God Held a Royal Flush
and Satan had the Joker.

God and Satan were playing their usual Wednesday night poker game. They settled on Wednesday, after much debate, because that was the night most churches held Prayer Meetings or Choir Practice, so God was relieved from having to be a vigilante Example, and Satan knew it was a waste of his time to try to buy or steal souls. So, God and Satan used their Coffee Break to play some rousing hands of poker.

The room was really dingy, and filled with smoke. All the Boys liked to smoke a good cigar when playing poker, it made them feel like they were living the Good Life. The Angels had already folded; they knew when they were out-classed.

The air was very heavy. God and Satan sat on opposite sides of a golden table, and were ready to play for some serious stakes. God had two bags of gold at his feet, one labelled "Taxes" and the other labelled "Tithes". Satan also had two bags of gold at his cloven hooves, one labelled "Taxes" - just like God's, and the other labelled "Greed", which was useful for bribes. (God didn't need Greed money - he could always resort to blackmail, which doesn't cost money, as long as you have information of an immoral nature to use against somebody.)

God and Satan had been at a stalemate for quite some time; it seems like neither one could swing a Majority Vote (sort of like Congress) and they needed something to up the ante - and the stakes, to make the game more exciting.

Finally, God was struck with a Brilliant Idea. (Are we surprised? This is God, after all.) God decided it would be fun to wage a bet on Job, some little guy who lived in a desert, and was cheerfully (and relentlessly) Happy and Believing all the time. God thought it would be a Sure Bet to wage Job as the Prize in the poker game for Good and Evil.

"Wouldn't it be fun," God said, "To try the Soul of Job, to see if he remains ever faithful to me, regardless of calamities or seeming injustices. I'm willing to bet you, Satan, 50 gold pieces, and a sin - I mean sun - filled vacation in Tahiti for two weeks, that Job will remain Faithful to me, no matter what."

This wasn't the first time God had pulled a sucker-bet on Satan, and Lucifer (Satan's alter-ego when picking up chicks or crossing the Mexican border) was sceptical.

Satan, who was not totally stupid, thought to himself that God probably had something up His sleeve. So Satan suggested, "God, I accept the wager - IF you will allow me to do everything in my power to sway Job. I want to be granted the right to inflict absolute total and living Hell for Job. This is my area of specialty after all, and I admit it would be intriguing to see if I could arrange a sequence of Unholy events within the third dimension, and see if perhaps that precipitates a greater shift of power between the third and fourth dimensions. Badness knows I could use a change."

God said, rather pompously, "Why, certainly. After all, what we are essentially is trying to prove is a Test of Faith. Tell you what... I'm even willing to infict some Chaos from my end - that will surely confuse the little bugger. (Shrugs modestly) That alone should tell you how much confidence I have in Job. I'm even willing to bet my future holdings on Tithes - that's how confident I am that Job will remain faithful to Me."

Satan looked at all the angles, and didn't like it. He didn't know Job personally, but figured he must be an Angel in disguise, or a total schmuck, if God was willing to gamble his future Tithes on him. That was an awful lot of bread, Satan thought.

In the end, however, Satan figured that God was probably a little too smug, and took a gamble that God didn't hold the Ace, after all, where Job was concerned. No one could be THAT pure, Satan thought.

Satan took the bet.

For the next great while, God and Satan had more fun than they had in aeons. They fairly outdid themselves to come up with the most interesting tortures and deprivations, to force Job to come to a resolution regarding his Faith. God and Satan were about as inventive as NASA in the 1960's, who tortured astronauts to prove their commitment to the Space Program - except NASA didn't have the means, or the ingenuity, to force deadly plagues upon the astronauts' wives.

God and Satan took turns forcing blows upon Job, and they managed to wipe him out pretty good, yet Job remained ever-faithful to his God. Even Satan was impressed.

Satan lost, as we knew he would, and God continues to receive Tithes every day of His life, whether he's at the Office or not.

The cleaning woman comes in once a week. She is Job's (former) wife, and it is her job to clean up the cigar butts and tobacco juice that line the Halls of Heaven. She has ascended to Heaven, for all her troubles; but it is a small recompense for the eternal humiliation she suffers. Every week she asks herself, "What was I to you, Job? Were you a gambler, too?"

Love, Galadriel