by Marcella Morgan
Suzie was the kind of girl who, when she was at a gig, would spend the whole time taking pictures of the band with her mobile phone. That is why God gave her cancer.
God called this micro-management. It was a form of divine intervention that required him to live among his people, to watch them closely, judge them on the little actions of their lives, and punish or reward them accordingly. He spent his days giving fungal infections to old women who spent too long counting out their money in the shops, giving winning Loto numbers to flatmates who did the hoovering and cooked brownies for their other flatmates. He felt it was a much fairer way of doling out divine retribution.
The downside was he had to forgo omnipresence. He had settled in Galway for the time being, and spent his days watching boys banging their bongos on shop street, spent his nights in the Roisin Dubh, wearing his favourite high-waisted jeans and neon pink converse, drinking Bud from an Erdinger glass while he checked out the young ones in their body-con dresses. It was a pity really that, being God, he was out of everyone’s league. God always went home alone.
And he always finished the night with a bottle of Cape Reality from the Chinese, and two bags of prawn crackers. He loved those tasty little clouds he had flavoured with all the creatures of the sea. They really were the most magnificent of his creations. Little puffs of promise, they stayed buoyant on the greasy plate of his Chinese takeaway, greeted him unperturbed in the cold blue dawn of his hangover, still looking to be eaten, collapsing to a joyous nothing in his mouth. The prawn cracker existed only to be enjoyed.
Humans on the other hand were always looking to be saved. The Roisin depressed him, really. The young people, they had no respect for him anymore. Those prancing nihilists with their head shop highs and ambivalent sexuality, they treated him like a spiritual ATM machine – they called him when they were down all right, but you wouldn’t catch them on their knees praying when the times were good that’s for fuckin sure.
This was the generation that had relegated him to a lower case h, and could he blame them really? He hadn’t been performing very well of late. Gone were his halcyon days of great floods, of plagues and impregnating virgins, without them losing their virginity. To think he created the world in seven days. What had he done lately? Made a face appear in a tree in Limerick? Pathetic. Every now and then he’d intervene to set things right – save a dog who’d been trapped on an ice-float heading out to sea, and everyone appreciated those little miracles, but the big stuff, he just wasn’t up to it anymore. He was crippled by a feeling of plunging desperation, a bad thought that dropped like a rock into the deep well of his omniscient mind – it was all hopeless, his futile tinkering.
His creation had grown into a sprawling monstrosity, and things just happened now by themselves – he didn’t have the control that people thought he did. His initial divine action had set off a series of human reactions that had rolled away out of his grasp. He wanted to stand before humanity and say: Folks, it’s outta my hands. But how could he do that? He was God, he was all powerful, and if praying to him gave some people hope why not let them at it.
He did listen to the prayers – he had them on shuffle on his i-pod. He flicked through them as he walked the prom. Flicking forward before each prayer ended, and flicking faster until it was only the first sentence of the prayer he listened to, faster until it was the first word, faster and it was only the first syllable he heard, then only the intake of breath, the silent mouth open – God walked the prom flicking faster and faster and faster through the screaming silence of his children’s prayers.
And then he stepped into Freeney’s, in out of the rain. He sat at the bar beside a man who was staring at the wall, and ordered a pint of Guinness in an Erdinger glass. The man beside him nodded hello. God nodded back, watched his pint settle.
My dog died last night, the man said, She was old. Passed away in her sleep. Unusual for a dog to go peacefully like that – they usually have to be killed before they’ll die.
God folded his arms across his chest. Dogs like being alive, he said, that’s true.
The man stared at the wall a bit more, and then he stared a bit at the insides of his eyeballs, and then he stared at God.
Wasn’t that terrible though, he said, the earthquake there.
What earthquake was that? asked God.
The one there about a month ago, was it? In Africa.
God shook his head, Never heard about it, he said.
Well a lot of people died. It was terrible, the suffering – God them blacks they know how to suffer. I saw them on the news screaming and wailing – they know how to let it out.
God sucked the Guinness froth from his top lip and said, Better in than out.
And isn’t it true, the man said, my oldest she lost her first child there a year ago, still born. She cried and cried, we thought she’d never stop crying. The boyfriend, not a tear shed. He was strong for her, and he’s been the worst affected. Not working now. He’s started to get awful religious, my young one’s worried about him. He told me one night that he thinks that if he’d prayed more to God, he’d have saved the baby. I told him that if God does exist – he doesn’t give a fuck about us. And do you know what he said? He said – you may not have faith in God, but He has faith in you. I almost gave him a wallop.
So you don’t believe in God? asked God.
The man shifted on his stool, the piles were at him. I’m not saying I do, and I’m not saying I don’t. Because I don’t have to. The question of God, that’s one question I don’t have to answer. Did I tell you my dog died?
You did, said God.
I’m going to get a pup, for the youngest. She loves aminals. Has a rabbit. Calls him Roger – I’ve no idea why she calls him Roger, but she calls him Roger anyway.
God finished his pint and headed for home. When he got back to his palace in the sky he wandered through the empty rooms. They were cold, and they were dark. All his trumpets were rusty, all his angels fled. And God realised, though it wasn’t really a realisation – seeing as he has known everything for eternity – but God realised that the life had gone from his kingdom in the sky. And it was the life that had held the walls of the rooms together, that had held the bricks of the walls together, that had held the grains of the bricks together, the atoms of the grains…
But life is always moving on, said God as a slab of plaster fell from the ceiling, and all we can do is follow it. And then he sighed, settled down into his celestial armchair and turned on the telly. Repeats of South Park were playing back to back on the Comedy Channel. God laughed when Kenny died and then, feeling peckish, he dipped his hand into the sky over Galway and grabbed himself a fistful of tasty little clouds.