Story Go Round 11/29/2009, #12

The Unpaid Bill

Masha stared at the mail on the floor. She knew there was nothing she wanted to open – they would all be bills – except there was one yellow-orange envelope that looked, somehow, cheerful, and she could use some cheer. She picked the envelope up. It was from the Sunshine Company. She had never bought anything from them. She opened the envelope. Bright yellow light filled the room. A chorus of angels launched into a medley of Donovan's greatest hits. Why hadn't she ever done this before?

But the real question was: Who cared enough to send her an envelope full of sunshine and angels? The list of potential suspects was slim.

Masha immediately ruled out anyone related to her. Her aunties and uncles usually sent her the latest fad “gotta have it” toy as if she was ten instead of thirty.

Then she remembered that man from the bus stop. He had asked her to sign a petition to help homeless kittens, and who could say no to that? He'd had the kindest, warmest brown eyes she had ever seen, and when he'd spoken to her so attentively, she had felt for that moment like she was the center of the world.

He had handed her a coin from his pocket on that day, hand trembling a little bit as he pressed it into her palm. “Take this,” he'd said, an unreadable expression on his face. “You'll need it.”

She'd been mystified at the time, wanting to ask what he meant, but not really knowing how.

Now she reached into her pocket and found the coin. Shiny, brass, and still warm. It had a smiling sun on one side and the face of some unknown man on the other. He looked kindly and cheerful, like someone's favorite uncle. The coin also bore a few words in a script she didn't recognize.

The yellow light continued pouring out of the envelope, illuminating the flyer with bright, cheery glow. Angels were everywhere, singing, cleaning, braiding her hair, making out in the potted fern. The envelope itself had become too bright to look at, shining like a tiny sun.

However, it wasn't what it seemed. Happy sunshine and angels coming from envelopes rarely are.

“Congratulations!” One of the angels said in a salesman voice. “You've been chosen to be a demon slayer.”

The light continued to fill the room, and she stared at the angel, mouth flapping.

“What?” she shrieked.

“A very high paying job indeed. And you're our one millionth customer, so—”

“I have to go to work tonight.”

“We got you fired. Isn't that simply the most convenient thing ever? So you see, our customer service is—”

“I thought I was working for you.”

“That too.”

“What if I don't want the job?”

All the noise silenced. Masha felt herself shrink in on herself as every eye stared at her.

“Um, I'm afraid you don't have a choice. See, our last demon slayer died. We need a quick replacement. And you're perfect.” The salesman angel grinned at her, teeth white and smile persuasive.

“But I don't know the first thing about demon slaying.”

“No, but you know the last thing and that is the most important.”

This was getting to be too much.

“So what's the last thing?” I found myself asking.

“Didn't we just say you already knew it?”

How quickly we can go from puzzlement to anger to confusion and right back around to rage. But then something he said earlier caught my mind.

“Wait. How high paying?

Real money, right, none of this severed head stuff—”

“Yes,” the angel said, “Real money.”

“Real money from this time period,” I added. “And my own country.”

The angel nodded. I'd learned my lesson when I got paid once in Sumerian dung coins for a charity job from a homeless guy last year. My purse reeked for a year! As a matter of fact, it still smelled like millenia old feces in the coin purse. -- I was trying to avoid thinking about my new job.

Masha, demon slayer.

“I need business cards,” she snapped, smiling angelically at all the angels.

It was then that a knock was heard from the front door. It turned out to be a man from a business down the street that specialized in business cards. “And rest assured, sir,” he explained. “We're a severed-head free zone.”

At this, Masha sighed in relief as she found the whole severed head joke getting old real quick.

“So, uh- I'm a demon slayer?” I asked.

The angel nodded. “Yep! And until you get used to it, you get guardian angels and 3 – not 1, not 2, but 3 – come back to life tokens. In case, uh, an unfortunate accident happens. Not that it would.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Didn't your last demon slayer die?

The salesman angel's smile began to falter. “Err- anyway, Alder, Bob, stop making out in the potted plant and become this girl's guardian angels. Good luck!” All the angels but the two making out disappeared.

And once more, all that remained was the envelope and the sunshine. And Masha and her new career and the guardian angel accessories, and the three life tokens. And the original pile of bills.

“I need to move,” she said.