One Day I Died
I wasn't really expecting a God, and if there was one I thought he'd be far too busy to see me, but there he was.
"Well?" I said. "You've got a lot of explaining to do."
"Boo!" he said, putting on a booming voice to intimidate me. I wasn't having any.
"Boo to you too," I replied. "Now, explain yourself."
"That's not the way it's supposed to work," complained God. "You're supposed to fall down before me, I pat you on the head, then you apologise to me for all the things you've done. I could strike you down, you know."
"And what would that make you?" I asked. I waited, tapping one foot. I tried tapping both and almost fell over, so I reverted to uni-tapping mode. "Well?"
"Mysterious ways?" suggested God, hopefully.
I shook my head, still tapping.
"This isn't one of your silly pieces, is it?" he asked suspiciously. "You aren't here to make fun of me?"
"That's for me to know, and you to know before you even asked it," I replied. My foot was getting tired so I tapped the other one instead.
God sighed. "Oh well," he said, "if I don't say anything I expect you'll just make it up, so what choice have I got?"
"None," I agreed. Both my feet were tired so I tried clapping my hands instead, but that just felt silly.
"You know the word -" he looked around to make sure nobody was listening "- willy?"
"I've heard of such a word," I conceded. By now I was snapping my fingers like a fifties finger-snapper from the land of Grease. That didn't feel right either.
"Well, strictly between ouselves," said God conspiratorially, "I don't give a flying fuck whether anybody uses the word -" he looked around again "- willy, but you have to pretend I do. Do you see?"
"Not at all," I said, nodding rhythmically.
"Does that mean yes or no?" asked God.
"Sorry," I said, "I was just foot-tapping with my head."
"I forgive you," said God. "I knew you'd apologise sooner or later."
"I'm still waiting," I said.
"Well, it's like this. I have to know whether you are willing to submit to a higher power. That's me, right? I mean, I'm the higher power. And I have to know that you'll do it without expecting any reward."
I had run out of body parts to tap or wave, so I gave him an encouraging leer.
"So I can't tell you what my will is because you'll think - ah, if I do that, God will love me and I'll get a front-row seat in heaven. On the other hand, I can't expect you to obey my will without knowing what it is. Are you with me so far?"
"Yurp," I said. I couldn't think why I'd said that, so I added, "Yes."
"The only way out of this paradox is for you to choose something, pretend it's my will, and stick to it throughout your life. Never saying willy, for instance."
"So that's why some people won't step on cracks in the pavement? They're pretending it's your will?"
"No, they're just nutjobs, but you've got the right idea."
"But what about all the thou shalt not kill stuff?" I asked.
"Well obviously you have to do the basics - be nice to others, don't be Coldplay if you can help it, obey the traffic cones. You don't need me to tell you that sort of thing."
"So I could have chosen anything at all? Don't eat pies, never dress to the right, don't play cribbage in the bath? As long as I believed it was your will, I'd be okay for a place in heaven?"
"Ah, well, it's not quite as easy as that." said God. "You see, if you truly believe it's my will, and that you'll get special treatment for obeying it, it becomes a selfish act. You have to do it without believing in it at all."
"You're nuts," I said.
"But I never tread on cracks in the pavement," said God, "and that's what makes me divine. Now, let me show you the door to the underworld."