Savior Management Incorporated
Murray Sampson’s office was the kind of place everyone wanted to be. Elegant, but not showy. Lavish, but no too indulgent. At least, that’s what he liked to tell himself. His coworkers had a different opinion.
He couldn’t really blame them for that, though. He had a view of downtown LA that most men would kill for, and his desk was fashioned out of the finest oak available. The rumor around the office was that it came from Edgar Allen Poe’s coffin. Murray had long since stopped trying to correct them. It was from Alexander the Great’s. A waterfall flowed unendingly into a marble basin over in one corner, and the Mona Lisa was framed above the door. It was on loan, but he’d take what he could get.
Murray sat hunched over his desk, scrawling furiously on a length of parchment. Many of his contemporaries had moved on to laptop computers, but he still preferred the old fashioned way. Some of his clients found it endearing.
Ordinarily, he worked at a leisurely pace, letting the ideas come to him on their own terms. Now, however, he wrote as though his hand was on fire. Sweat poured off his face, causing the ink from his quill to smudge.
He glared at the phone on his desk, willing it to ring. Nothing happened. Murray let out a deep sigh and ran his hand through his hair. He was going bald, but a few stubborn strands still clung to his head. He admired their tenacity.
Usually, he let his clients call him first. It made them think that they were in control of their own destinies. That was essential if you wanted to establish an effective working relationship. But he needed to get some things off his chest, and fast. He went over his options. Shattering the illusion was the best way to fix the problem, but this kid was going to be big one day. He didn’t want to cheat himself out of ten percent.
Just then, a shrill noise cut through the air. The phone. Murray’s hand twitched as he went to pick it up. Against every fiber of his being, he stopped himself. You had to keep the clients waiting. It was a good way to keep them in line. Gods could get pretty full of themselves, and since many of them still held onto some of their old power, it was best to feed their egos. So he waited. After an appropriate amount of time, Murray picked up the receiver. “Savior Management Incorporated.” He said. “Murray Sampson speaking.”
“Hey, buddy.” The voice on the other line was slow and smooth, like maple syrup. “It’s Quetzalcoatl. Just wondering how the comeback tour plans are shaping up.”
Murray sighed again. “Quetzal, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re screwed.”
Quetzal laughed nervously. “What? I hope you’re kidding.”
“Son, I never joke around when it comes to business. That junk with the Aztecs really did a number on your approval rating.”
“Murray, come on. The Aztecs were a complex and distinct culture. A lot happened. You gotta give me more than ‘that junk.’”
Murray massaged his temples and took a deep breath. “Oh, gods. I can’t believe I have to explain this to you. The human sacrifice. The people aren’t huge fans of that. I know that’s shocking, but just go with me on this.”
“Don’t patronize me, man. I’m a god.”
“I know a lot of gods, many of whom are more successful than you.”
“Oh, yeah?” Quetzal retorted.”Name one.”
“I’ve got a meeting with Poseidon in an hour.” This, naturally, was a lie. He’d dropped Poseidon as a client years ago.
Quetzal said nothing. Then, “I never partook in the ritual killing thing, even when it was legal. You know that.”
“I know, I know. Conquistador propaganda.”
“Don’t interrupt me.” Murray snapped. “I tried that propaganda angle. Didn’t work out. They’ve been teaching that stuff in high school history classes for years. It’s too far ingrained in their minds. I can’t help you any longer.”
“Are...are you letting me go?”
“Yes,” Murray said matter-of-factly. “You’re simply unfixable.”
“Wait, man. Let’s not do anything too crazy, here. I can change. I’m willing to make some concessions.” Quetzal’s voice quivered. “Come on, man. You’re the best in the biz. I need you.”
So much for all that stuff about being powerful. Murray thought. “Look, I love hearing you grovel, I really do. I could listen to this all day. But, sadly, I’m expecting another call. A far more important one.”
“But-” Before Quetzal could finish his rebuttal, Murray hung up the phone. It felt good to have washed his hands of that, but it did little to alleviate his stress. The kid still hand’t called. Reluctantly, Murray picked up the phone again and dialed the kid’s number.
He didn’t answer right away. That much was to be expected. He was on his way to the top. The kid was probably out on the town with Zeus and Thoth, making memories.
Eventually, though, the ringing ceased. “Hey, Murray.” Said the kid. “What’s shaking?”
For a brief moment, Murray was taken aback. He was usually the first one to speak. He felt strangely emasculated. Murray took a moment to psych himself up again. “Hey, Mr. Christ.” He said. “Nothing much. I jotted down a few notes about last night’s show.”
Jesus yawned hugely. “Which one was that?”
Murray kicked himself for not being specific. Jesus was a rising star, and his schedule was stuffed to the gills. Even in his infinite wisdom, he couldn’t very well be expected to remember them all. “The one in Jerusalem.”
“Oh, yeah? What about it?”
Murray winced, grateful that Jesus couldn’t see him. Although with power like his, who knew? “I gotta say. I don’t think they liked you there.” Murray sat back and waited for a bolt of lightning to smite him then and there. None came, and he let out a sigh of relief.
“What makes you say that?” Murray searched for the note of rage in Jesus’ voice, but found only neutral curiosity.
“I mean, the torches and pitchforks were kind of a red flag.”
Jesus sucked in a gulp of air. “Oh, yeah. Do you think it was because of the carpenter joke? I thought it was funny, but I guess it’d be hard for some people to relate.”
“No, no. The carpenter thing was fine.”
Jesus chuckled. “When you have a hammer, life is just a box of nails. That’s killer.”
Murray decided not to chastise Christ for interrupting him. If everything went well, he could end up as the Messiah one day. No sense in screwing that up. “Yeah, it is. I think it was mostly the part where you cured the lepers and fed the poor.”
“What?” Jesus’ voice was like a sword cutting into Murray. “Are you saying I can’t heal the wounded anymore?”
“No, no, no!” Murray shouted, perhaps a little too quickly. “I wouldn’t dream of censoring you. You can do the piece. I’m just saying, don’t open with it.”
“Well, why the hell not?” Jesus was practically screaming now. Images of fire and brimstone flashed through Murray’s mind.
“Look, this might be hard to hear, but it’s kind of a downer. I’m just being honest. Personally,I love the bit.”
“Well, do have any suggestions?” Jesus didn’t sound angry anymore. He just seemed bored, as if this whole interaction was beneath him. Maybe it was.
“Yeah, actually, I do.” Murray tried to keep the animosity out of his voice, though he knew it was useless. Jesus could probably tell what he was feeling without even
speaking to him. “You gotta open with the water to wine thing.”
“Just trust me on this.” Murray took a risk cutting off the King of Jews, and it paid off. He was allowed to continue speaking. Or, perhaps more importantly, to continue living. “It’s real impressive and, let’s be honest, a drink loosens them up for the rest of the show. If you want to get a laugh with that lame camel through the eye of a needle bit, you gotta get some wine into the audience. I know,” He continued before Jesus could chime in, “Some of this is pretty harsh, but I’ve been in this business since you were just a moat in your old man’s eye. I know a thing or two. If you want to become a household name, you’ve gotta listen to the advice of your representation. I don’t care who your dad is.”
Jesus was silent. Perhaps he was too dumbfounded to speak. Murray imagined that the Prince Of Peace got his way more often than not. Murray didn’t care anymore. He had a lot riding on this kid’s success, and he wasn’t prepared to throw it all away.
“Before I forget this, wardrobe is very important. You can keep the sandals, but please, for the love of all that is holy, lose the socks.”
“Okay, fine.” Jesus grumbled. “Anything else?”
“Yeah, one more thing. Drop the sandwich-making bit. Everybody can get that kind of thing down at Subway. It isn’t miraculous, it’s just boring.”
“Dude.” Jesus sounded genuinely hurt. “You’re kind of tearing apart my whole act here.”
“I understand your concern.” That was a phrase Murray had learned on his very first day. It sounded nice, like you actually cared, but it held no real weight. “But if you go with me on this, we might be able to score a gig at Caesar’s.”
“Oh, wow!” Jesus’ interest was clearly piqued. “You mean it?”
“One hundred percent.” Murray said.
“Okay. It’s a big risk, but one I’m willing to take. Catch you later.”
“Hold on!” Murray yelled just before the line went dead. “Before you go, don’t tell your father about this. He tends not to respond well to criticism.”