God gave a gala, a levee at the Lord’s.
All Heaven turned out.
“Gimme,” He said, that old time religion.” His audience beamed. They cheered, they ate it up. They nudged each other in Paradise.
“What did I tell you?” He demanded over their enthusiasm.
“It’s terrific, isn’t it? I told you it would be terrific. All you ever had to do was play nice. Are you disappointed? Is this Heaven? Is this God’s country? In your wildest dreams-let Me hear it. Good-in your wildest dreams, did you dream such a Treasury, this museum Paradise? Did you dream My thrones and dominions, My angels in fly-over? My seraphim disporting like dolphins, tumbling God’s sky in high Heaven’s high acrobacy? Did you imagine the miracles casual as card tricks, or ever suspect free lunch could taste so good? They should see you now, eh? They should see you now, trembling in rapture like neurological rut. Delicious, correct? Piety a la mode! That’s it, that’s right. Sing hallelujah! Sing Hizzoner’s hosannas, Jehovah’s gee whiz! Well,” God said, .1 that’s enough, that will do.” He looked toward the Holy Family, studying them for a moment.
“Not like the creche, eh?” He said.
“Well is it? Is it?” He demanded of Jesus.
“No,” Christ said softly.
“No,” God said, “not like the creche. just look
at this place- the dancing waters and indirect lighting. I could put gambling in here, off-track betting. Oh, oh, My costume jewelry ways, My game show vision.
Well, it’s the public. You’ve got to give it what it wants. Yes, Jesus?”
“Yes,” Jesus said.
“It just doesn’t look lived in, is that what you think
“Call on someone else,” Christ said.
“Sure,” God said.
“I’m Hero of Heaven. I call on Myself.”
That was when He began His explanations. He revealed the secrets of books, of pictures and music, telling them all manner of things-why marches were more selfish than anthems, lieder less stirring than scat, why landscapes were to be preferred over portraits, how statues of women were superior to statues of men but less impressive than engravings on postage. He explained why dentistry was a purer science than astronomy, biography a higher form than dance. He told them how to choose wines and why solos were more acceptable to Him than duets. He told them the secret causes of inflation-“It’s the markup,” He said-and which was the best color and how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. He explained why English was the first language at Miss Universe pageants and recited highlights from the eighteen-minute gap.
Mary, wondering if she showed yet, was glad Joseph was seated next to her. Determined to look proud, she deliberately took her husband’s hand. So rough, she thought, such stubby fingers. He explained why children suffered and showed them how to do the latest disco steps. He showed them how to square the circle, cautioning afterwards that it would be wrong.
He revealed the name of Kennedy’s assassin and told how to shop for used cars.
From Stanley Elkin’s novel The Living End.