August 7, 1991
Gulf of Mexico
Sohu stretched, splayed out further. “Knock knock,” she said.
“OH. THIS AGAIN.”
“Sohu’s at the door, better let her in.”
“HA! HA! HA!” Uriel’s laughter boomed, shook the clouds, shook the ocean, drowned out the everpresent thunder of the surrounding storm. It was a fiery golden laugh, like pyrotechnics, like solar flares.
“I AM ONLY LAUGHING TO BE POLITE,” he finally said. “I DON’T ACTUALLY GET IT.”
Sohu’s face fell.
“It’s a pun!” she said. “Because you said so who, and it sounds like my name, Sohu.”
“I SEE,” said Uriel, suspiciously.
“Yes,” said Sohu. “You are going to learn this. I have decided. You will learn knock knock jokes, and you will be good at them.”
“I’m serious about this! You’re like the best person I know at finding unexpected connections between words and meanings! That’s what jokes are! You’re missing your calling! Come on! Try it!”
“Start with ‘knock knock'”.
“I AM NOT SURE.”
“Say a word! Any word! The first thing you think of!”
“Okay. Aleph who?”
“I AM STILL NOT SURE.”
“A pun. Some sentence that includes a pun on the word aleph. Something that sounds like it.”
“UM. ACCORDING TO THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH, THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD WILL BEGIN ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES.”
“How does that – ? Oh. Aleph. Olives. Um. Sort of. But it needs to be sudden and surprising. It needs to have pizazz. You’ll get it eventually.”
One got the impression that if Uriel had not been hundreds of feet tall, Sohu would have tried to pat his head.
“ALL OF MY JOKES ARE TERRIBLE.”
“Aaaaaaaaaah!” Sohu waved her arms. “That! That should have been your joke! Knock knock! Who’s there? Aleph. Aleph who? All of my jokes are terrible.”
“I AM SORRY.”
“I don’t get it! You are so good at all of this language stuff, and you can find like seven zillion connections between apparently unrelated words, and you can’t crack a basic knock-knock joke! Why? WHY?”
“THEY ARE HARD.”
“Learning every human language is hard! Knock knock jokes are easy!”
“IF I TRY TO LEARN HOW TO DO KNOCK KNOCK JOKES, WILL YOU TRY TO LEARN EVERY HUMAN LANGUAGE?”
“Uriel. You. Do. Not. Understand. Humans.”
The archangel harrumphed and went back to running the universe.
“OF ALL KABBALISTIC CORRESPONDENCES, THE MOST IMPORTANT IS THE CLAIM THAT GOD MADE MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE. EXPLAIN HOW THE STRUCTURE OF DIVINITY CORRESPONDS TO THE HUMAN BODY.”
“The ten fingers are the ten sephirot, the ten emanations by which God manipulates the material world. The bilateral symmetry is the two branches of the Tree of Life, which correspond to the two human arms. The right branch is called Mercy and the left branch is called Severity.”
“SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, I GAVE YOU A HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT. YOU WERE TO FIGURE OUT WHY IN HUMAN POLITICS, THE RIGHT-WING TENDS TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUSTICE AND THE LEFT-WING WITH MERCY, EVEN THOUGHT THESE ARE THE OPPOSITES OF THE KABBALISTIC CORRESPONDENCES.”
“Uriel, all the homework you give me is impossible.”
“I WILL GIVE YOU A HINT. MATTHEW 25:32. BEFORE HIM ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE GATHERED, AND HE WILL SEPARATE THEM FROM ONE ANOTHER, AS A SHEPHERD SEPARATES THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS. HE WILL SET THE SHEEP ON HIS RIGHT HAND, BUT THE GOATS ON HIS LEFT.”
“There’s nothing so impossible it can’t be made more confusing by adding in some apocalyptic prophecy.”
“IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. A SIMPLE SOLUTION RESOLVES BOTH PROBLEMS. THINK ABOUT IT. YOU ARE VERY SMART.”
Sohu thought for a moment.
“I WILL GIVE YOU ANOTHER HINT. DEUTERONOMY 5:4.”
“The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire. Uh. Wait, yes, that makes sense!”
“We are all face to face with God. So our right is His left, and vice versa!”
“YES. SO HOW DOES GOD PART THE RIGHTEOUS ON HIS RIGHT SIDE AND THE WICKED UPON HIS LEFT?”
“He…oh, He just says ‘Everyone who wants to go to Heaven, get to the right.’ And the wicked, who think only of themselves, go to their own right. And the virtuous, who are always thinking of God, go to God’s right.”
“So God’s right and humans’ left means mercy, and God’s left and humans’ right means justice.”
“YES. THIS IS WHY WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT JUSTICE, THEY SPECIFY THAT THEY MEAN HUMAN RIGHTS.”
“I think that might be something different.”
“I AM N…” Uriel trailed off, as if deep in thought. Finally, he asked:
“TELL ME THE KABBALISTIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ROOT R-K-T.”
Sohu knew better than to argue at this point. “Um. Wrecked. Racked. Ragged, sort of. Rocked. Rickety. And it’s got the T-R combination which we already talked about signifying pure power. Something raw and destructive. Why do you ask?”
Uriel stood listening intently. “SOMETHING IS HAPPENING INVOLVING THOSE LETTERS.”
A background whine crescendoed into a scream. A rocket streaked across the sky, headed straight toward them. Lightning-fast, Uriel reached out a giant hand and caught it in his palm.
“OH.” he said.
Sohu was lying face-down on the cloud, wishing she had a desk to duck-and-cover under.
“IT IS FINE,” said Uriel. “THIS IS HOW PEOPLE SEND ME MESSAGES.”
“They couldn’t just pray?”
“SO MANY PEOPLE PRAY THAT I HAVE STOPPED PAYING ATTENTION,” said Uriel.
“What if somebody actually tries to bomb you?!”
“YOUR FATHER WOULD TELL ME,” said Uriel. “SINCE HE DID NOT SAY ANYTHING, I ASSUMED IT WAS SAFE.” He held the rocket up to get a closer look. It was a Minuteman missile, the sort used by the United States Air Force. Written on one side, in what was startlingly good calligraphy for a message on a cylindrical surface, was the message: “You are invited to attend the Multilateral Conference On The Middle Eastern Peace Process in Madrid, starting October 30.”
Sohu clapped her hands.
“You should go!” she said.
“I NEVER GO TO THESE THINGS. THEY ARE TERRIBLE AND FULL OF ARGUMENTS AND NO ONE LIKES ME.”
“Everyone likes you! They want your opinion.”
“HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE?”
“Father goes all the time. He says that negotiation is the key to power.”
“I DO NOT WANT POWER.”
“Yes you do! You control the world! You have power over the weather and the stars and plants and animals and all those things. And they all work really well! Maybe if you tried to have some power over people too, we would work really well.”
“STARS AND ANIMALS AND WEATHER ARE EASY. PEOPLE ARE HARD.”
“Father says that diplomacy is about playing the game. Figure out what people want and explain to them why doing things your way will get it for them better than doing things the other way. It’s about being creative. You’re this genius who can come up with connections between the Parable of the Sheep and Goats and human rights. Diplomacy would be so much fun for you.”
“THAMIEL WILL BE THERE. I AM SURE HE WILL. EVERYONE LIKES THAMIEL. THEY LISTEN TO HIM.”
“They listen to him because he talks to them! I’ve seen you and Thamiel! You zapped him like a fly! Thamiel has power because he tries to have power. If you tried to have power, you would have even more than he does! You could bring peace to the Middle East. And you could get people to join together, like my father does. You could have everybody join together and fight Thamiel.”
“I AM NOT SURE ANGELS HAVING POWER OVER HUMANS IS GOOD. I REMEMBER WHEN SOME OF THE ANGELS TRIED TO GET POWER OVER HUMANS. GADIRIEL. SAMYAZAZ. EVERYONE WAS VERY UPSET.”
“Gadiriel became President and saved the Untied States! It was great! I got to go to the White House with Father and have dinner with her avatar once!”
“THE BIBLE DOES NOT SEEM TO LIKE ANGELS RULING OVER HUMANS. THE NEPHILIM CAUSED NOAH’S FLOOD. GOD APPOINTED SAUL AS KING OF THE ISRAELITES, EVEN THOUGH HE HAD MANY ANGELS TO CHOOSE FROM. IF I WERE TO RULE OVER HUMANS THE SAME WAY I RULE OVER STARS AND WEATHER, THEN THEY WOULD BECOME MACHINE PARTS THE SAME WAY STARS AND WEATHER ARE.”
“No one’s saying you have to rule them! Diplomacy is like the opposite of ruling people! You just have to convince them with good arguments and by seeming imposing! You’re amazing at arguments! And you’re really good at seeming imposing!”
She may or may not have muttered something that sounded like “…to people who don’t know you very well.”
“ARGUMENTS ARE TERRIBLE.”
“Come on,” said Sohu. “Just try it once. Because I asked you to.”
The archangel took a moment to reply, cutting himself off a few times as if thinking better of what he was going to say. Finally:
“I WILL NOT ENJOY THIS.”
“But you’ll try?”
Uriel grumbled. “I HAVE JUST LOST A NEGOTIATION WITH AN EIGHT YEAR OLD GIRL. THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL FOR MY DIPLOMATIC SKILLS.”