I’m sitting on a bench in the park, feeding popcorn to the pigeons, when this guy in a yellow jersey rides up on a bike. He stops with the sun behind him. I can’t see his face, but he sure has big ears.
“Well,” he says, “There you are, finally.”
I give him a look – you know, like you give strange guys in funny shirts who accost you in the park. “So who are you, and whaddaya want,” I inquire, in a less than welcoming tone.
“What I want is to talk to you,” he said. “As far as who I am – with George Burns’ head and Lance Armstrong’s body, who do you think I might be?” He moved a bit and, sure enough…it was a strange sight, let me tell you.
“I’m feeling gullible today,” I said, “so with the mask and all, I figure you must be…”
“Shhh, no names,” he says. “Let’s keep it informal. By the way, if you don’t cash that rebate check from Minolta that you’ve got in your wallet, it’s gonna expire. Be a shame to lose fifty bucks.”
I give him the look again. “Whaddaya mean? What check? What is this?”
“Oh man,” says the guy, “you are forgetful, aren’t you? Remember that camera you bought back just before the winter holidays?”
“Holy shit!” I remember the check.
“Why do they always say that,” he remarks. “And there’s that hole in your right pocket. It gets much bigger, you’re going to start losing the knife, Space pen, flashlight and little tin of medication.”
“Listen, sport,” I say, “You know that much about me, you know I’m about to knock you off that bike and kick your ass!” (Like this guy couldn’t kick mine all the way to the curb if he wanted to – but, hey, you’ve gotta keep up the front. These people can sense weakness.)
“Oh, stop,” he says, “there’s no reason to get hostile. I’m here to ask a favor, not mug you – and I know what else you’re thinking, and you’re not that cute.
“OK, look. I don’t usually do this, but you know that habit you’ve got of writing on the palm of your hand?”
Instinctively I glance at my hand, and there are three letters – GOD – all in caps. Now you’ve gotta believe, I’m not senile and I didn’t write them there. Why would I write that on my hand anyway? In Old English script, especially. The guy, He, whoever, gets off the bike and sits down beside me on the bench. He starts throwing popcorn to the pigeons.
“I know it’s not supposed to be good for them,” he says, “but grain’s grain, after all, and I’ve gotta say, popcorn was one of My better ideas.”
The pigeons have formed a line, and are taking turns picking up popcorn, bowing to the guy, and walking off with it in their beaks.
I glance at my hand again. Nothing there.
I’m wondering what the – well, anyway, I’m wondering what’s next, when He – I guess He is appropriate – says, “You like to blog, don’t you?”
I must look pretty odd, because He says, “What? Like I’ve been doing nothing for the past few billion years? You think you’re the only ones who blog?”
I’m not believing any of this, really, but I don’t have much choice. It’s either that or run screaming from the park, and I’m not all that sure I could if I tried.
About then I notice that the bike has become a shopping cart full of junk, and there’s a homeless guy sitting next to me. The pigeons are gone, and the homeless guy is hand-rolling a smoke.
“I’d rather keep it low-key, now that I’ve made my point. Too much fancy stuff upsets the space-time continuum, or something like that.”
“Something like that,” I say.
“Yeah. Well, We didn’t give it a lot of thought In the Beginning. Then Einstein comes along with that General Theory, and all of a sudden it had to start making sense. We decided to just go with the flow, and I never did get it all straight. There are still a few details down at the quantum level…”
His voice trails off and He gets a dreamy look. I start wondering if the bench is going to dissolve, or something.
“But never mind about all that,” He’s back with me now. “There are a few things I’d like you to tell folks. They won’t believe it’s from Me, of course, but according to the rules I need to put the word out again before I do any smiting – and I’m definitely in the mood for some smiting.”
This is not making me feel secure. I sort of squeak, “Smiting?”
“Yeah, well, don’t worry about that. You’ll be OK, probably. Can’t say for sure. Free will, y’know. Heisenberg, and all that. But I’m more selective than I used to be, smiting. Sodom and Gomorrah was a mistake. I thought I needed to make a point. All those Others, y’know – make My mark, kinda let ’em know about the new Sheriff, if you get My drift. No strange gods, and all that.
“Then all of a sudden over the next couple of thousand years they all abscond. ’Ha,’ Vishnu says, ’You want ’em, You got ’em Big Boy! I hear there’s an opening in the Betelgeuse system,’ and POOF, It’s outta here. “I think it was the industrial revolution that turned the last of Them off – either that or the Einstein thing. Left Me holding the entire bag.
“Who knew? I figured, hey, they were in the trees a couple million years ago, how much trouble can they cause? Let me tell you, Buddy, all-knowing is one thing, but that free will is… Well, never mind.
“You have questions.”
“Good Lord,” I say, “I can’t imagine where to start!”
“Why not In the Beginning,” he says.
“Ah. OK. Did You – I mean all of you – I mean…why?”
“Oh no, not Us,” He says. “We came along with the Universe, and We have no more idea than you about what came before that.
“There are theories. Never know, probably. Some good people working on it, but We can’t seem to get past the Beginning in one direction, and when We go in the other We eventually end up back at the Beginning. Some things are just out of Our Realm.
“Tell you what, though, there’s gotta be some heavy hitters on the other side. We think it may be some sort of aquarium – you know, get it all set up and see how things work out. No One’s sure. And it all happened so quickly! Let me tell you, for a couple of picoseconds there, it was all catch up!
“When We finally got things organized, turned out no One had thought to take notes. We spent a few million years just playing around, talking about it, creating gravity and stuff, then Someone – I think it was one of the Guys from the Lesser Magellanic Cloud – says, “Hey, let’s make some pets of Our own!”
“Pets,” I gulp.
“Yeah, sort of aquariums, like I said. Turned out, though, that no matter how carefully We set one up it wouldn’t last. A few billion years and pow! A supernova or red giant or something, then a brown dwarf or a black hole. Took billions of years for anything interesting to happen. That’s one place where Einstein and the others have been a big help. We aren’t all that heavy on theory. First bunch that’s got this far with it, far as I know.
“Anyway – since everyone went off and left Me in charge, I figured I’d just let things run for a while. Thought I was going to lose the whole shebang not long ago, but so far so good. I’m thinking I may be the first One in this galaxy to have a system evolve beyond the savage phase, I do a little preventive maintenance. What I want you to blog about, in fact.”
“Rules. Before We do any smiting, We have to give you a chance to straighten things out. I’m really anxious to make this thing work, but as you people say, ’you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs,’ and there are quite a few bad apples in this barrel.”
I figure it isn’t the time to mention mixed metaphors. Instead, I say just what you’d say, “Why me?”
“Why not you,” He says. “You’re reasonably bright, and you have a blog. Those are the requirements – that and a halfway open mind. All I need. I talk to you. You publish. No one believes you. Rules are satisfied. I smite. Either that or it looks like you guys are going to self-destruct without the bloody bombs. I gonna hate it if that happens. Five billion years is a long time to waste, even for Me.
“So, here’s what I want you to write…
“First off, tell them that no one, I mean no one knows My Will, and it really pisses Me off when people say they do! I’m a Transcendent Being. Unknowable! The part you’re talking to is no more than a fingernail clipping, and I’m using it because the mountain and tablets thing caused too much trouble. Thought I’d be more folksy this time.
“Oh, by the way…the burning bush…that wasn’t Me. That was back when a lot of Us were around, and I’ve always suspected it might have been Loki or that Raven character, or maybe one of the Dragons. Sure confused that bit of mythology, let me tell you!
Anyway…no one knows My Will. Mind your own business and let others mind theirs. That’s My Will, but of course you all have your own, so that ain’t about to happen.
“Next thing: Stop screwing up the planet! Don’t pee in the pool! Get it? I’ve put a lot of work into this place. It wasn’t easy figuring out how to keep all that carbon out of circulation, and now you’re messing it all up. The scientists are right. Politicians are wrong. That’s that. And chlorofluorocarbons? Who would have thought? Turn My back and bam! You figure out another way to throw it all out of kilter. I had to rebuild the world economy to get rid of the bombs, and now you seem to want to go out with a whimper instead of a bang, like what’s-his-name said.
“I gave you everything you needed to have a good life here, and Greed took over. I’m gonna have to open a can of whoopass any day now, things don’t straighten out!
“Another thing: I’m not male or female. I have no gender, and neither do any of the rest. If you want to think of Me as male or female, or a hermaphrodite, have at it. But don’t let Me catch you trying to use it as an excuse for exploiting gender differences. There’s been enough of that garbage, and it had better cease, forthwith.
“Last thing is, be nice to each other. Live that Golden Rule thing. I didn’t give anyone the divine right to lord it over anyone else. You overgrown anthropoids have been doing it for two million years now, and I want it to stop! We didn’t let you evolve the big brain and opposable thumbs so you could keep on acting like your cousins.
“You didn’t listen to that kid Siddartha, you didn’t listen to Jesus, or Mohammed, or Gandhi or Rodney King or any of My other messengers, but you’d better hear this! You know that last shall be first and first shall be last stuff? THAT’s my gospel! I haven’t decided about a Judgment Day yet, but I’ll tell you – if I have one, there are a lot of folks who are going to be real surprised! I’m tired of you people using Me as an excuse to act like animals. Jihad My ass! Kill someone in My name from now on, and I may change My mind and create Hell after all.”
He pauses, and then, “So, that’s about it. Any questions?”
“Good, then. Go publish your blog – and listen, the guy was right: a prophet is without honor in his own land. No one’s going to believe this, but that’s their problem. You’re not going to believe it yourself. But you’re a writer, and writers write. That’s your curse. Toodles!”
I keep going back to the same bench. I sit there and toss popcorn to the pigeons, and I listen for the whirr of an 18-speed, or the rattle of a shopping cart. So far I haven’t seen anyone, and I’d think it was all in my head–except for the pigeons.
They still form their lines, and they still bow.
But now, they’re bowing to me!
©William E. Webb, 2005 – all rights reserved