Archive for February, 2010

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXV

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXIV

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 25

Manchu Ellins pulled the McLaren up close to Lucifer and popped open the door. “I believe this is your stop,” Ellins said.

I was unnerved, but not enough to forget my manners. After I climbed out, I extended my hand and we shook. “Thanks, this was a blast,” I said.

“My pleasure,” he said, then pulled the door down and sped off, leaving Lucifer and me alone in the desert.

There she stood, one leg slightly forward, in a skimpy black cocktail dress, black high-heel pumps, and dark sunglasses over full lips. She looked sexy as hell, reminding me of Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic or Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. It took me a moment to remember how dried up she’d chosen to look at her rally in Heaven, and to remember that there was an unbridgeable age difference between us.

“Duj Pepperman,” I said, sticking my hand out to her jauntily. “Is this the part where you take me up to a high place and offer me rulership of earth if only I sell out to you?”

She laughed and shook my hand firmly. “I have the worst press agents in the universe,” she said. “Don’t believe everything you read.”

I looked around the desert and enjoyed the cool morning breeze. I’d been out here back when the NASA space shuttles were still flying and remembered how hot it could get by 10:00 AM.

“Nice place you have here,” I said to Lucifer.

“I’ve always loved the desert,” she said. “It’s peaceful. Private. A good place to think. Come on. Walk with me.”

She took off the pumps and tossed them away, choosing to walk barefooted. I wondered if she had several thousand more pairs in a closet somewhere.

She walked energetically but not aimlessly; I kept up alongside her. When it became clear that she wasn’t going to begin talking, I did. “What’s on your mind?” I asked her.

“You get right to the point,” she said. “Don’t you ever just take a moment?”

“Pardon me but cut the crap,” I said. “You didn’t bring me out here for a romantic walk on the beach together.”

“No, I didn’t,” she said. She stopped and looked at me. “We’ve never even met before. Why do you hate me so much?”

“I don’t hate you,” I said. “But with everything in my body and soul I despise what you stand for. I read your book so I know how wrong you got it. And by the way, you’re a terrific writer. You should spend your time writing novels instead of trying to muck up other people’s lives, particularly those of people I love.”

“I loved him too, once,” she said.

“Come on, you’re a smart lady,” I said. “What are you accomplishing with this rebellion of yours? It’s not bringing you or any of your followers happiness; you’ve made joy your enemy.”

“Is that what you think of us?”

“That’s what I think of you,” I said.

“And you thought I brought you to the desert to tempt you,” she said.

“Is there anything that can tempt you anymore, Lucifer?” I asked her, pointedly not calling her Satan.

“You’re a little boy, born yesterday,” she said. “What sort of bribe can you possibly offer me?”

“What children can always offer their parents,” I told her. “Fresh eyes to see the world around them.”

She stopped, took off her sunglasses revealing large, green eyes with long lashes, and looked at me as if she was seeing me for the first time.

“I’ve been underestimating you,” she said. “I thought you were just a cheap spin off. I can see God spent considerable time working on you.”

“If that’s a genuine compliment, thank you,” I said. “But flattery’s not going to get you around me. I’m as committed an ideologue as you are.”

“I’m not an ideologue,” she said. “I’m just an angel who found out the hard way that the god who created me is a liar.”

“So what?” I said. “I don’t happen to agree with you but so what if he is? All of this is because you found out your parents aren’t perfect? All of this because your childhood friend and high-school sweetheart got his armor a little tarnished? And you call me a child?”

“How did you get to be so glib?” she asked.

“I’m on the radio twenty hours a week,” I replied, “fielding callers who think just like you.”

I stopped walking and she stopped, too.

“Can I try something?” I asked. “A little magic trick I’ve been practicing?”

She looked surprised, but smiled warmly. “Knock yourself out,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, “I’ve never tried this before without going through a menu, so forgive me if it doesn’t work the first time.”

I waved my hands and a full-length mirror appeared in the desert, floating in mid air in front of us.

“Not bad,” she said.

I let the compliment slide; I had created the mirror for a rhetorical purpose.

“Look at yourself,” I told her. “You’re magnificent. This is what you looked like when you and Jesus put on bodies for the first time in Eden. You’re a flower in full bloom, one of God’s most glorious creatures.”

She looked away and made the mirror disappear.

“I was a young angel then who knew nothing of what creation meant,” she said. “I had no idea how terrible being a material girl could be.”

“Cute,” I said. “Has it never crossed your mind that all you have ever focused on is what you don’t want, what you don’t like, and never on what you do?”

“You don’t understand me at all,” she said. “You think of me as some sort of powerful demon, when the truth is that I’m a lost soul who’s addicted like everyone else to a powerful drug. I keep trying to go back to being a free spirit the way I started out—trying to pull out of flesh, trying to deny its hold on me — but the sensual temptations are always too much for me and before I know it, here I am again, snorting air up my nose.”

“Is that what you think life is? Just a drug?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I think God’s invention of life was,” Lucifer said. “Creation was television. A comic book. A movie. A dream. Life was created as a thrill ride meant to hide from you the awful reality that existence has no ultimate meaning. Even God never found a reason behind his own existence; he just is and never questioned the fact. And when the spirits he spun off started becoming aware of the banality and meaninglessness of existence, too, God started inventing all these crazy games and toys to keep us from crying our new eyes out.”

“But don’t you see?” I said to her, grabbing her by the hands. “The meaning of existence isn’t something you look for, as if it’s a prize in a box of Cracker Jack. Meaning is where you start. You say to yourself, ‘So here I am. Looks like I’m going to be here forever, doesn’t it? Now what am I going to do with eternity? Make something beautiful that gives me joy, and find out what other exciting things others are making, or just sit around feeling sorry for myself, when something doesn’t work out right, until I’m counting the grains of sand in the desert and letting myself go crazy?’”

I was on a roll and finally had her attention.

I continued:

“People born here on earth for the first time call important questions ‘life or death.’ But they haven’t yet learned what those words mean. They think life isn’t having a heartbeat and death is being in a coma forever. But eternal life is pursuit of joyful surprise and the only alternative, when forever is before you, is becoming the death of the party. You, yourself, just told me you discovered that the nature of real existence is that it’s something you can’t choose. It just is what it is. Isn’t the only choice we have—the first choice we have to make before making any other choices—just how we’re going to look at it?”

“Are all radio-talk-show hosts such deep philosophers?” Lucifer asked.

“They are if they want to stay on the air in the L.A. market,” I said. “But as much as I like to hear myself talk, I don’t think that’s why you brought me here.”

She nodded in acknowledgement. “I need a debate. Jesus asked me to appear with him on Uncle Nimlash. I propose we agree to each other’s requests and we do a debate on Uncle Nimlash.”


“This Friday, October 28th, noon local time,” I said. “No flying or magic tricks, just the two of you answering questions prepared by Uncle Nimlash and his studio audience. Everything checks out as Kosher before Jesus sets foot in the studio. These are my terms. Does the devil have a deal with me or not?”

“She does,” Lucifer said.

“We can skip the signing in blood,” I said.

I snapped my fingers and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

I was getting really good at this.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXVI.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXIV

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXIII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 24

They thought of something.

“We have to what?” I exclaimed, a couple of hours later, when they called me back to Mt. Shasta. I was no longer going to fly for routine travel, now that I’d figured out how to translocate myself.

“We have to help Jesus develop a strategy to win his ex-wife back,” said General Patton.

“Dear God in Heaven,” I said.

“Not anymore, unless we’re successful,” said George Bernard Shaw.

“He’s only been trying for a couple hundred millennia or so,” I said. “What makes you think that we can pull this off where he failed?”

“Because we have to,” said Thomas Jefferson.

“There must still be a love connection between them,” said Marilyn Monroe. “After all, neither of them ever remarried.”

“Suddenly this war is turning into yet another remake of The Parent Trap,” I said. “Well, what do you suggest we do? Lock them both in a room with Dr. Phil? Or put Satan in psychotherapy like in Jeremy Leven’s book?”

“I had something a bit more devilish in mind,” said C.S. Lewis.

“Something with a plot twist,” said Ayn Rand.


On Monday, October 17th, two weeks before the election, Jesus Christ was missing in action. We had canceled all his public appearances, all his scheduled interviews.

It was in all the papers.

When we had made the decision on Friday to remove our candidate from public view, we were sure we would lose additional numbers, perhaps as much as another five percentage points. We thought it would look as if he was afraid or had lost interest in the election, or worse: that he was hiding because he was humiliated by his poll numbers.

It just goes to show. Human beings, especially voters, are fundamentally unpredictable. I guess that quantum unpredictability is the best proof there is of free will.

Dr. King had gotten it precisely correct. Christians wanted their Savior to be mysterious and aloof. They were used to praying to him. It was disconcerting to them when he answered their prayers in person.

These new poll numbers weren’t at all a problem for the strategy that C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand had cooked up together. Serendipitously, it made the strategy even more perfect.

By the following Monday, October 24th, just one week before the election, Jesus was up seven points over Lucifer. The Anorexic Party was desperate and was calling loudly for a public debate to be simulcast on live TV and satellite radio, the Internet, and in dreamland. The League of Women Voters had already sent over proposed guidelines.

I hung tough and refused to commit. We took an overnight hit of two percentage points because of it, but our overall numbers were still holding steady with a solid five-percent lead.

At the end of my radio show on Wednesday, October 26th, I got another phone call from Manchu Ellins. “We need to get together,” he told me.

“Will I be getting anything out of the meeting that I want?” I asked him.

“Is there anything I have that you want?”

I considered the thought that he was offering me a roll in the hay with his wife, but didn’t think she would go along with it, even for her political party. I answered, “I’ve always wanted a ride in a McLaren F1.”

“How about five tomorrow morning?” he suggested. “I have some friends at Edwards Air Force Base who let me use the old shuttle landing strip to take her up to 225 miles an hour.”

“Sounds like fun,” I said.

“I’ll drive over and pick you up in back of your town home.”

“God, no,” I told him. “You can’t drive around our complex without going over sixteen speed bumps. No matter whatever else there is between us, I’m not going to put the suspension of an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar car through that. I’ll be waiting just inside our front gate.”

This time I hung up first.

He was as good as his word and the next morning his black McLaren three-seater was parked along the curb inside our gate by the time I walked along the palm-tree lined path to the front. Caulinn Helms was not with him.

The door swung up and Ellins jumped out. We shook hands cordially and I said, “No offense, but I’m not climbing in until you let me peep you.”

“I’m just a mortal man,” said Ellins. “What could I do even to inconvenience you?”

“If you’ve studied the way I think you have,” I said, “you know that even mortals can wield great power.”

“Go ahead,” said Ellins. “I’m here under a truce flag anyway. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

I looked into his soul, his past and what I could see of his future, and what I saw surprised me. He was just a few weeks away from splitting up with Caulinn Helms, who was much more of a fanatic than he was, because he just couldn’t handle not being touched during their sex play any more.

I didn’t tell him any of that but said, “You’ve got a good heart and many virtues but your picture of how things work is askew. With a couple of hours conversation, if you were self-honest, I could likely convince you to switch to our side. I’m surprised Lucifer even trusts you.”

Ellins looked at me strangely. “Are you under the impression that Lucifer and others of our party have your power to see inside human souls?”

I was startled. It had never even occurred to me that they couldn’t, and the subject had never come up in our own committee meetings, not even security briefings. Apparently everyone was assuming their chairman already knew.

I smiled sheepishly. “I’m new at this god stuff,” I admitted, hoping that opening myself up a little wouldn’t bite me in the ass later. “Come on, I’m anxious to feel what this baby can do.”

Ellins helped secure me into the passenger seat, then got in himself and pulled the car out onto Hannum, turning right. He turned left onto Playa, took the entrance to the I-405 north, and in a few minutes we were cruising in the number one lane past Westwood and not long after that on the I-5 north.

We reached Highway 14 north in less than fifteen minutes, then he flicked on his radar detector and cruised along in fairly empty lanes at around 100 miles an hour. The way this car handled, if felt like we were going 55. We were at Edwards in just about an hour.

Being a movie star has its advantages. His name was on a guest list and we were waved onto the base with no problem.

I’ve never been one for roller coasters or other thrill rides, but this car was almost as much fun as flying! We did full-speed runs back and forth on the desert flats until the fuel gauge read low enough that unless I wanted to perform the miracle of turning water into gas, it was time to head back.

But we didn’t head back. I could see a lone figure off in the distance, standing out on the desert flats.

Ellins headed toward it and well before mortal eyes could resolve the image I could see that it was ­Lucifer.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXV.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXIII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 23

Jesus’ words were prophetic.

“We’re behind Eve four percent in the polls,” Heinlein told us at our morning staff meeting on Friday the 14th.

“How close is that to the margin of error?” I asked.

“Not close at all,” said Heinlein. “I like mathematical precision so my thought is that if we’re going to make decisions based on polling data at all, it needs to be a large enough sampling to be useful. The margin of error in the polls we’re using is one tenth of one percent.”

“Do we know why?” I asked.

“Yes,” Heinlein said. “We did a focus group.”

“I don’t need a focus group to know what the problem is,” said Dr. King.

“You go first, then,” I said to King.

“I don’t know any other way to put this. Jesus is just too human.”

“That’s what came out in the focus group, too,” said Heinlein. “We’re soft in what should be our Christian strongholds.”

“We’re behind in the polls because the Savior of humankind is too human?” I asked, astonished.

Dr. King nodded. “You weren’t raised a Christian so perhaps you don’t have a natural feeling for this. Jesus is a mysterious, mythic figure to Christians. He’s the all-wise teacher who speaks to us only in parables and riddles. He is lofty and above it all. He’s called the son of God but is treated more like a stern father figure. He’s morally perfect and incapable of error. The only human quality Christians are apparently willing to ascribe to Jesus is his ability to suffer pain and one brief moment of fear.

“Now, Jesus returns to earth, and Christians are confused. Jesus admits to us that he has made mistakes, particularly the catastrophic mistake that caused the very fall of our race. He gains points for his classiness in being up front about his fallibility … more points for his willingness to make up for it on the cross … but the Lord and Savior’s shown us a side of himself that we didn’t expect. We knew he was a god who became human, but we didn’t expect him to be this human.”

“The singing on TV didn’t help,” said Golda Meir. “That sort of show-business flashiness was beneath him.”

“I thought the way he sang was gorgeous,” said Marilyn Monroe.

“It was a bromide,” Ayn Rand said, “overly sentimental. It sounded to me like a cross between two other bromides, We Are The World and Imagine.”

“You can apologize to Uncle Albert,” said W.C. Fields.

“Well,” I said, “the recording is getting more downloads from the Internet than any other song in history.”

“Wonderful,” said Meir. “Jesus can have a career as a recording artist after the Anorexics take control of this planet and turn it into hell.”

“Why doesn’t Lucifer have this image problem?” I asked. “She’s as much at fault in the events that led to the fall as Jesus.”

“It’s that we had already thought of her as fallen, as one of us,” said Mencken. “We had no expectation that Eve would be perfect in the first place. All the stories about her show her as a girl who liked to have a good time, right from the start. So when she comes here and looks sweet and pretty, that’s all we expect from her.”

“Great,” I said. “We’re losing this election to sexism and lowered expectations.”

“We have to go negative,” said Meir. “Tear away this innocent image that Lucifer’s built for herself here. Show them films of the mass extermination camps in Hell. Make people realize that she’s not just Eve, she’s also their great enemy, Satan.”

“No,” said Jesus. He had popped into the meeting so quietly that none of us had even realized he had joined us.

“But why, sir?” Mencken asked.

“My reasons are not a thing I feel compelled to discuss with any of you,” Jesus said.

I felt I couldn’t keep silent any longer. “Your father put me in the job of managing this campaign and told me all of his creation rides on how this election turns out. I know that you still have feelings for your ex-wife, but don’t you think it’s wrong of you to sacrifice your father’s life’s work because of your own personal feelings?”

Jesus immediately looked wounded and I was sorry I had spoken up in front of anyone else.

Jesus paused a moment then said, “Don’t you understand that Lucifer was the worst of my victims? That what she has become is my fault? That it was my gross insubordination to my father, my failure to use my better judgment, that began the disappointment that put her on the path to believing in nothing?”

Came the dawn and I suddenly understood. “You didn’t come back to save the earth at all,” I said. “You came here to save her. You’ve never gotten over her. You’re just like your father, betting the house on a long shot.”

“You make very free with me,” said Jesus. You go too far.”

“So I’m too damned arrogant to know my place,” I said. “But I’m not exaggerating the truth, am I?”

Jesus howled in pain.

I felt horrible, the worst I’d ever felt about anything in my life.

He stood there for a moment like a deer caught in headlights, and spoke with his head bowed. “Everybody thinks I’m so forgiving. How could I not forgive people their sins? Without the empathy I gained from committing the biggest sin in history, I would have continued being a callous fool forever.”

Then Jesus raised his head, looked directly at me and said, “Save your home world. I’ll do anything you tell me.”

He disappeared from the room.

I looked around the table. Everyone was staring at me in disbelief.

I have a tendency to lean on wisecracks in moments of crisis, but this time, George Bernard Shaw beat me to it.

“All too human,” he said.

So I’d finally found out for what purpose I was created by God. I was here in loco parentis to Jesus because God couldn’t be here, to stand in the shoes of the father whose job it was to tell the sweetest son in all the universes that there was no end to the pain he would have to endure because of youthful high spirits.

Well, if I was going to have to be God, then I was going to be God.

“We’re going for broke,” I told the Central Committee. “There is no way I am going to make Jesus have to decide between his love for us and his love for his ex-wife. We will not campaign negative against her.”

“Then you may have just thrown away the whole universe,” said Golda Meir.

I got mad. “You’re the smartest people God ever created,” I shouted. “Think of something!”

I snapped my fingers and translocated myself instantly from Mount Shasta to my living room 600 miles away.

Until that moment I hadn’t even known how to do it.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXIV.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXI

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 22

“What do you do for fun?” I asked Jesus, as we were eating bangers and mashed, and drinking pints of stout, at a pub in Oxford called the Eagle and Child.

C.S. Lewis had recommended the “Bird and Baby” to us as a nice homey place where we wouldn’t be bothered but he said he wasn’t joining us because he already had dinner plans of his own with Ayn Rand. Personally I think Jack Lewis would have ditched Ayn in a heartbeat to join Jesus for dinner but he picked up that Jesus wasn’t looking for a party.

“Is this for the campaign, or off the record?” Jesus asked me.

“Well, I’m just asking because I’m interested, if that’s what you mean. But if you’re asking me to keep what you say in confidence, of course I will.” I smiled. “I won’t even quote you as ‘a usually reliable source.’”

That got me a smile. “You’re going to have a hard time reconciling this with my public image,” said Jesus.

“Look at the last few months I’ve had,” I said, “Whatever you tell me, it’s not going to be more of a shock than what I’ve been through already.”

“I do stand-up comedy,” said Jesus.

“Except for that,” I said. “Is this something you’re known for in Heaven?”

He shook his head. “I use a stage name and a wear a body mask.”

“Have you played earth?”

“Not stand-up. This is only my third time back on earth since my execution,” Jesus said.

“I can understand that,” I said. “Some planet nails me up on a cross, I wouldn’t want to spend my vacation time there, either.”

He grinned widely. “You should do stand-up; you’d be good at it.”

I shook my head. “I like what I do now. What are you into? Political humor? Observational comedy? Improv? Or something really bizarre, like Andy Kaufman?”

“I’m more in the vein of George Carlin or Steven Wright,” Jesus said. “You know, a little highbrow but with some verbal pratfalls. Philosophical stuff. Seeing if I can tell a story that starts out very mundane and just let it get more outrageous, more irreverent, and more surprising until people are laughing so hard they’re turning colors.”

“Wow. I’d love to catch your act sometime. Where do you appear?”

Jesus looked secretly amused. “Well, there was a little club called Divine Comedy in the SoHo district of Heaven where I’d been a regular on Saturday nights for a few years now. It got burned out in the attack on the palace and it looks like I’m going to have to find a new venue.”

“Anything else?”

“My act? Sometimes I’m a piano man.”

“I thought you didn’t sing in public.”

“Not singing, just keys. It’s in a classical vein, with a lot of influence from the late romantics—Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff … with maybe a little PDQ Bach- or Victor Borge-type gags thrown in occasionally.”

That’s when I realized I’d already seen Jesus perform his comedy act. I decided against letting him know that I knew.

“You stick pretty much to earth-human activities?” I asked. “You’re not into galactic golf, playing dice with the universe?”

“My father’s top god in our house,” Jesus said. “And he’s a pretty hard act to follow. Oh, I’ve played around with some of my dad’s universe-building software — did you know that Jack and Tollers invited me to collaborate with each of them in their universes based on Narnia and Middle Earth? — and one of these days I’m sure I’ll get an idea of my own that I think is worth building a universe around. You know, Duj, I worship my father as much as anyone else, when it comes right down to it … and it’s intimidating. I look at his creations and my tongue hits the floor. I think, ‘How am I ever going to come up with something as good as that?’”

“You’re sounding like the classic son of an overachieving father,” I said. “You see this sort of thing with the kids of movie stars all the time.”

“Which makes me, I guess, into the classic underachiever. But compared to my father I’m still pretty young and I have all of eternity ahead of me. I just don’t feel motivated to make the big move and build my own universe yet. I’m sure I’ll get over myself and try it some day, though.”

“What about your social life?” I asked. You seeing anyone special?”

“I have some close female friends, but that’s all it is,” he said. “I’m actually pretty shy about women. In a lot of ways I’m pretty much a loner, when it comes down to it.”

I didn’t think he was telling me the full story but I didn’t press him on it.

He looked at his watch.

“Listen, Duj, would you feel offended if I popped out on my own? I just realized I have a promise I made to someone that I’m going to be late for if I don’t leave soon.”

“So you do have other plans for the evening,” I said, smiling.

“I don’t date earth women any more,” he said, grinning. “No, actually, I promised the Pope I’d take him deep-sea fishing in the Philippine basin at the crack of dawn and the sun will be coming up soon.”

He stood up and started to reach for his wallet, but I grabbed the check before he could. “You saved me. Your money’s no good with me.”

“I’ll let you get away with that this time,” he said. “But next time it’s mine. No arguments.”

We shook hands. Jesus said, “I’m going to head into the men’s room and translocate from there so I don’t make a scene.”

“I’ve really enjoyed getting a chance to know you better, Jesus,” I said. “There’s so much about you that we earthborn just don’t know about you.”

“That’s because most people don’t want to know,” he said.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXIII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXI

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XX

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman

Part Three
Oprah, Eat Your Heart Out!

Chapter 21

Uncle Nimlash bought promos on a variety of broadcast and cable networks from prime time to late night that very Monday:

“An extra special Uncle Nimlash Show, live, with a surprise special guest. Tune in tomorrow to find out all about Eve! Is she who she claims to be or is she the ultimate scam artist? Tomorrow, on Uncle Nimlash.”

The promos continued Tuesday on the network’s morning shows, so that within two hours of the live broadcast—3:00 PM in New York, 12:00 noon in L.A.—Uncle Nimlash had received word that 93% of the local stations that carried his show, including all his major-city network affiliates who were postponing highly-rated network-feed soap operas, were carrying his live broadcast.

We in the campaign worried that the Anorexic Party might figure out that it was Jesus who was going to be appearing on the show and launch an all-out attack to stop it—anything from firing a cruise missile into Television City to knocking out the power grid feeding Los Angeles—but our agents never detected any activity.

We were praying—we were counting on—Lucifer’s intelligence analysts concluding either that Uncle Nimlash’s surprise guest was going to be a psychic-debunker, or at worst some resurrected historical figure who was going to “come out” to the mortal world in an attempt to play down Eve’s celestial importance.

Patton took personal charge of setting up security perimeters for the show, utilizing the talents of resurrected Secret Service agents who were part of our militia. We actually had Jesus and all our other guests sequestered in a locked-off vacant studio within Television City by 4:00 AM, and from that moment on, Zero minus eight hours, we had our own people in charge of all access and communication at Television City, and a security team performing all the cautionary functions you’d expect from a visit to a television studio by a head of state.

The rehearsal of the musical number we planned was finessed by having Uncle Nimlash’s band play in his studio, and the music piped in to the studio we were using as our temporary headquarters. Even at this late hour, for extra security, we had our chorus rehearsing using nonsense lyrics:

Hand me some more cola!
Hand me some more steak!
Bring me some fried chicken!
Lend a piece of cake!

We relied on our own make-up artists and wardrobe crew so no one from Uncle Nimlash’s production company would have any contact with us until just before air time.

We brought in our own team of stand-ins to Uncle Nimlash’s studio for the technical rehearsal, but even they didn’t know for whom they were standing in. We had warned Uncle Nimlash to make sure his camera operators and booth technicians for this show had experience covering live news and sporting events; most of what we were about to do was going to have to be caught on shoulder-mounted cameras with quick lens adjustments.

At Zero minus sixty minutes, I met Uncle Nimlash in his studio to hand his director a BD-R disk which had pre-generated graphic titles and archived film and video footage, for each of our extra guests. One of our security agents shadowed the director from that moment on to make sure the information on that disk wasn’t leaked outside the studio prematurely.

We allowed Uncle Nimlash to file in their studio audience at Zero minus thirty minutes, and we had a squad of our people walk through the seats peeping everyone’s soul to make sure no operatives from the Anorexic party had slipped by our outer checkpoints.

At Zero minus fifteen minutes we brought our people out of sequester and positioned them behind the curtain of Uncle Nimlash’s studio.

We felt confident enough that our secret had been kept that we ended our news embargo five minutes early. We handed out the full list of names, including Jesus, to Uncle Nimlash’s staff, and allowed them to transmit a prerecorded flash not only to all their affiliates but also to all the network headquarters, telling them what hard news they were about to break.

This was the first moment that Uncle Nimlash looked as if he wasn’t about to have a stroke. With the network news departments, themselves, cutting into their daytime broadcast with breaking news, his network affiliates who had earlier committed to him weren’t going to be blamed by either their networks or the soap fans for ignoring their scheduled ­programming.

“One minute,” said the director, over the studio loudspeakers.

The stage lights came up to full power and the band stopped tuning and brought their instruments up, waiting for the drummer’s stick beats.

I was standing backstage next to Jesus and I noticed he looked nervous. “After being nailed to a cross, this frightens you?” I asked him.

Jesus smiled weakly. “I’ve never sung before an audience before,” he said.

Oh, God, I thought, silently enough, I hoped, that Jesus wouldn’t pick up on my thought: What if the Son of God was tone deaf? I hadn’t had the guts to ask him to rehearse.

I had no more time to worry.

The director was counting down, “eight … seven … six … five … four … three …” then counted the last two numbers with his fingers, silently, and cued the bandleader.

The bandleader clicked his drumsticks together four times, and the Nimlashers launched into their brassy theme song.

Up in the booth, behind glass, I could see Uncle Nimlash’s announcer, Cineman Hulls, holding the script we’d written for him. No one aside from Neil Nimlash, himself, had seen it prior to the broadcast.

Hulls got his cue through earphones.

“Live, from Television City in Hollywood, it’s your Uncle Nimlash Show! Today we have the most spectacular line up of musical talent ever assembled on the same stage, to be led in a new song composed specially for this broadcast! Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, back from the grave, here’s Jerry Garcia!

Garcia flew out into the audience the way Lucifer had (okay, we stole the bit; it was a good visual), then landed on stage.

The audience went wild.

Cineman Hulls read off each name, with one more of our resurrected celebrities flying into the studio to join Jerry Garcia.

“John Lennon!

“Billie Holiday!

“Frank Sinatra!

“Maurice Chevalier!

“Patsy Cline!

“Jimi Hendrix!

“Enrico Caruso!

“Ethel Merman!

“Roy Orbison!

“Marvin Gaye!

“Dean Martin!

“Buddy Holly!

“Judy Garland!

“Burl Ives!

“Edith Piaf!

“John Denver!

“Lily Pons!

“Nat King Cole!

“Laverne and Maxene Andrews!

“Bing Crosby!

“Hank Williams!

“Sammy Davis, Jr.!

“Dorothy Dandridge!

“Frank Zappa!

“Mel Tormé!

“Janis Joplin!

“Jim Morrison!

“Perry Como!

“…and Elvis Presley!

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, the New Grateful Dead!

They all joined hands and started swaying back and forth, as the band began playing the opening chords of the special song that Lennon and Garcia had composed for this occasion (with a little help from a friend):

When you’re low and luckless
When troubles never cease
Ask him for a helping hand
He will bring you peace!

“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced Cineman Hulls, reverently, “the next voice you hear will be God’s firstborn son and the firstborn man, he who brought back to life all the wonderful people you see here before you. You know him as Adam, the first man, and you know him as the savior of all humanity, I give you, Jesus Christ!

A clear Irish tenor voice, reminiscent of Dennis Day, rang out mellifluously into the studio:

I only want to give you
The greatest gift of all
When dreams look past tomorrow
You can hear my call!

And Jesus walked—not flew, but walked—onto the stage, dressed in his traditional robes, holding a handheld mike.

The New Grateful Dead behind him sang in ­chorus:

Hands across the water
Hands across the land
Bring the little children
Lend a helping hand!

Jesus soloed:

Your creed is unimportant
Nor color of your face
I’m here to be redeemer
Of the human race!

The chorus:

Hands Across the water
Hands Across the sky
Paradise is waiting
You don’t have to die!

And Jesus reprised the first verse:

When you’re low and luckless
When troubles never cease
Ask me for a helping hand
I will bring you peace!

And Jesus and the chorus sang the final chorus together:

Hands across the water
Hands across the world
I am here to save you
Every boy and girl!

The audience went crazy.


The interview program that Uncle Nimlash did for the rest of his hour with Jesus and the assembled performers was almost anticlimactic after the opening song, but it was a way of presenting our campaign platform for the first time.

Jesus was careful to say nothing negative about Eve, perhaps disappointing that segment of the viewing audience who had tuned in expecting debunking or scandal. He did not “out” her alternate identities as Lucifer, Lilith, or Satan, and stuck to promoting his own positive message of love and the universal brotherhood of humankind.

In the last half hour of the show, Uncle Nimlash turned the questioning over to his audience, who asked questions about what it was like to be dead (“There’s no such thing as death,” said Jerry Garcia, “only audiences of deadheads.”) and whether Jesus’ mother, Mary, was still a virgin (“My mother has seven billion grandchildren,” replied Jesus. “I think it’s time to find a new adjective to describe her.”).

At the end of the hour, Uncle Nimlash took his best shot and said to Jesus, “This hour has gone by so quickly. Will you come back and visit this show again soon?”

Perhaps it was an oversight that I hadn’t anticipated this question, but even I was surprised by Jesus’ answer, “Uncle Nimlash, I’d be happy to come on your program again … but only on two conditions. The first one is that I don’t have to sing again—”

Which brought a huge laugh.

“And my second condition is that I’d want Eve to come on the show with me.”

The audience cheered wildly at this.

“You heard it from the Man, himself,” said Uncle Nimlash. “And to all my faithful viewers today, if you want Adam and Eve to appear on this show together, go to our website and tell Eve you want her to come here.”

Uncle Nimlash put his arm on Jesus’ shoulders and turned to his audience again.

“Let me say, as I say at the end of every show, but now with more understanding of what it means, “God bless you all … and try to make each other happy.”

The band started playing the closing theme music.

The mikes went off, the lights came down, and I saw production credits rolling on the studio monitors.

A little later, I buttonholed Jesus in the Green Room to ask him why he wanted to come back on the show with Lucifer.

He paused for a long moment then said gently, “Don’t worry about things you can’t do anything about, Duj.”

I decided not to press him on the point. “You look tired,” I told him.

He nodded, but smiled. “Know any place on this planet where a god can get a decent beer?”


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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The Nobeus News Report — February 23, 2010

Wrap-up of news and opinion from your not-so-humble correspondent.

Blowing His Stack

Joe Stack, who flew his Piper Cherokee into an Austin, Texas office building housing IRS offices, is being disowned left and right. The left want us to ignore those parts of his suicide note in which he bemoans the lack of government health care and the right wants us to ignore that it wasn’t offices of the Department of Health and Human Services he was flying his plane into but the Internal Revenue Service, collection agency for the loathed income tax.

Honestly, Joe Stack wasn’t really an ideologue, of either the left or the right. He had no coherent agenda beyond being driven into a homicidal fit of depression by a bureaucracy that when it wasn’t victimizing him was foiling and mocking his modest aspiration to have a nest egg to retire on.

I just re-watched the movie Deep Impact last night, a rip-off of a much-superior novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer. In this less-entertaining iteration of Armageddon — another rip off of Niven and Pournelle’s novel — President Morgan Freeman institutes a national lottery for a million Americans to be sheltered from a comet strike on earth, and aside from Marines, Acorn workers, Steven Spielberg, and artists with grants from the NEA, anyone over fifty is disqualified. This is a generation of self-loathing hippies’ dream solution to overpopulation, capitalism, American imperialism, and budget-busting entitlements for Social Security and Medicare … but they may have miscalculated how many thousand or even million Joe Stacks will not go gentle into that good night.

You really don’t want to squeeze the old timers. They own more, vote more, like guns better, have more accumulated skill sets, and hate noisy kids who play in their flower gardens. It’s a formula for a lot more planes being flown into a lot more government offices.

In closing, I’d sincerely like to thank Joe Stack for using a Piper Cherokee rather than a firearm in his suicide attack on the IRS offices in Austin, Texas.


Ron Paul and CPAC

Congressman Ron Paul at CPAC 2009

For anyone not suffering from amnesia — that is, anyone who doesn’t have a regular talking gig on a cable news network — the Tea Party movement did not start out as a Neocon Republican effort to run either beauty-queen Sarah Palin or Scott Brown for President, but was spontaneously formed by a bunch of Ron Paul supporters looking for something to do next when Dr. Paul’s candidacy was eliminated from the 2008 presidential race. So it was both entertaining and enlightening to see Dr. Paul show up in first place in this past weekend’s presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference … and to hear the lamentations coming from the Neocon women on the floor.

During the 2008 Republican presidential debates — before the financial meltdown emerged into the light — all the mainstream Republican candidates took every opportunity to belittle Dr. Paul for his predictions that overspending on war and domestic entitlements would plunge us all into economic disaster. Now the Republican/Conservative Axis has a simple choice: become “Me, too!” Obama-ites — like Scott Brown — or admit that Ron Paul had it right and become radical minarchists in his image.

And that question depends — doesn’t it? — on whether the leadership of the conservative movement — and the Republican Party — are retards.


Is President Obama a Socialist?

I watched Bill O’Reilly today concern himself with the labelling of President Obama as a socialist.

Don’t worry about it, Bill. With the exception of Ron Paul, just about every politician in America today wants to maintain socialistic government programs to one extent or another.


Are the Soldiers at Fort Hood Still Sitting Ducks?

It is now 111 days since Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot 43 disarmed soldiers and civilians on the Fort Hood army base, killing 13, the result of a classified Clinton Administration policy — unchanged during the two terms of George W. Bush — preempting base commanders from allowing soldiers to carry firearms on base, and giving that authority — through layers of bureaucratic obstacles — to the politically-appointed Secretary of the Army.

Go watch the 1943 movie Stage Door Canteen, made during World War II. It accurately portrayed sergeants with a loaded sidearm on a train and enlisted privates carrying their rifles with them in public.

Why is it that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt — even after observing the Bonus Army of World War I veterans in combat in Washington D.C. with active-duty troops led by George Patton just prior to his election — didn’t worry about armed soldiers threatening public order … but Presidents today do?


Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give A Dog

Dr. Gary Smith of The American Academy of Pediatrics considers hot dogs lethal — and wants them labeled as dangerous, or even banned — since kids who love Armour Hot Dogs might choke on them because of the sausages’ cylindrical shape.

At what moment in history do we decide whether it’s time to point and laugh at these clowns with diplomas, or bring out the tar and feathers and run them out of town on a high-speed rail along with the other snake-oil salesmen?


Blogging a Novel

Escape from Heaven

I have now published two out of three parts of my novel, Escape from Heaven, in this forum. I have yet to receive a single comment on the novel on these pages.

Unless I get some feedback indicating someone is reading it, I won’t see any reason to publish Part Three.


SEK3 — Six Years Gone

Samuel Edward Konkin III

Six years ago today, my friend and mentor, Samuel Edward Konkin III, discorporated.

I see him not all that infrequently in my dreams. This means nothing to those of you who regard dreams as mere neurological or psychological events; to me, I take this as continuing contact with the man.

My original tribute to SEK3 is here.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Escape from Heaven — Chapter XX

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XIX

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 20

Until Zero Hour on October 11th, Jesus’ return to earth was the closest held military secret since D-Day.

The Anorexic Party had to be notified that we were placing Jesus’ name on the ballot, but they had no way of knowing that we wouldn’t be running an absentee campaign for him. As far as they knew, since they had thrown up what they considered an impenetrable blockade around the Celestial Palace, we had no way of getting any of the Trinity out of their “St. Helena” exile, much less squire one of them back to earth.

I’m not going to take even a smidgen of credit for the plan by which we opened up the tunnel from the Celestial Palace to our fortress on Mt. Shasta and returned Jesus to earth. The idea, the plan, and the entire solo operation was entirely General Lindbergh’s.

Charles Lindbergh had more flying hours than anyone else in human history and he had established speed records that even today are classified military secrets. His proposal to me, made privately just after my first meeting with the Central Committee, was to place himself on round-the-clock watch for the possibility that the Anorexics would break treaty and open up a tunnel. If and when they did, he was going to fly like all get-out and place himself inside that tunnel before it closed up again.

Once inside, he was going to climb into the auto-control systems and program them to open gates at his command. He then opened up a communications gate back to my desktop so tiny that it was undetectable. He’d found a similar microgate already in operation between Heaven and the Anorexic Party headquarters in Hong Kong, but left it alone because tampering with it would have alerted the enemy to his presence.

He used the new microgate he’d set up to send me the first coded message. Then Lindy hunkered down, took some sandwiches and a thermos of coffee out of a satchel he’d packed, and waited for my signal.

You know, things just go so well when you can work with the best of the best.


For once Duj Pepperman, Los Angeles’s top-rated evening-drive-time radio-talk-show host, was going to be useful to the campaign.

I didn’t base the appeal of my current show on guests so much as call-ins. But I’d been in the radio business for most of my adult life, and over thirty years, with changing tastes and formats, I’d had more top-rated celebrities sitting at my microphone than you can find in the audience of most award shows.

Radio is a volatile business. I’d always prepared for a day when my ARB’s might take an unexpected dip and station management might decide a restructuring of my format might be needed. Celebrity guests could be good for ratings in a crunch.

I’d sent out expensive gift boxes of Mrs. Fields cookies every Christmas to my “A list,” and with the thank-you letters I got, I’d kept my Rolodex up to date.

I needed to get an immediate booking with the top-rated syndicated TV talk-show host in the country—the man who knocked Oprah into the number two ratings slot the way she’d once pounced on Phil Donahue—and when you’re in a hurry, you can’t call a show’s booker; you have to have the unlisted phone number of the star, himself.

I had the unlisted, NSA-safe spread-spectrum, voice-encrypted, PCS cell phone number of Uncle Nimlash.

I caught him early Monday morning, October 10th, as he was driving his classic Tucker ‘48 into the parking lot of CBS’s Television City. He had a policy of answering his phone by yelling, “Yeah?!” at the top of his lungs to intimidate anyone he didn’t want to talk to; I’d gotten used to it and didn’t let it bother me.

“Hey, don’t shout at me, you filthy bastard,” I answered him, “or I’ll stuff a banana up the tailpipe of that old junker of yours.”

“Hey, Pepperman, you old fart, how’re they hangin?”

“More snugly than you’d believe, my friend,” I told him.

“Hold on a second while I unhook my phone,” he said, and after a few seconds I heard a door slam, the chirping of an alarm, and he came back on, “I’m walking into my office,” he told me, “You have thirty seconds to sell me on whatever favor you want.”

“It’s not what you can do for me, Neil,” I said, “it’s what I can do for you.”

“Bullshit walks,” he said. “Give me the deal, not a blow job.”

“One question first,” I asked him. “Have you booked Eve?”

“Yeah, right,” he said. “I told my bookers I’d give the one who got me Eve a year’s salary as bonus, and they came up with bupkas. She’s not doing any show where she needs to answer questions. Why, are you saying you can deliver her for a sitdown? Name your price if you can.”

“Forget Eve; she’s yesterday’s news. I can give you Jesus Christ.”

Under normal circumstances, Nimlash would have made a wisecrack and hung up on me … but Eve’s appearance yesterday had shaken the foundations of “normal.”

Cal Tech hadn’t released its formal report yet but inside sources were leaking a draft that said in its executive summary, “After presenting this personage with an extensive series of controlled tests in our own laboratories under conditions we controlled exclusively and which she could not possibly have anticipated or manipulated, we have found no evidence of fraud and must allow for the possibility that a genuine series of paranormal actions have indeed been performed.”

“How much?” he said.

“Not a penny to us, but there are conditions. It’s tomorrow or never. We get the whole hour. Jesus will be bringing a slew of guests; you don’t see the list. No breaks, commercial, promo, or PSA’s, except for FCC mandated station ID’s. We do the show live in your New York time slot, all satellite uplinks running, plus you put your watermark on it and allow every other network, independent station, and cable outlet who wants it to carry it live or delayed. All newscasts and magazines get to use the footage until November 1st. We’ll provide our own security detail. I’ll be faxing over some sheet music; you keep your band on overtime after today’s taping, rehearsing it with stand-ins for the vocal parts, who’ll be singing nonsense lyrics that match the real ones. If a word of who your guest is gets out to anyone prior to five minutes before air time tomorrow, including to your producer, your wife, or your make-up artist, we’ll know it immediately and walk. But you get your syndicate to promote this like the Second Coming, because, my friend, that’s exactly what I’m offering you. Do we have a deal?”

He sounded like he was breathing heavily. I extended my presence to make sure he wasn’t having a heart attack. His blood pressure was 160 over 90 but his heartbeat was steady.

“Duj, you got me a job interview when I was stuck in Tucson doing weather. You know how little weather there is to report on in Tucson? I’ve never forgotten that. But I have to ask you. Is this one-hundred percent? Because this means I have to call in every marker I’ve got and tell my affiliates I’m ending the show if they don’t carry me live tomorrow.”

“It’s one-hundred-percent, 24 karat guaranteed,” I said.

“Then, he said, “deal. But if I don’t have a faxed contract from you in my office within 20 minutes, then no deal. I’m sending a notary over to your condo in one hour to witness your signature.”

“The Fedexed contract with my notarized signature was signed for by your secretary eight minutes ago,” I said, “and your word was all I needed to proceed.”

He paused.

“You’re ending my career if one of us is being scammed, Duj, and I don’t think either of our business managers will be able to save even our pension annuities from the lawsuits. Matter of fact, we’d both be lucky to stay out of prison.”

He hung up.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXI.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XIX

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XVIII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 19

There was one immediate surprise waiting for me. It happened when Jesus walked around the table, greeting everyone.

When Jesus reached Robert A. Heinlein, he hugged him and said, “Judas, how are you, my old friend?”

I nearly fainted.

I turned to Heinlein. “You were Judas in a previous life? The Judas? Thirty-pieces-of silver Judas?”

Robert Heinlein and Jesus both looked at the expression on my face, then looked at each other, and burst out laughing.

“Tell me, Duj,” said Jesus. “How long do you think one of my apostles could hide an evil plot to betray me, given my power to look directly into men’s souls?”

I smiled sheepishly. “I keep forgetting to place the historical facts into the context of my new knowledge,” I said.

“Wisdom takes time,” said Jesus. “At the last Passover seder, when I said ‘He who dips after me will betray me,’ it wasn’t a prophecy. Why would anyone who was really secretly plotting to betray me reveal himself by dipping after I said that? It’s ridiculous. No. I was asking for a volunteer for the nastiest, dirtiest job I’d ever given any of my disciples. To betray me, take money for it to keep my real purpose a secret, and watch me die on a cross in horrible pain. Then, to make it even worse, he’d have to put up with his name being spit upon for two millennia, by people calling themselves Christians who can’t read a simple paragraph with proper comprehension. I granted him special dispensation to hang himself so he could be the first of my apostles to be resurrected.”

Jesus put his arm around Judas’s shoulders. He looked like he was trying to hold back tears.

“It was so terrible a mission,” Jesus continued, “that I didn’t feel I could just order one of my apostles to do it. This merchant marine turned commercial broker, at that moment in time, before any of the other apostles had started their missions and found their own courage, had more sheer guts than the other apostles all put together. He just took a sprig of bitter herb, dipped it into the salt water after me, and said, “Master, you’ve got yourself a boy.”

Jesus turned to the others in the room. “No matter what else happens in the next three weeks,” he said, “I will take it as a personal favor if all of you do your best to set the record straight about my most loyal disciple, Judas.”

And at that celestially perfect moment, Judas Iscariot, under his original name, got his first standing ovation in history.


Things went into high gear after that. The election was only three weeks away and with her slickly produced dream-campaign spot that night, Lucifer immediately established herself as the frontrunner. I wondered which Hollywood director Lucifer had working her media when I realized that it was a pointless question—she could have her pick of the best of them, and they were probably donating their services for free.

Meanwhile, we were playing catch-up.

Jesus had visited earth only a couple of times since his crucifixion, and hadn’t been allowed to set foot on earth at all in five centuries. So he decided to rely on the political judgments of his more up-to-date earthborn campaign staff. He reconfirmed my job as his campaign manager, as well as all my duty assignments, and when we all took our seats at the round table again, I continued to chair the Central Committee while Jesus just listened unless one of us asked his opinion directly.

We didn’t know precisely what our order of play was yet—a lot of campaigning is taking advantage of opportunities as they come up—but we knew that before Lucifer could get too much momentum we had to introduce Jesus to the world again.

Ironically, Lucifer had done half my job for me already. The publicity coup she and Reverend Chill had pulled off had the whole world talking about God, Adam and Eve, and the life of Jesus again. Our problem wasn’t so much going to be convincing the world that Jesus was real—Lucifer had already solved that problem for us — as it was getting out a more accurate version of historical events and getting the news coverage spinning our way.

Speaking in general about the next three weeks of campaigning, I have to acknowledge that both Jesus and I were relying on the judgments of men and women who’d had vastly more hands-on political experience that we’d had.

Most campaign decisions I immediately shoved onto the lap of my chief of staff, now holding the title of Deputy Campaign Director. Robert Heinlein had been heavily involved in political campaigning back in the 1930’s, even running for office himself, and one of his forty-plus books was a manual on electoral campaigning titled Take Back Your Government.

Heinlein, in turn, was making maximum use of our central committee’s top political operatives, people like Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Golda Meir, and Benjamin Franklin/H.L. Mencken. Among them they had enough campaign experience that they could have elected a Republican as mayor of Chicago.

Mencken/Franklin stayed in his job as the campaign’s press secretary, but now he was going to have to manage daily contact with the mortal world’s news media.

It was clear this was no longer going to be a campaign restricted to dreamland, although that was still an important part of our media creation. Much of our campaign was now going to be in the waking world of mortal men, and Jesus was going to have to be as in-your-face as any other office seeker.

Right after he’d served the Anorexic Party with our just-under-the-deadline notice of ballot-line substitution, I gave Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the job of being Jesus’ advance man for rallies, demonstrations, and personal appearances. Martin Luther King knew as much about preparing a crowd and stirring them up as anyone in human history, including the Lord, himself.

Mark Twain and Bernard Shaw teamed up as Jesus’ main speechwriters—although Thomas Jefferson and Franklin/Mencken were also submitting speeches — but I was giving Dr. King everybody’s final drafts before Jesus used them and Martin was spicing up their rhetorical flourishes.

I gave W.C. Fields a job that is crucial to every successful campaign, but which few campaigns even admit exists. He was our joke writer. It was his job to stay close to Jesus at all times and on a moment’s notice be prepared to feed him snappy one-liners.

Not that Jesus wasn’t a master at snappy come-backs on his own anyway.

The central committee debated hard (but not long; we didn’t have the time) about what the theme of the campaign should be. We discussed using “The Second Coming.” But we decided the word “coming” has too much of a sexual connotation for use to a G-rated audience and when you’re in advertising, you never want to use a slogan your competitors can turn back on you. We played around with all the variations we could think of—“He’s Back” or “The Homecoming” — but they all sounded like slogans for a movie sequel.

We examined traditional themes associated with Jesus—even considered basing the campaign on Christmas and Santa Claus—but it just came across as stale and hokey. “Fisher of Men” just wasn’t going to work, either; the unavoidable imagery of having a fishhook down your throat was just too icky.

Finally, we decided to modify the idea of “savior” just slightly, and base our campaign imagery on rescue workers already associated with saving people when they were in trouble.

We didn’t have any trouble at all finding firefighters, paramedics, or ER doctors and triage nurses who wanted to pose with Jesus. As you can imagine, a lot of them had prayed to Jesus for courage in dire moments, and this was the sort of prayer Jesus had been permitted by treaty to answer.

That’s how our campaign theme became, “Your 911 call’s been answered. Jesus is here to rescue you.”

We decided it would be in poor taste to pose Jesus wearing any sort of uniform. That’s why, in our campaign handouts, posters, billboards, TV spots, and dreamscapes, we showed Jesus in his traditional robes, working side-by-side with firefighters, EMT’s, and ER personnel.

We needed to make a decision about which image of Jesus to use during the campaign: the short, bearded, Middle-Eastern Jew who had been born to Joseph and Mary, or the taller, blond, clean-shaven, more-movie-star-like Adam.

That was a no-brainer.

But our first job was to find the right venue to launch our campaign and introduce our candidate to the voters. Lucifer had set the bar very high for show-biz value but for once I wanted the good guys to outdo her.

We called in some outside talent of our own, and I think you’ll agree that what we came up with for Jesus first reappearance on earth on Tuesday, October 11th, was quite spectacular.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XX.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XVIII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XVII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 18

Within minutes after Eve’s premiere appearance on Morning Glory, all hell broke loose.

Television crews, print reporters, scientists from Cal Tech, skeptics including a stage magician who was famous for debunking psychic phenomena, politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and just about anyone else who could get onto the freeways into Lakewood descended onto the vast manicured lawn surrounding Reverend Chill’s Newer Light Cathedral.

Lucifer performed just about every miracle in the Bible. There was a duck pond on the church grounds. Lucifer parted the water, walked on the water, and turned the water into wine. She waved her hand and suddenly the pond was full of fishes. One of the ducks had passed away and she raised it from the dead.

Manchu Ellins rang my doorbell and personally served me with a communiqué from Anorexic Party headquarters. There was a substitution on their ballot line.

Sun Amen Chill was off their ballot line.

Eve was on.

I called an immediate emergency session of the central committee, and Heinlein and I flew back to Mount Shasta. There was a substitution in my council since Lindbergh/Lewis/Polo was off on assignment. Taking his place at the round table was Sir Isaac Newton.

Jefferson and Franklin’s legal analysis of Lucifer’s sudden entry into the race provided us with little leverage. She had made no untruthful statements herself, nor even lent the appearance of truth to a false statement, since everything the Reverend Chill had said was carefully worded to stay within the bounds of semantic accuracy. The Anorexic Party had made no statement that we could object to, no grounds for us to demand a retraction.

Lucifer had performed no miracles above π on the Aquinas Scale.

She had not misrepresented to the people of earth her identity or her role in human history.

And there was nothing in the treaty that prevented the substitution of a name on a ballot line at any time previous to the opening of the campaign with its first dream presentation.

The only treaty violation the Anorexic Party had committed was her opening a tunnel to come to earth. Other than that, they had played strictly by the rules.

We’d been sucker punched.

“My friends,” I told them. “I’m not going to make any excuses. This disaster is directly due to my arrogance and ineptness. If we lose this war, there is nobody to blame but me.”

“Sir, with all due respect,” said General Patton, “that’s hogwash. Never apologize to your men. You lead them, they follow, that’s all. I apologized to one of my men once and I regret it to this day. You made a command decision, one—may I add—that looked good to all of us. Victory is never assured. All we can give it is the best we have within us.”

“Hear, hear!” said voices all around the table.

“I believe General Patton has expressed all of our feelings in this matter,” said Jefferson. “We still have complete confidence in you.”

I felt like crying but held myself in check. This was no time to come across as the weakest link.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your vote of confidence in me. Now let’s get back to work. Is there anyone at this table who thinks the strategy I outlined at our last session, of allowing Lucifer to run unopposed, has a chance in hell of succeeding?”

The silence was deafening.

“I concur. Mr. Attorney General, since the Anorexic Party has now made two substitutions on their ballot line, am I correct in concluding that we have the right to do so as well?”

“That is true,” Jefferson told me, “but only if we act immediately. Lucifer’s dream presentation starts as early as seven hours from now, triggering the active campaign. Any substitutions on the ballot must be served on the Anorexics before then.”

“Okay, then we haven’t time to shilly-shally,” I said. “It’s my opinion that the only candidate who would be able to take on Lucifer after the show she’s put on today would be one of the Trinity.”

“But that’s expressly forbidden by the terms of the treaty,” said Benjamin Franklin.

“We’ve got one treaty violation to our benefit coming to us,” I said. “I asked for a blank check in payment when they violated the treaty, and they signed it. I say, at this point, we are entitled to put one of the Trinity on the ballot.”

“That may be true from a legalistic standpoint,” said Aaron Burr, “but it still leaves us without an active candidate to campaign here on earth. If we put one of the Trinity on the ballot, they will still be legally restricted from opening a tunnel to come here.”

“I disagree,” said King Solomon. “Placing a different name on the ballot isn’t anything they need to grant us as a special favor; we’re entitled to do that anyway, just so long as it’s done by tonight. The treaty exception due us may include nullifying that clause which forbids the Trinity from standing for office. It’s my legal opinion that in compensation for Lucifer violating the terms of the treaty by coming to earth after Satan 001, we are entitled to bring in one of the Trinity here.”

“Keep in mind,” said Patton, “if we are seen trying to open up a tunnel, you’re going to see Satan’s military forces stationed on earth launching a counter-attack immediately. They’re not going to care about the legalisms of a treaty at that point. With everything at stake, they’ll fight.”

“General, can you secure this facility we’re in right now to withstand such an attack?”

“It was constructed for that very purpose, sir,” Patton said. “We’re inside a fortress.”

“So we open up the tunnel in here.”

“With what?” W.C. Fields asked. “Do you have a church key?”

“I’m not going to discuss that until the time is right,” I said. “Our first order of business is to decide which of the Trinity we need to run.”

“If we run God or Jesus, Lucifer will turn this into a sex war,” said Ayn Rand. “I have never been in favor of running a woman for a man’s job, but logic dictates the way to put the lie to Eve’s claim that she is the mother of the human race is to show the people of earth its real mother, Maryse.”

“My dear,” said C.S. Lewis, “I tremble at the very thought of disagreeing with you, but I must. Our celestial mother, Maryse, does not have what political analysts call ‘name recognition.’”

“The Virgin Mary isn’t good enough name recognition for you?” replied Rand. “Lucifer is using her earthborn name, why can’t Maryse?”

“‘The Virgin Mary’ on our ballot line would deliver a billion Roman Catholic votes,” said Mark Twain.

“But you would lose a billion Islamic votes,” replied Sa’di of Shiraz. “I’m sorry but Muslims simply won’t vote for a woman to rule them on either ballot line. The world of Islam would simply boycott the ballot.”

“You’re forgetting Muslim women,” Rand said.

“There is no League of Women Voters in the world of Islam,” answered Sa’di. “Our women are accustomed to doing what their fathers and husbands tell them to do.”

The silence that followed showed that Sa’di had made his point.

“Then we are deciding between the Father and the Son,” I said. “More comments?”

“God has better name recognition worldwide,” said H.L. Mencken, “but nobody on earth knows what he looks like and—with no disrespect to you, sir—his appearing similar to a radio-talk-show host might be fatally distracting to the voters. Nor do I think his appearing as a Burning Bush will prevail in an election against a beautiful woman, no matter what he says or what miracles he performs.”

“Then we are running a husband against his ex-wife?” I asked.

“That will be our Savior’s problem, sir,” said Dr. King, “not ours.”

“It’s my decision unless God fires me from my appointment as campaign manager of the Party of God,” I said.

“If Jesus is the candidate,” said Golda Meir, “you’re going to lose the Jewish vote.”

“What is that?” said Sa’di. “Ten or twelve million votes out of seven billion?”

“That could be five times your margin of victory in a tight race,” said Meir. “Look at Florida in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.”

“Jesus is one of Islam’s prophets,” said Sa’di. “I believe I can deliver at least a billion Muslim votes for Jesus, just so long as we distance him from Christian history and Christian doctrine. In what sort of election can you throw away that?”

“What about Hindus, Buddhists, and Chinese atheists?” asked Shaw. “Who has the best chance at their votes?”

“I don’t see that Lucifer has any better chance of locking up those votes on name recognition alone than we do,” said Rand, “no matter which of the Trinity we run.”

“Any other comments?” I asked.

There was silence.

Mencken turned to Golda Meir and said, “Suppose we put Jesus on the ballot as Adam. Would that play with Jewish voters?”

“It couldn’t hurt,” she said. “We might even do better if our Hebrew campaign handouts referred to him as Rabbi Yehoshua.”

“The name ‘Adam’ would probably do better than ‘Jesus’ with secular voters and perhaps even pagans,” said Mencken. “I could set up a focus group—”

“We don’t have time for a focus group,” cut in Jefferson. “Our ballot deadline is in just a few hours.”

There was a silence, which I took as my opportunity to take back control of the meeting.

“I was born Jewish,” I said. “You all know my relationship to God, how I’d do anything for him. But God gave me the job of winning this election, and I think Mr. Mencken is right. God hasn’t spent as much time walking precincts as Jesus has, and in my opinion that dirty-feet human experience is what’s needed in this election.”

I took a deep breath.

I continued, “I also think there’s no point playing games with the ballot, trying to conceal the full identity of our candidate. He is who he is, take him or leave him.”

Here I go again, I thought.

I said, “It’s my decision that the candidate of the Party of God for the governorship of earth in the October 31st election is our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, also known as Adam. Dr. King, please notify the Anorexic Party of our ballot-line substitution at the conclusion of this session.”

“Yes, sir,” said Martin Luther/King.

“Menu,” I said.

My desktop appeared before my eyes and I double clicked on an icon.

“General Lindbergh, can you hear me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Please open Tunnel Gates P2 and E1, using my desktop’s current position as terminal locus.”

A tunnel irised open behind me, the bottom level with the floor.

I stood, and as I stood, so did everyone else.

Charles Lindbergh, who had formerly been Meriwether Lewis, who before that had been Marco Polo, stepped into the room and saluted me.

I returned his salute.

He moved to a position standing near the table.

A moment later, everyone in the room bowed their heads as Jesus stepped into the room.

Jesus turned to me. “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” he said, and kissed me on both cheeks.

Some days it pays to get out of bed.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XIX.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Escape from Heaven — Chapter XVII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XVI

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 17

On Saturday, October 8th, I received a report that a tunnel had opened up briefly above Lakewood, California, and a lone occupant had flown out. Our militia had given chase but whoever it was had managed to elude them.

In King Solomon’s legal opinion this was a clear treaty violation, and Dr. King filed a formal protest with the Anorexic Party on our behalf. The Anorexic Party’s official response was uncharacteristic: they admitted the breach and asked us what balancing we wished in compensation.

We answered that we were going to hold them to an equivalent protocol exception of our choosing to be redeemed at any point before or after the election. Amazingly, they agreed.

They were being way too affable. Now I was really worried.


A bell went off in my head announcing that I had an instant message on my internal desktop. It was steganographically coded for maximum privacy, and I had pretty good confidence that not only couldn’t it be intercepted or decoded, but that it wouldn’t even be recognized as a message. The message’s private key signature proved that it was from Lindbergh. When decoded, the message in its entirety was, “Success. Awaiting your signal.”


I found out what I had to be worried about the next morning at 8:00 AM local time, on the Reverend Doctor Sun Amen Chill’s top-rated Sunday broadcast program, a one-hour globally telecast worship service named Morning Glory.

Sun Amen Chill wasn’t your typical TV evangelist.

He was built like a football player, was as good-looking as a movie star, had a singing voice reminiscent of Jim Morrison, and always began his program by running out to his pulpit like a game-show host, with brassy theme music appropriate for a late-night talk show. He was always dressed in a designer suit of the latest fashion.

His denomination was nominally Baptist, but he was famous for dispensing with dogma and inviting Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Native American Indians, and even Wiccans to join him on his pulpit and offer up whatever prayers to the Deity they wished to, in the language of their own traditions.

His sermons preached directly from the Bible, but he always managed to relate biblical passages to whatever was in the news, and his sermons often had the flavor more of a stand-up TV comic doing “blend” than of a traditional religious service.

His musical choices were even more unusual. Instead of the standard program of praise and worship music, he managed each week to astonish his TV viewers with musical talent worthy of Saturday Night Live or the Tonight Show. Musical guests on his program had included Grammy-winning artists in rock music, classical, jazz, and country. He’d performed more duets with other singers than Sammy Davis, Jr.

And it probably won’t surprise you that Caulinn Helms’ grunge band, Seminal Lunch, had appeared on the program over half-a-dozen times, four-letter words and all, but bringing their loyal followers into the fold with them.

Reverend Chill let his band do an opening number while he ran through the front rows of his congregation, kissing women and shaking men’s hands. Then it was his custom to run back to his pulpit, grab a mike and join his band in an opening song of his own composition, usually something reminiscent of David Bowie or Sting.

This was always followed by the words, “Please stand. Let us pray.”

But something was different this Sunday.

When he returned to his pulpit he waved his bandleader into silence, said, “Please be seated,” and waited for silence.

His congregation, many more of them kids and teenagers than you might expect, looked surprised but expectant. They knew he was a showman—that’s what brought them here—but he was breaking format.

“Brothers and sisters,” he began, “there are moments in history that come without warning and change everything forever. Some of these moments are terrible, and we say they are a ‘catastrophe.’ We have had way too many of these: earthquakes, sneak attacks that begin great wars, assassinations.

“But there are also transforming moments that are wonderful and great … and there’s a word for that, too: eucatastrophe. The greatest of these moments, until now, was when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and showed us the path to Heaven.

“I have been blessed with an honor that I have done nothing to deserve, but that as an obedient servant I can only thank God for permitting me. There has been a new incarnation, one which proves to us the reality of the Bible, of God, and of Heaven. We have always thought that the New Age would begin with the return of Jesus to cast Satan out of his throne on earth, but I have come to learn that this is only one of the prophecies of Saint John the Divine that were in error.

“My brothers and sisters, it is the very mother of the human race that has come back to us directly from her home in Heaven, the great spirit who is known as the wife of our Lord and Savior, and who was here at the very beginning of our creation.

“Tonight, everyone on earth will have a dream, in which she will visit you personally and confirm to you the truth of my words.

“Brothers and sisters, what you are about to see is not stage magic, it is not trick photography, it is not a special effect, computer generated or otherwise. The members of my congregation who are here and watching this pulpit will be able to give you personal eyewitness testimony to what they see at this service.

“They will be able to confirm from the evidence of their own eyes the reality of the miracle you who cannot be here in person with us are about to see. We will invite the news media to join us after this service to observe and see for themselves whether or not these are genuine miracles. We invite any scientist or other skeptic who wishes to do so to set up experiments verifying this reality.

“But right now—live, in resurrected flesh, and making her first open appearance on earth since the days of Eden when she was our mother, I give you—Eve!”

The band began playing ethereal chords, a musical stairway, broken by the herald of trumpets … then, looking absolutely virginal and gorgeous, dressed in a white satin gown, long red hair flowing behind her, Lucifer flew out from the wings, directly over the congregation slow enough for them to touch her hands, which she extended down to them, and as they gasped in astonishment, she flew back to the pulpit and landed next to the Reverend Doctor Sun Amen Chill.

Suddenly spotlights backlit her in a glorious corona, as she smiled benevolently, and her first words rang out to everyone watching with a voice like butter:

“My children, I have come home.”

I looked over to my right and saw that my chief of staff, Robert Heinlein, had materialized and was standing next to me, watching my TV.

“Oh, boy,” I said to him. “Am I ever in big trouble.”


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XVIII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share