“Thank you for your patience. Your call is important to us and will be answered based upon your current membership level. If you would like to improve response time, consider sacrificing a fatted calf.”
Eugene groaned. He’d sacrificed one chicken, and it’d been a bloody ordeal. He wasn’t doing that again, much less a full blown calf.
He sat in his car, stuck in a ditch on the side of a forsaken muddy road in the middle of nowhere, while a hard rain filled his head with a steady pitter patter. A deer stepped out of the woods, and Eugene wondered if it was a sign. All he had to do was catch it and offer it up to his god. Easier said than done. Even if by some incredible stroke of luck he managed to catch the animal, he didn’t have anything handy to do it in. He didn’t even carry a pocket knife.
The deer looked at him from across the way, mocking him. He jammed the horn, hoping to scare it away. It merely sauntered into the woods with indifference.
“Hello, Mr. Stein,” said a voice on the phone. “How may I be of service today?”
Eugene perked up. “It’s about time. I need a miracle.”
“I see. Can you explain the nature of your need?”
He did. He left out the extraneous stuff. It didn’t matter why he was here (business trip) or how he’d ended up on this patch of nowhere (wrong turn). He just needed a way out.
“Have you tried calling a towing service?” the operator asked.
“Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?” He swallowed his sarcasm. “I’m not getting any service out here. The only call that will go through is to you guys.” The gods had great reception, if you were lucky enough to have the right number.
She kept saying that. Like she really saw. Maybe she could. Maybe the operators on Mount Olympus or wherever the gods lived now that Mount Olympus had been turned into a vacation spa could watch everything from above.
“I can’t do that, sir,” she replied. “My omniscience is very limited.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t have to. I can call a towing service for you, Mr. Stein.”
“That’s not a miracle,” he replied.
“No. It’s relaying a message. According to my contract, I get one goddamn miracle a year. My year is almost up, and I haven’t gotten one yet.”
“I see.” He heard noises in the background. Voices. Laughing. Shuffling papers. Keystrokes. Were they laughing at him? Did the gods get their jollies by watching humanity struggle against a cruel universe?
Of course they did. They didn’t bother to hide it.
“Ah, here we are,” she said. “I’m afraid your service plan doesn’t quite cover this. You have our neophyte coverage. That allows one Class F minor miracle. This is more of a Class C. Not quite parting the waters or smiting your enemies, but still—”
“I just want to get a car out of the mud.”
“That’s the easy part, sir. However, you’re currently outside of your coverage zone. Dispatching any assistance, divine or otherwise, would incur a surcharge to your account.”
“Can’t you just snap your fingers and make it happen?”
“It doesn’t work like that, Mr. Stein. We’re gods, not fairy tale wizards.”
He groaned. “I just want to get back on a road I recognize. Is that too much to ask?”
“Okay, I shouldn’t really do this, but I can see you’re having a rough day, sir. I’ll requisition that miracle, but you will be required to burn fifty extra dollars in your next tribute.”
“Technically, it should be two hundred,” she said. “But fifty is the best I can do.”
“Fine. If that’s what it takes.”
“Very good, sir. Won’t take a moment.”
And it didn’t. The clouds parted. The rain slowed to a soft drizzle. Three burly angelic creatures with four lion heads each and a strange assortment of wings and limbs descended from the heavens. They lifted his car out of the mud and set it back on the road, then had him sign some paperwork before ascending into the sky again.
Smiling, Eugene drove back toward civilization. A few miles into the journey, a deer bolted across the road. Eugene swerved, smashing into a tree. The airbag punched him hard in the face.
He called his god again. The same operator answered immediately this time.
“Shall I contact that towing service now, sir?”
“Very good, sir.”