the beauty of angels

Johnny the monkey boy was on the set of the Oprah show.  He could hardly believe it.

All the ride over, he had been more excited than he had been in his entire life.  He had thought his stomach was going to explode from all the pressure.  "It's just butterflies," Calamity Burntwood had told him.  Calamity had traveled with Johnny from Clooney Monastery to the studio.  Calamity and Johnny had gone through all of the lines Johnny had been given to learn to make sure he had them all down pat.  Mr. Burntwood had been happy with Johnny's memory work and had told the monkey boy he was proud of him.  He'd also told the monkey boy not to worry - that if he needed him, he'd be around.

Now that he was on the set, the butterflies weren't going away.  Johnny felt more nervous than ever.  "Wow," he thought as he looked around to the set, at the bright lights and the studio audience all around the little stage.  "This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me," the monkey boy thought.

And before he could really calm down and accept where he was and what was happening to him, it was all beginning.  A voice came on a speaker that said, "We're on in ten seconds!"  People rushed to take their places, and cameras swung over into place, and the lights dimmed and Oprah went to stand in the center of the stage.

"Oh my god," the nervous monkey boy thought.

Some video footage began to plan on a big, big screen off to the side of the stage.  Some quiet piano began to play.  Grainy black and white video came onto the screen.  The monkey boy recognized the place right away.  It was his old room at the monastery.  The viewpoint was from the ceiling that he had never been able to see.  There were the damp, stone walls.  And the slab way down there.  "And there's me!" Johnny thought, seeing a monkey boy in the footage looking small and grainy and unhealthy.

The music playing with the video got louder and more dramatic.  In the video, there appeared above Johnny a strange cloudiness to the air, and it looked like something was appearing there.  And - just as the angel was going to appear - the footage stopped, and then - to the accompaniment of some sweeping violins - some big gold words came on the screen that read "The Beauty of Angels."  Johnny turned away from the screen.  His tummy clenched strangely as he saw that Oprah Winfrey was smiling at him.  Oprah Winfrey!  Then the famous woman turned to face a robotic camera that had rolled in front of her.

"Welcome to our viewers at home from lovely Summer City in cloudless and beautiful Summerland.  We have a very special episode of Oprah ahead of us today - an episode whose message I know that you all have anticipated for a long, long time.  And I have anticipated it too."

She turned and faced a different camera and said seriously, "When our hearts are sore, when we're hurt by life - or hurt by our own longing - we can feel as if we're the loneliest people out there.  Isn't that true?"  On the big video screen, the monkey boy saw that one of the cameras had zoomed in on two old and wrinkled women in the audience.  They nodded their heads solemnly at what Oprah was saying.  Oprah continued, "And we may think to ourselves, 'Life has no purpose!'  And we think, 'What are we alive for at all?  What is it about this strange phenomenon of Life that we are supposed to interface with?  Oh God, we're lonely!  We're lonely and thirsty at the teats of Life and all that's comin' out is sand!  All that's coming out is sand, and the drugs and the booze don't help, Oh Lord!  And the bowling doesn't help, oh Lord!  And the membership to the gun club - it doesn't help either, oh, Jesus!  Oh, Jesus!  And everything feels banal and done and nothing can distract us from the fact that we're alone and we are going to die.  And we think 'We're damned!  The living damned!  Traipsing through life from pain to pain with no purpose and no reward except the loneliness of our own demise!'"  Oprah stopped emotionally, and wiped at some tears on her cheeks.  A camera out over the audience showed Johnny - and the viewers at home - that a lot of the audience was crying as well.  Tissues were fluttering everywhere as people wiped their tears away.  All the flashing white tissues made it look to Johnny like a lot of people were signaling a surrender at once.

Oprah sniffed, and then wiped her cheeks again, and then said with strong resolution, "There is a purpose though!  There is a meaning!  For, my friends, we finally have proof of something we have always needed and wanted in those hollow places in our souls!"  Tears were streaming down her cheeks, and she said with conviction, "Angels are real and they walk amongst us!  And - my wonderful friends - they are beautiful."  Johnny saw a sign light up that told the audience to applaud, but the monkey boy didn't think that sign was needed at all. Everyone was on their feet, clapping like mad and the sound was thunderous.

Johnny felt dizzy from the noise and the bright lights.  The monkey boy didn't know what to do, so he got to his feet too.  His body shook a bit as he got up.  He looked out at all the faces staring at him, then up at the blinding hot lights.

Suddenly, Oprah was beside the dizzy monkey boy.  She put an arm around him.  He was glad for her arm there, because he felt a little bit like he was going to fall over.  "And when we get back from our sponsor's messages," Oprah said, "we will talk to this incredibly special monk beside me."  She smiled at Johnny.  "Monk K from Clooney Monastery receives beautiful and magnificent visitors of the angelic kind!  And we are lucky and blessed enough to hear his story today.  So, be ready for his heart touching story - a story that will certainly change the way you look at life - when we return!"  The applause was so loud it was like a mad static had filled the monkey boy's ears and head.

Then some of the lights powered down, and the robotic cameras drew away from the stage with strange mechanical sounds. "Are you all right, you poor dear?" Oprah asked the sweating monkey boy. She was giving him a concerned look. The flustered monkey boy gaped at Oprah. He was unable to answer. All Johnny could do was stare at her and think, "they always say that people look different on TV than they do in real life. But Oprah looks just like Oprah!"

Oprah smiled at Johnny and patted his arm.  "I know this is all overwhelming to you," she said.  "You are used to a much more quiet type of life, aren't you?  Well, just hang in there, my holy friend," she said with a kind smile.

"One minute!" a voice said through a speaker.

Johnny looked out at the audience as Oprah walked away.  All the faces in the now-dark auditorium seemed to be looking at him.  They were whispering to each other and smiling big smiles at him.  The monkey boy found it a little bit unnerving.  All the attention was on him. Then, as he was looking nervously at all the people, a girl suddenly broke from the crowd.  It looked like she was trying to run up to the stage.  The frantic-looking girl was shouting out something as she ran closer and closer, but the monkey boy couldn't tell what.  Some security guards intercepted her and stopped her from reaching the stage though.  Johnny watched the girl struggle with the guards.  The monkey boy thought that she looked familiar somehow.  "Weird," he thought, as he watched the security guards take the still-struggling girl away.  Then he thought, "These people are crazy!"

The monkey boy was still kind of dizzy feeling, so he sat down again.  Johnny sighed and looked down at his knees and noted how his shiny new robes hung over his thin knees.  He breathed some deep breaths.  Then he looked around.  There were four chairs in a row facing the big, comfy seat that Oprah sometimes sat in.  Calamity Burntwood was sitting a couple seats down from Johnny.  Calamity saw Johnny looking over.  He gave the monkey boy a big grin, and a thumbs-up.  Johnny gave Calamity a weak smile in return.

Calamity Burntwood was a couple seats away (which Johnny was glad for, because he felt like he couldn't interact in this moment with the strange man with the single eyebrow).  The seats on either side of Johnny were both empty.  The cushion on one was plush and new-looking.  The other one had a cushion with a kind-of mashed-down look - like a lot of really heavy people had sat in it over the years.  Johnny wondered if they always asked heavy people to sit in that one seat.  Then Johnny wondered when the cameras were going to come on them again and the hot lights would be shining down.  Then Johnny wondered if the butterflies in his stomach that Mr. Burntwood had told him about were ever going to fly away.  The monkey boy was so nervous, he thought he was going to explode.

Johnny looked over at Oprah, who was talking to an important-looking man.  The important-looking man was wearing a green visor and he had wires going up to his ears.  Him and Oprah seemed to be very excited and happy.  They kept looking at the audience, like they were both amazed at the excitement and anticipation in the stands.  The mood in the studio was tense and everybody was feeling it.  The air seemed thick with it.

Johnny wondered if he was going to need to throw up.

Soon a voice over a speaker called out, "Ten seconds!"  The lights came back on in a hot burst.  People took their places.  And, with a weird whirring sound, the robotic cameras rolled over into position.  Johnny noted a red sign light up over the set which read "On Air."  And Oprah resumed her position in front of the cameras.  And the monkey boy gulped.

"Here we are, back with a very special episode of Oprah," Oprah said.  "The Beauty of Angels."  She smiled at the camera, and then at the audience.  "Is everyone as excited by this as I am?" she asked, her smile getting bigger.  There were some happy-sounding shouts from the audience, and a lot of clapping.  Oprah laughed.  "Yes, this is amazing stuff.  Truly, truly amazing.  And fascinating too, how it all came to be."  Her face got serious as she turned to a different camera.  "Let's talk for a few moments about the Monastic Movement of the twentieth century."

"We all know," Oprah said, "the stories of the famous actor-sponsored monasteries.  Mink Black - that early star of silent film - was the father of the movement.  Mink, star of The Scientists Love You and Hello, My Ear, My Love," saw American society as being intrinsically flawed by a moral despondency and a lack of holy institutions.  So he founded the world-famous Black Monastery:  the magnificent institution which - much beyond the fledgling film industry - truly put Summerland on the world maps."  Oprah turned to face the video screen.  On the large screen behind her there appeared a black and white image of a large and intimidating-looking fortress-like building.  That image was followed by a photograph of King George visiting the monastery.  A number of cowled and smiling monks were bowing low to the British king as he examined some religious artifacts in the monastery's chapel.

Oprah turned back to face one of the robot cameras.  "When World War One commenced, Mink Black saw it as his duty to ensure that his monastery gave the best of combat training to its monks.  Some saw this as a controversial move at first, but the trained monks soon proved their great worth to our nation.  It is believed that the combined Scientists and Attack Monks Special Legions actually turned the war in the West's favour - something we've touched upon previously here at Oprah in our touching special on 'Granddaughters of the First Twentieth Century Crusade.'"

"And everyone knows how the monastic sponsorship movement truly proliferated after the first modern Crusade.  Even Mink Black's mysterious assassination in '45 couldn't stop it - the seeds were planted in the Western psyche - and others soon followed that great man in his footsteps.  Charlie Chaplin.  Pietro Laguna.  Ronald Reagan.  Robert Redford.  All these great humanitarians ensured that Mink Black's unique philanthropic institution continued to aid a morally-challenged Western world."

"Community values," Oprah said.  "What would they be without our friends, the monks, to have held our hands through this troubled century, showing us the way?"  On the screen behind her appeared an old art-deco poster of three smiling monks helping up a girl who had fallen off her bicycle and skinned her knee.  Under the image it said, "It Is Good To Help Your Neighbors."  Then another image came on of a newer-looking poster with a painting of a tough-looking monk holding out his hand.  Under that image it said, "Monks Say:  Keep Your Community Safe!  Keep Drug Dealers OUT!"  Then there came on an image of another poster that showed a big bunch of happy-looking monks holding hands around a little town.  Its caption read, "Drifters - Stay Out!"

"The monks have also couched us in personal values - and have shown us the way in areas where we may have otherwise stumbled when it comes to values we should hold in our culture and nation."  Then on the screen behind Oprah appeared other helpful monastic posters.  A stern-looking monk was pointing his finger at a crying teenaged boy with pimples.  "Onanism Makes You Unhappy," it read.  Another one done up in psychedelic colours came up next which showed six monks in their famous attack robe uniforms.  The monks were holding knives and forks and licking their lips.  That poster read, "Is Food Rationing Making Your Tummy Grumble? - Eat a Draft Dodger!"  Oprah chuckled at this last one.  The "applause" sign flashed on, and the studio audience went wild.  The monkey boy fidgeted nervously in his seat.  He knew that Oprah would soon stop talking about monasteries and showing old posters and talk about him.

The audience soon stopped clapping so wildly, and Oprah was able to continue on.  "Truly modern life as we know it would not have been the same without the effects of our holy and patient monk friends.  Just in the way that our movie-going and television-watching pleasure from the last ten years or so would not have been the same without one of the current benefactors of the monastic movement..... George Clooney!"

On the screen there appeared an image of George Clooney in an impressively-shaped costume.  "I'm Batman," the masked actor said in a terse whisper.  Everyone in the studio applauded.  The monkey boy clapped right along with them.  "Wow!" he thought.  Then he wondered, because he was now so holy, if Mr. Clooney would make the time to visit him some lucky day.  "And if he does," Johnny thought, "I wonder if he'll be wearing that costume."  The monkey boy was very excited about that idea.

Oprah waited for the applause to die down some before continuing.  "The actor and humanitarian - George Clooney - decided to follow in the footsteps of his contemporaries in 1991, and he converted the 'Saunderfield's Hospital for the Incurably Mad' into what is now a beautiful landmark in Summer City's trendy Shadow Hills.  The Clooney Monastery has been active in its community, and it has in the last nine years thrived under George Clooney's direction.  It has taken on many men of the robe who have then enhanced their lives, and enhanced the lives of all in our nation..."

"And that brings us up to our very special guest today, this holy monk," Oprah said as she walked behind the trembling monkey boy and clapped her hands to his shoulders while the robot cameras zoomed in, " - Monk K!"  The studio went hysterical with applause and cheers.  It took a long time for everyone's energy to subside.  Oprah's hands stayed calmly on the monkey boy's shoulders as Johnny stared at the camera lenses pointed at him and bit his lip.

"Like many other men of the robe, Monk K started off as a troubled man who was walking down a shady path of loose women, drugs.... - and crime.  His fast-paced, lawless life and morally challenged deeds culminated with an arrest seven years ago.  However, when charged for his crimes in Summer City's Courts of Laws, he saw his chance for redemption:  he chose to join the monastic movement rather than spend the rest of his life behind bars."  Oprah rubbed his monkey head and smiled down at him.  Then she looked back at the camera, "Yes, friends, he chose to walk the holy path.  He chose the path of spiritual healing...  And look where it has got him!  Monk K is the only media-verifiable person in the entire history of planet Earth who has been visited by an angel!"  The place went mad mad mad with applause and cheers and shouts and cries.  Johnny thought he saw some people pass out from their great excitement.  Johnny felt like passing out too.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Oprah cried, "are we ready to talk now to the incredibly holy Monk K?"

Everyone cheered.

"Yes," Oprah said.  "We are ready," she said and smiled at the very very nervous monkey boy.  "Why don't you tell us your story, Monk K?"

The robot cameras zoomed in even closer to him, and the lights seemed brighter and hotter than ever.  He was so nervous and shaking so much that he could feel his chair tremble beneath him.  He stared at the eye-like lenses of the cameras.  Then he looked up at the audience.  They were all leaning forward in their seats.  Listening.  And waiting.  And a few seats down he saw Calamity Burntwood lean forward too, his hands clenched tightly.  Everyone was waiting, and Johnny opened his mouth to speak, even as he wondered if he'd remember a single thing that he was supposed to say.

To his great surprise though, he found he was able to perfectly remember everything that Calamity Burntwood had given him to say.  The words were popping perfectly into his head, just waiting there for his mouth to say them.  "Wow!" he thought.  "I'm remembering!"  The monkey boy was unaware of the huge amounts of memory-enhancing drugs that had been put into all of his meals for the last four days.

The nervous monkey boy concentrated, and said, "Hello.  I was blessed in 1993 to be taken under the wing of the Clooney Monastery."  He cleared his throat and continued in the same nervous staccato monotone.  "I was downtrodden and a mere spiritual shadow of the monk I am today.  And to this fact I owe the handsome and beloved George Clooney more than I could ever really repay.  His great philanthropic spirit made possible my spiritual salvation - much in the manner that it also made possible the Clooney Burn Victims Ward in Leftagotia's General Hospital, and the Warfare Cryptography Wing in New York City's esteemed The Scientists' Museum of Science."  The monkey boy gulped and looked around.  Oprah nodded at his encouragingly, and Calamity Burntwood was giving him a stiff and nervous-looking smile.

"Um," the monkey boy said, and then continued on with his emotionless recital.  "What a great man he is - so vast in spirit and generosity.  That spirit and generosity is reflected in the bounty received by those who show belief in his vision by investing in Clooney Enterprises GmbH:  CEGX on the NYSE index.  Why just this year alone, a Clooney Enterprises GmbH subsidiary - Clooney Pharmaceuticals - wowed investors by merging with Uranium Fissure RX," Johnny said.  He tried to make the next bit sound exciting because he remembered that next to this part of his script had been some penned in words saying 'sound excited!':  "This quadrupled the worth of Clooney Pharmaceuticals stock!"

"Ahem!" said Oprah, sounding a little bit impatient.  "Maybe you could tell us about the angel now?" she prompted.

"Ah," he stammered.  The monkey boy was confused.  He tried to remember his last visit with the angel.  When he tried to recall her disapproving face though, all he could bring to mind was the words Calamity Burntwood had given him to recite.  The harder he tried to think about the angel, the more the words appeared in his head.  'Clooney Enterprises GmbH are world leaders in diversified lateral portfolio returns' - or - It is felt by some that the strength of Clooney Chips prevented a collapse in the NASDAQ index earlier this year - or - His handsome good looks and acting ability are matched perhaps only by his talent in running a multinational corporation without ever once forgetting the little people.  Like little Suzie Subdivision:  a sad victim of New York City's tragic outbreak of flesh-eating leprosy who was able to realize - because of Mr. Clooney's vast generosity - her life-long goal of going to Summer City's Clooneyland!

"Um," the monkey boy said, as he tried and tried and tried to remember just the angel.  Just the angel.  His poor little monkey head was getting in quite a panic as he sat there.  Finally, he whimpered, "Clooney Enterprises GmbH!" and clutched onto his hurting head.

"Oh my goodness!" Oprah said.  But then Calamity Burntwood was on his feet, and over by Johnny saying, "Ah, our poor, poor Monk K.  Don't worry about him, Oprah, nor you viewers at home.  Our holy friend is fine.  He is just a little, um, over-exerted, as he is used to a very holy life of prayer and reflection.  As well," he said, trying to coax his nasty face into looking gentle and concerned, "Monk K also sometimes suffers from war wounds he received in the Second Gulf Crusade.  He will be ok, however, so don't worry about him."

"Whew," thought Johnny. "I'm off the hook!"

Oprah frowned at Calamity.  She had not expected this turn in events.  Soon she shrugged though, and then after consulting a piece of paper said to the cameras, "May I introduce to you Monk K's, um, spiritual advisor... Mr. Calamity Burntwood."  There was some scattered polite applause from the audience.

"Thank you, Oprah," Mr. Burntwood said as he clasped his hands together under his chin.  "I will continue, then, at the point where I believe our holy friend here had left off.  The point where he was going to tell you all about his, ah, holy encounter."  Calamity Burntwood smiled at the camera and tipped his head this way and that.  "You see, dear people, one fateful morning, Monk K was praying - as he tends to - for world peace."  There was applause at this, and Oprah nodded at Johnny approvingly.  "Our poor monastic friend was praying from the comfort of his bed that morning given that he received some nasty wounds while fighting for the preservation of the freedom and democratic society in the last Gulf Crusade.  His wounds have never touched his spirit though, nor his desire to see the betterment of everyone's life in the Free World.  So he prayed for us.  He prayed for us all."

"And that fateful morning, Monk K said in his prayers, 'I am just a lowly, lowly monk, Dear Lord, trying to be holy in this place made possible by the great George Clooney!'  There was some applause at this, but Oprah said, "hmmm" in a not-too-satisfied sounding manner.  Calamity Burntwood pretended not to notice, and he continued, "'And I know I don't deserve your ear, Oh Lord, but please - please let there be world peace.  And calm in everyone's hearts.  And,'" he said, with a side-long glance at Oprah, "'great bounty for Clooney Enterprises GmbH stock holders!'"

"Ahem!" said Oprah - who was beginning to lose her patience with these asides about George Clooney and Clooney Enterprises GmbH.

But Calamity Burntwood quickly continued on, "'And, Oh Lord,' said Monk K that fateful morn, 'if it makes it easier somehow for you to do this all, please please take my lowly life.  I offer it freely if it can help, oh sweet Jesus.'"

And everyone applauded the generous generous monkey boy.  Johnny frowned to himself as he tried his hardest to remember if that was how it happened at all.  But then he looked at Oprah who was smiling at him, and he smiled back and felt as happy as could be.  He was on the Oprah show!

"And then we all know what happened," Oprah said.  "In response to Monk K's prayers, the angel appeared.  Luckily we have this video of the miraculous event.  Apparently," Oprah said, reading off of a piece of paper in her hands, "Mr. Monk K felt in his heart that he was going to have a special visitor, so he asked for the understanding higher monks to videotape his morning prayers."  Oprah frowned at Calamity as if she doubted that story.  Calamity Burntwood pretended not to notice, and he patted the monkey boy on his head.

"Well," she said, raising an eyebrow at the man, "thank you, Mr. Burntwood.  And now," she said to the robot camera, "ladies and gentlemen, and viewers at home.  May we present to you a most beautiful and miraculous moment.  Here it is - the only media-verifiable visitation of an angel in the history of humanity!"

The lights dimmed and some images appeared on the big video screen.  Everyone in the place turned to look at it.

On the screen appeared some grainy black and white footage of Johnny's old gloomy monastic basement room.  The viewpoint was from high up at the ceiling.  You could see the dark, sweaty rock walls, the shelf with the forlorn candles on it, the slab of rock with moldy straw strewn on it - upon which lay the monkey boy.  His eyes were closed, and his lips moved as if he were muttering words of a prayer.

Some soft piano music was playing.

And then, the air above the monkey boy rippled strangely.  Then, as security time numbers in the corner of the footage marked the passage of recorded time, the angel slowly appeared.  Her wings were spread out majestically.  She was like a magical bird, suspended in the air above Johnny.  A mysterious, magical bird.

The audience gasped in awe.

The lines of the angel's robes flowed and shimmered as if she were under water.

"A miracle.  A miracle," Oprah whispered.

And below the angel was the monkey boy - his eyes wide as could be.  "Wow," thought Johnny as he looked at the monkey boy on the screen with the pale face and dark dark eyes.  "I look unhealthy!"  The monkey boy on the screen was wincing in pain, and balling up a bit on the stone slab.  He saw himself respond to things the angel was saying, and the angel hover this way and that - as if she were agitated.

And the angel's robes moved beautifully, and strands of her hair described strange whorls in the air.

And then she floated up and looked straight at the camera.

Everyone could see her face.  There was a collective gasp in the audience.  The angel seemed to see the video camera.  And perhaps even into that studio room with everyone staring in disbelief at her.  The angel frowned a big big big frown, and then disappeared in an explosion of glowing particles.

"Jesus be praised!" Oprah cried.

The audience was in ecstasy.  People were crying, passing out, shouting out "Monk K!" and, off in the far corner of the audience's seats, some people were trying to get everyone to do the Wave.

"Jesus be praised!" Oprah cried again.

Johnny stared at it all with wide, wide eyes, feeling very excited.

Then, all of a sudden, his head hurt really really bad.

Then he heard a familiar voice say, "So.  This is what you want, is it?"  Johnny turned to see the angel had appeared in the empty seat to Johnny's right.

The monkey boy whimpered in pain.  Then he shot a look at Oprah.  The angel looked over at Johnny and shook her head.  "No, Johnny. They aren't going to see me this time."  She looked over at the big screen where her face was being shown again - frozen there for everyone to see.  "Christ!" she said, sounding disgusted.  "That was stupid!  Stupid!"  She frowned at the monkey boy like it was somehow his fault.  "Anyway," she said in an annoyed-sounding tone, "I've changed my physics so that no one else will see me but silly silly you.  And no damned surveillance device will capture me again, either!"  She glared at Oprah.

"Did you know that some First Nations' people believed that when you take a photograph of someone, you steal the subject's soul?  This," she said, with a karate chop-like sweep of her hand indicating the stage, the audience, everything he could see, "can never tell the truth.  It's all mirrors and lies.  The fragments of truth which may have once been there get distorted.  Those weak facets of Actuality can not show their gleam, nor beauty.  Nor majesty.  The soul is leeched from it."

She smiled sadly at Johnny.  "This is what you wanted.  You don't attempt any control of your life.  You are flotsam on a mad stream, Johnny.  You're a creature in a plastic zoo."  She sighed.  "You know the drill, monkey.  Stella misses you.  You don't know your dad.  Hyena Bank debt.  Sick as a dog.  Letter from grandma.  X Class monks," she said with a nod of her head to the seat with the mashed cushion to Johnny's left, "watching your every move.  Bla bla bla.  You know all this, Johnny.  And you know the indisputable fact that this is not your life."

Her forehead knotted up a bit and she looked at the floor.  Then she sighed.  "This is tough to say, because, somehow - and I don't know how because really you are one infuriating little monkey boy - I've grown quite fond of you."  She frowned, and then stammered, "I... I love you, Johnny."  She glared at him, then said it again:  "I love you."  Then she closed her strange eyes, leaned forward, and brushed her lips against Johnny's.

Johnny felt the strange sensation of the angel's kiss.  "Wow," he thought.

Then she pulled away and looked at him oddly.  Then her usual angry face came back, though, this time, there seemed to be some sadness in it too.  "Unless you decide to free yourself from this madness and return to your life, Johnny, this will be the last time that we meet."  She glared at him, and then, surprisingly, winked.  And then she disappeared in a cloud of glowing golden particles.

Johnny the monkey boy touched his throbbing lips.

"Monk K?" someone said who sounded very far away.

The monkey boy's lips felt like they had been electrocuted by some kind of strange and wonderful energy.

"Um," said another voice.  Calamity Burntwood's it sounded like.  "Let me answer your questions for Monk K.  It's probably just our heroic monk's wounds from the Second Gulf Crusade acting up again.  He'll be okay.  Don't worry.  He is a holy and special monk.  He'll be okay," Burntwood said, but he sounded a little worried too.  Maybe he was concerned about the ridiculous amounts of drugs they had been putting into the monkey boy's every meal.

"You asked what they talked about," Burntwood said.  "The glorious angel appeared before Monk K and he said, 'please take my life and give this world peace!'  and she said, 'No!  You have important work to do!  Tell the world that angels are real!  Tell them of the greatness of Clooney Enterprises GmbH!'"

"Ahem!" Oprah yelled.

And on it went.  And Calamity Burntwood gave his fictional account of the conversation the angel had with Johnny, and any time he tried to say too much about Clooney Enterprises GmbH, or George Clooney, Oprah would cut him off with increasing annoyance.  The monkey boy sat through it all, feeling dazed.  And occasionally touching his still strange-feeling lips.

Soon it was all over, and the audience was giving the monkey boy a standing ovation, and Oprah was hugging him and welcoming him back anytime, and Calamity Burntwood - whose eyebrow was shivering in excitement, and moving about on his forehead like an untalented breakdancer flopping about chaotically on the ground - was putting his arm around Johnny saying, "A fine beginning, my son.  Mr. Clooney will be quite pleased.  Yes.  A stellar beginning," and through it all Johnny didn't say a thing.

Soon he was in a stretch limousine, heading back to the Clooney Monastery.  Calamity Burntwood sat next to him, talking excitedly about the future - and appearances the monkey boy was going to make in commercials, in music videos, on "Friends," on "Steel Wool Comedy" and maybe even his own show someday.  And Johnny just sat there not really listening at all.

He was remembering the angel's lips.

And thinking about home.

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