08-30-2011, 08:06 PM
Fourth of July arrived with a mix of clouds and sun, as if the weather could not make up its mind to rain or shine. The Magic Club was closed for the holiday, as was almost everything else in Boren. It was nice to sleep in for a change--no kiddie matinees, and no late nights at the Castle. I felt at home in Natalie's apartment after only a week's stay. I felt free. I didn't go to church for the first time in my life, and I didn't feel a nickel's worth of remorse. The only difference was that I slept in my own bed instead of a wooden pew, which was a lot more comfortable, let me tell you.
I got up at the crack of noon to read the paper. It was then I first learned that Criss had been singled out to receive the mayor's Citzen's Award for his charitable works and boosting of Boren's economy. Well, I thought, if the mayor says he's been a good citizen to honor him like that, then maybe those old biddies of the CBB will finally shut up about him. I made up my mind to go to the Community Picnic and witness it for myself, if only to rub it in their faces. Finally, Criss would get the recognition he deserved.
The community picnic was typical Boren: lame, uneventful, numbingly wholesome family fare. A Dixieland band tootled the standard American tunes and some ragtime as people munched boiled hot dogs in doughy buns and lapped up partially melted ice cream cones, washed down with artificially flavored lemonade in paper cups. American flags haphazardly decorated the park in a defiant show of patriotism. In the distance, the fire department were performing safety checks for the fireworks display to take place later that evening. It was pure Norman Rockwell.
The rickety gazebo in the center of the park was festooned with patriotic bunting, waiting for the mayor to make his annual speech. Peering inside, I saw the plaque made out to Criss Angel, leaning inside the podium. I smiled, elated at this small victory for Criss.
I made my way to the hot dog stand to get something to eat (hey, it was free food, so what the hay?), and who did I see but the Man of the Hour himself, Criss Angel. He was scarfing down hot dogs the way he liked it, New York style, with everything.
"Criss!" I hailed him.
He choked down his last hot dog. "Hey, Janie, how ya doin'?"
I hugged him just after he disposed of the wrappers in the trash. "I read about your award," I said. "Congratualtions!"
He hugged me back. "Hey, thanks!" he replied. "So, how's the new apartment working out for you?"
"Just great," I told him. "I can walk to work instead of borrowing Mom's car."
"You ever square things with your family?" he asked tenativly, not wanting to pry.
"Well, they're still a little upset about it, but I figure they'll adjust. I know we had a little falling out about it, but..."
A falling out. Yeah, that was a nice way to put it, a "falling out". It was really more like a total collapse. Dad didn't even look at me when I moved out, not even to say good-bye. Mom just cried in the bedroom when I resisted her pleas to stay. I remained firm in my decision to move out, forcing myself not to look back as Natalie drove me to her apartment, now our apartment, close to the Magic Castle.
"It's sad to break up a family like that," Criss said sorrowfully. "I hope you and your folks patch things up soon." He seemed to blame himself for the conflict.
"It's not your fault, Criss," I assured him. "This had been building for a long time now. I had to leave home sooner or later. It just turned out to be sooner than I thought."
Criss nodded, whether in agreement or resignation I wasn't sure. Just then the mayor called for attention from the podium; it was time for his speech.
"Come on!" I cried eagerly, pulling Criss by the hand to the gazebo. "It's your time to shine!"
"My fellow citizens," the mayor began, "we are gathered here to celebrate those freedoms granted to us by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution--"
"Same speech as last year," an old man behind me muttered.
"Same speech every year," another grumbled in reply.
"--those freedoms which hundreds, nay, thousands of men gave their lives to protect, past and present. Those very freedoms which we take for granted were purchased with the blood of our fighting men, and today, women as well..."
And so on and so on, for a good fifteen minutes. Kids started to fidget, people yawned, many moved into the shade to keep from getting heat stroke. C'mon already! I thought. Make with the award!
"This year, it is my pleasure to honor a man who has done more for the city of Boren in the one month that he has been here, than most have done in their lifetimes. He has contributed time and money to many worthy causes, and has improved our city's economy greatly. I guess you could say, as if by magic."
The mayor's humorous quip was met with a resounding yawn. Undeterred, he went on.
"So, it is my pleasure to award the Citizen's Award to our city's official magician-in-residence, Criss Angel!"
Some started to applaud, but they were drowned out by an angry howl. I turned to see the CBB, those old biddies from the church along with other "concerned citizens", storm the podium in protest. Innocent bystanders cleared the scene, anxious parents pulled their children from the line of fire. The few police officers on duty that day struggled to keep the peace.
Criss was perplexed. There he was, on stage next to the mayor to receive an award, and now he was under siege.
"What's the deal?" he asked no one in particular.
"Mr. Mayor!" Mrs. Shook, President of the Citizens for a Better Boren, thundered from below the gazebo. "We protest this travesty of your civic duty in presenting an award to a man who has undermined the morals of the citizens of this town!"
"How?" Criss challenged her. "What have I done to hurt you? What have I done to hurt any of you?"
The mayor sighed wearily. "Ma'am, we've been through this before, when you came to my office with your petitions, and Criss Angel has done nothing wrong as far as I am concerned."
"Well, as far as we are concerned, he's a menace to society! And don't take our word for it! We uncovered all his lies and deceit, thanks to David J. Stewart and his Website! In fact, we have a printed copy right here."
She waved some pages over her head. "Read it for yourselves, people! Mr. Stewart has exposed this... this spawn of Satan for the lying, cheating fraud that he is!"
Oh, brother! I groaned inwardly. Not this again!
Mrs. Shook read, "Criss Angel is of the Devil. Criss' real name is Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos. It is interesting that he chose to change his name to "angel", as in FALLEN ANGEL. And there are photographs to support this claim!" she went on. "Look at that medallion he wears. It's similar to a pentagram, a symbol of Satan. He's twisted the minds of our youth, causing them to rebel against their parents! And his tricks are all illusions, fakery! Not only that--"
"Mrs. Shook, that's enough!" shouted the mayor.
But Mrs. Shook wasn't done yet. "Not only that, he's had numerous affairs with younger women--outside of marriage! And has a tolerance of same-sex relationships to boot! He's even been drunk in public! This is the man you want to honor?"
Mrs. Shook turned accusing eyes to Criss. "What have you got to say for yourself, you fraud?"
Criss stepped forward to the railing of the gazebo, facing his accusers. "Okay," he said. "I admit I am no saint. I've had a few too many on occasion, and fooled around sometimes, but, hey, who hasn't? I never claimed to be perfect in any way. But I can honestly say, I have no dealings with the occult. I am not a Satanist, and I am not the Antichrist as David Stewart claims in his website, which by the way, I am all too familiar with."
"This medallion here," he went on, holding up the circle-A pendant for all to see, "is in no way resembling a pentacle or anything else. It's just a circle and an A, for angel, and that's it! I believe in God as much as you do, and am not corrupting anyone's children. If anything, you yourselves are corrupting them with your prejudice and narrowmindedness."
The crowd gasped. "Doesn't it say in the Bible, to remove the beam from your own eye before you remove the mote in the eye of your brother? You're all blinded by an entire lumberyard of petty resentments! It also says, Judge not lest you also be judged!"
"The Devil can quote Scripture to suit his purpose!" Mrs. Shook snapped.
"And I'm sure you do it very well, Mrs. Shook," Criss shot back.
I gloated over the expression on Mrs. Shook's face, as if a bee had stung her fat behind. You go, Criss! I mentally cheered.
Criss walked back to the podium. "I would like to thank you, Mr. Mayor, for this award. Though I've only been here a short while, I am proud to have brought so much positive influence to Boren, and will continue to do so in the future. Thank you."
He took the plaque and stepped off the podium, oblivious to the glares from the Morals. The Loyals, on the other hand, gathered around him, congratulating him, offering him high-fives, and taking pictures with him.
Criss, two, I thought, CBB, zero.
Author's note: There really is a David J. Stewart, and his website, jesus-is-savior.com, denounces Criss Angel as the Antichrist. The quote Mrs. Shook read is from "Criss Angel EXPOSED!"