So a couple of nights ago I was downstairs watching my favorite program, Fabrics, Fabrics, Everywhere Fabrics. I was in the middle of a two-parter about raffia - very exciting stuff - when the local news station kicked in with a special report. After the cool "special report music," all trumpets and timpani, a haggard-looking weatherman appeared standing in front of a map of Rhode Island.
There was a lot of green, and it was heading my way.
The weatherman, top button undone, hair askew and tie strategically akimbo, told me of a gigantic storm heading our way, with dark skies, lightning, and hail.
"This one is going to be epic," he said, in the worried yet authoritative tone that they all learn. "This storm is going to be positively biblical."
Biblical? Ohhh man, I immediately thought. I'm getting company.
And I was right. Flicking my eyes to the sliding glass door next to the TV I saw Him, holding a white paper bag by the bottom. With His other hand He put His finger to His brow in a genial one-fingered salute.
He was dressed in a white caftan, flowing gracefully around His body, tied at the waist with a ribbon of purple fabric. His face was darker than it had been before, and He was sporting a thick moustache and beard.
"What's with the getup?" I asked, as I opened the door. He looked down at Himself and expressed mild surprise.
"Oh - I was just in Mecca," he said. "I'm Allah too, remember. Hey, what's that behind you?"
I turned around, only to see my family room, exactly as it had been. "What do you..." I started as I turned back around, only to see that he was now clean-shaven and wearing a sportcoat over a pinpoint oxford shirt, black pants and a pair of Ray-Bans.
"Made you look," he said, with a shadow of a grin curling about the corner of his mouth.
"What's in the bag?" I asked. It smelled good.
"Five Guys," He said. "Ketchup and lettuce, just like you like 'em. What in the hell happened here?"
"We're having company," I said. "Had to clean up." It was only too true. Downstairs had been cleaned up to within an inch of its life. There was no squalor to be found.
"Wow. Whoda thunk it, eh?" He said, handing me the bag as He pushed past me into the room to look around.
My last exchange with The Groovy One, Blessed be He, did not end well. I got some things off my chest and banished Him from my house. Said banishment was actually His idea; it made his appearance that much more surprising.
Now look: When I tell someone, deity or otherwise, to never again darken my door, I usually mean it. But Five Guys have the best burgers in the world. A Five Guys cheeseburger, with ketchup and lettuce, is a transformative experience to me, almost akin to Shamanistic Peyote Tuesdays. I didn't yet forgive Him but it got Him into my house. I made a mental note: Jaweh has some game.
"So," I started. "This time it's a hailstorm. Last time it was a tornado. Do You always announce Yourself with a weather event?"
"Call it a side effect of Me visiting Earth. God travels through the atmosphere, shit tends to happen. Nice work in here, by the way. How long did it take you?"
"Better part of a weekend. Listen, is there something You need? I wasn't aware that we'd reconciled. Can I help You?"
God looked at me, smile now unmistakably playing about His lips.
"I like you," He said as He sat down. "Of course I love you, yadda yadda yadda, I love everybody, but you? You, I like, as well. This probably doesn't come as a galloping shock to you, but I rarely hear a dissenting opinion in the circles I travel." He stood back up and leaned up against my pool table, hands in His pockets underneath His jacket in a posture of infinite comfort. "I get the impression you don't like Me much. That's not particularly unusual but you don't mind telling Me about it. Hell, you can look me in the eye and deny My existence to yourself. What'd you call me?"
"A convenient literary device," I said. "But you could be anybody or anything, including a delusion. You never watched TV?"
"No, never once," God replied, adrip with acerbity.
"Wow," I said. "Godly sarcasm. Bet You don't really get a lot of chances to trot that out, do You? Look, what are You getting at?"
"I'm going to lay it on the line with you, My son, because that's what I do." He paused and drew a deep breath. Gracefully he dropped to one knee. "Would you marry Me?" He asked, his face a mask of sincerity.
"Get up," I said, unable to conceal a grin. "I only date Jews...oh, crap. Nevermind that."
God smiled back. "Look, can I just come back from time to time? I like talking to you. You tell me things nobody else would. You'd be amazed at how often I get my ass kissed."
"I actually had that very thought a while ago."
"I know, My son. Comes with the job. I know you think there are matters that lay between us. We can talk about those - or not. I just want you on the payroll. Whaddaya say?"
"You're right," I replied. "There are matters between us. Am I supposed to just forget them and just be your pal?"
God looked at me, a long moment, without speaking. Even for an atheist - perhaps especially for an atheist - the effect of being slowly sized up by the Creator is unsettling.
"I promised to lay it on the line. The fact is, you're no better."
"Than You? You'd be amazed at how easily I can believe that."
"No," He said, that smile playing about His lips again. "No. You're no better than you were 48 hours after the funeral. But the bitch of it is, at this point, it's no longer about any one person. Let me tell you something, ok? Pain feeds on itself. The equation is simple. Pain plus pain equals more pain. You brood, you mope, you cry at a fabric softener commercial. You're in so much pain I'm amazed you're still breathing. But it has no longer anything to do with your Dad, does it?"
I stood there, stunned.
"Does it?" He persisted.
"Probably not," I replied, a bit shaky.
His laser-intensity relaxed and He exhaled.
"Well then," He said. "At least we know what we're dealing with."
"And what is that? You're the supposed all-knowing One... do you know?"
"Sure," He said. "But the important thing is for YOU to know. It's your head."
A short pause. From behind His Ray-Bans I could feel Him sizing me up again.
"But look, He said, seemingly breaking the mood, "let's talk about that later. Your burger is getting cold. Well, actually it isn't - you're welcome - but let's just sit down and eat, ok? We'll talk about whatever you want, or nothing at all."
I eyed the burgers and the fries he brought hungrily. "Fries soggy?" I asked.
"Nope," He said. "You're welcome for that, too."
Another short pause.
"OK," I finally said. "Just tell me you're not a Yankees fan."
"Not here I'm not," He said. "I may just be a convenient literary device but I'm not stupid."