“What is the purpose of godparents?” Asked my hopelessly clueless and charmingly stupid seventeen-year-old mother, her hands folded over the top of her swollen belly with me trapped inside and her feet pillowed on the lap of my equally ill prepared sixteen-year-old father.
He couldn’t use a condom, but he could use Google! He whipped his phone out of his pocket to look it up.
“According to the World Wide Web, which is always right of course,” he said with a laugh, thinking himself very clever, “a baby’s godparent is designated by their parents at birth and that person is meant to take on a special role in their upbringing and development.”
My father had never used such big words in his short life, and he stumbled over them as he read aloud the duties and responsibilities customary to the honor being named godparent. Imagining my folks sitting there, babies having babies, they were going to need the extra set of hands.
“I’ll ask my sister Carrie to be the baby’s godparent!” Exclaimed my mother, clapping her hands together in an ironic display of childish excitement. Never mind my Aunt Carrie was fourteen years old and more hopelessly irresponsible than my parents.
“Carrie would be a horrible godparent,” said my father, “she’s too young, and really immature!”
Nothing like the pot calling the kettle black.
They sat in silence on the couch in my grandmother’s basement contemplating this and other impractical concerns regarding their impending parenthood. Aren’t future parents supposed to be worried about how many toes their baby will have and how they’ll pay for college in twenty years? Not my parents. In fact, whether to name my crazy fourteen-year-old aunt as godparent was one of their less impractical concerns.
“Our baby’s godparent should be someone cool, someone that no kid has ever had as a godparent before.” Said my mother with a faraway, dreamy look on her face.
My father scoffed. “What, like a rock star or something?”
“Do you know any rock stars?” she asked, too enthusiastic once again.
“Of course not,” he said dismissively, and then, “do you?”
She looked crestfallen. “No.”
“How about someone from mythology, like a Greek god or something.” Said my father, his inspiration apparent since he had the pantheon of Greek gods from his favorite video game pulled up on his phone.
“Now that’s original,” she said as though it was the best idea she had ever heard. “Who’s the coolest god you can think of?”
My father screwed up his face in concentration. You could practically hear the gears struggling to turn in his brain. It is a wonder he didn’t hurt himself. At last, he said, “Loki.”
“Yep, that sounds pretty cool.” Of course, the coolness factor of my godparent’s name was the most important part, not whether he would be the best candidate for the job. “What is he the god of?”
“Mischief.” My father’s one word responses indicated that a video game had claimed his attention as it often did and the conversation about me, my mother, and my godparent had been relegated to the back burner in terms of importance.
“That’s perfect! Everyone loves to have a little fun.” Said my mother. A little fun was exactly what got her into her swollen bellied predicament in the first place. “Is he a Greek god?” She asked as an afterthought.
“Sure.” Said my father, the reflection of his video game flickering on the lenses of his glasses.
My mother smiled happily to herself, satisfied that her baby would have the coolest godfather ever. Unbeknownst to my parents the ‘coolest godfather ever’ was listening in to their conversation and despite the disrespect of being associated so inaccurately with the pantheon of Greek gods, he was intrigued at the prospect of being a godfather nonetheless.
No one had ever asked him to be a godfather before. In hindsight it was for good reason.
Even though he was perhaps less qualified to be a godparent that my Aunt Carrie, Loki resolved then and there to take his role as godfather very seriously indeed.
Junior year of high school has finally drawn to a close: I am seventeen, my baby-parents are thirty-three and thirty-four years old respectively, and two weeks after the start of summer break they die in a blazing car crash. I was too stunned to be sad, too numb to be upset, and even if significant displays of emotion were my thing, I was never able to feel anything more for them than the kind of affection one feels for their troubled but fun older cousins, and so when I got the news I just said thank you and hung up the phone. It was not until a lawyer in an expensive suit showed up at the front door that I began to understand how much my life was about to change.
The words “unaccompanied minor” and “designated legal guardian” got thrown around and I felt myself getting grumpier and grumpier by the hour. Just when I was beginning to taste freedom, really feel the light at the end of the tunnel, it all got ripped away by the prospect of being unassigned an unqualified, unwilling, distantly related relative as babysitter for the duration of my Senior year. My appointed legal counsel arrived one afternoon a few days after the funeral to discuss my options and I grappled with the possible consequences of refusing to open the door to them for a good ten minutes before I relented and welcomed them inside.
“Hello Asher, nice to see you today. How are you doing?” This talking suit didn’t even look up from the papers he was taking out of his briefcase. Like he cared how I was doing. I did not bother to answer.
“We are here today to discuss the subject of your legal guardianship through the duration of your Senior year.” At this point he looked up and took off his wire rimed glasses and squinted at me quizzically over the top of hands folded beneath his chin. “After reviewing your family members, the qualified candidates are unwilling, and the willing family members are not qualified.” His voice trailed off as he discussed my options of which there were none of course. As far as I knew, the only one willing to take me was my crazy Aunt Carrie, and at thirty-one years of age with questionable professions ranging from sexy bartender to exotic dancer to trophy wife, ‘not qualified’ was legalese for ‘there is no way in hell we would release you into her care’. Why wasn’t anyone else willing to take me you might ask? I suppose it is easiest to say that my reputation, and more importantly the reputation of my parents, precedes me.
“Luckily,” continued my lawyer, “we were able to track down your godfather and he has agreed to take you into his care. He seems an outstanding candidate for your guardianship and he has agreed to move here which is even better if you ask me.”
I hardly heard the last of whatever the suit said because I was hung up on the mention of a godfather I didn’t know I had. A knock sounded on the front door before I could ask any questions, however, and the godfather in question swept in without waiting to be welcomed.
He was one of those people who hung in the air in a room in such a way that they looked as though they should not exist. He also looked like a smarmy prick I would not trust as far as I could throw him. I sat back in my chair and surveyed his ostentatious confidence he wore about him like expensive designer clothes. Challenge accepted you suave bastard, I thought to myself, I’ll take you down.
I had no idea I would be in so far over my own head.
Remember when I mentioned I have a bit of a reputation? Let me back up and clarify that I don’t go looking for trouble. One minute I would be keeping my head down, minding my own business, trying hard to be invisible in a way that my parent’s lifestyle never allowed, and the next I would be running up to place a KICK ME sign on the back of my teacher’s sports coat when they were turned around at the whiteboard. If I got caught, which was not very often, people would ask me why I did it and they would always get upset when I would tell them that I did not know. I couldn’t say what I felt to be the truth without making them even more upset. Mischief seemed to find me even when I wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, mischief seemed to force my hand even when I was committed to keeping my nose clean.
I almost felt a little bad for my legal guardian; he had no idea he had gotten strapped with a kid whose middle name may as well have been trouble. That is, I felt bad for him when I wasn’t trying to figure him out. He was so bizarre and his appearance in my life had gone without explanation, so I was trying to figure him out most of the time.
His name was Lucca Kirkeby and before he showed up in my parent’s kitchen after being named my guardian by the lawyer, I had never heard of him before. My parents never mentioned a godfather while I was growing up, and there were no pictures of him in the endless photo albums of my parents partying with their friends while their kid waited for them to tuck him in at home. In addition to his unexplainable presence in my life, the guy was strange.
As far as I could tell he never worked, but he burned through money like he had endless amounts to spare, and he was always dressed fancy, like a banker. Or maybe it was like a mobster, or a hitman. Neither one of those professions for him would have surprised me. Either way, it was hard to believe that a man with that much money could be friends with my folks. Their friends were in a constant state of broke. He never seemed to sleep, I never saw him eat, and worst of all he always looked at me like he knew something I didn’t, and whatever it was the secret must have been juicy. I would not have considered myself a person prone to violence, but whenever he looked at me in that way I wanted to slap the smug smile right off his face. All of this and the fact that we rarely exchanged more than two words at a time made my parent’s house a hostile place to live that summer. I was more than a little surprised when he offered to join me at the back to school carnival the week before my Senior year was set to start.
He looked so out of place among my classmates and their frumpy but loving parents. Then again, my parents had looked out of place among the others who were at least ten years older. I had gotten used to the strange looks, people wondering if they were my siblings or my parents, but Lucca Kirkeby stood out in an altogether different way. His coppery red hair was sleek and perfect, his skin was alabaster and flawless, and his large blue eyes glinted in a way that was equal parts charming and challenging. People were staring, but they were staring in the way that someone stares at a lion: they are mesmerized by its beauty and power, but they sense that it is dangerous, and they know to stay away.
Each back to school carnival kicks off with a speech from the administrative staff before the fun can begin. Kids were bored by it, and I suspected that the parents were all bored as well. But people are strange in the sense that they will put up with something that makes them want to fall asleep if they think that enduring will make others believe they have good manners. I was stifling a yawn not five minutes in, but my godfather looked more and more alive as the seconds ticked by.
“These things are bloody boring, don’t you think?” Lucca asked me, his accent barely discernible underneath his cultured speech, an accent I had never heard before and could not place.
I shrugged. “They’re alright.”
He ignored me. “What do you say we liven this up? Have a bit of fun?”
Lucca Kirkeby narrowed his eyes at the speaker on stage, and then strange things began to happen.
It started as a twitch, something very small, and the speaker moved as though a bug had crawled down the collar of his shirt and was going on a walk down the length of his spine. He tried to shift his body to alleviate the sensation without scratching with his hands or breaking the cadence of his speech, but at last he had to shove his hand down his collar to find relief. Next, a breeze stirred the pages on his podium. It flickered just the edges, then it threatened to blow them off the stand, and at last it threw them all up in the air in an explosion of fluttering paper right into the speaker’s face. The crowd had been polite enough to ignore the itching, but at this it laughed in earnest. Still, the speaker regained his composure quickly and soldiered on with his address as though it never happened. At this point I cast a sideways glance at my godfather and was appalled to find him with one brow arched and his eyes locked on the speaker.
Next, the speaker began to shift his weight from foot to foot as though he was standing on something hot. Sweat was pouring down his face and when smoke began to rise from his fancy dress shoes it became clear that the overheated thing on which he stood was his own to feet. He abandoned all pretense of keeping it together for the speech as he bent down, yanked his shoes off, and threw them into the crowd to be free of the burning sensation. Just as quick as the burning started, it stopped just as fast. His composure was thoroughly shattered, people were looking at him like he was nuts, and he appeared as sheepish as the student body had ever seen him.
Tugging at the collar of his dress shirt, he stood in front of the microphone and cleared his throat self-consciously. “I want to apologize for my strange behavior, I seem to be having some difficult tonight.”
At this point the man on stage went from looking mildly embarrassed to extremely uncomfortable as a wet stain began to spread on the front of his pants. I couldn’t believe it: the school principle had just wet himself in front of the entire student body and their family members. One final look at Lucca Kirkeby told me all I needed to know. His expression was satisfied in the way a feline looks after it has glutted itself on thick, sweet cream. With a scowl and a shake of my head I stood up and rushed away from the crowd as it began to laugh hysterically. He followed me out even though I wished he didn’t and he waited until we got to the parking lot to speak.
“Come on, Asher, it was just a bit of fun.” His voice was unapologetic. He really believed that was a good time for all.
“I don’t think the principle found it fun to wet himself in front of the student body.” My voice lashed out as a snarl.
“You know how young people are,” he said, his strange accent still allowing for a drawl that said he could not care less, “they will have forgotten by next week.”
“How did you do that anyway? Are you some sort of weirdo? I don’t even know anything about you.” My voice was rising in panic and volume, and just as I was about to turn around and confront him, he appeared in front of me, right in my path.
“Asher, we need to talk, right now.” His voice was even and measured, the tone merely conversational, but somehow, I knew this was an order and not a request.
“Your parents named me as your godfather before you were even born, and while I suspect they believed it was all just a bit of fun, I took the appointment rather seriously.”
“Trickery is my business and much to my delight you have a touch of that gift about you already. Just as godfathers have done for their godchildren for hundreds of years, I plan to take your development in my craft very seriously. Buckle up, son, it’s going to be a wild ride.”
I stood and stared at him, completely dumbstruck, with not a single intelligent thing to say. “I am sorry,” I told him at last, “but what did you say your name was?”
He grinned maniacally, and he almost looked unhinged. His voice had taken on a supernatural quality to the tone and the volume, and all my suspicions that this guy was not from around here were simultaneously confirmed.
“My name is Loki,” he told him, his confidence overwhelming, “and I am the Norse god of Mischief. It is nice to finally meet you, godson.”
At that point, two things occurred to me: one, my parents were twice as stupid as I thought they were, and two, my Senior year of high school was about to get a whole lot more interesting.