They call it the Fully Automatic Cathedral (FAC). It’s .45 caliber and can deliver the gospel at a rate of six-hundred rounds per minute. It takes wadded up pages of the Bible as ammunition and needs to be reloaded about once in a generation. The ex-Marines I sometimes go shooting with say it takes one kind of courage to shoot someone and a whole second kind of courage to get shot. The solemn promise of the FAC is that as long as you use it you’ll only ever need that first kind of courage. It’s so accurate it could send a bumble-bee to insect-Heaven from half a mile away. I currently have it set to Roman Catholic but there’s other settings. Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Mormon, even Mennonite. Hit someone with this they’ll probably die, but if they don’t you can bet that whatever’s left of them will be coming to church next Sunday. It looks like your average machine gun. That is, if your average machine gun were twice as big, made of solid marble, and had Aramaic verses inscribed across its barrel.
I arrived here at the valley of Elah an hour early. After all, punctuality is 70% of being a good assassin. My boss, the Archangel Michael, usually isn’t the type of angel to give out compliments. He gave me one though. He told me, “You’re the physical embodiment of the word ‘smite,’ if the word smite were seven feet tall and wore Ray-bans and tactical armor, that is.” Since then, my catch-phrase has been “Consider yourself smoted.”
Today’s assignment is one of those, “Send forth your best champion” type of deals between God and the Devil. The Devil sends forth his Goliath and God sends forth his David. That’s me. I’m like the second coming of David or something. And pretty soon, walking over the top of that ridge is gonna be the second coming of Goliath.
Been converting people almost everyday since around ‘93. I’m not saying the people I convert are ungrateful, but I am saying that I haven’t gotten even one thank you note since I started. That’s fine by me though. Virtue is the only payment I expect. Well, that and the money. I wouldn’t accept money for following God’s will, but I figure God can afford it. When I was a kid, my devout Catholic granny used to put twenty dollars in the collection plate every Sunday. Twenty dollars. Do you have any idea how many devout Catholic grannies there are in the world? And then there’s all the other denominations on top of that.
I’m still thinking about how loaded God must be when I notice movement across the ridge. A kid is scootering down towards me. He’s short and red-haired, maybe thirteen years old. In his right hand he has a sling.
“Hey, boy,” I call out to him. “You better get out of here. There’s about to be a fight. You don’t want to get hurt.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” shouts the kid, kicking the ground to speed up. “The David and Goliath grudge match. Have you happened to see Goliath? I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to knock him out, cut his head off, and feed his body to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. Do you mind if I borrow your bayonet? I didn’t bring anything to cut with.”
“No, no, no,” I shout. “You’re not supposed to kill Goliath. I’m supposed to kill Goliath.”
Now the kid’s just a few feet away from me. He does a quick ollie on the scooter and then folds it up to put in his backpack.
“Huh. Well, that’s odd,” he says. “Maybe you can help me find the guy I’m supposed to kill. He’s about seven feet tall and he’s been going around the world gunning down innocent people since the early nineties. Sound like anyone you know?”
“No, it doesn’t. I mean, I kill people but only the people God tells me to.”
“That doesn’t sound like the God I know.”
“It is. I have proof.” I pull out my letter of conscription and hand it to the kid.
“Um, excuse me, sir,” the kid says, “but this doesn’t look like God’s signature.” He points to the bottom of the page where there had previously been the beautiful gold Hebrew letters for adonai. Now there are just three numbers written in what I hope is red ink. Those numbers are 666.
“It wasn’t like that before,” I tell him. “This was a trick!”
“Yeah, the Devil is known for that kind of thing. I am very sorry sir, but I think I’m going to have to knock you out, cut your head off, and feed you to the birds of the air and the beasts of the sea. Is that okay?”
“But I didn’t do anything wrong,” I tell him. “The angel who came said he was working for God! How was I supposed to know they weren’t orders from God?”
“Probably when they told you to kill innocent people.” And suddenly he’s got a stone in his sling and he’s twirling it around.
I consider throwing down my gun, bowing down and apologizing for everything. Praying for forgiveness. I know that’s not how the story is supposed to go, though. Goliath isn’t allowed to just give up. So I put the gun on safety and I get the kid in my sights. I wait as he spins the sling faster and faster, getting ready. My boss, the one who told me he’s the Archangel Michael, is shouting into my walkie-talkie, saying, “Shoot him! What are you doing?”
“Seeing if I have the second kind of courage,” I tell him.
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