A simple premise; a bold promise
To present one story per day, every day—providing exceptional authors with exposure and avid readers with first-rate fiction.


As he wheeled off his carry-on Philip recognized God in the lobby of the Burbank airport. She stood at the counter of the Orange Julius franchise (“I’ve always admired their graphics,” She confessed to him later) wearing a midi skirt and a pair of Frye boots, both of which would have been fashionable when he had attended high school twenty years earlier. She slurped on a straw filled with orange foam when Philip apologized for interrupting Her, “I just wanted to say, Hi.”

She smiled, waved a finger, and said, “I know you,” She said. “Give me a minute.”

Up close She looked much older, lines around Her eyes, Her mouth, on Her forehead, Her neck. A multicolored shawl draped across Her shoulders, distracting the eye from the ample figure underneath. Philip had one glance at Her golden brown eyes, filled with depth and secrets and mysteries, before She covered them up with a pair of Prada sunglasses.

“Philip Seer, born Berlin Germany, 1965, current resident of Pasadena California father of three girls.”

“Two,” he said.

She arched one eyebrow. “English teacher. Avocation, poet.”

Philip shrugged, in what he hoped was a self-deprecating manner.

“Dies in—” She stopped Herself. “I’m so sorry. I’m always on the verge of doing that. Spoils the ride completely. Trust me, I should know.” She gave his hand an impulsive little squeeze. “How’d you recognize me?” She said. Her voice was deep and throaty, one that might have been shaped by whiskey and cigarettes and raucous behavior. She slurped loudly, finished Her orange drink, and tossed it into the waste receptacle. “Usually it’s only people near death. And not too happy about it, I can tell you. But you are.”

“I’ve seen you around before,” he told Her. “This time I just felt a little braver.”

She nodded, as if it made sense to Her. “Mexico City, right, Teotihuacan?”

He nodded.

She murmured to Herself.

“Well, now. Why don’t you buy me a lovely drink somewhere outside of this airport, and I’ll answer one or two or three of all those tiresome questions. Sound fair?”

“Utterly and completely.” Phillip made to pick up Her lap top case until She stopped him.

“You have no idea how heavy it is. Don’t even try.”

She lifted her case like a barbell and walked a half step ahead of him all the way to the parking structure. Philip unlocked the passenger side of his seven-year old Toyota Corolla, and held the door open for Her. After a slight fluttering of Her skirt, and an adamant refusal to fasten Her safety belt, the two of them drove off, and exited the airport parking lot. He attempted to park at the first bar they passed.

“Absolutely not,” She said. Which She repeated at the second and third attempted stops. “I know a place,” She said. “Turn right up ahead.”

At the corner Philip spotted a homeless woman with a cardboard sign which read “Be merciful to the poor”

“Pull over here. Sharp stop. Good. Have you got $20?” Phillip opened his wallet and brought out forty. She rolled down the window and shouted. “Elizabeth. Elizabeth! What in My name are you doing here? You’re asking for trouble, you know, it’s getting dark.”

Phillip was unable to hear Elizabeth’s response, but the woman on the curb curtseyed deeply, before taking the bills held out to her.

“For My sake, please. Go home.” Elizabeth folded the two bills into the back pocket of her jeans, without looking at Philip or his passenger.

God shook Her head. “Saints tend to miss their martyrdom. And you know Hungarians, of course.”

Philip did not.

“Look, take a left here, that’s it, and down the alley here, there you go, and park right there. Here we are.”

Philip parked in the half empty lot.

“While I’m in the loo, order me a whiskey sour. And a packet of Corn Nuts.”

He gave her order to the bartender, then added, “and a bourbon for me.”

After the drinks had been served God sat down next to Phillip, placed Her hand on top of his again, and said, “Now isn’t this fun?” He noticed Her long red fingernails, and the backs of Her hands. Not wrinkled at all, but lined with thick green veins.

She glanced at him, around the bar, at the bartender, and then became fixated on the flat screen. “I love television,” She said.

When She returned her attention to him Philip tilted his glass to Her and watched as She drank, then waved for another. Despite the bartender’s scowl she pulled out a cigarette, a Virginia Slims, Philip noticed. He found a packet of matches on the bar counter, struck one, and She tilted into the flame. She leaned back, inhaled, exhaled.

“I have soft spot in my heart for these places. My people, you know?” She seemed to settle down on Her bar stool. She kept Her sunglasses on as She faced Philip and said, “But the truth is, each place is special to me, for different reasons. Phillip Seer of Pasadena California, thank you for the drink. You may ask me whatever you like, provided it stays on this earthly plane. Also, know full well, that you will have no memory of this whatsoever.”
Phillip swallowed what was left in his drink. He cleared his throat, gathered up his thoughts, while something deep and resonant from within the laptop case began to chime. Philip noticed the ice in his drink quivered. God spent thirty seconds at least fishing around in Her carry on until She glanced at the device, rolled Her eyes, pushed a button which stopped the chiming then set the gadget in front of Her on the counter.

“Hold that thought, and order me another drink.”

Another sip, and now She leaned into him confidentially and said, “You know, I have to admit, I’d check in on the world every millennia or so, just to see how I was doing. Big mistake. First of all, it’s not about me, it’s not about how I’m doing, it’s about how all of you are coping. Secondly, every time I tried to feel the pulse, as it were, a new religion sprouted up. Not that I have anything against religion, mind you, I don’t want you to take it the wrong way,” she caught herself, and sighed. “I should have stuck to nebulae,” she said. “Really, I don’t know why I made fun of Elizabeth, we’re both doing the same thing. We miss this world. We miss the marvelous sensory aspects of this world.” God took in a deep breath. “Even if it smells of stale cigarettes and Lysol.”

She waved the electronic gizmo in front of him. “This is sorted by galaxies, then divided into solar systems, then planets, then creatures. Thank myself and dark matter that I had the foresight to sprinkle it across the universe or I’d never have time to catch my breath. Whew. Of course, I’d had plenty of practice throws by this version. ‘Do over!’ I’d say, and roll the atoms again. Lucretius was validated. Einstein was so disappointed when we discussed this. So disappointed in Me!” She had a wry smiled on her face. Philip admired the fullness of Her lips. Kissing God? Wouldn’t that be blasphemy? Not to mention infidelity—

“Lots of belief systems incorporate , how shall I put this, congress between the mortal and the immortal. As I was saying, Einstein just proved my entire point. Disappointment borne of unrealistic expectations. Are you hungry? I’m starving. And, speaking of expectations, I have a tremendous craving for Cuban food. Will you drive? I’m not sure I’m up to even standing at this point.”

Phillip paid the bill. Within thirty minutes the two of them stood in the foyer of a simple restaurant. White walls, white table cloths, servers in black slacks and white shirts, and bright lighting. They were seated after a few moments wait. God switched from whiskey sours to Penafiel soda, pineapple flavored.

“Um,” Philip was now worried about what he should order. “Are you a vegetarian?” He could feel the glare from underneath the sunglasses.

“You, dear man, are talking to someone who accepts the scent of sacrificed meat. Who, quite frankly, revels in it.”


“It depends. Let me order for you.”

She spoke to the waiter in Spanish with a Cuban accent, and then after ordering leaned back, sipped her pineapple soda. The two were silent for a moment, but before Philip could become uncomfortable he realized he felt deeply relaxed. And quiet. And calm. They sat in silence for quite a long time.

God said “Ah, look at this.”

The waiter introduced the plates to Philip. Chicken fricase, platanos and yucca, ropa vieja, and moros y cristianos.

“Now that’s what I call a sense of humor. Black beans as moors, white rice as Christians. Yes, that’s it, just help yourself to a little of everything. Last time I was here, not too long ago, twenty-five years, I think, it was spectacular. I hope you don’t mind I didn’t order fries, honestly you can get those anywhere. Literally. And I don’t mean on just this planet, either.”

Philip served himself, and watched as God bit down on a piece of butter and garlic drench toasted bread.

“As good as I remember it,” She pronounced. “And how many times can you say that? Everything improves from a remove. Even you all.”

She smiled at him magnificently. Philip felt a pain in the back of his eyes.

“Sorry,” she said. “Got to keep that under wraps. Don’t what the entire restaurant passing out, fading out and fading back in. Can not tell you what an absolute nightmare that would be. What do you think?”

Philip tried mouthful after mouthful after the first tentative morsel. “Heavenly,” he said.

“I was hoping you’d think so. For all our shared bloodthirstiness no one ever appreciates my humor. No one ever sees the jokes stitched onto every leaf of every tree, embedded in the scent of newborns, swirling around the sky with the sunsets. All of you, all of you take it far too seriously.”

For the first time in his life, it struck Philip, and it was actually quite embarrassing for him to even think it, that God was rather needy.

“You see, there, again you prove my point. That’s precisely what I mean about my sense of humor not being appreciated, and how unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment. Un licuado, por favor. De fresa.” The last two sentences were aimed at the server, who added another basket of butter and garlic drenched bread to the table. “Now, what did you want to discuss?”

Philip knew he was ordinary. He was. He loved his wife, he loved his children, when they weren’t driving him mad. He wasn’t, and no one he knew, was dying from a serious illness. His life no elements of tragedy, at least not yet. Why him?

“Why me?” that was the question he had wanted to ask from the very beginning. “If, Philip of Pasadena, I said, good naturedly and with wholesome humor, why not, I sense you would be disappointed. What you want to know is what spectacular achievement or quality has brought you to my attention in the first place. But let me remind you, you were the one who recognized me. Isn’t that stupendous enough?”

Philip felt a giddy ripple within him, immediately tempered by doubt: was it banal to be thrilled to think you had something special, a gift that no one else did? Or was it human?

“Madam, all I really ever wanted to say is, truly, it is an honor. I drink to you, to your eternity, and to my brief, however brief, span Here. To all that you do, the good and the ill. To the moments of consciousness you have bequeathed us. To you, madam, again and again and every day.”

She said nothing for a moment and Philip realized he had ruined, squandered, whatever moment had been his. Well, that was his life wasn’t it? Runner up in countless contests, second best no matter what at his high school. But he meant it, he meant every word, and the day he say down to quiz God face to face was the day he had hubris in place of awe.

She unwrapped the shawl from Her shoulder, set the gadget back in Her lap top bag. “Ah, Philip. Philip Seer, you touch me deeply. I do not grant readings or predictions or pleadings, but Philip,” the glass was set before Her, “I do speak to those who can hear.”

She leaned into him, confidentially, a woman of a certain age, deeply attractive. She said, “Your gifts will not be recognized or rewarded by the wide world. That can breed a brittle bitterness, depending on the person. To avoid that, listen: you are what you believe yourself to be. A poet. To recognize the divine, Philip, is your gift.”

She reached across the table and patted him on the back of his hand. Then She held onto it. Philip felt it at first as the light touch of dry parchment, a whisper of flesh, and then when she held his hand he could no longer see her or the room. Great bursts of gas and energy came from the light fixtures, the eyes and ears of the customers; colors showered, shimmered, hovered then disappeared. The smells of the food on his table entered his body as he inhaled, and then spread throughout the room as he expelled his breath; then he held it. He knew better than to look in Her direction, so he avoided her, and looked upwards where it appeared that the ceiling had fractured and spilling through the fissures was the breath of the night, and star beams which refracted throughout the room.

He breathed again and the casual conversation around him turned into a cacophony of strange scraping and tinkling and jangling, incomprehensible guttural noises. The last bite of beans and rice filled his mouth and he sensed it infused his body with an spicy earthiness. He thought, “ I do believe I am being shut down and restarted.” He was filled with controlled excitement and fear. “Forever this remember will I,” he thought.

Philip stood at the kitchen sink staring through the window watching the leaves rustle. He smelled gardenias and Dove dishwashing liquid . Outside a gust of wind sent another sputter of leaves swirling. A squirrel skipped across the chain link fence. The scent of gardenia faded, and to his left a small brown eyed girl said, “Dad?” with a worried look on her face. “What are you thinking?”

Each time Philip saw Lilia’s worried face he felt touched and humbled. Lilia’s charm and sweetness could not have possibly come from him, which meant it came from his wife. There were her eyebrows, close together with concern.

“I—don’t know.” He picked her up and gave her a squeeze. “What’s your mom doing?”

“She’s out in the back, digging up weeds. Are you okay?”

“I feel like I’ve been dreaming,” Phillip said. He knew he had flown in from Phoenix yesterday, but he couldn’t remember a single intervening detail. And he was ravenous. “I heard about this great Cuban place in Glendale,” he couldn’t remember who had told him, someone on the flight? “Maybe we can head out there for a bite, if it’s okay with your mom.”

The café that her father owned was across the street from a ravine where the sewer ran. All day long she wiped up after the customers, moving their glasses and dishes out onto their tables and back into the kitchen. In between she would stare at the mountains behind them yellow in the morning, granite in the afternoon, then a deep purple as the day faded.

Today she stared at the man who had taken the remaining seat outside, when it was crowded by the men who gathered each day to drink coffee, smoke their cigarettes, and argue with each other. After they had left, he still remained. He was huge, fat, spilling over his chair, reading an American newspaper from under his sunglasses. He was horrible! He was wonderful! He sat there and ate and drank and read and sometimes looked at her. He had eaten three bowls of goulash and twice as many bottles of beer. He was frightening to behold, but she could not look away.

She was afraid that he was what God looked like.

When she thought that the American’s head jerked in her direction. She could not see his eyes underneath his thick dark glasses, so she couldn’t assume he was looking at her, but then he waved her over.

He had only spoken to her father, but now he spoke to her, in Albanian. “Is that what you think of Me?” he said.

The girl, stuttered, not knowing what to say.

“Maybe instead of horrible and wonderful,” he continued, “you meant fascinating.”

She looked at him and gave him a broad smile. That was the word, not insulting, not mean, not strange. He was fascinating.

“Could I have the bill, please?” he said.

She came in and told her father who slapped her for talking to the gentleman.

“Don’t be stupid. You want to end up like your mother?”

The small girl shook her head. She wanted to be with her mother, but her father never asked her that.

Her father took out the restaurant bill, brought in the bills of money, and returned to the customer more bills and coins.

The small girl stayed inside the restaurant, staring at the changing shade of the mountains, and at the man as he stood, awkwardly, and with the help of a walking stick headed across the street and got into a car that seemed far too small for him, which sank to the ground as he seated himself. She went outside and picked up the American newspaper, with the lettering she could not decipher, and the empty pilsner glass with its sputtering of foam at the base.

Fascinating. That was it. She decided then she would always be on the look out for fascinating people. And if she couldn’t find any she would decide to be one herself.

It wasn’t until she was falling asleep that night that she wondered how he knew what she had been thinking. She had a peculiar feeling that she would be seeing him again.


Des Zamorano is a Pushcart Prize nominee, playwright, and author of the recently published
mystery HUMAN CARGO. She runs a center similar to Dave Eggers’s 826 Valencia at Occidental College
in Eagle Rock, CA.


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page