SETTING: A long, featureless, fluorescent lit hallway that seems to go on forever. Approaching footsteps and heavy breathing. Whoever’s approaching must be late — and worried about it. God steps into frame, a slip of paper clutched in his powerful (to hear him talk about it) hand. He peers at the number scribbled on it. It matches the room number above the doorway. This MUST be the place.
God straightens his tie. Gives his mighty (him again) head a shake as he clears his throat in a long roll of thunder. The timbre seems right. Reminding himself that he’s the one who created all this in six days damn it, he reaches for the door knob and steps into the next room like the monotheistic deity he is.
God comes up short on the other side of the door though. He wasn’t sure what to expect here. A respected bible scholar trying to make sense of unfathomable times or a world leader struggling with a terrible choice. Or a pope maybe. He definitely wasn’t expecting the attractive but business-like young woman seated across the very plain desk, a clutch of papers in her hands. From the look of the papers — the extensive wear on them, the young woman has gone over them relentlessly.
Like she was looking for answers on them. “Sheila,” she says, extending her hand toward God like he wasn’t the deity who created literally everything.
“Erm,” says God, uncomfortable but trying not to show it, desperate to do anything but shake her hand. The Young Woman has seen his discomfort. She withdraws her hand, never taking her eyes from his face. Finally his eyes meet hers.
“Sheila,” she repeats. “I’m Sheila.” She points to the folding chair on his side of the desk. Sits in the much more comfortable rolling desk chair on her side. The one with lower lumbar support.
God looks again to the folding chair, not quite sure how to fit his enormous, glowing magnificence into it. But, he’ll try. He reminds himself again, he’s the deity here. “Nice to meet you, Sheila,” he says, smooth as the Red Sea before it parted, “I’m God”. He sits, knowing it’s just a matter of time before he wins over Sheila–
“I know what job you’re here for,” she’s halfway through saying as God snaps to, “But god’s just your job description. It’s not actually your name.”
God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, over time, I’ve gotten used to it. We all have–“
Sheila’s looking at her smart phone. She’s found a source. “Says here your name’s Yahweh.” Sheila focuses on the fine print. “Yeah,” she says confidently, “Yahweh’s your name, not ‘God’.” She points her phone’s screen (with the “receipts” on it) toward God. “God’s” just your job description,” she says. “Is that true?”
God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, I did create everything,” he says, a little less ironically than he’d hoped to. “And that,” he says, leaning forward, “Is why I think you’d be crazy to believe in anything else but me.”
Sheila stares back, hard to read. Finally — “You probably know that members of my family believe in you”.
God leans forward even further, seizing the opening. “Of course I do. They’re great people. That’s why I love them–” He knows immediately: too much.
“Do you think my family believing in you speaks well of you?”
God hesitates. He’s sure of it: that was a trick question. “Perhaps,” he says, hedging, “We could agree that being a deity is hard and sometimes you have to move in mysterious ways?”
“Uh huh,” says Sheila, unimpressed. “Did you tell my Tanta Louise that she got cancer because she fooled around so much when she was younger?”
God starts to answer. Stops. “Erm,” he says (looking as uncomfortable as he feels), “Was I supposed to get some sort of notes about this?”
“You’re God, aren’t you?” says Sheila, making God feel much more like he was on a witness stand instead of a job interviewee’s chair.
“Is that a question?” asks God.
“Then you’re all-knowing, right?”
God knows exactly where this is going. He rolls his eyes. “There’s ‘all-knowing‘ and there’s “ALL-KNOWING“, know what I mean?” He hopes like hell the extra boom in his voice took a little of the wind from Sheila’s sails.
“So you don’t know my Tanta Louise or, at least, you don’t remember her, is that right?”
God studies his hands. They don’t feel very mighty right this second. His cuticles are looking rough. “What was that again your…”
“Tanta. Tanta Louise. She was my favorite aunt. She taught me how to live. But, smart as she is in some ways, she makes no sense in others. Like believing you gave her the cancer that nearly killed her.”
God squirms despite himself (flashes of lightning shoot this way and that). “Can we… talk about… you?”
She stares back, a little incredulous.
God presses on. “Things were different back when your beloved auntie was trying to figure things out. It’s true. People weren’t as broad-minded as they are now.”
“By ‘broad-minded’, you mean they don’t believe in you?”
God looks down. Stepped in it. “Now that door’s open,” he starts to tell himself–
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” says Sheila. God raises a hand to object. “Don’t,” says Sheila crisply. Down goes God’s hand. “Do you honestly think if no one mentions atheism that no one will think it?”
“It’s a little more complicated than that.” God looks down. Clears his throat — this time holding back on the rumble. “Know what special dispensation is, right?” He knows she does. She’s Catholic. “I’m taking it,” says God. “Different time and place.” He catches Sheila’s eyes. Holds them. “I, uh — I think I might remember this aunt of yours and, yeah — I might have said something along those lines — but there was context!”
Sheila and those damned eyes.
“She needed an explanation.”
“Did you give her the cancer?”
“What? No!” Suddenly God’s all knowing: “The office building she worked in was on a super fund site. Honestly, it wasn’t my fault. I’m sorry I said anything–“
“You couldn’t tell her the truth?”
“Nobody knew it then — Google it!” God sits back a little. Feels the first hint of breathing room. “Google it”, he chuckles to himself, “Man, that was genius.”
Again with those damned eyes.
“Are you all knowing or aren’t you?”
God’s been in this minefield. Doesn’t make it any easier. “Depends”.
“When my Tanta Louise asked you why she got cancer, did you tell her it was because of the building she worked in? No. You told her a lie — even though you knew the truth.”
God sits back in his metal folding chair. He tries to. Finally, he fixes Sheila with a stare of his own. “You’re very good, know that?”
“I’ve thought about it, yeah,” says Sheila. “I’m thinking about it now. What should I believe? What seems most true to me?”
“And that is why — if you’re looking for Truth, you can’t not go the monotheism route — sticking a pin in your Tanta Whatever — not literally of course!” Her eyes say “continue”. “Go with me here,” he says, kicking into full salesman mode, “Take it from a deity — all those other deities? They’re not deities. The don’t think they’re better than you, for one thing!”
He turns up his palms. Slowly realizes his faux pas. “What I meant was polytheism’s small because all its gods are small. You don’t want to believe in a small god, do you?”
“Why should I believe in any god?”
“First cause,” says God, throwing down the words like it ended the argument.
“Bull-shit”, says Sheila. “Where’d YOU come from then? Who created you?”
“Nothing did, don’t you get it?” says God. “I’m the first cause. The alpha, the omega, the beginning, the end, the peanut butter and the jelly.”
“I’m allergic to peanuts”
“Figures,” God starts to say, catching himself immediately. “What I meant was I know you’re allergic to peanuts because I know everything.”
“What’s on the other side of a black hole?”
God hesitates. “What’s–“
“On the other side of a black hole. You know what a black hole is, right?”
Pride a little wounded: “Yes, I know what a black hole is, I invented them, right?”
“If you invented them then you know what’s on the other side of one, right?”
“Well…” God stammers, “Some of these inventions of mine — they’re works in progress, know what I mean?”
“They ‘evolve’, you mean?”
“Exactly,” says God, not catching himself in time, “They evolve.”
To God’s surprise, Sheila smiles. “I’ve come to a decision,” she says, standing. God, feeling like he’s being led here, stands as well. “I’m not hiring you,” says Sheila.
Not the first time this has happened (especially not recently). God lets it roll off his shoulders. “You don’t have to decide anything today,” he says — having answered this objection a few kajillion times before.
“I don’t have to decide anything ever,” says Sheila. She sits back. Studies God. Starts to laugh — not at God, not at anything in particular. Finally, the laugh peters out. “Even if, some day, I decide to look you up,” says Sheila, “It wouldn’t be you that I’d be looking up. It’d be someone better. Something better — a better God, know what I mean? But that’s only if I felt like I needed to believe in a God to begin with.”
“Can I tell you how sorry I am that I lied to your auntie?”
“If I was going to invent a god,” Sheila says, indicating the door behind God, “I’d hope like hell I could invent a better god than you.” Sheila extends a hand. “Good luck in the future.”
God looks at her hand. He knows that she knows he isn’t going to take it. And just like that, he knows: he made her point again.
“Thanks for coming in.”