“So. Jim. Why do you want to become an angel?”
“I think I’m pretty good with people,” Jim said.
This was his first job interview in a few hundred years and he was a little rusty. The executive sitting across from him was a serious woman with glasses and thin lips. She looked at him over the rims.
“Do you even know what angels do, Jim?”
“Well, sure I do.”
“What do angels do, Jim?”
The woman never blinked. There was nothing in her office but her desk and a bookshelf filled with potted cactuses. A clock without numbers ticked on the wall.
“They roll out the welcome mat,” Jim said. “They keep the peace. Some of them just seem to party and get high all the time.”
“Angels do not get high.” She flipped through his file. “I’ve been screening applicants for a long time, Jim, and you’re the worst I’ve ever seen. By far. You’re reckless. You’re aimless. Your libido is a tornado. The only reason I accepted to see you today was morbid curiosity. I asked myself, what sort of man spends the first two hundred and seventeen years of eternity playing with his dick, then applies to be an angel? What sort of ego? Does he really think he can walk into my office with nothing but a cock and a smile, and walk out with wings?”
Jim smiled. She slapped him through the face.
“Ow! What the hell?”
“You’re a pig.”
“A pig in Paradise.”
She slapped him through the face.
“Dammit! Why are you hitting me?”
“Why do you want to be an angel?”
“I don’t know. I just – I don’t want to be useless anymore.”
It surprised Jim as much as it surprised the executive. She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms and looked at him differently. Jim rubbed his cheek.
“Vulnerability suits you,” she said.
“So Jim wants to be useful.”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, the tornado thing gets old after a while.”
She stood and walked to the bookshelf. She looked at Jim, sized him up, and chose a cactus that was six inches tall and fairly thick. It wobbled when she set it on the desk.
“Do you know what fascinates me about the cactus?” she said.
Jim shook his head.
“It’s strong,” she said. “It’s resilient. It will quietly endure almost any environment. You could forget to feed it for a month and it will survive. And of course – ” She pricked a finger on one of its needles and showed Jim the blood. “It won’t be tamed. Violent and useless.”
She removed a pair of scissors from a desk drawer and cut the cactus in half. Jim gulped.
“Useless until you break it. Only then do you discover its utility.”
She lifted the potted nub and tilted it over her tongue. A pulpy white goo dribbled into her mouth. Some of it dribbled down her chin. She pushed it back into her mouth and swallowed.
“That’s not how mine works,” Jim said.
The executive sat down and wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to him.
“Before you take the entrance exam, you’ll have to take a course on modern women issues. Go to that address. They’ll set you up.”
Jim looked at the paper. It said,
Nil Cunt Court
Sylvia Plath’s Bottomless Pit of Feminist Revenge
At the end of a middle class cul-de-sac Jim found a hole in the ground. It was a large hole, large enough to swallow a house, and when he peered over the edge he couldn’t see the bottom. He plugged his nose and jumped in.
He fell for a long time. The circle of light shrank over gravity and then disappeared and it was dark. He fell for a while longer then splashed down into something warm and sticky.
The pool was circular and surrounded by high smooth walls and lit by torches. The liquid felt like mucus and smelled like metal. Jim treaded.
“Why have you disturbed the sacred pool?”
It was a woman’s voice, soft but amplified by the cavern. Jim searched for its origin and saw a pale woman standing on the wall.
“I’m here to take the modern woman course,” Jim said.
“For what reason?”
“I applied to be an angel. They said I had to come here first.”
“What do you know of the modern woman?”
“Lesson One: The Modern Woman of Paradise does not bleed. Her menstrual cycle is tuned to a secret frequency, transmitted over radio waves, and collected in this pool.”
Only now did Jim notice the outlet valves on the walls. They spurted out more of the viscous fluid at irregular intervals.
I got some in my mouth, Jim thought.
“There is only one way up,” the pale woman said. She lifted her skirt and her bush rolled down the side of the wall like a banner.
Jim swam over to it, grabbed a fistful of the gnarled hair, and pulled himself out of the menstrual goop. His hands were slick with blood and her bush was greasy and the climb was long and difficult. Lint and crumbs and flakes and loose hairs shook loose as he climbed and they peppered the pool below.
In my mouth, he thought again.
When he finally pulled himself over the top of the wall, he was tarred and feathered.
“Do all angels get their wings this way?” he said.
“Some,” the pale woman said. She jerked her leg and the bush rolled back up between her legs. She lowered her skirt took a torch down from the wall. “Follow me.”
The tunnels were dark and labyrinthine and the only light came from the pale woman’s torch.
“Are you Sylvia Plath?” Jim said.
“Where are we going?”
“You will see.”
“Will there be a shower?”
They turned and turned again. Some turns they didn’t take. Lower and lower.
“So, what’s with the zero?” Jim said.
“What zero?” The pale woman never looked back. She walked like a ghost and spoke sharply.
“Nil Cunt Court. It’s a funny address.”
“All other numbers are either phallic or lesbian,” she said. “Zero is a woman’s only refuge from the chauvinist math of men.”
Jim pictured the numbers in his head: 1234567890.
“I kind of get the one,” he said, “and maybe the seven. Is two phallic or lesbian?”
“The two is an inverted ballsack and phallus.”
“Huh. And three?”
“A four is three dicks?”
“Regular ballsack and phallus.”
Jim mulled it over. The pale woman walked.
“So eight’s the lesbian,” he said. “What about six and nine?”
“You know very well what six and nine are doing.”
“Well, there you go. That’s mutual. Equal.”
“Please. Six is obviously the woman, and nine the man. Six is worth less, is upturned and submissive – a gagged bitch hanging from her ankles and at the mercy of the rapist nine.”
As the pale woman led him deeper into the feminist cavern, Jim quietly exercised his brain with the strange arithmetic. A hard dick plus a pussy was a hard dick, but a hard dick times a pussy was a pussy. A hard dick squared was itself, but added together two hard dicks became an inverted ballsack and limp dick, which squared became three dicks – and three dicks squared was one hard dick and a gagged bitch.
“Huh,” Jim said. “The square root of a rapist is balls.”
“And every vagina increases a number’s value by an order of magnitude,” the pale woman said. “At least men got that much right.”
Jim thought, if that was true for pussies it was probably true for balls and lesbians and rapists too. Not to mention that the magnitudes came in multiples of hard-dick-and-pussy, together. He kept his reservations to himself and said,
“I had no idea feminists had to learn math all over again.”
They finally came to a round door and she opened it and he went in.
“No no no!”
The horrible fat woman whapped his knuckles with a phallus. It was a ruler, but the Entrenched Symbolism as a Justified Means of the Perpetual Objectification of All Women Everywhere course-book had taught him that it was also a phallus. He’d taken courses in Sensitivity and Emotional Awareness and Dating the Empowered Woman. He tested out of Feminist Mathematics. The horrible fat woman taught the final class, Natural Beauty and the Institutional Shaming and Objectification of the Female Form. They’d been at it for weeks.
“Again,” the horrible fat woman said. “Which of these two women do you prefer?” She held up two photographs, a hot chick and a fat chick.
“The hot chick,” Jim said.
“The correct answer is, I do not have enough information.”
Jim pointed at the photograph of the fat chick. “That’s a lot of information,” he said.
Jim rubbed his knuckles.
“Beauty is a totality,” the horrible fat woman said. “And that totality has been fragmented by the misogynist media, sexualized at the expense of the Natural Woman, pursuant to the gratification of Abusive Men. The commercialization of the female form has normative blowback, and your male brain has been artificially rewired to appreciate only the immediate and physical aspects of a much deeper feminine glory.”
Jim massaged his temples. All this equality was giving him headache. He swam through a pool of menstrual blood, learned phallic algebra, and watched The Notebook twice – but for some reason he couldn’t swallow the horrible fat woman.
“You know what,” Jim said, “I give up. I surrender. They can keep the wings. I’ll set up a mechanic’s shop or something. Just get me out of here.”
To his surprise the horrible fat woman melted with a sigh of relief. She dug a finger into her scalp and unzipped herself forehead to crotch. The fat fell to the floor and an attractive, sweaty, pissed off young woman glared at him.
“Three weeks?” she said. “Really? Three fucking weeks?” She dug around in the fat and retrieved a purse and checked herself in a pocket mirror. “Ughh, I look like a truck stop whore.”
“What’s happening?” Jim said.
“The last room is a test,” she said. “It’s a test to see how long you can put up with our shit.”
“Did I pass?”
“Pass?” She stuffed the fat into a closet. “Did I pass?” She stripped out of the unitard and threw it in with the fat. Stark naked and squatting she scoured her purse. “One hour. You only have to last for one hour. Uhhgghh! I can never find anything in here!”
“Well, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I can’t tell you. I lose my job if I say anything.” She found her underwear and snapped it on and pulled her hair back in a scrunchie. “I pick up one afternoon shift, and I get the wonderboy who shatters the fucking record. That bitch Susie owes me big time.”
She was dressed, high-heeled, made-up and out the door before Jim could reply. He chased after her.
“Wait! Are you Sylvia Plath? Is it over?”
“I’m taking you to her, wonderboy. I almost missed my birthday because of you.”
Sylvia Plath’s apartment was deeper still. It was a flattened transparent sphere, sparsely and elegantly decorated. The walls looked out beneath the surface of an ocean, and colorful fish swam belly up. The floor looked down at a clear blue sky. Sylvia sat at her writing desk.
“You’re so deep you’re upside down,” Jim said, looking past his feet at the sky.
Sylvia started to laugh, plugged her mouth with a fist, and laughed anyway. She stood up and walked around the desk and hugged him. It was a long hug. Jim coughed and she pulled back.
“Jim,” she said.
“Miss Plath,” Jim said. “Errrr, Mizzz Plath. Shit, I don’t know. Can I call you Sylvia?”
“I heard you gave poor Ashley quite the show.”
“Ashley? Was that the, uh, the girl in the suit? Natural Beauty?”
“Three weeks. You doubled the record, you know.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that. I hope she made it to her birthday.”
Sylvia put a hand on his chest. “You’re a sweet man, Jim,” she said. “A sweet man with a good heart.”
Jim gulped and blushed. Her smile was a razor and her eyes were hungry.
On her toes she whispered in his ear, “I hope it’s not a secret, because it isn’t safe with me.” And she kissed him on the cheek.
Jim was frozen stiff. Sylvia laughed again and returned to her desk.
“Do you have the paper?” she said.
“I believe I have to sign something.”
“Oh yeah.” He gave her the paper.
She pressed her pen to it, paused, looked up.
“Do understand any of it?”
“Would you believe we prefer it that way?”
She signed the paper and handed it back to him.
The executive pursed her thin lips and sniffed.
“That’s Sylvia’s signature,” she said. “I’d have bet the left side of Paradise against it, but there it is.” She filed the paper away, clasped her hands, and gave Jim the business eye. “Unfortunately, your application did not survive the preliminary screening. It’s already been denied.”
“What? How? Why?”
“You’re not pretty enough.”
“Not pretty enough? The hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Angels are pretty. You are not. Therefore your application has been denied.”
“But, but – But feminism.”
“Feminism? Are you a woman?”
“Well, I mean, no. But, uh – Oh come on! It’s relevant!”
“No it isn’t.”
“It’s swinging between your legs, cowboy. Now get the fuck out of my office before I file a harassment charge.”
Jim stood. He kicked over the chair and swiped a cactus from her shelf. It was the largest one, a foot high and thick as a soda can.
“I’m taking this,” he said.
She waved him away, the back of her hand. “Take it. They grow like weeds.”