Doug BerminghamCheese Monger || Writer
God in Slippers
God, finding himself momentarily distracted, a state which seldom occurred in his lifetime,
raised his head and listened into the foyer where he had just heard a loud and frantic pecking, like that of a wild bird.
His finger, the shape and texture of a sardine, kept place between pages 76 and 77 of a book of crosswords he had co-authored many years earlier but the rights of which he never sold, much to the disappointment of his agent. A few too many bad experiences with publishers, he had said at the time. After having rediscovered the volume only a few days earlier, he now struggled to solve even a single clue. Nonetheless, it was a comforting pasttime, one he sorely needed to distract himself from the tiresome rot in the porch ceiling, from the dusty tomato garden, the clogged stove vent whose fucntional failings forced God to construct a system of fans around the house to prevent the hysterical smoke alarm from sounding prematurely.
Indeed he had been flipping through the book for some time now, and the answer to 57 down on page 77, six letters for “Queen’s Honor,” was there on the very tip of his almighty tongue as he was interrupted by the commotion resounding from the foyer, where he now stood, where his eyelids now slivered in concentration, pupils now agape as they too seemed to listen for a continuation of the bird’s monotonous stammering. “A few years ago,” God thought, “she would have alighted on my bedside.” At that moment, seated comfortably, he fell into a state of immeasurable vacuity, as he sometimes did during yoga for instance. It was early, so God wore slippers.
He had little tolerance for pests, especially fretful and unpredictable birds lost in tiny closets alongside his favorite bomber jacket and Goretex boots. He rose and went to the foyer – ovular, with mauve granite flooring, and ancient tapestries donning the walls – he waited for the bird’s call for help. He had heard the sounds twice now, but after all he chose the sound originally and knew it to be a bird’s, Pica Pica, a Corvid, to be taxonomically exact, which God was very fond of being. Taxonomically exact that is. How else? It was the least he could do. All scientific endeavors were no more than tribute. Scientific journals dating back decades were stacked all around his house (used as plant stands mostly, but nonetheless...). He wrote letters to the editors suggesting alternative theories. He attended conferences in sandals and bickered with graduate students. They devoted entire lives to his work, studied him to a point of reverence. No one knew why they did it, only that it fit somewhere, were certain that whatever could be found filled an otherwise hollow cosmic hole, as though that was enough. He wanted it over with, to be done with the sinking feeling that they’d all be really disappointed.
He stood for eight minutes gazing on his tapestries, the dark rosewood furniture with velvet upholstery, foyer furniture his guests never sat in, on which he never even tossed his coat after returning from dinner or an afternoon walk, eight minutes waiting for the bird’s song to return. Standing shiftlessly by the front door, his eyes scanned the rays of morning sun that had barely burned the dawn dew off his front lawn. Beneath his breath, he cursed his own enigmatic presence and its stultifying effect on the bird and returned to the den and his puzzle on page 77.
Three o’clock: the house creaked and stretched in the afternoon sun. Still God had not finished his puzzle, nor had he made himself lunch. He was slumped, if you can picture it, in the floral patterened chaise-lounge purchased by his first wife, which he dragged from across the den to the foyer entrance so he could better hear the intermittant panic of the trapped bird.
He had collected many pieces of furniture throughout his marriages and divorces. Most of it went unloved; he simply hadn’t the time for them all. He would leave a chair unaccomponied for just a few days, after which it would become foreign, appear at-ease and unburdened. Happier without him. The chaise-lounge, by verdict of nearly all houseguests, party-guests, and passers-through, on which he now lay staring up at the ceiling fan, thinking of the tomatoes and whether they’d be ripe for dinner, was the least comfortable piece in the house. But there he lay, laughing at a quirky loop his mind had taken known only to himself, or remembering something he had planted long ago. He grabbed his book and erased 49-Across in exchange for 28-Down, eight letters “Green Racer.”
The bird, perhaps triggered by his burst of self-gratification, reawoke in its cell with a clatter. God sprang off his divan at the sound of it. There! Pica Pica, most certainly, he said, and began stroking his droopy ear lobe with delight and plotting. He scanned his infinite memory for some clue about how to resolve this trapped being in his home. The whole foyer shone green from the light streaking through the glass windows casting four trapezoids onto the carpet, bathing and sweating God’s feet within his wooly, unseasonable slippers. His eyes smiled deeply into himself, and his hand now drifted from his ear lobe to a nearby mole whose hairs called to him wistfully.
The day wore on, with God alternating between his supine puzzling and quick checks on the state of his captive.
At 6:00pm James arrived as usual with supplies for supper. God took his tan trench-coat and hat and they chatted about a weatherman’s trend of misinformation with their typical wit while James bustled around the kitchen. They ate sumptously a meal God adored: The Complete Paella: mussels, shrimp, chorizo – the works – all prepared with precision by his friend. He savored every bite.
After supper, James and God sipped tea while they eased into night of reminiscence and catching-up. God mostly listened and gave James an impromptu manicure. The subject of the evening: James’ now ex-fiance, midway through a highly stressful third year of a five-year Urban Planning masters program at Yale, recently exhumed a long-lost relationship with her undergraduate crew instructor, and with a one arguably premeditated actions effectively ruined their engagement. God listened on and at precisely the right time described an emotional barometer possessed by all humans that helps one gauge the relative risk-reward necessary to and underpinning most of life’s decisions. He then posited that James was experiencing a total loss of such a gauge as a result of this incident. James was unable to comprehend the meaning behind God’s remark, and God’s mind was far too flighty, excitable, irascible, and cataclysmically spiral- prone to remain focused for very long. God was an exquisite story-teller if he did-say-so-himself, with an incisive eye for detail. His stacked omnibus of unpublished work poised in the attic, awaiting certain interested parties after certain impending doom, holds a hitherto unknown
wealth of information on topics ranging from Feng Shui to animal grooming to the divine essence of soccer. To this his mind wandered as James prodded him for a more comprehensive analysis of his situation. Of course, God preferred to keep most of his work hidden away for now. It would certainly intimidate the likes of James and others who at present desperately needed the empathy of an equal.
God eventually tuned in.
“...but I’ve managed to even go out for breakfast for the past few days,” said James. “The cafe on Malone, where the construction guys go. You know they eat burgers at 10:00am? Ketchup, fries. Everything.”
“Forget her, God said, suddenly exhausted. “You’ll die soon. Isn’t that enough?”
“She didn’t even take anything she wanted. She gave me the dog. I wish she had waited until we got married. She could have taken the apartment.”
“I would not have advised against it,” said God.
James paused for a sip of tea when God mentioned offhand there was a bird probably starving in his foyer closet. Had been there since this morning, maybe earlier. There was an awkward silence as no bird sounds could be heard, not even from outside. Soon James’ hands began to shake, his teacup rattled against his saucer, and all at once he set down the cup, threw back his head and pinched his nose. Laughing destperately, he said: “Oh my my my my. I’ve caught a bloody nose. I mustn’t...be...carpet be saved!” With that he grabbed his coat, hat and exited the room. God remained seated, and let out a terse, befuddled giggle.
He had to admit, the situation was a bit frightful. Perhaps James was right to act as such. Outside a bird carves effortless flights out of infinity, maneuvers with the impeccable precision of a chef’s blade. Some even capable intercontinental travel. But inside a domicile, confined space, right angles, tope and mauve, glass...no wonder she panicked -with no landmarks to remember her path, no songs to guide her home, shrunken dimensions. The damage such a bird could inflict, especially around antiques. And now God caught himself tugging his earlobe, now his mole with unsightly hairs protruding, and now his earlobe once more...