Mr. Johnson, The Very Minor god
By: Jeff Hite
This story was inspried by a writing prompt from Mur Laferty’s The news from Poughkeepsie series find out more at Murverse.com
When Johnson, or Mister Johnson, as his one and only subject called him, was called into being he knew two things: first that he had only one subject, Alexandra, an otherwise normal little girl, and second that he was a very minor god. He never let either of these facts bother him. Alexandra made up for being his one and only subject very well. She was always faithful, completed penance with never a complaint, she even did extra from time to time. All in all what more could a god ask for?
From time to time, he would check with the other gods and none of them had as successful a track record as he did, one hundred percent faithfulness from their subjects. His perfect record was the envy of all the other very minor gods. Not one of them even came close.
This made him proud, and in return he took good care of his faithful subject. He made sure that she never got sick, she never so much as stubbed a toe. He even gave her special powers from time to time. When that brat Thomas Middleberg pulled her hair and teased her in second grade, Mister Johnson made sure the she could catch him on the playground that afternoon, despite the fact that he was much faster than her normally. That was why, on the day it all happened it was so very devastating.
The second of July had started like any normal day for Mister Johnson. Alexandra had woken him with her morning prayer. She sang softly in the way that he had taught her, and he was very happy that her voice was starting to take on the qualities that maturity would bring. Now that most of the little girl voice was gone, it was a soft and soothing way to wake up.
Today, he knew she was going to ask Tom Middleberg to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. She had fallen for him all those many years ago when she had chased him down on the playground. He had kissed her on the cheek that day so that she would not hit him, saying he was sorry for being rude to her. From that day forth, she had a crush on him. When she found out that the school was going to hold the traditional girl asks boy dance, she had begun to pray. Mister Johnson was all but too happy to comply, his one and only subject had always been faithful after all. He had endowed her with the gifts she had requested and prepared her the best way he could.
That day was important for another reason. That day was the day that he was going to fix the one thing about his existence that had always troubled him. He was going before the god council to present his record and get his status elevated from very minor god to minor god, in truth he had much higher aspirations, but the minor god status would mean that he actually got to sit in the gods lunch room.
“Mister Johnson,” the head of the council said. “We have seen your record, and it is positively glowing.” A round of here heres would follow. “It is in the judgment of this council that instead of the normal adjustment from very minor god to minor god, that you be elevated to the level of major god. And because of your incredible achievements you will be given control of the entire southern hemisphere.” Clapping and cheers breaking out as he finished the proclamation.
“Johnson, Johnson,” the man with the annoying little voice broke into his thoughts. He stood up and made his way to the little barred window.
“I’m Johnson,” he said.
“I will need proof of that.”
Johnson pulled out his very minor god ID and showed it to the annoying little man.
“Oh, you are a very minor god,” he said never making eye contact and shaking his head. “You will have to come back on Wednesday, the council only takes up very minor god issues on the third Wednesday of February on leap years.”
“But I have this appointment, and a spotless record.” He said holding out his appointment slip and record.
“Let me see that.” the little man said snatching it from Johnson. As he did his dirty fingers left smudges on the nearly glowing record. Johnson felt his blood begin boiling at this, but he controlled himself. “Oh I see, you are that Johnson. Yes, yes have a seat. The council will see you in a little while.”
Alexandra, like her god, was not having the best of days. She had asked for and gotten the things that she had wanted from Mister Johnson, but the extra height and the extra pound or so of flesh she had been given were making her a little awkward. She did her best to compensate, but she was still having a little trouble. Oddly enough when she had prayed to him for a bit of grace, he had not answered her. She could not remember a time in her life when he had not at least acknowledged her prayer. No matter she thought, she could go it on her own. She was after a smart and pretty young woman, Mr. Johnson told her so all the time. But she had decided to wait to talk to Thomas until the end of the day when there had been more time to work on her balance.
“Johnson!” The annoying voice said.
“The council will see you now. If I were you I would turn off your prayer catcher, on the off chance that it goes off in there it will reflect badly.”
“But what if my subject needs me?”
“As always if your prayer catcher is off your subjects’ prayers will go to prayer mail that you can pick up later. Emergencies will be routed through the switch board here, and we can interrupt you if it is really important. But you better hope that doesn’t happen,” he rolled his eyes as if to say that would never happen for a very minor god anyway.
Johnson reluctantly turned off his prayer catcher, but as he did he noticed that the signal was non-existent. He wondered how many of Alexandra’s prayers he had missed. As he thought about this he truly felt empty without them.
The two huge chamber doors were made for the much older and larger gods, and he had to struggle to get one of them open just enough to get in. When he finally did, his toga was wrinkled and his record had picked up a new crease. He thought about trying to straighten them but he could feel the stares of the council upon him. If you knew anything it was that you didn’t keep the council waiting. He walked quickly forward and handed his paperwork to the clerk, who looked at it in dismay. She checked her paperwork against his twice before taking them to the huge bench where the nine super elevated gods sat. They looked casually at his record, passing it quickly from one to the other.
“It says here that your record is clean Johnson.” the least of the super elevated god said blandly as Johnson thought was godly possible “That is rather impressive. How have you managed to keep your subjects happy?”
“Alexandra has few demands, and I have carefully taught the proper prayers and they are coming along nicely as she grows.”
“Ahh but how do you teach that to all of your subjects with no discontent? Surely there must be some that don’t like you.” The second most elevated god said. This was not going at all as Johnson had imagined.
“Well that is the thing, I only have one subject.”
“One!” Bellowed a particularly large god. There was a shuffling as they all passed his record around again examining it more carefully this time.
“How did this happen?” Asked the head god to know one in particular. There was silence among them after that and some very knowing glances were exchanged. Finally the head super elevated god spoke.
“Johnson, it appears that there has been a mistake. A god, even a very minor god is normally not given the care of just one subject, that is normally the dominion of the guardian angels,” He paused looking at the record again and frowning. “Hmmm… it says here that you have even given powers to the girl from time to time. That is not normally allowed, but otherwise you seem to have done a remarkable job with her. We are going to review your case and…”
There was a knock at the chamber doors, and the Clerk obviously annoyed at the interruption hurried to answer it. There was a brief exchange that Johnson could not hear then the clerk came forward and handed a prayer mail recorder to Johnson.
“Well, you have interrupted us… Let’s hear it. If it is that important.” The head god said.
Johnson, mortified of what it might be, tried to figure out how the device worked. Alexandra had never had an emergency before. The worst thing that happened to her were nightmares and he could usually take care of them before they got bad. Then he remembered Thomas and the time he had pulled her hair, how upset she had been that day. The tears had caused ripples in his garden or serenity pool. Just then he found the play button and pushed it.
“Mister Johnson,” her young voice sung with obvious strain. “Why have you forsaken me? He hates me! I hate you! ” The final words came with such force that it shook the recorder in his hand and the sounds echoed off the chamber walls.
When the echo died down the head god shook his head sadly and said, “This changes things a bit you understand.” He handed Johnson’s now considerably less that perfect record back to the clerk. Johnson looked down at it. It now had an ugly red scrawl across it, ‘Guardian Angel training needed.’ we will review your case again on the regular schedule. He took it and walked slowly out of the chambers. She would pay for this.
Jeffrey Hite is the one of the cofounders of Flying Island Press and the managing editor of Pirate’s Cove.
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