Heaven: The Main Office, Monday Morning

By Jean Goldstrom

Reprinted from Out of James' Attic (Date)

It was a typical Monday morning in Heaven, at the Main Office, and the angel Gabriel could not find what he sought. Gabriel had even come in to work early, just to start his search and make sure it was successful. He always tried to get in a bit early Monday mornings anyway. So many souls observed a holy day during their previous planetary circuit that the prayer in- baskets were filled to overflowing.

"So much for quantity," Gabriel muttered, as he glanced at them. "As to quality - well, we shall see," he said, with a sigh. Picking up one handful of dry petitions and scanning them in a nanosecond, he tossed them back on one of the piles. "Same old stuff," the ancient angel grumped. He grabbed another handful, and observed to himself that if they weren't stamped with the name and address of the sender, you couldn't tell one from another apart. "All right," he murmured, "creativity may not be next to godliness, but still..." Gabriel sighed. He couldn't find what he wanted here, he feared.

These piles of newly-arrived prayers - primarily pastoral prayers offered by clergy during worship services - were just like the vast majority of such prayers typically flooding in from all over the multiverse on Sundays to clog the Heavenly in-baskets Monday morning. Essentially, they said, "Hello, God. We are here, you are there, and here is our list of requests..." except, of course, in many, many, many more words. And these weren't even the most tiresome petitions, Gabriel knew. That title was reserved for those prayers that went straight into the Vain Repetition hoppers, where they were automatically logged by the name of the one who prayed, general description of the prayer (one word usually sufficed) date, etc., after which the prayer went straight to the Heavenly power plant, where at least it provided heat, light and air conditioning.

Gabriel riffled through the overflowing in-boxes, uttering as he often did a silent prayer of thanks that he didn't have to do more with them. A certain group of souls would be in soon to go over them, and log in all the requests and responses, however dull, meaningless and repetitive. This group consisted of hypocrites who had made it into Heaven - just barely - even though, in their lives, they had sent plenty of such hollow prayers to stuff the Heavenly in-baskets in their attempts to look pious. Now, it was their eternal task to read the uninspired drivel aimed Heaven-ward by others of their kind, meanwhile meditating on what they had done, and how badly and often they had done it.

Gabriel quickly flipped through the remaining prayers. There were the good - all too few - the bad and the inconsequential. "Isn't anyone ever satisfied?" Gabriel wondered to himself. "Gimme this, take that away, help me get a new fill-in-the- blank...job, house, car, girlfriend, boyfriend... Haven't these people ever heard of classified ads?" He sighed, for his search was still fruitless. Again, Gabriel heaved an angelic sigh. Taking the words "I," "me," and "my" away from some of these prayers would reduce their size by 50%, which would be a Good Thing, in the angel's opinion. Of course, The Boss would still check through these, because...well, because He was The Boss.

Sometimes Gabriel felt sorry for The Boss, having to read all this stuff, for eternity. Oh, well, Gabriel would then realize, that's how The Boss planned it, so it was okay. Lucky He has strong nerves, a lot of patience and a good sense of humor, the angel reflected.

Then something caught Gabriel's eye, gleaming at the bottom of one of the in-baskets. Aha! Was it what he had been seeking, so far so hopelessly? The angel fished it out, sparkling and shining. It was a petition, written in a childish hand, and labeled,"The Prayer Tree." The carefully pasted-together set of papers contained prayers from a group of children. The children asked for peace, and prayed for good health for Great Grandfather. They requested blessings for their four best friends. They thanked The Boss for pets and pals and schools and teachers and fun and laughter...a lump arose in Gabriel's angelic throat. His search was not in vain. He had found what he sought.

And there were a few other sparkling, shimmering prayers here and there in the in-baskets, which soon revealed themselves to Gabriel's search. But the Prayer Tree was truly a precious gem. Gabriel placed it on the top of the small but beautiful pile of shining, gleaming prayers. He carried the collection lovingly to the desk of The Boss, and placed it where it would greet Him upon His arrival at Heaven, The Main Office.

Gabriel knew what He would say. "Hold my calls, Gabriel, while I give this My undivided attention," the Boss would mutter, already deep into these precious petitions.

"Yes, Sir," Gabriel would respond, enthusiastically. And then it would be a good day in Heaven, The Main Office. Of course, it always was.


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