think we all need some fresh air,” she smirked at God as she led Miranda away.

Chapter Nine

[You can always start from Chapter One here.]

By the time Ron had brushed himself off and picked himself up off the floor, Gus had maneuvered the curtain sash around his robe in the fashion of a Franciscan monk’s tassel. Ron stood in the entryway determining his next move. Gus crossed from the living room to the kitchen coming back with an array of herbs, matches and oil. He began to light some sage and spread the smoke out into the corners of the room. Ron knew exactly what to do. Gus had gone crazy. He would have to call Mom.

The head of the household was really Mom Lukenglasse. Her first name was Theresa but she insisted that everyone call her Mom in the house including Ron and Gus so as to reinforce to Miranda who her mother was. Most people might find this absurd, being that Mira should already recognize who her own mother was, but since Mom was rarely home it wasn’t a bad idea all together. Ron would have preferred to call her Mrs. Lukenglasse, but he was continually reminded by Gus and Mira that it was “Mom.” Ron was rather nervous about calling her at work. In fact, Ron hardly ever spoke to her at all. She came home after he was in bed for the night and left before he was up in the morning. As the phone rang, Ron wondered when the last time he saw her was when he was interrupted by the receptionist.

“Used and New Toyota and Buicks, how may I help you?”

“Um, I’d like to speak to Mom…I mean Theresa Lukenglasse, if I could.”

“She’s with a customer right now, can I take a message?” the voice said on the other line, her voice like crystal across a table linen, smooth and without any emotion.

Ron watched as Gus took a rag, covered it with cooking oil and began smearing it around the frame of the door.  “I actually really need to speak to her, it pertains to her husband and her daughter. It’s very important,” Ron attempted his most professional diction.

“As I said before, I’d be more than happy to take a message but she’s out on a test drive and I do not know when she will be back,” the crystal had a slight ding in its pitch.

Gus spun in circles like a dervish holding the sage in front of him and letting the smoke plume up in a spiral above his head. He chanted under his breath making a low guttural sound that Ron could not distinguish.

“Look lady! If you have to take a message then let Mrs. Lukenglasse know that her daughter has been taken captive by a strange man and her husband refuses to call the cops.”

“Thank you very much sir. Now may I please get your name and telephone number for where Mrs. Lukenglasse can reach you.”

Ron looked down at the phone with disgust as if it were the receptionist herself, “I told you, this is Ron. I live with Mrs. Lukenglasse. I have very important information.”

“I already took down your message sir but how am I suppose to deliver it if I don’t have your contact information.”

Before Ron could respond, he felt a tug on his shoulder. It was Gus and he had a strange grin on his face and held a bar of ivory soap in his hand.

“You know what, never mind. I’ll just wait for her to come home,” Ron hung up the receiver and looked back at Gus with fear in his eyes. “What are you doing with that soap, Gus? Cleaning up after yourself. I see you got some oil all over the walls.”

“I was preparing the house for The Rapture. Anointing the thresholds, clearing out the bad spirits, when I realized that our bodies were not clean,” Gus looked Ron up and down and shivered with disgust thinking about the millions of evil spirits that must fill this pagan’s body. “You must come with me.” Gus grabbed Ron’s shoulder and pulled him into the kitchen where a tub of water was waiting in the middle of the room. “Hop in.”

“I’m not getting in there,” Ron pulled his arm away from Gus’ grasp.

“Oh yes you are,” Gus wrestled Ron into the tub and pushed him down into the water. “Stop jumpin’ around like a rattlesnake and let me clean you.” Gus grabbed one of Ron’s arms and held it over his black head of hair, shoving the bar of soap into the armpit of his shirt and lathering it up. “Body odor is a sign of the devil, boy.”

“This is ludicrous. You’re crazier then sin. Let me go,” Ron yelled. As Ron attempted to shout out again, Gus pushed the soap into his mouth.

“Now I won’t be hearing any of that tarnation. We got to get that mouth of yours cleaned out with the good Lord’s soap.” He rubbed the bar back and forth on Ron’s tongue while the boy tried to lurch back and spit the bitter taste out. “Yessa, Lord! I see the ways of my sins now, Lord” Gus spoke to no one in particular. “I have gone down a long path of hedonism that has lead me nowhere but I see what I must do to make this right-ta. I will clean the sins from this youth, oh Lord!” Gus’ voice began to vibrate with a low tenure, “Amen Lord!”

Ron splashed the water back at Gus and jumped from the basin letting the water drip over the kitchen floor.

“Whatcha think your doin’ over there? I’m not finished with you yet.”

“I think I’m clean enough thank you very much. I’ll be leaving now.”

“Shush son, God is with us now and he has told me what to do. I must cleanse you of your sins. Hallelujah Lord! Jesus Christ Almighty!” Gus took the sponge from the water and reached for Ron’s arm.

Ron jumped back, “But…but…what have I done? Why don’t you go clean yourself?”

Gus paused. He cocked his head to the side and looked at Ron with the blankest of stares.  He dropped the sponge back into the basin and let his arms fall to his sides. “Ah, from the mouth of babes…You make a right good point there boy,” Gus bowed his head in submission and raised his hands to the prayer position. “Yes, I see the error of my ways. You may leave me now boy.”

Ron was rather amazed. He hadn’t expected that to work, but rather than sit there pondering the results of his hypothesis, he dashed out of the kitchen as fast as he could before Gus could change his mind.

Chapter Eight

[Chapter One starts here]

Miranda looked around her. They were in a smelly waiting room with nobody in it. There were dusty brown chairs and low coffee tables stacked with old periodicals. It looked like any waiting room at a number of dental offices she had been to over the years. God flicked her hand from off his dinner jacket and grumbled all the way up to the front counter where he rang the bell incessantly.

“What is this place? Where are we?” Mira asked.

God swiveled towards Miranda, “You want to know where we are kiddo! Oh, I’m sure you do. Because of you, we’re basically lost. You’re a soul that wasn’t ready to go to the afterlife yet, so now we have to go through all the appropriate channels to get you back home. Which means, we end up here, at The Hall.” God flourished his arms out to the side displaying the imaginary wonders of the banal room.

“What do you mean I have to go home? I wanted to go to Heaven with you,” Miranda pouted.

“Well, too bad. You can’t get everything you wish for apparently. I wanted to go home and look what good that did me. Now I’m stuck here with you,” God repeatedly hit on the bell until an old decrepit woman came to the window.

“Do you have a number?” the woman asked with a raspy voice.

“Does it look like there’s anyone else here?” God asked sarcastically as he leaned over the counter.

“Young man, I will not take your insolence. Get off my counter and step back and present your number.”

God stepped back with a huff and grabbed a small ticket from a red plastic machine.

“Number 1 billion six million one hundred thousand and eight hundred and three,” the wiry woman called out loudly into the empty room.

God stepped forward and presented his matching ticket.

“Thank you, name and business young man.”

“We go through this every time. I’m God, technically your boss. I’m older than you so stop calling me young man. I have to get this young lady here home.”

Janus peered over her spectacles at God then at Miranda. She made an unhappy gurgle in the back of her throat then begrudgingly stamped a big mark of approval across a small sheet of paper. “Here you go sir,” she said as she handed God the slip. Before she let go of the paper she added, “Now don’t forget your coins as payment. I’m keeping strict records on your expenses, sir.

“Of course, Janus, as always you do a superb job,” God grunted through his teeth as he pulled at the slip. Janus let go and God’s hand came thumping against his chest along with the little yellow piece of paper. “Thanks Janus, its always wonderful as usual,” God leaned down and took Miranda by the shoulder, “The faster we get away from her the better,” he whispered into Mira’s ear.

God pulled the door open and inside was a long hall that seemed to go on for all eternity. The hall was drab and ugly. It was lit by long fluorescent lights that did nothing for the tooth yellow walls and the graying carpets. The hall was full of brown doors placed at equal intervals along either side. Each door had a warbled glass window that made it difficult to discern any proper shapes behind their hazy glass. The doors had no differentiating marks to distinguish them from one another. The hall was just one big stretch of sameness.

“This is Heaven? This is ugly!” Miranda stated.

“I told you, this isn’t Heaven. This is The Hall,” God plunked two gold coins into a toll box waiting on a stool then tucked the yellow receipt into his pocket to be delivered to accounts later.

“So what exactly are we looking for here?’ Miranda asked.

“We’re looking for the right door to get you home,” God stated as he peered into the hazy windows.

“No we’re looking for the door to Heaven, right?”

God stopped and grabbed Miranda by both arms, “Look kid, you ain’t getting to Heaven, got it. We won’t be looking for Heaven, you’re not going to the afterlife, we’re just looking for your door home. Capiche. Now if you can’t seem to grasp the magnitude of our situation here, you need to understand that there are millions of doors here and we have no idea which one is the right one.”

“It can’t be that hard,” Miranda responded.

“Oh really, it would be like trying to fit your tubby little self through the eye of a needle.”

“A needle has an eye?” Mira dazed off.

“Focus kid, we need to find you a way home. Got it. No more, no less. So start opening doors.”

“Don’t you know what door it is? You are the great and powerful God after all.”

“Whether or not I want to be compared to a wizard from Oz, there’s no way to tell, we’re lost and you got us into this mess so you have to find a way out. But I’ll say this much, would I be this angry if I just had to follow some map to Room 129, then ring a bell or knock twice? No, for Christ’s sake. I was perfectly happy taking myself home and getting out of your crazy household and now we’re here, wandering this endless hall for who knows how long. “

“Well, I think it’s exciting. I’ve never been here before. Do they sell marshmallows in one of these doors?” Miranda’s mouth began to salivate.

“Aren’t you worried about what your family will think when you’re found missing?”

“I left them a note. It said, ‘God has taken me to Heaven’ So they won’t worry at all. I’m quite responsible. I always let Gus know where I’m off to,” Miranda replied.

“Great,” God rolled his eyes. “Just start opening some doors kid.”

At that, Miranda reached up and opened the first door she saw. It was dark and confined and smelled of cleaning products. A broom fell onto the floor in front of her. Mira peeked her head in. “Its just a janitor’s closet.”

“Now you understand our dilemma. This could potentially be a hall full of doors all leading to janitors’ closets.”

“How are we supposed to know that they aren’t?” Mira asked now beginning to get nervous.

“You got me kid.”

They walked down the hall. Miranda heard noises and saw shadows behind the glass but she couldn’t make out the shapes.

“This is useless. What are we looking for?” Mira pouted.

“A way out.”

Miranda turned back to gaze at the front of the hall where the toll box sat, “That’s easy. It’s right back there. The way we came in.”

“Oh you’re so cute,” God pinched her chubby cheek, “It ain’t that simple Sweetheart. You can’t go back the way you came in, its just one of the rules around these here parts.”

“Well this is pointless. All I wanted to do was see Heaven and now we’re stuck here forever,” Miranda crossed her arms and sat down onto the floor.

“So you’re just giving up, is that it?” God leaned against the wall. “That’s just wonderful.”

“Well what am I supposed to do? Just go around yanking doors open?”

“Sounds better than just sitting here till you rot away.”

“Fine,” at that Miranda jumped up from the floor and threw back the door next to her and rushed inside before God could say another word.

Chapter Seven

[If you haven’t read it already, start the book from here.]

Ron stood over Gus’ inert body and gave him one hefty slap across the face. Nothing happened. What were the factors in this equation? There was one possibly dead host father, a strange man that had appeared in the house unbidden and a little girl that didn’t know any better. Before Ron could jump to any more conclusions he needed to figure out whether or not Gus was still one of the living.

In practicality, he should have taken the man’s pulse or given him a good round of CPR, but instead, against better judgment, and with the first experiment proving futile, Ron thought it better to smack Gus across the face again. Perhaps it was some pent up frustration or the need to vent his feelings over the absence of his own father, but Ron swung his arm back in one mighty swing and threw such a blow across Gus’ cheek that the old man came into full consciousness and jumped from the ground with such rapidity that his head smacked against Ron’s and sent the boy crashing to the floor right where Gus had just leapt from.

Gus dashed back and forth in the hall as if his brain could not connect with the directionality of his feet. Ron sat in the middle of Gus’ hectic path rubbing his forehead.

“What are you doing?” Ron asked.

“Where did he go?” Gus stopped in his tracks turning his head from side to side as quickly as possible.

“He’s in the bedroom,” Ron said as he pointed towards Mira’s room.

Gus dashed inside leaving Ron on the floor without a single thought as to how the boy was doing. Ron pulled himself from off the floor as he realized that he heard nothing coming from the room as if the house had fallen under a fairy spell and everyone was put to sleep. Ron followed Gus into Miranda’s room and found him alone, grasping a small note out in front of him as if it were the Holy Grail.

“Where’s Miranda?” Ron asked.

“He’s taken her,” Gus said with wonder in his voice.

“Who? That man? She’s been kidnapped!” Ron responded frantically.

“No, she’s gone with God,” Gus pressed the note to his chest.

“Well, don’t worry Gus, I’ve already called the cops. They should be on their way.”

“The cops?” Gus turned to Ron but this was not the reaction that the boy had been expecting, “Why would you do that? She is on her own darn tootin’ path now. She’s with God.”

Ron’s mouth dropped to his chin for the second time that day. Not only could he not believe what he was hearing but he also couldn’t fathom why the words were coming to him in a not so accurate Texan accent. Here was Gus, the most anti-religious man he had ever met, embracing the name of God and not worried one bit that his daughter had disappeared with a strange man that had potentially tried to murder the whole family.

“You do realize what you’re saying don’t you?” Ron asked, “That your daughter is with God, that name that is forbidden to be spoken in this house, God,” he repeated. “Have you gotten enough protein this week? I think you might be faint.”

“The light has come to me. I see the truth now like a well-shaped stallion. God is among us,” Gus raised his arms in exultation and praised the ceiling.

“Actually from the looks of it, God is not among us. He has left, with your daughter. I don’t see why this is so difficult for you to grasp. And what’s with your accent?”

Gus ignored Ron and took the note over to his daughter’s bedside table. He slid her collection of unicorn figurines aside and gently leaned the note against the wall. He pushed past Ron only to return in a moment with a candle, some incense and matches. He placed the candle and incense around the letter and began to light them while chanting quietly under his breath.

Now what?” Ron was more perturbed then ever.

“I’m building a shrine for worship, if you don’t mind. Actually, if you wouldn’t mind helping me, go get some sage from the kitchen and some oil to anoint the letter.”

“You know what I will do to help you. I will wait downstairs for the cops to arrive and tell them that your daughter has been kidnapped. That’s what a sane person would do in this situation and obviously I’m the only sane person here.” At that the doorbell rang.

Both Gus and Ron dashed to the bedroom door. With a strange ferocity, Damascus pushed Ron aside sending the boy to the floor for the second time that day. Gus ran down the stairs and folded himself through the front door, shutting it behind him before Ron could reach the landing. Gus held the handle with a firm grasp as Ron tugged and tugged at it. For a wiry hippy in his late 50s, Gus Lukenglasse was deceptively strong.  As Ron yanked and yanked, Gus explained to the officer that the call had been a prank by the poor behaving exchange student that lived in his house. He apologized for wasting the authority’s time and he hoped that she would understand. The police officer thanked him for the explanation and left. Watching the cop get back into her car, Gus finally let go of the handle, letting Ron fall flat onto his rear end for the third time.

“Look where you’re going there boy. You’re really becoming a clumsy little tumbleweed,” Gus said as he stepped over Ron and walked back into the house.

[For next week, we’ll find Miranda Lukenglasse in the after life with God…only it’s not what either of them expected. New chapters every Wednesday.]

Chapter Six

[Start the from the first chapter here]

God and Miranda stood over Gus’ limp body passed out on the ground, neither really sure what to do next.

“What happened?” Mira asked looking desperately up to God for answers.

“The usual.” God leaned over to take Gus’ pulse. “He’s alive. That’s a good sign. Sometimes they just up and die.”

“What do you mean die?”

“Look kid, don’t pester me with questions. Help me get him downstairs before he wakes up. Maybe he won’t remember any of this,” God picked up Gus’ arms and tried dragging him towards the door.

Miranda didn’t move. “Who dies?” 

“Kiddo, I’m going to need your help here.”

She didn’t move.

God dropped Gus’ arms to the ground, “Okay, I see how it’s going to be. To some people, beside you, I’m kind of a big deal. And when they see me, or talk to me, or have some sort of experience near me, it’s a…a…touching moment, or something like that.” God could tell that Miranda was not pleased with this explanation. “Look, kid, sometimes it’s just too much for the everyday human, they pass out or they pass on.” He picked up Gus’ arms again.

“Pass on to where?” Miranda asked as she grabbed her father’s legs and scooted him out into the hall with God. 

“To, you know, the afterlife, the beyond. My great abode in the sky, some call it Heaven, but that’s—“ God grunted taking the main weight.

“What’s Heaven?” Mira interrupted.

“Jeez kid you don’t know anything do you?” God tugged and moved Gus that much closer to the stairs when a door flew open next to Miranda and a lanky fifteen-year old Korean boy exited the room.

At the sight of a strange man and Miranda dragging a comatose Gus towards the stairs, Ron’s mouth fell open and he dropped the books he was carrying to the ground.

“Hey Ron, whatcha doin?” Miranda asked innocently.

“Wha…what am I doing? What are you doing? Whose that?”

“God, like I told you. He was just about to tell me about Heaven.”

“There’s no such thing as Heaven,” Ron stated matter-of-factly without taking his eyes from Gus’ limp body.

“Oh yes there is kid,” God answered keeping his eyes on his task at hand. “For a small man, he sure is heavy.” God looked up and noticed Miranda sitting on her father’s legs twirling her hair and sticking it into her mouth. “Miranda! A little help.”

“This is boring. Can’t we just leave him here?” She got up and poked at her father’s feet.

Ron finally broke from his shock and dashed over to Mira. “What’s going on here? What happened to Gus? What has this man done?”

“Look kid, don’t worry about it. I was just on my way out. We’re going to get him downstairs and leave everything as it was.”

“No we’re not. I’m going to call the cops is what I’m going to do. And you’re not going anywhere,” Ron turned down the hall and headed towards the phone.

“Can you two stop arguing? I want to hear more about this Heaven place. Can I get French fries there?” Miranda asked but no one was listening. God had dropped Gus’ arms back to the ground leaving the man’s head dangling over the first couple of stairs and followed Ron.

“Oh no you’re not bucko. I don’t need that kind of trouble here,” God yanked the phone away from Ron.

“Don’t hurt me,” Ron backed up and put his hands up ready to spar. “I don’t know what you did here but I know what it looks like and I will not let you hurt me or Miranda.”

“I don’t plan on hurting anyone. I just came to play poker. Gus is fine. He just passed out.”

“Oh sure. I’ll believe that one when bowling balls fall at the same rate of feathers outside a vacuum. Give me that phone.”

“Why won’t anyone tell me about Heaven!” Miranda yelled from her corner.

“Not now!” both Ron and God yelled at the same time yanking the phone between the two of them.

God dropped the phone and stepped back. “You know what, I guess I made a bad decision staying here. I don’t need this. I’m just going to go home. You do whatever you want with Damascus over there. I’m leaving.”

“Like I said you aren’t going anywhere,” Ron furiously tapped his fingers across the dial, plugging in 9-1-1 as fast as he could.

While God was glaring at Ron, daring him to finish that phone call, he didn’t notice that young Miranda Lukenglasse had snuck back into her room, quite stealthily, with a mission at hand.

“Hello, I have an intruder here at 134 Berry Tree Lane,” Ron spoke clearly into the telephone.

“Fine,” God grumbled as he turned away and marched back to Miranda’s room, leaving Gus passed out in the hall. God was so annoyed with this ordeal that he remained oblivious to the fact that Miranda was not in the hall, nor the bedroom. He walked back into that closet, slammed the door and with one swift command, wished himself to return home. Only at the last minute did he notice a chubby little hand grab onto the tails of his coat. By that point it was too late, God, and now Miranda Lukenglasse, were on their way to the afterlife together, and there was nothing God could do about it.

Chapter Five

[Start the tale from the start here.]

“Where is he?” Gus shouted. “Show yourself, you brazen impostor.”

No one responded.

“I told you Gus…he’s in the closet playing poker.”

“You don’t know what this man is capable of. You should be on your guard at all times. Stand back Mira!” Gus spat directions as he inched towards the closet. Suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. The closet door slowly swung open. There was a bright light beaming across the floor.

“Its beautiful,” Gus said motioning to the light.

“Its just my closet light,” Mira started but Gus put up his hand to stop her as he took notice of the man now crawling out of her closet.

God shuffled across the floor still in search of his precious bowtie when he suddenly noticed that there was a limp little man standing over him. God pulled himself from off the floor and hovered over Gus.

Gus took a look at the six-foot tall man in the disheveled tuxedo scratching his full head of curly hair and he dropped his outstretched arm to his side and relaxed.

“Your not God, your just some guy in my daughter’s closet.”

“Let me guess…this is the famed Gus. And from the sounds of it, you told him who I was. I thought we discussed this,” God frowned at Mira.

“Of course I’m Gus. Who are you?”

God ignored the question and walked past Gus straight over to Miranda, “You ruined all my fun. You shouldn’t have brought him into the picture.”

“You didn’t want me to tell him you were up here. But something that doesn’t exist isn’t really here. So you’re not really here for me to hide from my father.”

“But I am here. You’re talking to me kiddo.”

For a moment, this strange man held Gus in awe and he inched towards him to slowly finger his coat.

“I know that. But Ron says God doesn’t exist and Ron is always right. So if you’re God, then you don’t exist, so that means you’re not really here, so I’m not really in trouble for telling Gus that a man that isn’t really here is in my bedroom.”

“I exist,” God said slapping Gus’s hand from off his coattails. 

“No you don’t,” Gus announced snapping back from his moment of wonder. “You don’t exist. You’re not God.”

“This is between me and Miranda,” God swished Gus away with his hand.

“Look here Mister, who are you to tell me what to do in my own home and what business do you have with my daughter?” Gus prickled up.

God swiveled around so that he was smack dab in the front of Gus and glared deep into his eyes, “Who I am is none of your business! So just leave us alone.” His gaze sparked with fire and shook Gus to the core.

Suddenly Gus’ eyes went blank like glass then recovered like the slots in a slot machine. An enlightened smile passed over Gus’ face. Quite serenely Gus looked up into God’s eyes and said, “Why, you are him, aren’t you? You’re God.”

“Jesus Christ, I’ve done it again, haven’t I? I really need to learn how to control that. Stupid eyes. Stupid, stupid eyes,” God berated himself. He quickly turned back to Gus, “No, no. I’m not God. You’ve got it all wrong. I’m just some guy.”

“But you said you were God,” Mira piped up.

God spun back around and leaned over, “Shhhh. Don’t worry about it—“

“I knew it. You’re God. Here in this here house,” Gus said with the same sense of awe.

God was at a loss. He swiveled back and forth between Miranda and her father, not sure what to do next, when out of nowhere, Damascus Lukenglasse’s face went blank and he fell to the floor in a dead faint.

Chapter Four

[Start from the beginning here.]

As soon as Miranda marched her plump little tush downstairs, she sat herself at the kitchen table and waited for Gus to bring over her plate of fried tofu and chives with substitute soybean sour cream. As she shoveled the food into her mouth, Gus noticed that there was a slight twitch in his daughter’s face. Mira kept staring at the ceiling with anticipation then quickly glance back down at her plate when she noticed Gus watching her.

Gus wondered if she harbored all the neighborhood dogs into her bedroom again. He took a step back and listened. No puppy paws scratching the floor.

“Miranda Lukenglasse, what’s going on? You seem strange my little macaroon.”

Mira shook her head back and forth, “I knew it.”

Gus sat down across from his daughter and looked into her worried face.

“I knew you would find out. I told him that I couldn’t hide it from you, but he just wouldn’t believe me.”

Gus looked to the ceiling with a nervous glance, “Did Ron tell you something he shouldn’t have?” Gus pursed up his lips and shook his fist at the ceiling remembering the time that Ron tried to convince Miranda hamburger meat was a perfectly acceptable food.

“Well actually,” an innocent smile broke across Miranda’s face, “Ron did tell me something, so…”Gus’ face grew red from anger.

Mira bolstered herself, “God is playing poker in my closet,” she stated with glee.

Gus let the tension in his body relax for a moment only to let the words sink in and tighten right back up again. “God!” Gus jumped from his seat and grabbed Mira’s plate just as she was spooning another bite into her mouth. “God is in your closet, is he? So that’s what Ron’s been telling you.” Gus dumped the rest of the tofu into the sink and scraped at the plate ferociously. “I didn’t think he had it in him, that boy. I really took him for a nice decent kid after this last year, but oh no.” Gus spoke more to the kitchen wall now then to anyone in particular. “But now he’s spouting off lies to my daughter, my flesh and blood, that there’s a God, and playing poker no less. Well I won’t be having any of this, that’s for sure.” He dropped the plate into the sink and waved a dish brush at Miranda. “What else has he been telling you?” Gus demanded.

“He just told me that God didn’t exist. That’s it. He really didn’t help me at all in fact. I mean, I came to him for help and he’s telling me I’m just seeing things, but I tell you—“

“Wait, Ron told you God didn’t exist,” Gus interrupted Mira.

“Yep, that’s exactly what he said,” she smiled, happy to have the right answer for once.

“So then who told you that God was in your closet?”

“God told me of course when I found him in my closet. At first, I couldn’t make out who he was. I thought he might be a teacher or something, but then after awhile I figured out that I didn’t know him at all but I told him he could stay…” Miranda could have continued on like this for hours seeing as her father was now a million miles away trying to piece together how his daughter came to know about God and where this crazy story about him playing poker in the closet came into existence.

“…but then I was telling him about the lepers and he shook my hand and I thought ooh gross what if he has diseases when—“

“Now, lets get this straight,” Gus interrupted Mira again, “you say there is a man up in your closet?”

“That’s right.”

“Right now.”

“Mm-hm,” Miranda shook her head in the affirmative.

“And he says he’s God.”

“Like I’ve been telling you, he—“

Before she could go on, Gus put up his rubber glove-covered hand to stop her. “So if we go up to your room right now I’ll find God in your closet.”

“I would suppose so but he said something about needing to go out and get a drink.”

Without another word, Gus grabbed his daughter’s hand and yanked her from her seat, rushing up the stairs two at a time, still clutching the dish brush and wearing the yellow gloves. He threw back his daughter’s bedroom door and stepped inside preparing himself for the worst but hoping for the best and slowly tiptoed toward her closet thrusting the brush out in front of him like a sword.

Chapter Three

[To read The Family Lukenglasse from the beginning click here.]

Ron Kim was fifteen and had been living in and out of American boarding schools his whole life. For the past year, he had been living at the Lukenglasse home against his fervent wishes. Upon starting high school, his parents thought it wise for him to actually experience some family life and signed him up with a foreign exchange program that took him from the familiarity of his dorm life and transplanted him into the loving arms of the Lukenglasse family. There was nothing Ron Kim could do about it.

His family was perpetually on vacation. And though most of their time was spent sipping champagne from crystal flutes on Paris balconies or avoiding the sun in exotic Cote de Azur, they felt their son needed to learn how to be a proper businessman and understand the true nature of money and the American work ethic, and what better way to learn this then by living in the land that originated the free market itself. After fifteen years, while Ron knew nothing but America, business, math and the economy, he barely knew anything about his parents, Korea, the taste of pricey caviar on his tongue, or even the feel of his mother’s hand on his head. His parents took this as a wild success and rarely regretted their decision, frequently boasting about their good deed of shipping the boy off and educating him American style, even if that meant that they couldn’t remember the shape of his head on a pillow or the length of his arm as he reached for salt across a table.

And for Ron himself, he rarely thought twice about his parents, that is until he moved into 134 Berry Tree Lane with the Lukenglasse family and found himself repeatedly cursing his parents’ names. It seemed that it would be no different on the day that Miranda sauntered into his room asking for advice about God.

Ron Kim was not exactly the best person to go looking for advice from when that advice entailed a deity and the probability of him turning up in an atheist home. It wasn’t that Ron didn’t believe in God or the odds of him gracing his presence here on Earth, it was just that he believed in so many other things that disproved the likelihood of their being a God instead. For starters, he believed in the language of mathematics and its characters in triangles, circles and other geometric figures, as Galileo would say. He believed in Poor Richard’s Almanac and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Thought experiments and rationalization always trumped guided meditation and prayer readings. If he had any religious leanings it was toward the Force and there were fantasies of Princesses involved, not virginal mothers. Suffice it to say, Ron believed in Science, rational thinking and the ability to logically figure out any problem that may arise using one’s own mind.

Mira tapped Ron’s shoulder as he sat in front of his computer screen, “Ron, I have a question.”

“You always have one question or another at any time so you might as well get to asking it,” Ron responded without turning around, his fingers furiously clicking away as he instant messaged his friend down the street.

Mira was not one to take to sarcasm or disdain so she continued as calm as before, “You see Ron, God is playing poker in my closet—“

“’I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world.’ Albert Einstein,” Ron quoted.

“I didn’t say God was playing dice, I said he was playing poker.”

Ron tolerated Mira like one would a little sister who was very, very slow. He swiveled around giving her his full attention, “What are you trying to say?”

“There’s a man…he says his name is God, or Mr. God or something like that…who is playing poker in my closet. I told him he could stay, but I don’t think that Gus would like that so much. So then he told me not to tell Gus, but I don’t think that I can do that either. So I was wondering if you could tell me what to do since you’re so good at telling me what I should be thinking all the time.”

“First off, how many times do I have to tell you that I am not telling you how to think, I am only presenting logical explanations to the mental ‘problems’ you so often find yourself in and hope that you hypothesize correctly and when you don’t I spell it out for you a little better? And secondly, I’m not fully understanding the conundrum. There’s a man in your room? God’s playing poker? Was this another dream? Remember when I told you that sometimes we have movies in our heads at night but it doesn’t mean the things really happened?”

“This is what I know. I heard a strange noise in my closet and I found a man digging around for some bow or tie or something and he told me his name was God and then asked if he could stay awhile.”

Ron rubbed his head, “This theory has a variety of surprising consequences that seem to violate common sense.”

Miranda looked up at him with big empty eyes like a fish begging for food.

Ron could only come to one rational conclusion. Miranda was making it all up. Much as Gus forbade religion for his own superfluous reasons, Ron just simply did not believe in religion, or God for that matter. As his favorite physicist would say, “If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” So in one of his well practiced condescending looks, Ron graced Miranda with a reply.

“Tell your father whatever you want. It won’t matter in the long run because God doesn’t really exist.” And Mira took this advice straight to heart and marched right downstairs for breakfast to announce to her father that there was a man that didn’t exist playing poker in her closet.

Chapter Two

[The Family Lukenglasse continued. Start at Chapter One here]

Damascus Lukenglasse was a slight man with unnatural tendencies towards liking natural foods. He had long, grey hair that hung down his back in a limp ponytail that resembled the tail of a rat. He often walked around the house in a dazed fashion and would be found mumbling to himself in the kitchen while searching for spices to flavor his tofu casseroles or vegan “egg” scrambles. Gus often helped himself to special spices he kept hidden in the back of the pantry and this invariably would explain his constant mumbling. He believed the sock was a white man’s invention to suppress the freedom of his foot and saw Teva sandals as the only fit shoe, wearing them year round even in snow. Damascus Lukenglasse, or Gus, was in fact a white man himself but saw his refutation of following the man a symbol of his own ostracism from society.

His clothing was made of hemp or made twenty years ago and bought at rock concerts in which he partook of certain fungi not usually found in salads. For this reason, Miranda grew up knowing such names as Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship, Jethro Tull, The Who and Led Zeppelin, but was not familiar with Jesus Christ, Pope John Paul the Second, or Lazarus. Simply put, Damascus Lukenglasse did not believe in or condone religion. He felt it warped the mind and caused people to take action in somebody else’s favor while their mental capacities were inured. He thought it was unnatural to believe that a virgin could produce a child or that a man was able to walk on water. He did not believe in reincarnation and absolutely refuted the idea that Jesus was both the Holy Spirit and the Father. Though he did believe that Jerry Garcia and Elvis Presley were still alive and sharing a small island in the Pacific with Tupac Shakur.

Gus went to school to become a teacher but after returning from lunch each day, where he religiously tested out some of his latest “spices”, he found that he was unable to focus. Gus could not put his finger on it. He claimed that one day, during a rather long speech about Post-Revolutionary Russia, he found his attention was drawn to a loud rumbling coming through the window. After further investigation, Gus determined that the rumbling sounds were coming from the Pentecostal Church across the street. From that moment on, he whole-heartedly believed that his inability to concentrate during class was due to these loud rumblings and not his after-lunch breaks in his car.

When Gus’ wife got pregnant, they agreed he could drop out of school on one condition. That he agreed to raise their daughter. Mom would go to work at the local car dealership and support the family. This was more than fine by Gus and he took to being a househusband with fervor. As a young child himself, and later as a student, he remembered the hindrance of inane rules assigned by society. He vowed to never impose such rules on his own daughter. Instead he would impose rules of his own design and couldn’t wait for her to pop out nine months later so that he could start imposing them.

The first task he set out for himself was making sure Miranda never knew, celebrated or followed any and all religions. Mom agreed to this because she followed Money. The longer Gus did the housework, the longer Mom could be away from home earning money. It was a perfect set-up as long as she cared nothing about the upbringing of their daughter.

As one could guess, Gus decided on home schooling. Through Gus’ tutelage, Miranda knew very little about practically anything and a lot about essentially nothing. She could recite every word of “Stairway to Heaven” but couldn’t tell you the name of the first President. She knew twenty different recipes for soybeans but was unaware that milk should not be consumed while eating meat. On Sunday mornings, Gus and Miranda would read from passages of “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. Miranda would never be punished as long as she was exploring the world at large, unless, of course, that exploration led to religion, Republicanism, or red meat. Gus figured, go ahead and eat the mud in the backyard to see what it tastes like, wear your underwear on your head in public, talk to the squirrels to see if they talked back, but don’t pray, recite scripture, listen to Rush Limbaugh or snack on beef jerky.

To handle this discrepancy in his teaching style, Gus took to lying. The meat in the grocery store was dead children flesh that people fed to their pet snakes. Churches were hospitals for lepers and Politics was a bad word for using the toilet.

Gus was so adamant in his policies that he began to believe them himself. He was revolted by the deli section in the grocery store and became so afraid of touching other people’s hands for fear of leprosy that he carried around a bottle of Method counter cleaner and sprayed it out two feet in front of him whenever he was potentially going to meet someone for the first time. However, by the act of spraying people with a cleaning agent, he very rarely met anyone and found that he was quite content just hanging out with Miranda and talking to his wife on the phone while she worked overtime at the dealership.

All of this is to say, that it was no surprise that Damascus Lukenglasse fainted straight to the floor when he discovered God crawling around on Miranda’s floor, but the author gets ahead of herself.

God took a look around the room and weighed his options. He could leave quite peacefully and go back to his dreaded office where an infinitude of tasks waited for him, or he could see this as a well deserved vacation and wile the days away in the privacy of this young girl’s closet where no one would search him out or cause any horrendous announcements about his stay on Earth. Why in fact, if he played his cards right, he could stay here for quite awhile, enjoying a nice little respite if only he could convince the young girl to not go telling anyone else in the household. For God understood that although this Damascus character seemed to have no want for religion, he obviously was well aware of it in his past, perhaps too aware of it, and it might take only the slightest thing to set him off and then all God’s good intentions would be wasted.

At that, God took a seat on Mira’s window bench and patted the empty spot next to him. “I have an idea kiddo,” God stated. “I’m thinking that I might stay for awhile if that’s okay with you. You’ve got a cozy room and I’m quiet enough. I’ll just be shuffling up some cards, maybe have a friend or two over for an evening cocktail but not much. Alls I need from you though, is your secrecy. Do you think you could handle that?”

Miranda was not one for secrets, especially those she would have to keep from her father, but she was intrigued by this strange man and liked the idea of her own private social circle, albeit and an ill advised one. “I never lie to Gus,” she spoke at last after weighing her own options.

“I’m not asking you to lie, just don’t divulge the truth. Its not like your father will just happen to ask if there’s a Mr. God sleeping up in your bedroom after all.”

Miranda thought God had a point, “Okay fine, but keep to the closet.”

“Wonderful,” God clasped his hands and jumped from his seat, “well if you need me I’ll be playing poker.” God headed back into the closet and shut the door just as Miranda heard Gus calling her for breakfast. At the sound of his voice, she felt a guilty pang pull at her heart and wondered if she made the wrong decision. There was only one-way to find out; ask Ron.