12-25-2011, 03:53 PM
Eliza nearly jumped out of her chair at the sound of Dave Baram's frantic yelling. She barely had time to catch her breath when Baram barrelled into the production office and straight toward her desk. "We need the directions to that homeless shelter we were at for episode two!" he demanded. "And we need them now!"
"Yes, sir," Eliza replied nervously as she slid her computer mouse over the pad with a shaking hand. "Okay, here it is," she said. "Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless. It's on C-- Street in North Las Vegas. Shall I print out the directions for you?"
"You do that!" Baram ordered her. "We gotta go rescue Criss!"
Eliza was puzzled. "Criss? What's he doing all the way over there?"
"It's a long story," Baram replied impatiently. "Just print out the map and call the parking attendant to bring a car around. And call the shelter to tell them we're coming to pick up Criss. He's got a live show to do in two hours and we ain't got much time to waste."
"So, that's how I ended up here," Criss said to Burt and Dennis as they sat in the cafeteria. "I figured coming here was my only option to get back to the Luxor in time for my show tonight. I'd still be wandering the streets if it hadn't been for you guys. I mean, you were the only people who showed me any consideration since I got tossed out of the hotel."
Burt laughed, shaking his head. "You really got yourself in a mess of (bleep)," he chuckled.
Criss merely shrugged. Dennis looked around the partially deserted cafeteria. "Well, we'd better clear outta here," he said. "Lunch is over, and they don't like us hangin' around when they're tryin' to clean up."
The three men rose from their seats and made their way toward the double doors. "Hey," Dennis said to Criss, nudging him with his elbow, "here comes your girlfriend."
Criss turned and saw Jessie the milk girl coming up to him. "She's not my girlfriend," he hissed irritably at Dennis.
"So how come you were flirting with her?" Dennis argued. "Cradle snatcher!"
"(Bleep) you, Dennis!" Criss spat as he turned away from him. "You're full of (bleep)!"
Dennis smirked and walked out of the cafeteria with Burt. Criss stayed behind and waited for Jessie to come bouncing up to him. "Hi!" she said cheerily.
"Hi, yourself," Criss returned. "Nice to see you again."
"Nice to see you, too," Jessie said, still smiling. "I'm sorry, I can't help it, but you seem so familiar to me. What's your name?"
"Would you believe me if I told you I'm Criss Angel?"
Jessie was startled at first, but quickly regained her bearings. "Let me see your arm," she demanded.
"The one with the circle-A on it."
Criss felt like kicking himself. Oh, Geez! Why didn't I think of that before? He removed the tweed jacket and tore the right-arm sleeve of his shirt from the seam, revealing his famous logo branded into his arm. Jessie stared at it in awe. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "It is you!"
Criss picked up the jacket and put it back on again. "Yeah, it's me," he said simply.
"Ohmigod!" Jessie squealed. "I so wanted to meet you! I saw all your episodes of MindFreak, and I so wanna see Believe." She calmed down a bit. "So why are you here dressed like a homeless person."
Criss sighed. Here we go again! "I was shooting a TV movie and got thrown out by security because they thought I was really a homeless bum," he explained. "I ended up here because of my two friends I was sitting with."
Jessie whipped out her pink Nokia cell phone. "I got my cell phone here!" she said eagerly. "You can call the Luxor for help!"
"Thanks, Jessie, but I already used the office phone" Criss told her. "Dave's coming to pick me up soon."
Slightly disappointed but not at all offended, Jessie put her phone back into her pocket. "Well, at least you got through to them," she said.
Criss looked at the huge clock on the wall next to the double doors. "Look, I gotta go now, and I know you gotta get back to work, so I'll let you go, okay? Thanks for the milk!"
He gave her a quick hug and turned to leave. Jessie giggled nervously. "'Bye, Criss!" she called out after him as he left the cafeteria. "I'm really looking forward to your movie!"
But Criss was already gone. Jessie went through her assigned tasks spaghetti-legged and dreamy-eyed. I met Criss Angel! her mind kept repeating over and over again. And I'm the first to know he's making a movie! Oh, God, I can't wait to tell everyone on the fanboards!
Criss walked down the long corridor to the reception desk in the lobby, hoping to see his manager there to take him back to the Luxor and end this waking nightmare once and for all. "Excuse me," he asked the receptionist on duty, "but I'm waiting for a Mr. Dave Baram to come and pick me up. Is he here yet?"
The sullen woman behind the desk deigned to look up from her copy of People magazine. "No," she replied brusquely, then returned to her magazine.
"Well, geez, sorry to bother you," Criss retorted sarcastically under his breath as he walked away from the desk to the row of chairs lining the wall. He sat down, threw one leg over his knee and waited for Baram. The receptionist continued reading her magazine, oblivious to his presence.
The minutes dragged on. Criss became so bored that even a copy of Awake! left on the small side table by a Jehovah's Witness became a welcome distraction. He flipped through the small pamphlet-like magazine, admiring the artwork but disdaining the end-of-the-world message it illustrated. One article pertaining to Christmas caught his eye: What is Christian about Christmas? read the title. From what he read, absolutely nothing seemed to be the answer. He knew Witnesses did not celebrate Christmas or any other holiday, but what really rankled him was their anti-charity stance; they believed that Jehovah alone provided for everyone's needs, so it showed a lack of faith to donate anything to anyone, no matter how needy they were.
Criss tossed the magazine aside. Screw 'em! he said to himself. If no one donated anything to anyone, there'd be a helluva lot more poor people out there dying from starvation! If it wasn't for Christmas, no one would even know the meaning of charity! And these people call themselves Christians? As far as I'm concerned, people are more 'Christian' during Christmas than any other time of year! It's too easy to sit back and say God's gonna take care of everything. God helps those who help themselves, huh? Well, I say God helps those who help others, like Jessie and Pastor Bob and all the other volunteers here at the shelter! And from what I've seen, these people need God's help more than anyone!
"You okay, Criss?"
Criss looked up and saw Pastor Bob staring down at him. "Oh, hi, Pastor," he said. "Yeah, I'm okay, or I will be when Dave gets here."
Pastor Bob sat down beside him. "You looked a little...disturbed. Anything the matter?"
"It's nothing," Criss replied indifferently. "Just had a rough day, that's all. Getting thrown out of my own home, chased off by security, then wandering the streets until I got sent here--pretty sucky day, pardon my French."
Pastor Bob nodded. "I see," he said. "Well, maybe all this happened for a reason."
Criss looked at the clergyman, puzzled over such a statement. "What kind of reason?"
"Last time you were here, you were a celebrity with all your camera crew and assistants and private dressing room and all that. And all those rings and necklaces you had on--I swear you were wearing half a jewelry store! While it was good of you to perform magic tricks for the residents and all, for you it was just another show. You sat with them, talked with them, put them on TV to show the world how much you cared about them, but you never knew what it was like to be them, to not have a roof over your head, to be scraping in garbage cans for something to eat, to own nothing but the filthy clothes on your back. At least, not until today."
"So you're saying that God set me up to show me what it was like to be homeless?"
"I wouldn't say He 'set you up'. I'd say He took advantage of that little misunderstanding you had with the security guards in the hotel to make a point."
Pastor Bob fought the urge to slap Criss across the back of his head. "Great day in the morning, boy!" he exclaimed. "Look around you! There are whole families living here without a home, without money and without hope for a better life while you live in a luxury suite in a big fancy hotel! I've seen your show, and I know what kind of life you live: you earn more money in one week than most folks earn in a lifetime! You got enough cars and motorcycles to open your own dealership! You wear enough gold and silver to make Fort Knox want to reel you in! Wake up and smell the coffee, boy! You got everything you want and then some, while these people are living hand-to-mouth! And you're asking me what point God is trying to make? What's the matter, your mama drop you on your head when you were a baby?"
Criss held up his hands as if trying to deflect the pastor's words. "Okay, okay, I get it! I get it!" he aquiesced.
The pastor eyed him warily. "I don't think you do," he said skeptically.
Criss snatched up the copy of Awake! he had been perusing and held it up for scrutiny. "You see this? There's an article in here that says it's a sin to give to charity because Jehovah or whoever is supposed to provide for everything! It shows a lack of faith to help others financially because they're supposed to rely only on Jehovah for their needs. They don't even help their own members when they're in trouble!"
"I'm aware of the Jehovah's Witness' philosophy," the pastor stated.
"Well, I say screw 'em! If not for real Christians like you, these people wouldn't stand a chance! Didn't Jesus say give to the poor?"
"He did," the pastor concurred. "But I'm not talking about the Witnesses. I'm talking about you. My question is: what did you learn from all this?"
Criss hesitated for a moment to collect his thoughts, but they were instantly scattered away again by the sound of someone bursting through the door. He saw his manager, Dave Baram, frantic with worry, striding toward him, with Tom, his own personal assistant, in tow. "Criss!" he exclaimed with relief. "Thank God we found you! Look, we don't have much time--you got a live show to do in and hour and forty-five minutes, so we gotta get going!"
Baram dragged Criss by the arm toward the exit. "Uh, thanks for all your help, Pastor!" Criss called out. "We'll talk later, okay?"
Pastor Bob merely waved in reply. "Don't forget what we talked about earlier!" he called back.