And the Lord said, "what did you lose, my son?"
"My house, O Lord," replied the hapless former homeowner.
"And whose fault was that," said the Lord.
"Well, the saleslady, she said I’d be able to live like a king, and she gave me all this money, and it was a great until — poof! — the rates went up and I couldn’t pay my mortgage."
"Now, is this the saleslady," said the Lord, nodding toward a bewildered woman who was being ushered in by an archangel.
"Why, yes, sir. That’s her. Hi, Mary Ann. Where you been?"
"Why it’s Mary Ann," said the Lord. "Mary Ann, let’s not waste time. Did you really sell this man a worthless mortgage?"
"Yes, Lord, I cannot tell a lie. You see…."
The Lord’s eyes flared. "Mary Ann, you are certainly correct, you can never tell a lie again now, can you?"
"No, Lord," she sniveled.
"Now, why did you lie to this man?"
"Because, Lord, I was out of a job and I answered an ad and this company in New York gave me five thousand dollars for every mortgage I could sell — no questions asked."
"Now that’s a good, honest answer, Mary Ann. But I’m asking the questions now. Well, they weren’t telling you the truth either, were they?"
"No, Lord," she said, wiping her nose.
"And who was your supervisor in New York, Mary Ann?"
"A guy named Jeremy, sir. I never really met him, but …"
"Now … oh thank you, Gabriel," said the Lord, as the archangel ushered in a youngish fellow in dapper attire. "Jeremy. Jeremy. How many times I have tried to help you. (Sighs). Well, Jeremy, did you really try to hoodwink all these people like that?"
"Oh noooo, Sir," wailed Jeremy — and suddenly screamed, as the archangel’s wing gave him a sound wallop in the behind — accompanied by a bright flash. Jeremy’s eyes glowed for an instant, then darkened again. "Yessir yessir yessir I did. I lied. I stole. Lotsa times."
"That’s much better, Jeremy," said the Lord. "And why would you do a thing like that?"
"Gee, sir, I really didn’t …(looks at menacing archangel wing) … Well, sir, it was money. It was the money and (furtively glancing at the archangel) cocaine, sir."
"Now that’s very good, Jeremy. Very good." He paused.
"Jeremy, have you ever told the truth in your life before? Ever?"
"Probably not, Sir."
"That’s too bad. You’ll soon discover just how bad. But you’re doing a good job now. So tell me, how did you get away with all this thievery, Jeremy? Why didn’t the police just arrest you?"
Jeremy’s face reddened and he stammered for a moment. Eyeing the archangel warily, he said, "our CEO hired lobbyists, sir. They made sure it wasn’t against the law."
"Your CEO? And who might that …."
"THAT WOULD BE ME," boomed the voice of a swaggering figure as he made his entrance unannounced, having been shoved by a couple of beefy angels.
"Ah, Paul. Paul. I haven’t seen you for so long … what did they give you, Paul, that I hadn’t already given you," said the Lord.
"Forty-eight million a year plus a ten-year parachute, worth maybe five-ten million more, that’s what they gave me," roared the CEO.
"Ah, sir — that parachute figure should be twenty-eight million and change," Raphael told the Lord in a stage whisper. "Taking into account what you’ve told us about the future, it works out to $28,887,291.01 — close of business, ten years from today."
"Thank you, Raphael," said the Lord. "Now, Paul, this poor man here has lost his house. How could you get away with letting Mary Ann and Jeremy here do what they did? Jeremy says it was u2018lobbyists.’ What do lobbyists do, Paul?"
"Look, it’s business, just business. Tit for tat, that kind of thing. Once they were poor staffers, we make them rich. We give them a lot of money because they know the congressmen — they’re all friends, you know, and we give them money and they let us make money. It’s a pretty neat deal, really. Everybody gets a piece of the action."
"Really?" said the Lord. "They let you steal? Legally? … Gabriel, please bring me one of these congressmen." (enter congressman). "Good morning, Mr. Congressman."
Congressman (puzzled look): "Good morning, sir … ah, may I sit down?"
"Most people prefer to stand," said the Lord, "but of course you may. Gabriel, please bring the congressman a chair."
The congressman sat down. He shifted in his chair, which was too small for him.
The Lord eyed him intently. "Now, Mr. Congressman, did you really make all this possible? Printing money, spending like a drunken sailor, taking all those bribes, and letting people like Paul and Jeremy and Mary Ann here trick this poor man out of his house?"
The congressman sat up erect: "Er, u2018Lord,’ or whatever they call you, look: if we’re gonna put all our cards face-up on the table here, may I mention that this never would have happened if 147,821 people hadn’t voted for me in the last election?"
"That’s a very astute observation," said the Lord. "Who are they? Do you know their names?"
"Oh Lord," said the dazed elected official, "I could never know that. See, we have secret ballots in our … our system, our country, our district …."
"Were you going to say your u2018empire," asked the Lord.
"Yessir, yessir, that’s right. My little piece of terra firma. And so I just don’t know who voted for me and who didn’t. I mean, let’s face it, everybody who comes to me asking for favors says he voted for me, but you know how believable that is."
"As a matter of fact, you’re right," said the Lord. "I do know how many of them were lying." He sighed. "Raphael?"
Raphael addressed the uncomfortable congressman. "Sir, of the 48,024 people who have told you that they voted for you since you were first elected, 18,912 were not telling you the truth."
The congressman was momentarily flustered. Then he looked dazed. Finally, he said, "Well, anyway, Sir — Lord, whatever — look, don’t blame me for all this. If you could blame the people who voted for me — and get the ones who said they did, too — then you’ll have the real culprits here. But of course, we have secret ballots, you see, so we’ll never know …"
The Lord’s magnificent face showed the faintest trace of a smile.
"Oh yes we will know. Gabriel, will you give me that list and let’s start at the top — the first election, the first voter. Let’s get to the bottom of this…. Ah, thank you, Gabriel … My oh my, what a long list! And you say there are 435 of them? And 100 more senators, too? Hmmmm…. Senators ….. Raphael, go get Cato and Cicero, will you, please? I think they’ll want to watch this.
"Now, let’s look at Gabriel’s list. Here it is, my congressman son, this is the list of all the people who voted for you. We’ll talk to each one of them and, I assure you, we’ll straighten all this out. Let’s see: first election, first precinct, first voter, 6:02 a.m. — oh, here’s Harriet. Now what is a nice lady like Harriet doing here? Just like her to be first, she’s always so punctual. Gabriel, fetch our dear daughter Harriet for me, will you? Tell her it’ll only take a minute." (exit Gabriel)
"Sir? Uh … Sir?" It was the congressman.
"Yes, my son?"
"Er, uh… Sir," said the congressman, still squirming in his too-small chair. "We’ve got to pass emergency legislation, we really have to pass it right away or our country as we know it will collapse. Can’t we put this off until, you know, we have more time?"
The trace of a smile waxed into an eloquent, shining face full of joy. "Oh, don’t worry, my son," said the Lord. "We have all the time in the world…. Oh, hello, Harriet, I’m so sorry to trouble you, my dear. Now, tell me, did you really vote for this man?"
Harriet smiled, bowing low. "O Lord," she said, "I am your faithful servant. I always love seeing you. Anything you ask, I will happily do. Anything. Now, tell me, O Lord, just which man do you mean?"
"Ah, Harriet, my dear, dear Harriet. You perpetually warm my heart. Now, my dear child, the man I asked you about is sitting over there on that chair, between Raphael and Gabriel."
Harriet bowed again, and then turned her gaze around the room slowly, peacefully. She first glanced at the hapless former homeowner, but eventually her eyes came to rest on the Congressman, who was still squirming in his chair.
"Why, it’s BARNEY!!"
(Fade to Black Friday)