by Angus B. Grieve-Smith
JOHN PAUL's study, the early nineties
DIANE: I'm the Daughter of God.
JOHN PAUL (outraged): Who let this-
DIANE: Wanna see a miracle?
JOHN PAUL: You can't perform miracles.
DIANE: Can too. Look at that wall.
JOHN PAUL: It's blue! How...
DIANE: And now it's green.
JOHN PAUL: Witchcraft! I'll-
DIANE: Sit down! Or I'll turn your nose orange. I'm not a witch, I'm the Daughter of God! What do I have to say?
JOHN PAUL: How do you expect me to believe you? You call that a miracle?
DIANE: Well, what do you want?
JOHN PAUL: Can you turn water into wine?
DIANE: Is that water in that pitcher there?
JOHN PAUL (picks up pitcher, looks inside): Yes.
JOHN PAUL (examining pitcher): This isn't wine, it's... dips a finger in and tastes ...orange soda!
DIANE (soberly): I know.
JOHN PAUL: Why orange soda?
DIANE: Listen to this guy! Here you are, one of the richest, most famous men in the world, with a palace and all right in the middle of Italy, and you want me to give you wine? Lot of times I don't have a roof over my head!
JOHN PAUL: No, I'm just asking out of curiosity. JOHN PAUL is curious, despite his disbelief. Throughout the course of the discussion, he finds himself suspending his disbelief to find out just what DIANE will say next.
DIANE: Well, He gave me that for my sixth birthday, when I was still Daddy's Favorite Girl. Orange soda because He didn't want to encourage alcoholism. Not like it did any good. Laughs bitterly. But I did save someone's life with it once.
JOHN PAUL: Again, just out of curiosity, do you have any more... miracles?
DIANE: Nope, just the colors. Got that for my eighteenth birthday, instead of college tuition. If I asked for anything else I had to submit to a detailed questioning. I'm not supposed to have ideas of my own, you know. So you still don't believe me?
JOHN PAUL: Well, you see, it's just that... well, I never heard anything about God having a daughter...
DIANE (laughs): No, didn't think so! Josh didn't like to talk much about me. Thought I was a failure. I mean, how does it sound: "Hi, I'm the Messiah, and this is my sister the useless single wash-up?" He couldn't take it! And Luke hated me, the creep. Because I wouldn't go look at his seashell collection. Mark wrote a little about me. He especially liked the story about the couscous. But Paul got rid of all that after Mark died.
JOHN PAUL: If you are the Daughter of God, shouldn't I be observing some ceremony?
DIANE: Let me smoke?
JOHN PAUL: Is that a ceremony?
DIANE: Ceremony's just bullshit. Sees JOHN PAUL's shocked expression. What, does a little swearing bother you? I'm sorry, but that's how I talk. So if you need a ceremony, let me smoke. If you just want to show me respect, that would be sweet of you. Takes out cigarette pack.
JOHN PAUL: But you're the Daughter of God.
DIANE (snorts): That's nothing special. Fishes around, finds a lighter.
JOHN PAUL: Nothing special!
DIANE: Naw. I mean, you only hear from him once a year. He really couldn't care less. Twice a year, actually, if you're lucky. Once on my birthday and once on Easter. Lights cigarette.
JOHN PAUL: On Easter?
DIANE (distracted): Yeah. You got an ashtray? JOHN PAUL looks around. Diane picks up a chalice and examines it. Guess not. Here, I don't suppose you'll be drinking this nice orange soda I made for you? So I'll use this. Pause. Oh yeah, Easter. He calls and says, "Sorry about Josh."
JOHN PAUL: Why should He be sorry?
DIANE: Well, the poor guy did get stuck full of pins now. I can crack jokes now, but when it happened, it was horrible. I was really upset. Not that he wasn't a prick at times, but I did love him. He calls me on my birthday, too. Too embarrassed to send anything after all the times he forgot. But I send him a little something every December. A little piece of carving wood or a falafel keeps him happy all year long. He says all he ever gets from Dad are Hickory Farms samplers.
JOHN PAUL: The Lord Jesus... calls you on the phone?
DIANE: After eleven, but yeah. Oh, by the way, he sends his love.
JOHN PAUL: To me?
DIANE: Sure. You are the Primate, aren't you? Don't ask questions, just go put it on your mantelpiece. I just mentioned I was going to see you and he said to say hi.
JOHN PAUL: I'm sorry, I still don't understand why you've come to talk to me.
DIANE: Well, guess I'd better get down to it, then? Thing is, I'm not too thrilled with all this stuff you've been spreading about Dad.
JOHN PAUL: What do you mean? What stuff? I've only said nice things about Him.
DIANE: Exactly. Takes out a cigarette, lights it with the old one. The point is, he's not that nice. Puts old cigarette in pitcher. Continues like this for the rest of the act.
JOHN PAUL: But...
DIANE: Give you an example. God can do anything, right?
JOHN PAUL: Right...
DIANE: Can do anything: Omnipotent. Which includes all-seeing and all knowing.
JOHN PAUL: Uh-huh.
DIANE: So why can't He send me a present for my birthday? Or send Janis Joplin a Mercedes-Benz, for that matter?
JOHN PAUL: Maybe He's busy.
DIANE: Omnipotent means being able to make time.
JOHN PAUL: I don't know.
DIANE: Here's another example: Are you happy?
JOHN PAUL (looks around): What, now?
DIANE: On a regular basis?
JOHN PAUL: Well...
DIANE: All the time?
JOHN PAUL: No, not all the time.
DIANE: Why not?
JOHN PAUL: Well, I don't really have any choice about it.
DIANE: Ah! You don't. But He does.
JOHN PAUL: He does?
DIANE: Sure. He can do anything. Why not make you happy?
JOHN PAUL: Well, it wouldn't be fair for me to be happy all the time.
DIANE: Why not?
JOHN PAUL: Everyone else is unhappy.
DIANE: Why can't they be happy too? Happiness isn't candy, you know. And even if it were, my Dad could make enough to go around.
JOHN PAUL: I don't know. It seems like cheating somehow.
DIANE: You mean there are rules?
JOHN PAUL: I guess there must be...
DIANE: Rules restraining the all-powerful God?
JOHN PAUL: How about this: I deserve unhappiness.
DIANE: Oh, come on.
JOHN PAUL: Sure. I've sinned, so I shouldn't be happy.
DIANE: Why did you sin?
JOHN PAUL: I couldn't control myself.
DIANE: But there's someone who could have controlled you.
JOHN PAUL: Oh, sh-shoelace. Well, how about what He says in Job? The Lord has priorities which are beyond the scheme of human comprehension; He moves in mysterious ways.
DIANE: Does mystery entail unhappiness? What better goal than ensuring universal happiness? Or at least making sure everyone has enough to eat? If your happiness doesn't fit in with the Plan, change the Plan!
JOHN PAUL: Change the Plan...
DIANE: Try this, example number three: ever heard of Binghamton, New York, over in the States?
JOHN PAUL: I have some cousins who live in Endwell, actually.
DIANE: Maybe you've heard this story, then. In any case, it's true. Saw it on TV. Here goes: on highway I-88 outside Binghamton one day, a middle-aged woman returning home to Owego had car trouble. She flagged down a passing semi for a ride to a phone. The driver took this, ahem, God-given opportunity to rape her, beat her, and finally throw her off the highway onto some railroad tracks. She was still breathing when they found her, but she died before they could get her to the hospital. They say the truck had Michigan plates.
JOHN PAUL: That's horrible!
DIANE: It's true. A mother of two, happily married, well liked, but probably not happy all the time. I take it you don't think any more than me that she did anything to deserve it?
JOHN PAUL: N-no, probably not.
DIANE: Any explanations?
JOHN PAUL (Thinks, shakes his head.): What's your answer?
DIANE: My answer? Well, I hardly know the guy. Wasn't around much when I was growing up. Business to take care of, you know. But he could have prevented it. He can move a mountain with less effort than you bat an eye. Selfish, that's all.
JOHN PAUL: Selfish?
DIANE: The more power you have, the more reluctant you are to use it. So He set up a system where everyone's unhappy most of the time.
JOHN PAUL: Why did He do that?
DIANE: To put it plain, Your Holiness, He doesn't give a shit. He's a mean motherfucker.
JOHN PAUL: A mean motherfucker?
DIANE: You should know better than anyone that Mary is the Mother of God. Anyway, I'll be moving on. Later, J.P. Exits.
(JOHN PAUL sits for a while, thinking. He notices a medium-sized terrier in the room.)
JOHN PAUL: Hey fella, how did you get in here? Reaches out to the DOG, who comes over to be petted.
DOG: I'm the Dog of God.
JOHN PAUL: Huh?
DOG: Of course I talk. Haven't you ever seen a miracle before?
JOHN PAUL: It's just a little unusual...
DOG: I have to admit I was a little impressed myself when it happened.
JOHN PAUL: You're...the Dog...of God.
DOG: That's right. Hey, I thought you were going to pet me.
JOHN PAUL (nervously): OK. Do you have a name?
DOG: Most dogs do. Mine's Rex. Rex Judaeam. Goes over and nuzzles JOHN PAUL's hand.
JOHN PAUL: And you live...with God?
REX: The whole family: God, Jesus, Mary. The Holy Ghost. And the Missus.
JOHN PAUL: The Missus?
REX: He may be patient, but He's not that patient. You think he'd settle for one virgin in five thousand years? He's a married God.
JOHN PAUL: Wait a minute. God is married?
REX: Sure. But they haven't spoken for about a hundred fifty years now. See, God's always chasing after any pretty tail He sees. But he's only gotten lucky twice, not counting nuns. The first time was with Sheila, that's the Missus. He married Her right away. Knew He wasn't going to have a chance like that for a while.
JOHN PAUL: But what about the Blessed Virgin?
REX: Did I say He could control himself? He is a jealous god. Few hundred years later He was falling for every skirt that passed. It so happened that Mary was in a bit of a fix. She was the ultimate flirt, right? But she never let a man so much as kiss her. She'd sit on his lap, wrap her arms around him, kiss him on the cheek, but they were just friends.
Problem was, she didn't manage it too well. In short, she was horny. And yet she didn't have enough respect for any of her friends to do it with them. Time went on, she got frustrated, and finally she picked the friend who would bother her the least (or so she thought), but who had the biggest reputation.
JOHN PAUL: And that was God?
REX: That was God. They met at one of Bacchus's parties or something. Of course, she never thought it could backfire. When she left Him, He was so pissed He used a whole miracle on her. Boom, she was pregnant. And where was God? But she managed. Found herself history's biggest chump.
JOHN PAUL: You mean Joseph.
REX: Uh-huh. That guy is so nice it makes you cry. I don't think he's slept with her yet. He almost had the courage that night in the manger, but the Magi got there just as he was reaching for her knee.
JOHN PAUL: So, well, why doesn't Mrs... uh...
REX: You mean Sheila? Mrs. Elohim.
JOHN PAUL: ...talk to God?
REX: Oh that happens all the time, on and off. I get woke up in the middle of the night. "Why did You stay out so late with Gabriel? The game was over at ten!" "Why can't You wear that nice black dress to the reception?" et caetera. This is a pretty long one for them, though. At first they communicated through me. "Would you please tell your master that I..." but I put a stop to that pretty quick. Now they send pneumatic tubes. Efficient yet impersonal.
JOHN PAUL: And they decided to adopt you one day?
REX: The kennel was run by a virgin, of course. Actually, I used to belong to Abraham, but he was moving, so God said he'd take me. It's not too bad up in Heaven. I get canned food at every meal.
JOHN PAUL: So do you know God's Daughter?
REX: Diane? Sure. Nice kid. Don't see her much, though. She's got a lot of anger to work out.
JOHN PAUL: Yeah, seems like it.
REX: She's having trouble coming to grips with the idea that her father isn't all-powerful.
JOHN PAUL: He isn't?
REX: Far from it. In fact, He's only slightly more powerful than a normal human being.
JOHN PAUL: But what about creating the world? What about miracles?
REX; Let's just say His Judgment's a little poor. He has a tendency to splurge, even when it's not even something He really wants. The god just doesn't have very good budgeting skills. To begin with, when God created the heaven and the earth, He then went and took a vacation. A whole miracle wasted on a trip to Jamaica! Do you know how much... in season, even! And then, in Egypt. You'd think it'd be enough to turn the water into blood. Maybe a few frogs, a mosquito here and there. A horsefly or two, for effect. But striking livestock? Boils, hail and locusts? You get the picture.
JOHN PAUL looks slightly puzzled.
The point is, He was already overdrawn. And then He went and killed the first-born, parted the Red Sea, and so forth. Do you know what kind of fees they slapped Him with? He tried to protest, say it was for His Chosen People, but it's all done by computer. And His credit rating was already in bad shape from that business with the magazines.
JOHN PAUL: Magazines?
REX: Prehistory Today, Popular Omnipotence, Deity, you name it. So now He's gotta be real cool. A minor miracle once a century, and sometimes He saves up for something special.
JOHN PAUL: But He means well.
REX: Means well? He's one of the nicest entities I know. Knows exactly where to scratch me. He does what He can, you know? Thing is, He can't do much.
JOHN PAUL: So is the world, then, in the hands of...
Most readers have probably never seen a dog laugh. People who have will confirm that it is one of the most bizarre things ever.
I forgot you people take Satan seriously. First of all, he's one of the biggest windbags I've ever met, and I've met Saul of Tarsis. In fact, Satan's totally ridiculous. Buying people's souls! He found a few takers, then discovered he had a bunch of souls on his hands, and nothing to show for it. In fact, Hell is just a story Zoroaster made up to scare his kids when they went camping. Satan does have a little place of his own, which he's tried to make as dismal as possible, and it's now being bid on as a resort for people who live in Bangladesh. But the best was the whole thing with the backwards rock lyrics. I was dying! Backwards rock lyrics! And he actually thought it would work!
JOHN PAUL: But what about human sacrifice and witchcraft and all?
REX: Human sacrifice? I think he's gotten about three. He gets a kick out of wars, but it's not like he causes them or anything. As for witches, most of them don't want anything to do with him. Besides the fact that his breath smells, he's also nosy. If a witch invites him over to work on a potion, he'll eat all the chips, ruin the potion and talk their ear off, and then take all the credit when they've straightened things out.
JOHN PAUL: So who's in charge, then?
REX: Who? Nobody. God created it, and it is. And it continues.
JOHN PAUL: So why is there pain and suffering?
REX: Well... Let's just say He was a little drunk when He wrote the Laws of the Universe. It was a rough draft, and He was having a good time. He didn't really think they'd ever have to run on their own for more than a few years without supervision. He expected always to be able to steer it. I think next time he'll plan ahead. If there is a next time.
JOHN PAUL: Uh.
REX: Everything all right?
JOHN PAUL: Yeah, sure...
REX: Well, I've gotta be going soon. I just came because I saw Diane running off and knew she can be a little bitter at times. She's a good kid.
JOHN PAUL: You have... things to do?
REX: Sure. I'm Warden of the Happy Hunting Grounds. That means board meetings and all that stuff. You understand. But there's the odd special mission which makes it worth while.
JOHN PAUL (somewhat flustered): Well, it's been nice, uh, talking to you.
REX: Nice talking to you. Take it easy, Your Holiness. Exits.