When Quitting Your Job Goes Wrong – Greatest Hits Edition

This has gotten entirely too easy. But seriously, one of us has to be the adult. It’s a sad day when it’s me.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the witty repartee between John and me, there comes a point when it has to end. When there’s really not much more to say. I thought we’d reached that point already. I actually thought it was a yesterday when I was graced with a super-fantastic voicemail. Apparently not. Ridiculousness apparently knows no bounds. And it doesn’t sleep. This morning I woke up to this:

John Dec 30

Somewhere in the posturing is an appeal to end the nonsense. There really is. Can you see it? It’s at the end. The problem is it’s at the end. After the 2500 word threat. After the intent to haul me to Tennessee (which you know is on the dark side of the moon) TWICE. And take the unemployment I’m not on. And take the disability I don’t receive. Thing is, you can’t garnish disability or unemployment…but whatever. He did say I’m funny though and that warms my heart. That said, don’t be surprised if you see a PayPal donation widget for my legal fund.

I actually spent all day ruminating on this—and watching the Vikings make the playoffs (though AP was 9 YARDS AWAY from the rushing record) and doing laundry and clipping toenails. Then I wrote this:

My Response Dec 30

Look at that. All I want, all my wife wants, is a simple apology. Say you’re fucking sorry. That’s it. That’s all. Man up, put your big-girl-panties on and apologize. Till then, guess what’s on heavy rotation?

BSJ’s Greatest Hits

Remember when one of Amanda’s emails said someone got called retarded? Here’s what that actually looks like:

Yvonne-1

Yvonne-2

Yvonne-3

Yvonne-4

Remember when they fired a planner on Facebook? Here’s how you make them feel extra special:

Judy Minton Photo

What you are looking at is a pattern of behavior, a way of engaging in the public discourse. Problem is it’s inappropriate. Some people have to learn the hard way. In the end, the lesson here is, when someone asks you to shut up, you should shut up.

Somebody told me, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink…but you can salt their oats!” That was pretty good. I also like this: “I’m a man of my word.” – The Joker, The Dark Knight

And then…they came back!

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When Quitting Your Job Goes Wrong – Are You Serious? There’s a Part 4?

I really didn’t want to do this. Really. I actually have other stuff to focus on. It’s the end of the year, I’m supposed to be writing a book, my Vikings are trying to make the playoffs, there’s laundry to do, toenails to clip. I got shit to do. So this is me telling everyone that I am going be done. I have to be.

But not today!

Look at you—you got a little sad, didn’t you? I swear this is the gift that keeps on giving. And given this holiday season, I’m happy to receive. What you’re seeing below is a comment left by our good friend, John Swoap. He left it yesterday (after the phone call) on Part II and…I pulled it. It wasn’t because of the content (I mean seriously, look at what has been said already). It’s because of the debate. This isn’t Meet the Press: both sides don’t have to be equally represented. Again, my house, my rules. But there’s this whole thing about my balls…so here is the comment in its entirety and it’s also visible on Part II:

Commentary

That said, you know I can’t just let it lie, right? And since we have to have Point/Counterpoint, we’re going to break it down Fact Check style:

So am I Leslie (in response to Leslie waiting for Part 3). I wish I was as smart as these two think they are. Soliciting people who work for me.

Fact Check: She actually never “solicited” anyone (that’s illegal, except in Nevada and on some farms in Tennessee). When asked where she was going after she quit, Amanda simply told those that asked. A few then asked for additional information and Amanda offered. It was also publicly displayed on her Facebook fan page.

Outright lying in the letter she posted to every employee, breaching her contract on four different areas.

Fact Check: Outright lying? Pot called the kettle what? It’s tough to lie on a screenshot. For every last word written, there is an email, screen shot or document to back it up. I know the real issue is the Reply All: if you don’t want your business in the street, don’t email the world. Those contract issues that you have with her contract that ended on 12/6/12, should be taken up directly with the attorney’s office.

Get your reading in now folks, this blog will be coming down in a matter of a few weeks. You see, no matter how eloquent Chris Starr thinks he is, obviously doesn’t understand contract law.  

Fact Check: Oh my God! John complimented me! I’m twitterpated! But real talk, he’s right: contract law is not my forte. I actually don’t have my JD. However, for contract law to apply to me, wouldn’t I have to have a contract with you? Isn’t that a key component? Notice who has been conspicuously absent from this conversation is Amanda—she hasn’t said shit. I am simply publicizing emails to a personal account on my computer and voicemail on a phone that I pay for. “Get your reading in now, folks, this blog will be coming down…” This is fantastic! Funny thing about the First Amendment: it works even when you don’t like what somebody says. If that was the case, Fox News would be a distant memory.

What he also fails to mention is that is wife contacted planners of mine for handouts because (there was no money for Christmas), the money we advanced to their family when we were told they had no gas money to get from the hospital and back home, the opportunity we GAVE her and the way she calculated a way to piss on everything that was handed to her on a platter.

Fact Check: This is my favorite part. Amanda NEVER contacted anyone for handouts. She did ask for a commission that was due to her for a client that had traveled and Disney had paid BSJ for. That’s not a handout; that’s payment. That was the only time she ever asked for her commission prior to her check being mailed. Amanda never asked for a gift basket. I didn’t ask for a gift basket (but I should have asked for an alternator). Melanie Swoap talked to me about a gift basket for Amanda. When my wife figured out something was happening, she emailed Melanie and said “if you’re doing something, don’t do it for me. Send gift cards for the kids since Christmas is going to be hard.” Health care reform or not, cancer and surgery are fucking expensive! Melanie’s gift basket that the planners gave to was more than generous and Amanda was thankful and thrilled. She has actually boxed it up though to send it back since BSJ is being so nasty about it calling her ungrateful and faking surgery for attention.

Amanda did not destroy company property (there are actually screenshots for this too). She made website changes and believed they were in a draft state and have not gone live. She had planned to go over these changes with the owners, however the next morning she received and email telling her not to make any more changes. She abided and profusely apologized since she didn’t know they went live due to a change in the Wix settings. This is the only mistake Amanda made. Neither John nor Melanie would answer her calls or emails for the next 5 days to discuss. You know the rest. Again, emails, phone logs and records will prove all of this.

Were we angry? Yes. Did we handle everything the way we should have? No. Facts are facts. I left a nasty voice mail after receiving phone calls from Disney about irate clients who were not informed by the professional Amanda Bell Starr that they would not receive all of their money back when she canceled their reservations to move them to another agency. Not that it was a big deal financially, she, she was mediocre at best at selling and had racked up a whopping $9721, but I had to deal with Disney Travel Company for her professionalism.

Fact Check: See, you can’t say “facts are facts” and then invent your own. This little passage is an excellent example of “truthiness” but not exactly the truth. The voicemail was left on 12/8/12 … 5 minutes after Amanda’s first email response to Melanie (see part 1 of this series). The client that was upset about her deposit contacted Disney on 12/10/12, therefore the voicemail was left PRIOR to the upset client. (Oooooohhh busted!) The truth part: that client was upset about her deposit but the matter was resolved by Disney directly and her existing reservation canceled as she wanted. This client is not upset with Amanda at all: she is happily booked with Disney now for a magical vacation. (Better not add planner on the end of this sentence or I can be sued trademark infringement huh?) Curses, foiled again!

Unprofessional? John Swoap is giving lessons in professionalism? Ooo-kay. Since she is so unprofessional, all but one family chose to cancel their reservations when she told them she was quitting because they didn’t want to be without her. Why is that if she was so unprofessional? Hmm. The sales thing is fluid too, huh? Whether its $12 or $12,000, she works on commission, right? And it was actually over $21K—the fact that you don’t know that is problematic, wouldn’t you say? You’re making yourself look bad now…

The emails he posted were sent back and forth, but what he again fails to mention, is that the letters and emails that came from Amanda contained lies designed to cause discord among our other planners. I own my mistakes, Chris. Why don’t you ask your wife to own the fact that she is a liar, a scammer and below average in intelligence proven by the fact that neither of you have thought through the ramifications that this blog will bring on you and your family.

Fact Check: I’m generally not a detail-oriented guy. I’m really not. I’m more of a big picture type of person. But there is one little detail that seems to be overlooked: the date stamp. See our friend John seems to forget that THEY started this. This would be a non-issue if her resignation was simply accepted and outstanding commission paid. End of story. But I get it, that divisive Amanda! Making you leave stupid ass voicemails, huh? That scamming broad, sending messages to your staff calling herself a pill-popping alcoholic! That lying ass! Calling people retarded! And if she was so below intelligence and needed a helmet, why the hell a) hire her and b) promote her to a managerial position? The stupidity seems one-sided, partner.

As a father, it is your JOB to protect them but you want to throw them into the fire. As a business owner and a father, it is my job to protect my family as well. You don’t have the money to fight me, you don’t have the knowledge to know what you have stepped into and I bet you don’t have balls to leave this comment up for everyone to read.

Fact Check: “You don’t have the money to fight me.” Maybe, maybe not. What I do have is the ability to add and subtract. Let’s talk math for a second. Let’s say you do $1M in sales (for shits and giggles), Blue Sky Journeys receives approximately 10% commission from Disney on that, right? That’s about $100,000, right? Respectable. But then you pay your planners a portion of that for their commissions. Uh oh, pot’s getting slender. My point here is you should probably re-evaluate that statement. You have no idea what we have in our back pocket let alone bank account. Again, we’ll welcome any letter from your attorney.

“You don’t have the knowledge to know what you have stepped into.” This coming from a pair that made this hit.  I think I’ll be alright.

And the balls thing…c’mon dude. That’s too easy for me.

There you have it, folks.

Stay tuned for the Greatest Hits edition later today:

  • John’s email to an ex-planner calling her “despicable”
  • John’s email to Chris this morning. Yep–this morning.
  • John defending his wife by fighting with a potential client of Amanda’s on facebook.
  • And the hits keep coming….

When Quitting Your Job Goes Wrong – DMFRH: Poking the Bear Edition Part III

Here I was, actually working on my latest post when I received a rare—and utterly delightful—call from the main antagonist in this little melodrama: Big John Swoap. I got butterflies. Really, it was spectacular: I started out a muthafucka and ended up a son of a bitch. Not sure how my mother would feel about that last one but to say I am honored is an understatement. Who knew they read my blog?

I’ll give you a quick rundown of that call (this is like late-breaking news) but then I have to get back to the story (this jackass is screwing up my continuity). So I’m minding my own business, going over the next batch of emails that I want to share with the world when Amanda’s phone rings. “Look who’s calling,” she says. “It’s Blue Sky Journeys!”

“Why could they be calling me?” I’m thinking. “It’s like 10 o’clock on Saturday night for them.”

I grab the phone, put on my bravest voice (because I am so excited), “Hello.”

“It’s John Swoap. How ya doing, motherfucker?” This, by far, is the best opening I have ever had to an argument. Ever. It was nice, cordial, and ended with a cut.

Me: “I’m grand.”

BJS: “Grand, huh? You’re not gonna be. You’re not going to be able to put food on your table when I get finished with you.”

Me: “We can’t eat? Why can’t we eat?”

BJS: “I am going to break you! You’re not going to be able to eat, muthafucka. You’re going to have to come to Tennessee, which I know you can’t afford (because my bank statements are routed to Tennessee), and then, while you’re here, we’re going to continue to case so you’re going to have to come back. Which I know you can’t afford. Five Hundred Grand, you sack of shit!”

I have never actually been called a sack of shit. I’ve been told I wasn’t shit but never been a whole sack of it. Is that the preferred quantity for purchasing and/or moving shit? In sacks? And here’s where I would offer a note: if you want me to stop saying stuff, to actually stop repeating the shit you say, perhaps you should stop talking. Just sayin.

Anyway, I’m just going with it, trying to be as nice as possible (cuz I’m so boosted that he called! Now I know how teenage girls feel…). The deal is that I threatened him that I was going to publicize everything (which should be a clue to stop talking), that I threatened him when I said I wanted to kick his ass (you’ll see that part below), and that there is breach of contract. Breach of contract? I never actually worked for Blue Sky Journeys. Suffice it to say we’re not going to be BFFs. And I am really broken up about it.

But I gotta get back to the story.

And there is actually more. I know…I couldn’t believe it either.

Quick recap (because I have even more stuff today): Amanda was working for a Disney vacation planning agency called Blue Sky Journeys when she received a Cease and Desist letter from an attorney regarding a trademark issue. Between that and some other unsavory business practices, she decides to cut her losses and move on to another agency. This doesn’t go over well. At all. The owners, Melanie and John Swoap kick out a series of fucked up emails (where they call my wife a pill-popping alcoholic, a bitch and a thief) and then do a drunk Captain and Tennille routine on her voicemail.

These folks are freaking awesome. But not so bright. Because, despite numerous requests to simply shut the fuck up, they keep the party going and here we are.

Now, everything you’ve read so far is from DAY ONE. One day! All that nonsense in one day. When Amanda sent her last email copying her business attorney, everybody shut up for the night. The next day, there’s this brief exchange:

John Response Dec 9

Amanda Response Dec 9

And then:

John Nice

What? Somebody wants to play nice? It’s about time, right? Add a little civility to this conversation and everyone can go back to their respective corners and be done. So Amanda sends her conciliatory email as well and we go about our day.

And if that was all, this would suck for a Part 3, wouldn’t it? Instead, she gets the email below. For the record, because this was a response email, I changed the font color to red for everything from my man:

John to PlannersAmanda wasn’t actually supposed to get this email.  If you are going to talk shit about somebody via email, someone who used to work for you, you should probably TURN OFF THEIR EMAIL! Seriously. Amanda got this email because they sent a message to all the planners and copied her on an email about her because folks can’t figure how to disable an email address.

But nobody responds and Sunday proves to be largely uneventful. Monday, December 10, though, is an entirely different thing. On Monday, Amanda was awakened by a call at 7am from a client, talking about “Why are these people calling me?” Then another client. Then an advertising partner. They were calling her clients and advertisers disparaging her to them. Actually calling her a “fuck up.” You stay classy, San Diego.

At some point, this nonsense has to stop, right? My wife has gotten a plethora of emails from the Great State of Tennessee (center of America), she’s getting copied on emails talking about her, her clients are getting calls, Disney is actually calling here…and again, this is because she quit her job. I can’t imagine why… So I finally break my own silence and script this PHENOMENAL email:

You Should Stop

The initial response is to be reminded that “hey, I decided to be good.” I remind him that he wasn’t:

You Should Stop Response 1

Chris Stop Response

Then he encourages me to test him. That wasn’t smart…

John Stop Final

Well, there it is. The rubber has met the road, folks. Because now John and I are talking man to man and there are legal threats flying and everything else. And we would have been good if he wouldn’t have asked me not to publish ONE THING. That’s actually how we got here: it was a dare, wasn’t it? Isn’t that what you saw?

Since that lovely conversation, things were quiet. Until today. Apparently there is internet in Tennessee and folks saw my little blog today. To say they are unhappy is an understatement. Livid is probably the best word. I gave you the recap earlier and tomorrow, we’ll be doing a greatest hits album! I have:

• The comment that just got posted to my blog
• The argument currently ensuing on YouTube
• Remember that planner that got fired for posting about who she was voting for? She’s “despicable” and you get to see the Facebook post

And you better check all this stuff out now because when Big John secures his attorney my blog is coming down…at least that the latest threat.

“This shit’s chess, it ain’t checkers!” – Training Day

When Quitting Your Job Goes Wrong – DMFRH: Poking the Bear Edition Part II

I told you I’d be back. I told you there was more Tennessee-sponsored stupidity, didn’t I? Are you excited? Are you on the edge of your seat, waiting with eager anticipation at what nonsense I can present today? I know I am. But for those of you clowns who didn’t tune in yesterday, here is your obligatory recap:

A lil bit ago, my wife joined a fledgling travel agency selling fairy-themed vacations for pirate-themed prices. She was happy. The agency was happy. Things were good. Until my friendly neighborhood mail lady dropped off a certified letter with a Cease and Desist for using her agency’s logo (apparently you should do a trademark search before you launch a business, huh?) Combined with a series of questionable activities by our Blue Sky Journey friends—I’m talking shit like calling someone a retard because they didn’t like the idea of fucking Cars Land in Disney World (this is a real argument. I feel extra stupid for even saying that out loud) or firing someone ON FACEBOOK for posting about not voting for Mitt Romney (the election returns say she was not alone), or being Master-level assholes—the letter was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

So my wife quit.

Wrote a nice little letter, asked for her outstanding money, and moved on to another agency. And then, our grammatically-challenged country bumpkins got all Alex Forrest on her and started leaving uber-professional correspondence. When I was a claims adjuster, I was told to never write something that I wouldn’t want to see as a headline somewhere. Somebody didn’t get that memo.

When we left our intrepid vacation planner, she’d quit her job, received a semi-pro acceptance of her resignation, then was honored with a hillbilly threat letter. She fired back with a bullet-pointed response and we join this cyber dispute, already in progress.

Amanda’s TPS Report-style response to Tennessee madness went over like a fart in church. Like that fat chick in the choir’s fart. Not only did she substantiate her claims, she used spell-check and greater than 8th grade vernacular. And she copied every member of the Blue Sky Journeys crew. And you know nothing says “you know, this is probably enough. Let’s just pay this chick and be done” like a voicemail. FYI: those 4 rings and the greeting are your opportunity to reconsider. Our friends didn’t take that opportunity. Instead, they left Amanda this:

That. Really. Happened. That’s right, folks, you’re listening to the musical stylings of Melanie and John Swoap. I have it on MP3 if anybody wants to add it to your iTunes playlist. You know you do.

OK but somebody in that shop had a couple pieces of common sense because Melanie fired off this little missive to absolve her of any responsibility. But you did just hear her, right?

Melanie I Will Not Respond

Betrayal? Seriously? It’s Disney Vacation Planning, not The Godfather. You drop that drunk ass voicemail and then try to act like you’re the bigger person? Whatever. But that common sense stuff must only apply to one of them because Big John Stud let this fly when nobody commented on his super-eloquent voicemail:

John Post VoicemailAs you can tell, these cats really want us to come to Tennessee. I mean, Seriously. Like they work for the Board of Tourism. But now things are getting funny. I mean, the only response to someone who leaves you a litany of messages like that is to fuck with them, right? I mean these folks spent an entire day mad because Amanda quit. We hung Christmas lights and baked cookies. But might as well keep it going…

Amanda Response Voicemail

Let me tell you what, Have A Magical Day is NOT going over well. But my friends, the question becomes, “How much is enough?” At what point would any of you say, “You know, it’s really time to be done”? I thought it was 3 email conversations ago. Definitely when everybody said, “Stop talking or it’s harassment.” But Tennessee lives by the Bad Boy Can’t Stop Won’t Stop motto and DMFRH won’t shut up! John gives us another email and raises the name calling accusations to include “thief.” Thief. I already stated you have a substance abuse problem (pill-popping alcoholic) and an attitude problem (bitch) but you’re a criminal too. Check it out:

John Escalation

My man is obviously campaigning for the Jackass of the Year Award and he’s playing to win! And you might notice, he’s copying all the other planners too. Just a note: the word is CORROBORATE!  There are fucking Rs in that word! But I digress. So Amanda decides it’s best to close it out with a nice little legal definition, a recap and a forward to her business attorney.

Amanda FinalThat shut everybody up…but only for the night.

That means, boy and girls, that there is even more before we get to the end of our story—I haven’t even said anything to my man at all. So swing back by tomorrow for the conclusion of this episode of Dis MuthaFucka Right Here.

When Quitting Your Job Goes Wrong – DMFRH: Poking the Bear Edition Part I

Howdy Ho boys and girls! In the midst of your post-Christmas – pre-New Year’s – do I seriously have to go back to work? stupor, I welcome you back to Crooked Letterz, the place where we look at the darker side of life and point fingers and laugh. I am your host, Christopher Starr, and THIS is Dis MuthaFucka Right Here – Poking the Bear Edition (edition edition edition)

I gotta get some fireworks or something.

Now before I get started, I have to say a word of thanks for the kind words, well wishes and general good will. You guys have been incredibly patient and I appreciate you sharing my concern over my wife during her Big C diagnosis and surgery and offering your condolences after my grandmother’s passing. I sincerely appreciate it—more than you’ll ever know.

But it is time to get back to it. We’re gonna get back to our villainy business in 2013 (promise!) with the conclusion of Mayhem of the Mouse and the rest of the Festival of Fiendishness (I gotta get to 100 villains) but for now, I have something a little different in mind.

Lemme get my John McCain on: my friends, today’s post is pretty special.

As 2012 winds to a close, I am inspired to look back at some of the fun times we’ve had together: you laughed at me walking my dog with Hello Kitty earphones, we looked at about 65 of our favorite villains, broke Disney World, and we saw the rise of DMFRH with The Boy, Shawn T (punk ass), and me. As a matter of fact, 2012 has been quite the year for muthafuckas. Lucky for you, I saved the best for last. Consider it my gift to you…

Earlier this year, I broke from the dark stuff to write a sappy, saccharine-laced post called Pursue Your Happyness. It was about my wife finding her happy place planning Disney vacations for people who feel perfectly at home with man-sized mice and what I am convinced is a rabid duck in a sailor’s suit. And NOBODY has pants. What’s wrong with pants?

But that’s beside the point.

That post centered around her joining an Authorized Disney Vacation Planning agency (who shall remain nameless—but whose initials are Blue Sky Journeys). The company was truly an American story: started by a young couple with $30 and dream, grew to have national reach and about 30 planners. It was cool shit. I was happy for my wife and happy she’d joined such a close-knit “family.”

Until shit got stupid.

See, I’ve worked with large and small companies, startups, nonprofits and Fortune 500s. I’ve made my share of clerical errors and full-scale fuck ups. I don’t begrudge mistakes. I take issue with how you deal with them. And in each of those instances, with each of those organizations, when I departed, my departure was handled with professionalism, courtesy and decorum.

I guess you can imagine that’s not exactly what happened.

And if you’re wondering why I’m saying it at all, it’s because someone told me not to. Not to publish “ONE THING.” That reverse psychology Jedi mind trick bullshit doesn’t work on me. I slept with a woman 14 years my senior who worked at my college because somebody told me not to. I moved out of my mother’s house 16 hours after moving in because somebody told me what not to do. If you don’t want me to publish it, you probably shouldn’t say stupid stuff in email. To me. Or on voicemail. Dummy.

So, gather ‘round kiddos and let me tell you the story of Dees Muthafuckas Right Here. Once upon a time, there was a girl with a dream about making people pay ridiculous prices for mouse-themed vacations. So she found an agency to make her little dream come true. Now, for a variety of reasons (the final one being served with a Cease and Desist for simply doing her job with the tools given) the girl—my wife—decided it was best to part ways with her homey little travel agency and penned this resignation letter:

ResignationIt’s relatively standard, right? Maybe adds a little more specificity than I would have but it’s essentially “I’m out, pay me what you owe.” And it garners an appropriate response:

Johns response resignation

Now if that were the end of this story, it’d be sad indeed. Lucky for all of us, our friends in Tennessee do not disappoint. A couple hours later, this strolls into the Inbox:

Melanies-response-resignation

Wait, what?

Suddenly, things aren’t so magical. Or grammatically correct. I think we’re in HUDGE trouble…

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Chris, this is awfully one-sided. You’re only posting their stuff.” And you’d be right: it’s my blog. My house, my rules. And we’re the good guys. But I hear you, I hear you—so I’ll post Amanda’s response. But before I do, I want you to notice 2 things: 1) this is the owner of the company talking; and 2) she copied everybody and their mama on it. All 30 of those planners, some of them friends, received the same email.

So Amanda copied them too:

Amanda Response 1

Amanda Response 2

Amanda Response 3

The email was bad enough. But they really didn’t appreciate the Reply All. Not one bit (you gotta say it in the Joker voice).

This is only the beginning: this story gets SOOOOO much better–you gotta keep reading for Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and the Greatest Hits, all featuring:

• More emails!
• Legal threats!
• A drunk ass voicemail!
• And then – Chris gets involved!

“You knew this was coming, Pete.” – Harry Osborne, Spiderman 3

To My Nana

I can’t write a goodbye letter. It doesn’t seem right. Not because I’m afraid to let you go. I understand why you left. I understand how. It all makes sense to me. Soon it’ll make sense to everyone. But things happen in their own time.

It’s because you didn’t leave.

Physically, we both know the deal. You and I, like conspirators, know you left us days ago. That you’re on to the next stage of your journey. I take great comfort in that. You never could stay put and I know you’re not about to start now. I know you’re gone from here.

But I know you never left us either.

More than any other human being I know, you gave pieces of yourself to us. In every memory I can search, in every picture I can find, in the pockets of every story I have ever heard are smiles and laughter. The imparting of some nugget of wisdom wrapped inside a joke or a grin. Bundled in some other expression of love. Those things are a part of us now.

In our greedy fashion, we want to hold on those times, to make more of them, to keep them close. Our rational selves, the ones who accept the nature of our mortality, understand this isn’t possible. That emotional side of us is more insatiable. It’s never satisfied. It doesn’t understand you’ve done all you can do, that you’ve moved on. It doesn’t see you as a dynamic thing, a free soul but something static. Something we can hold and hold down, hold close, hold on to. Never let go. We want what we want.

But it’s not about us.

It’s about you.

In your own dramatic way (seriously, your timing could not have been better—or worse, for that matter) you made us stop our mundane existences of gift-giving and driving and bill-paying and working and agonizing over that next medical procedure. You made us stop. Stop and look at you. Stop and look at one another. As people. Not as those “friends” on Facebook or that aunt on the other side of the country or that cousin I have never seen with my own eyes. You made us stop. You’re making us stop. And now we have to look at one another. We have to see one another. As people. As family.

Like a beloved guest gone too soon, you are leaving a void in our hearts and our houses. And now we must stand in the doorway, staring at your departure, holding the hands of the ones left behind. We have to stop and notice your departure. We have to watch you leave. And like every beloved guest, you leave something behind. When we finally wander into that part of our house you inhabited, for that short period, we find an article or an item, a relic left behind. A scent. A memory. A smile. Something we can hold to in your absence. Something that binds us to you.

We have those relics inside of each and every one of us. And we’ll hold one another by the hand or the waist, clutch an elbow, cup the small of a back. Drop our weary and sad faces onto stronger shoulders. We’ll see you off, watch you fade into the black. And we’ll close doors behind you, feeling the pang of your absence. Share sad glances and wistful smiles.

And we’ll search inside for those relics of you. When we find them, we will smile. We will laugh. We will wish you well. And we will be alright.

I love you. I miss you.

Introducing SARIEL!

The seraph, Sariel, made her introduction in The Road to Hell when Michael conscripted her into duty in the War for Peace. With a single sentence, she became a commander in the Father’s army. A sword of justice. A judge of her peers. Executioner of the wicked.

In Come Hell or High Water, Sariel must become something more: a light in the dark:

But it wasn’t the humans that interested me. Those dull beings in soft cloth were of no concern.

It was the others.

The beings with the brilliant eyes. Those who cast no shadow on the beaten earth, who stood like giants over their human counterparts. Who shimmered in the mid-day sun.

Angels.

Among men.

I dropped from the sky on a bolt of light, hard and glorious, destroying the altar. Cracks poured down the steps of the temple, opening chasms beneath the knees of parishioners. Divinity steamed from my frame and I pulled my bow from my fists, leveled an arrow of sizzling energy at a dominion who simply glared at me. His eyes fell in my presence.

“Kadiel,” I said and my voice boomed. Humans covered their ears at my words and I saw red slivers peek through their fingers. “Look at me, dominion.”

He did. They all did.

“You know me. Name me.”

He pulled the cloth tunic from his chest, let the fire of the Father wash over him until he shone. A woman, dark haired and plump clutched at him but he waved her hands away.

“You are Sariel,” he said and there was no fear in his voice. Only resignation.

“I am Sariel, commander of the Father’s army, chosen by Michael himself.” I stepped toward him, raised the bow to aim between his eyes. “And you have turned your back on us. You know how that goes.”

“Kadiel,” said the woman, grabbing his wrist. Then she stood. She was only plump in her abdomen. “Who—?”

He pressed her back. “Be silent, wife.”

“Wife?” I cocked my head, confused. I looked at her, looked at her watching his face, his body, trembling behind him. Looking for both direction and protection. Looking with affection. With concern. With love. “Wife?” And then, “This woman is your Chosen, Kadiel?”

His hand fell on her belly. She covered it. Love and protection.

“What else is she, Kadiel? What more?” I said.

“She carries his child,” said a voice behind me. A voice I knew.

The voice of a deserter.

Uriel.

I loosed my bolt, heard Kadiel groan and puff into nothingness, whirled as the woman, his wife, wailed in his ashes. Spinning to face Uriel. My eyes dancing on dozens of women, quivering by the sides of angels, their abdomens distended, their faces haunted. Uriel was among them, shirtless, only a golden doubloon covering his scarred face and damaged eye. There was nothing familiar about this angel, my peer in combat. He was tall still, yes, but diminished. Dull. And wingless. Mortal. He held the hand of the tiny woman whose hair twisted beneath her robe. The one whose stomach was big and rounded. He held her next to him. As his equal.