Tonight, Julia Brown – a single mother, age 29 – is in bed relaxing, and as usual, she is playing either Internet spades or poker on her laptop computer. Marcus, her seven-year-old son, comes to her bedroom door and peeps around the corner of the doorframe. This is his general routine before entering her bedroom because, as he told his friend, Bobby, he always wanted to be sure it was safe to go in. Unknown to him, Julia always knew that he was there, but pretended not see him. She would chuckle quietly after he left and wait for him to return; knowing that it usually meant he had something up his sleeve.
Julia and Marcus live on a relatively quiet street in the Miracle Mile area of the city of Los Angeles. A mostly middle-class neighborhood of duplexes and single-family homes, it is an area bordered by Beverly Hills to the west, Hancock Park to the east, Hollywood to the north and Mid-Cities to the south. They live comfortably in a two-bedroom, upstairs duplex apartment unit.
This particular night, Marcus went through his ritual, and seeing his mother somewhat relaxed, he decided she was approachable. He waited a few minutes, bounced quietly into her bedroom, and stood next to her at the edge of the bed. And as she always did, without a word, she folded back the covers and motioned for him to get in. He got in and quickly, quietly snuggled up to her, lying there almost motionless for a few minutes perhaps thinking about his next move, but not saying a word. He felt safe like this. Many times he would fall asleep while lying next to her, and she would have to carry him to his bed. It was always a challenge for her with him falling off to sleep because he typically thrashed about wildly, flailing his arms and knocking her in the head on many occasions. She would sometimes get up in the middle of the night and leave him there, getting into his bed in order to get some sleep herself.
Julia quietly broke the silence. She asked him lovingly, “Well Marcus, what’s going on sweetheart? How was your day at school?”
Not looking at her and fidgeting, he replied, “It was great, Mom.”
Julia sensed that there was something else happening with him. She asked, “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“Nothing, Ma,” he replied
“Marcus, this is your Mom. I know when something is going on with you,” she said.
Marcus replied, “Ma, I promised not to tell.”
She interrupted him, feigning disappointment. She asked, “You promised not to tell? Not even your Mom?”
Marcus said nothing. He was thinking of how to answer her. He didn’t want to make her mad at him. He lifted himself half way off the bed and turned to his mother, and then said, “Mommm! I promised Bobby.”
Julia smiled. She replied, “Marcus, I will not tell Bobby. I swear.” She raised her right hand and placed it over her heart.
Marcus reluctantly gave up the goods. He related, “Bobby got into a fight today at lunch. He even got a black eye, Mom. All the guys were teasing him about his new girlfriend, and he got mad.”
Julia pretended surprise. “Is that so?” she asked. This was normal for these kids, she thought. She even wanted to laugh, but decided against it. She was sure that the fight only lasted about a minute. She turned toward him and with a curious smile, she asked, “You were not in the fight, were you Marcus?”
Marcus replied with a pretentious frown, “No, Mom, I wasn’t. Besides, Ms. Jackson broke up the fight. I think she likes Bobby, and I think he likes her, too.”
She thought that this real-life kiddy drama was more fun than the game she was playing, so she shut the computer down and moved it to the side, commenting as she did, “Oh, really.” Then she asked, “Who is Ms. Jackson?”
Marcus snuggled closer. He replied, “Ma, she is a new teacher. Well, a substitute teacher.”
“So, how long has she been at your school?”
“Well, all week this week. I think.”
Julia, decidedly amused by this, said, “And she’s in love with Bobby, and he’s in love with her – is that right?”
“Yes, Mom!” he replied with a bit of embarrassment, which she easily deciphered.
Now she chuckled aloud – unable to hold it in any longer. She exclaimed, “One week!”
Marcus rolled over onto his mother, and looked her in the eye. He said, “Mom, don’t laugh. That was why they were fighting.”
Julia, with a smug look on her face, said, “Ohhh, I see. They were fighting over her. She chuckled again, and then concluded, “She must be very pretty.” She teased him, “And you must be a little jealous of Bobby.”
“No Ma, I’m not jealous.” He thought for a minute, and then said, “She is very pretty though.”
Julia teased some more. She said, “I bet Tisha will have something to say about that.”
Marcus, with a look of anxiety, pleaded, “Ma, please don’t tell Tisha. She will be mad at me.”
“I won’t, baby. It will be our little secret – yours and mine.” She chuckled again. He did, too.
Getting that off his chest, he got quiet for a few moments, and then expressing concern in his own way, asking, “So how was your day, Ma?”
Now it was her turn for surprises. She had known for a while after her boss had confirmed that her firm was merging with another that she may be one of the employees to be let go. She had been employed there for some 15 years as a legal secretary, and was quite disappointed when she heard the news. She was not worried about getting another job; her skills were excellent, and she had many annual evaluations to show this. It was just that she did not want to start over again somewhere else. She had made many friends there, and when Marcus would come to the office, they all treated him like royalty. He had the run of the place – even her grouchy boss, Mr. Burke, liked him, and in turn, Marcus admired Mr. Burke because he was the boss and he got to tell everybody what to do and because he treated Marcus so well. They had long conversations, just like he had with his dad when he was alive.
Marcus’ father, Jeffery, died when Marcus was only four years old. Jeffery was only 32 when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. After the diagnosis, he spent the rest of his time giving Marcus as much attention as he could. In the short span of six months until his death, they spent a part of each day together, and Julia encouraged it. They talked for long periods and were regular visitors to the neighborhood park; they saw all the movies Marcus wanted to see and spent time together in Marcus’ room playing video games. Many times, Jeffery would fall asleep in Marcus’ bed and Marcus would stay up for as long as he could just watching his Dad sleep.
Mr. Burke was now the only adult male that was a constant in Marcus’s short life. When he would visit the office with his mother, Mr. Burke always had a present for him, and if he didn’t, they went shopping for one.
Jonathan Burke was a senior partner in the law firm of Owens & Burke. He was five feet nine inches with a powerful, athletic built, and deep-set, penetrating eyes under heavy, dark eyebrows. He mostly spoke in a level voice, always probing in his conversations, asking a million questions, until he was completely satisfied with the answers he got. His disposition always seemed serious, uncompromising, but deep down inside, he was a softy, and Marcus certainly brought this part of his personality out when they were together. When he felt there was too long a break between visits, he would suggest to Julia that she bring Marcus to visit. Sometimes, when Mr. Burke was overly grouchy, Julia would tease him, saying, “I am going to tell Marcus that you have been acting up today.”
He would give her a look that said, “You’d better not.” And then he would laugh, wiping away his foul disposition.
Julia pulled Marcus close to her, as if for support. She was hesitant. She did not want to alarm him, but felt that he was entitled to know the truth of the matter – after all, it affected him, too. He practically grew up on her job. She said, “Well, I might be losing my job, baby.” On hearing this, he immediately sat straight up.
He asked nervously, “What do you mean, Ma? Why are you losing your job? What are we going to do?”
Julia tried to make light of it. She said, “It is not that serious, baby. I will get another one.”
Marcus got up off the bed and stood next to it. He appeared visibly upset. He said, “But, Ma. You have been there forever! Why, Ma? They don’t like us anymore?”
She could not find a way to explain to him in a way that a child could understand, so she just said nothing, but seeing how it visibly affected him, she started to cry. She said through her tears, “I’m sorry, baby. I did not mean to upset you, but I promise that it will be OK. We will work through it.”
Marcus had felt that something was up because she had been acting strange lately; making him clean his room, eat all his food, and take showers more often than he cared to. He could hear her sobbing late at night, and that caused him to stay awake until he was sure that she was asleep.
In his mind, several things were happening at once. He thought that they might have to move, which did not appeal to him. He would lose his friends. Bobby had been his friend for as long as he could remember. Even though he was only seven years old and Bobby was eight, it seemed to him that they were always friends. Then there was Tisha, his girlfriend. She was “da bomb” to him. They fussed with each other, argued, and argued, but anyone seeing them together knew there was something special going on with them. He never told her how he felt, but he sure acted as if he only had eyes for her. He was somewhat shy when it came to girls, and Tisha was no different. Bobby was the conduit of his feelings for her, and similarly, Bobby was her conduit back to him. It was an interesting threesome, and the parents of the three kids had fun with it, reporting to each other all the drama among the three kids.
In many ways, they were inseparable; they always attended the same school, and spent lots of free time together. Therefore, Marcus had a lot to think about because he thought that they would have to move, even though Julia never mentioned that, but it was on his mind anyway; and then there was his upcoming birthday.
Julia had promised to get him the latest PlayStation computer game that he wanted, and he was ready for it. Bobby had one – a PlayStation2 – and Marcus enjoyed playing with it; that is, whenever Bobby would let him, which was not very often. Marcus wanted to have his own, and he was excited about getting one for his birthday; but this business of his mother losing her job was not good in his mind. He rationalized that she would not have the money to get it for him, and that did not sit well with him. He had to think of a way to get his PlayStation2. He feared that now things were going to change and that his mom was not even thinking about his birthday. This was serious stuff! What was he going to do about this? He had to think hard on this serious problem. He needed help to straighten this mess out. He was determined to help her keep her job.
Marcus decided that divine intervention was called for, and decided to write a letter to God; however, he did not have an address for God. “What a bummer!” he thought. He hated writing letters or essays anyway – hated writing, period.
One evening, Marcus waited until his mom had settled in. He snuck a peek around the doorframe as he always did and saw her lying in bed. She looked calm enough, he thought. He decided to go chat with her. He quietly and cautiously entered her room, got on her bed, and snuggled up to her under the covers. She let him, placing an arm around him, and pulling him to her.
Good, he thought – progress. She is in a good mood. He said nothing for a few minutes, staying quiet and barely moving, just enjoying her warmth. He almost jumped when she said, “Well, little man, what you thinking?” He just shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing, and then suddenly, without looking at her, he inquired, “When did you last talk to God, Ma?”
She frowned and looked down at him. She responded, “Talk to God? What do you mean, sweetheart?”
Marcus explained, “Well, do you talk to God about stuff you want?”
Julia smiled, “Yeah, I guess so. I talk to God everyday. Is there something in particular I should be talking to God about?”
Marcus, without stirring, said, “Stuff. You know, just stuff.”
Julia chuckled, and then she said, “Yeah, sure baby. I talk to God about lots of stuff.” Then she asked him, “Do you talk to God about stuff, baby?”
Marcus thought about it for a moment and then replied, “Sometimes.” And then he asked, “Do you know God’s address?”
Julia responded nonchalantly, “Heaven, I guess. I have never written to God, though. Why do you ask, Marcus?”
Marcus, displaying some excitement, said, “I want to write a letter to God. Do you have a stamp, Ma? An envelope, too.”
“I might have what you need in the den, go see.” Julia teased him, “But tell me, baby, what are you going to write to God about?”
Marcus replied, “Oh, stuff. You know.”
Marcus scurried from up under his mother, hurrying off the bed and out of her bedroom. He rushed to the den. He had a letter to write and no time to waste. He opened the desk drawer and frantically searched around for an envelope and stamp. He already had paper. His search paid off quickly. He grabbed what he needed and hurried back to his room where he anxiously looked around for his school bag. He found it under some rumpled clothes in a corner. He opened the bag quickly and took out a notebook, settled into his bed, and then started to write his letter to God.
How are you doing? I hope you are well and all. Look, I know you are busy, and I hate to bug you about this, but I must talk to you. There is some bad stuff going on with my Mom, and I need your help. So, could you please come and visit. If you say yes, I will ask mom to make some spaghetti and hot wings. She makes the best hot wings, and the spaghetti is not bad, either. I don’t like mushrooms, though. I always have to remember to remind her not to put any in it. There is some stuff happening with my Mom that I need help with. I want to talk to you face to face. Please let me know when you can make it, so that I will stay home. I’ve been spending a lot of time over at my friend, Bobby’s, lately. He has the new PlayStation2. So let me know when you are going to come to see me.
Now that Marcus had the letter written, the new dilemma he faced was getting the letter to God. His mother did not have God’s address and he didn’t know how to get it. Not surprisingly, he thought of Mr. Burke. He rationalized that Mr. Burke was a very important man and probably knew God and how to get in touch with him. He decided on that route. He would ask Mr. Burke to mail the letter for him. He wrote a note to Mr. Burke and along with the letter to God, placed them in the envelope. He sealed the envelope and wrote Mr. Burke’s name on the front of it. The next morning as Julia was dropping him off to school; he gave the letter to her and asked her to give it to Mr. Burke. The note read:
Do you have God’s address? If you have it, could you please mail my letter? It is very important.
Julia was dying to ask Marcus what was in the letter, but held back. It was his business and she didn’t want to intrude, so she just took it from him with a promise to give it to Mr. Burke.
Mr. Burke was away in New York on a business trip, so he did not receive Marcus’ letter for one whole week. Even when he called Julia and asked about Marcus, she didn’t tell him about the letter.
When Mr. Burke returned from his trip, he couldn’t help but notice the letter prominently displayed on his desk. He looked it over and over before opening it, and when he did open it, he was astounded. He read the note addressed to him and smiled. It was interesting to him that Marcus thought about him in this manner; that he had a direct line to God, and that he had God’s address.
The reality, of course, was that he did not. But because Marcus thought about him is this manner, he could not disappoint him. He had to find a way to get Marcus what he wanted, so he opened Marcus’ letter to God and read with interest. He set the letter aside, reclined in his deep, padded chair, and thought of how he could possibly help Julia keep her job. Julia had been his secretary for a very long time. She was very reliable and trustworthy, and they had built a successful team. Whatever the decisions made regarding the expected merger would have to include Julia. He would retain her as his secretary, and besides, it was the only way he could help Marcus.
He got up, walked over to the door, opened it, and stuck his head out. Julia, who occupied a cubicle just opposite his office, looked up from her work. He motioned her over, went back over to his desk, and sat down. Julia came straight in. He asked her to sit down. She sat across from him, and as she did, he slid the letter, including the note over to her. “Have you read this?” he asked her. “Our boy is incredible.”
She made no comment, except to smile as she took the letter and the note, quickly reading them. She read the letter Marcus had written to God a second time. She looked across at Mr. Burke, and then asked, “Well, God. What are you going to do?”
God, AKA Mr. Burke, laughed.
Julia commented, “You should know that he is expecting a reply.”
Mr. Burke agreed with her observation. He responded, “Yes, he is.”
“So what are we going to do?” Mr. Burke asked.
“We?” Julia laughed. She replied, “You are the one. He’s relying on your divine access to get his letter to God.”
Mr. Burke observed, “True. I guess I have some work to do.”
Julia chuckled, “Yes, you have, my friend.” She got up and left his office without further comment.
It had been two weeks since Marcus sent his letter to God. He had gotten no response so far, no signs or anything to suggest that God had even gotten the letter. He was thinking that maybe the letter never got there, or maybe it did and God simply forgot to respond, or was busy, or worst of all, just did not care. Then, he thought, maybe it went to the wrong address, or maybe Mr. Burke didn’t have God’s address after all. He was worried, but didn’t panic – at least, not just yet. He would wait some more.
Sunday morning came. Marcus, like most kids, dreaded Sunday because of what it meant – a long day. He had to get up early, take a shower, and get dressed up for church, which usually included Sunday school, unless Julia did not feel like getting up early herself. Therefore, he was ecstatic when Julia did not get him up. He was awake, though, anticipating her voice calling for him to get out of bed, so he lay there, drifting in and out of sleep.
He fell into a deep sleep and started to dream. It was one of those dreams that seemed to be real – or maybe it was real. It did not matter – the whole point was, in this dream, God had come to visit. In the dream, Marcus was in his room, and as usual, playing on his PlayStation. The doorbell rang and a few minutes later, the door to his bedroom opened and Julia looked in. She said to him, “Marcus, God is here to see you.” Marcus was so absorbed in his game that he did not hear her until she repeated herself. This time she spoke much louder than before. She said, “Marcus! Didn’t you hear me?” She continued, “Don’t be rude, boy, come over and say hello! I have to get back to the kitchen and check on the wings I am making for you and your guest.”
Marcus looked up from his game to see God standing in the doorway. He thought, “Man, God is tall.” He said, “Come on in, God. I see you got my letter.”
God replied, “Yes, I got your letter – that’s why I’m here.”
Marcus replied, “Well, what do you think? Can you help Mom keep her job?”
God answered, “I see you don’t waste much time. Give me a minute here. Let me catch my breath.”
Marcus queried, “God, you had two whole weeks to think about it. I kept my end of the deal. Mom is making the hot wings I promised you.”
God chuckled and replied, “I’ve been very busy, but I will let you know in time.” God noticed the PlayStation unit and asked Marcus, “What do you got there?”
Marcus answered, “Oh, this is my PlayStation. Bobby has the new one, PlayStation2, just like the one I want for my birthday.”
God came and sat on the bed next to Marcus, “This looks like a cool game.”
Marcus handed the control unit to God, and then asked, “You want to try it?”
God took it from him and replied, “Sure.”
God took the control unit and Marcus started showing God how to play the game. God seemed to pick it up easily. Marcus commented, “God, you learn quickly. This is cool. Bobby will not believe it when I tell him.”
God chuckled and then replied, “You’re right, Bobby will not believe you. Mary will not believe me, either.”
Marcus asked him, “Who is Mary?”
God replied, “She is one of my assistants.”
Marcus thought for a moment, and then responded, “Oh, OK.” He continued, “I didn’t know you have assistants.”
God replied, “Oh, yes, I do. I have many. I cannot handle everything by myself. I need help sometimes.”
Marcus quizzed him, “But, aren’t you God? Mom says that there is nothing that you cannot do; that you see and hear everything; that you are everywhere, and there is no wish that you cannot grant.”
God winked at him, and then responded, “Well, there are some people who get a little carried away, so I just ignore their request, and there are some things I just refuse to do.” Marcus glanced at God curiously.
The questions were coming quick now. Marcus was being himself – curious or nosey, but definitely not shy. He quizzed God some more, “So, what is it like being God? I mean, do you get to go everywhere you want to? Do you get many letters? What was it like when you were a boy like me?”
God thought, “This kid is too much.” He dodged the questions, but to the last one, he replied, “Well, it is a long time since I was a boy. I can’t remember that far back.” He asked Marcus, “Why do you ask so many questions?”
Marcus replied, “Just curious. Besides, I want to be a lawyer, just like Mr. Burke. They ask a lot of questions – which reminds me…”
Suddenly, there was sharp rapping at Marcus’s bedroom door, and then it opened. Julia interrupted them, and before she could speak, Marcus asked her, “Is dinner ready, Mom?”
Julia replied, “Yes, baby. Bring your friend with you.”
Marcus immediately started out of the room. He looked back over his shoulder and said, “God, come on. Let’s go eat. Dinner is ready.”
God reluctantly put down the PlayStation controls and followed them into the dining room. Marcus usually sat at the head of the table. He was the man of the house in his mother’s eyes. He pulled the chair out and offered God the seat, saying, “God, you sit here – in my chair.”
God protested, but Marcus was persuasive. There was no arguing with Marcus. God sat down in Marcus’s chair.
Marcus announced, “You are now the head of this family.” He continued, “So, from now on, when you come to visit, this is your seat.”
God replied, “In that case, I will be visiting often.”
They ate quietly for a while, and then Marcus, with his mouth full, asked, “How are the wings?”
God replied, “They are hot, pretty hot, but good.”
Marcus nodded in agreement, and then said, “Yes, they are hot, but I like them hot. Drink some lemonade. It will help.”
God had a few gulps of lemonade, and then said, “Well Marcus, dinner was great, but I have to go. I have another long day tomorrow.” He got up.
Marcus got up, too. He said, “So, what’s your decision about Mom?”
God winked at Marcus and replied, “I’m still thinking on it. I will let your know soon.”
Marcus said, “OK, but remember my birthday is tomorrow.”
God warily replied, “Yeah, I know.”
Marcus said, “Come on. Let me walk you to the door.”
Marcus led God to the front door. He opened the door and let God out. God smiled as they said their goodbyes, and then God quickly left.
Marcus closed the front door and he suddenly awoke. He was confused. He was not sure what had just happened. The dream was so real to him, or maybe he had just had a visit from God. He got out of bed, and still half asleep, rushed to his mother’s bedroom. Even though the house was not dark, he kept bumping into things as he tried to make his way there. Julia appeared to be sound asleep. He gently pulled the covers back and slid in quietly next to her, trying not to wake her. He cuddled up to his mother; pulling the covers up to his chin and quickly fell off to sleep.
Julia soon awoke to find Marcus cuddled up to her with his arms draped around her. She smiled and let him sleep. He was so special to her – her little man. He was so protective, and filled with innocence and love. She could not think of what her life would be like without him. She lay awake, just watching over him as he slept, keeping him close to her, being protective, as he thrashed about. They had been together alone since Jeffery died. She missed Jeffery. She still had not gotten over her loss, even after three long years.
Marcus awoke suddenly. He seemed confused that he was in Julia’s bed, not understanding how he got there, and then remembering his dream. He rolled over onto Julia and shook her, asking, “Ma, you awake?”
She opened her eyes and pretended to be annoyed. “Well, boy, if I was asleep, you just woke me up. You’re not a 10-pound baby anymore, you know.” She chuckled.
Marcus said, “I’m sorry, Mom. He paused for a moment, and then asked his mother, “Mom, would you laugh if I told you something.”
Julia looked at him, pretending curiosity. “Marcus, it depends on whether it’s funny or not.” She then asked him, “Well, is it funny?”
“Ah, Mom, stop teasing me, please. It’s not funny.” He thought for a moment and continued, “Maybe it is funny.”
Julia said, “So, go ahead then, tell me whatever it is you’re keeping from your mother.”
He responded, “I’m not keeping anything from you, Mom, but let me ask you. Are you going to lose your job?”
He had a certain seriousness about it that concerned her somewhat. She replied, “No, baby, that’s not going to happen. Stop worrying about it. Your Mama’s going to be fine.” She then asked, “Why are you asking me this, Marcus?”
Marcus cuddled up tightly to her and got comfortable, his face close to her as she looked at him and felt his pungent early morning breath against her face. She hugged him tightly and they lay silent for a moment. Marcus broke the silence. He said, “I had a strange dream. It was weird, Ma. God came to visit.” He stopped, as if waiting for her reaction. She remained silent. He continued, “He was right here in my room, Ma. And, you made us dinner – hot wings and spaghetti; just like I promised him in my letter.” He paused some more, and then said, “You know what, Ma?”
“He is a cool guy. He played with my PlayStation. He is not very good, though. I guess he does not get lots of practice. I think that he liked the hot wings, too – you’re the best cook, Ma.”
“Thank you, Marcus, and thank God for me when he visits again,” she said.
Marcus responded, “Ma, you’re teasing me again; he did come to visit. He said that he was going to come back. I even asked him what he was going to do about your job, and he said that he was still thinking about it.”
Julia responded, “I’m not teasing you, baby, and I am sure that God has thought about it, because I will not be losing my job after all. I’ll be right there until you get out of school, and then you can take care of me.”
Marcus asked her, “Did he talk to Mr. Burke, Ma?” But, as excited as he was, he did not wait for her answer. He continued, “This is great, Ma. You should have told me.” He asked anxiously, “Did you see him? Did he come by when you were there?”
“No, Marcus, I did not see him, and I don’t know when he came by. I’m sorry, baby,” she said and almost laughed, but controlled herself. She thought, “My son has a lot of imagination.”
Marcus still snuggled up to his Mom, changing the subject. He announced, “Mom, my birthday is tomorrow.”
Ribbing him, Julia said, “No kidding? I almost forgot it was your birthday. I have not gotten anything for you, Marcus. What was it you wanted?” she asked, pretending to have forgotten. He had been hinting and bugging her for the last year about it; how could she possibly forget such an important event?
Marcus was suddenly dispirited, “Oh Ma! It is tomorrow.” He asked quickly, “You forgot?”
Julia chuckled aloud. She stealthily reached under her bed and retrieved a large package. She gave it to him, “Happy Birthday, Marcus.”
He was so overwhelmed that for a few long moments, he had no reaction. He looked at her quizzically as he reached for it. He asked, “Is it my new PlayStation2?”
Julia replied, “Baby, just go ahead and open it up.” She pretended to take it back from him.
He wrestled it from her and started opening it, peeking through the torn wrapping slowly at first until he saw what he thought was the PlayStation logo on the box. He jumped out of Julia’s bed and ran to his room with the package. Julia was laughing to see his joy and excitement. She knew what he wanted and was not going to get anything else for the biggest love of her life. He was a great kid and deserved a great birthday present.
He was not gone for long. He came back in lugging the large half-opened package. He reached over and gently kissed his mother and said, “You’re the best, Ma. I love you forever.”
She said nothing, just smiled – she was thankful for him. She said a few words of prayer to herself, “Thank you, God. Please come back to visit soon.”
God heard her prayer, and smiled; another mission accomplished.