What would it be like if you could see angels and demons? For Rodney, a hilariously uncoordinated teenager with a large mop of curly red hair, it’s pretty weird. It’s hard enough getting through biology class without having to try to ignore everyone’s guardian angel—much less his own, who by the way, sounds like a throwback to the Elizabethan era. Just when Rodney convinced his own angel to talk like a person from this century, Satan showed up. It would have been terrifying if the angel of darkness didn’t look exactly like Jude Law, and if he weren’t holding a box of Sprinkles cupcakes.
Excerpt from The Book of Rodney by Angelica Asher
Rodney’s stomach had given up on sending auditory signals by the time classes let out for the afternoon. Instead it just hung there listlessly while the rest of Rodney changed his clothes after gym class. He ambled hungrily out to the school’s parking lot, his book-filled backpack bumping along on his shoulder. His cut through the outer edge of the baseball field. It was already in use by the baseball team. Coach Tyson was yelling, “What are you buffoons doing out there? Throw the ball at a person, not the space between people!”
Barook, walking next to Rodney, had his eye on the practice session. He knew a potential threat when he saw one. Sure enough, a stray ball thrown by a muscular, dark-haired teen came whizzing toward Rodney’s head. Rodney, as usual, was completely oblivious to the danger he was in. Barook quickly put his foot out, materializing it just long enough to trip Rodney and make him fall on his face in the soft grass. The baseball flew safely by, now five feet over his grounded head.
“Dang it!” yelled Rodney, picking himself and his backpack up off the ground. “I thought you were supposed to keep me from harm, Bazooka! What the heck happened?”
“I’m sorry,” Barook replied, without explaining further. He didn’t need Rodney to always know the whole story. He just needed Rodney to be as safe as possible. In the background the coach yelled, “What did I just say, Dawkins?”
Just then Barook and Rodney were joined by Kim, Rodney’s best friend.
“Hey Fruit Loops,” Rodney responded, continuing their usual greeting game as they made their way together toward the parking lot.
“No, that’s a breakfast food. The category is clearly desserts or smacks. Try again.”
“Oh, sorry. Hey doughnut.”
“No, this fasting thing is really distracting you. You’re still on breakfast foods.”
“K, I got it. Hey, cream puff!”
“That’s better: appropriate and insulting. Well done.”
Barook dropped back to walk behind the boys, joining Koram, Kim’s guardian angel. They chatted softly about the day and Rodney’s attempt at fasting.
“Wait!” Rodney came to a dead halt, sticking his arm out in front of Kim’s chest to stop his forward momentum as well. “There’s a guy standing next to my car.”
Kim squinted toward the custardy orange 1975 Pacer Sundowner at the back of the parking lot. “Where? I don’t see anyone.”
“There, the guy in the really nice suit. He looks exactly like Jude Law.”
“The actor? The one who played Watson in Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.?”
“Yeah. He was also Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts, and Yon-Rogg in Captain Marvel, remember?”
“Yeah! No, I don’t see him.”
“Oh, great. That means he’s probably a spirit being. I wonder what this is all about. Let me do all the talking, K?”
“Dude, I can’t see these supernatural beings or hear them, so I think that’s a given.”
Rodney cautiously approached his car at the edge of the school’s parking lot. Barook offered instructions on the way. “Demons are angels of light. They use beauty, charm, and wit to fool you. Be careful.”
“Jude Law is a demon?” asked Rodney incredulously.
Barook didn’t want to reveal that the being who looked like Jude Law was actually Satan himself. “No, this demon seems like Jude Law to you because you regard that actor as handsome, charming, and stylish.”
“I do?” asked Rodney.
“You must” the angel responded.
“Well, maybe I do think he’s pretty chill.”
“Keep your tent flaps closed. Wait. Let me update that. Keep your yap shut. Close your pie hole. Demons cannot read your mind. Nor can angels for that matter. We are privy only to what you speak aloud.” By the time Barook finished his speech, the group had come face to face with the lord of the darkness.
“Cheerio. Cupcake?” asked Jude Law. A box from Sprinkles bakery sat on the roof of Rodney’s car. Kim saw the lid of the box blow open with a gust of wind but heard none of what Satan said.
“Banana, chocolate-marshmallow, or mocha flavor?” asked Satan.
Rodney’s stomach cried aloud with desire. “I, uh . . .”
“Here, try the chocolate-marshmallow. It has dark chocolate cake, marshmallow cream, and bittersweet chocolate ganache on top.” Kim watched a cupcake float out of the box and hover inches from Rodney’s face. He was dying to ask what was going on, but before he could, Rodney’s hands—working in cahoots with his empty, angry stomach—had grabbed the treat, ripped off the paper liner, and shoved half of it into his mouth.
“Oh mab, that’s goob,” the curly-haired, freckle-faced boy mumbled while chewing and swallowing. He attacked the rest of the cupcake as if the act of devouring it would solve more than just his hunger. Kim laughed. Barook rolled his eyes. And Koram shook his angel head.
“Yes, they’re delicious,” smiled the demon who resembled—and sounded like—an attractive middle-aged actor from South London. “Try the red velvet.”
Exactly one minute later Rodney had eaten six cupcakes. Jude Law held up a bottle of cold milk with a sly smile. “Thirsty?”
“Fine!” Rodney shouted. He grabbed the plastic bottle of milk that seemed to Kim to be magically floating in mid-air. While cracking open the security-sealed screw-top, Rodney groused, “My day of fasting has been a total fail, anyway. Might as well go for it.” This was killing Kim, but he kept quiet and wondered what would happen next.
“Yes, exactly, my friend,” the accuser purred in his perfect British accent. “God is already disappointed in you. Why bother trying so hard?”
Rodney wiped his mouth with his hand and looked over at Barook. The angel reminded him, “There is no condemnation in Christ, Rodney. Be not afraid. You have been forgiven your failures. You are not under the law, but the new covenant of grace!” Rodney looked down at his feet in shame and nodded, not quite convinced of this truth.
“Lord, I thank you that where sin exists, grace abounds” prayed Barook.
“Shall we go for a ride?” asked the charming man in the Prada suit.
Rodney shot Barook a questioning look. Barook just shrugged his shoulders and let Rodney make the decision. Barook had been informed by Adoram of the wager Satan made with God, so he wasn’t going to interfere. “Sure,” said Rodney, wondering where this day was going.