Tag Archives: God stories

Down With The Kids

A crazy golf course has been installed in a Church of England cathedral at Rochester in Kent to help build bridges with younger people (www.anglicannews.org) ….

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All morning something had been bothering the Archangel Gabriel, some sense that something was different, a gentle pawing at his brain like a puppy wanting to go for a walk. Eventually he realised what it was.

The Heavenly Choir was singing Rihanna’s Umbrella.

Gabriel sighed. What has He done now, he wondered.

He went and found God, who was staring perplexedly at a list on a clipboard. He looked up at Gabriel.

“I know I’m supposed to be omniscient,” said God, “but what on earth is Bingo Loco?”

“Search me,” shrugged Gabriel. “Perhaps it’s bingo for mad people, if that’s not tautology.”

“Mmm,” said God. “What about ‘prinking’?”

“Oh, I know that one,” said Gabriel. “It’s pre-drinking drinking.”

“What?” said God.

“You meet up in someone’s house and have a few drinks before you go out drinking,” explained Gabriel.

“That makes no sense,” said God. “It’s like having a nap before you go to sleep, or pouring rainwater on your head before you have a barbecue.”

Gabriel shrugged again. The process made his wings pop briefly above the level of his head, making him look like the White Rabbit. “Well, that’s what young people -”

He stopped, and looked at God. “I know what you’re doing,” he said. “You’ve seen where that cathedral in Kent put in a crazy golf course to attract young people, and you’ve decided to try it here.”

God nodded, a little sheepishly.

“Why?” asked Gabriel.

“Well,” said God, waving his arm around, “the people here now, well, er, they’re all very nice and all -”

“Obviously,” said Gabriel. “It’s kind of a pre-requisite for getting in.”

“- well, yes,” said God, “but they’re a bit, well, old.”

Gabriel raised an eyebrow at Him. “This,” he said, “from the being who has been around since the beginning of time.”

“True,” said God, “but this lot act old. They spend all their time moaning that modern footballers are softies, that rap music is just noise, that summers used to be sunnier. They start every sentence with ‘In my day’ and then bang on about how great it was, despite the fact that their day, depending on their age, typically featured something like the Black Death, or outdoor loos, or Dynasty. I thought some younger people might liven the place up a bit, so I’ve been looking up Generation Z, as I believe they’re called, to see what they’re interested in.”

“And what have you found?” asked Gabriel, intrigued in spite of himself.

“Well,” said God, “they think they’re the greatest generation that has ever lived, but all the generations above them think they’re feckless and entitled.”

“No change there, then,” said Gabriel. “That’s been going on since Adam and Eve thought their kids had it easy because they got to wear clothes.”

“Indeed,” said God. “Also, they are very concerned about the environment.”

The two of them looked briefly around them, drinking in the gentle warmth and sense of peace.

“Sorted,” said Gabriel.

As if on cue came a shrill drilling noise. Gabriel looked around to where St Eligius, Patron Saint of Electricians, seemed to be at work.

“Why is he standing on a ladder,” asked Gabriel, “although the ladder itself is standing on nothing and he can fly anyway, and why is he drilling a hole in the air?” (and why is it, he thought to himself, that although he’s clad head to foot in a celestial robe I still get the faint sense that I can see his butt-crack?).

“Appearances and tradition,” said God. “You know how important I think they are.”

“I do indeed,” sighed Gabriel. “St Peter’s been asking you for years to introduce automatic check-in at the Pearly Gates, says it would save him hours of paperwork, but you keep turning him down because of appearances and tradition.”

“They reassure the customers,” said God, “who expect everything to be exactly as they’ve read about. Otherwise we wouldn’t actually need the Gates at all.”

“What’s Eligius doing anyway?” asked Gabriel.

“Putting in wi-fi,” said God.

“Wi-fi?” exploded Gabriel. “What happened to tradition?”

“Meh,” said God dismissively. “We need wi-fi so that the young people can -” he looked down at his clipboard – “‘Netflix and chill’.”

There was a short silence.

“I think you’ll find,” said Gabriel eventually, “that that doesn’t mean what you think it does.”

God looked confused.

“Look,” said Gabriel, “none of this is going to make young people want to come here, because there’s only one way of getting here, and they don’t want that. They have their whole lives in front of them, young lives at that, full of fire and passion – passion for causes, and for partners, and for living. Loves and break-ups, friends and unfriendings, joy, despair, boredom, Twitter, the Kardashians, Pride parades, hysterical tears but also hysterical laughter.”

“Sounds like hell,” said God.

“Sounds like life,” said Gabriel. “Let them live it.”

 

 

 

Written In Stone

“…. and finally, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods,” read the Burning Bush. “Got them?”

“Yes, I think so,” said Moses.

“I suppose you’ll want me to explain what ‘covet’ means,” said the Burning Bush. “It means-”

“It means ‘yearn to possess’,” said Moses.

“Oh,” said the Burning Bush, a bit crestfallen. “You’d be surprised how few people know that.”

“You reckon?” said Moses. “Over the past few weeks I’ve had the sea open in front of me, had manna drop from the sky whenever I’m hungry, and I’m now talking to a flaming shrub. You’d be surprised how hard I am to surprise.”

“I see your point,” said the Burning Bush. “Well, anyway, what do you think?”

Moses looked at the list for a long time. “It’s a bit all over the place, isn’t it?” he said at last. “I mean, why is thou shalt not kill number five? I’d have thought it would be higher than ‘go to church on Sunday’ and ‘don’t forget Mother’sDay’, but it’s stuck down near the unimportant stuff like don’t fart in public. Which, not that I look at it,” he went on, “doesn’t seem to be on the list.”

The Burning Bush looked at the stone again. “You’re right,” it said. “We may have to do an addendum later.”

“Also, my neighbour seems to be coming out of this better than I am,” said Moses. “Which is ironic since we live in the desert at the moment, but in any case the nearest thing I do have to a neighbour is Aaron in the next tent, who’s about a hundred-and-seven, and whose wife looks like a donkey, and whose donkey looks like a clothes rack. I can’t see myself over-coveting there.”

“Yes,” said the Burning Bush, “but you have to remember that you are Aaron’s neighbour.”

Moses thought about this, and about the lovely Mrs Moses, and about the way Aaron sometimes looked at her. His eyes narrowed.

“The dirty git,” he muttered. The Burning Bush was so startled by the vehemence in his voice that its flame momentarily popped out, then back on again. The effect was rather like a sneezing firework.

“Anyway,” said the Burning Bush, “I want you to take them back to your people -”

“It’s you, isn’t it?” said Moses.

“Er, who?,” said the Burning Bush.

“God,” said Moses. “You’re just God in disguise. I mean, Zeus does it all the time, appearing as swans and stuff -”

The Burning Bush glowed white-hot, as if in fury. A single finger of flame snaked out and pointed at the First Commandment.

“Er, not of course that Zeus exists,” said Moses hastily. “I just thought that you were so amazing that you had to be him.”

“Well, he does like his messengers to make an impression,” said the Burning Bush. “He feels it helps re-inforce the message. After I’m done here, I’ve to go off and start practicing to be a Star in the East.”

“Really?” said Moses. “Well, I suppose I’d better get back to the others. Let me run through these one last time. ‘First, I am the Lord thy -‘”

“Oh, you don’t have to memorise them,” said the Burning Bush. “Take the tablet with you.”

“Tablet?” said Moses.

“A flat thing with information on it,” said the Burning Bush. “We’re expecting them to be very big one day.”

Moses put his two hands under the stone and lifted it. The top caught him under the chin, ramming his jaws against each other.

“Very big?” he snorted. “It’s smaller you should be making them.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” said the Burning Bush.

Moses started down the hill, but had only gone a couple of yards before he caught his sandal in the hem of his robe. He stumbled, and the stone dropped onto his toe, then lay face upwards on the ground. Moses yelped and hopped in a circle, holding his foot.

“Ah-” he began, loudly, then quickly scanned the stone. “-bollocks!” he continued, almost triumphantly.

The Burning Bush sighed. “The list really does need work,” it said.

 

It’s A Surprise

“It’s called what?”

“Secret Santa,” said Adam.

“Why is it called that?” asked Eve.

“Well,” said Adam. “because it’s a secret.”

“And Santa?”

“I’m not sure, really” admitted Adam, “though whenever I hear the word I get an image in my head of a man with a beard, giving you stuff.”

“God, you mean,” said Eve.

“Not quite,” said Adam doubtfully. “Anyway, do you want to do it?”

“Guess so,” said Eve. “How does it work?”

“Well, you draw a name out of a hat -”

“What’s a hat?” asked Eve.

“It’s something you wear on cold days,” said Adam.

“What are cold days?” asked Eve.

Adam sighed. The perfection of the Garden of Eden very occasionally had its drawbacks.

“Forget that part,” said Adam, holding out one closed fist. “You can draw the name out of my hand.”

He opened the fist and Eve looked into his palm. “There’s only one piece of paper,” she said.

“Well, of course,” said Adam. “You can’t get yourself.”

Eve picked up the paper and opened it. “It’s you,” she said.

“You’re not supposed to tell,” said Adam. Eve glared at him. “This is a stupid idea,” she said.

“It’s tradition,” said Adam.

“Tradition?” snorted Eve. “This is year nought.”

“Well, traditions have to start somewhere,” said Adam. He picked up another piece of paper, and studied the name written there.

“Why, honey, whoever did you get?” asked Eve sweetly. Adam ignored her. “Meet you back here in an hour,” he said.

They met an hour later. “You go first,” said Eve, excitedly.

Adam handed her a fig-leaf.

“Seriously?” she said. “in a garden that has absolutely everything, including roses, diamonds, adorable kittens, and everything that you would need to build an iPhone 8, and I don’t even know what that last thing is, I just know that I want one, you decided to get me a leaf?” She sat it on the top of her head. “Perhaps I could wear it as a hat,” she said scornfully.

“I’m sorry,” said Adam. “For some reason I thought you’d really want it.”

Eve raised her eyes to heaven. “Look what I got you,” she said, handing him an apple. “It’s the only one of its kind.”

“Oh, wow.” said Adam, impressed. “You shouldn’t have.”

“You’re not wrong there,” muttered God, looking down unnoticed from above.

Adam and Eve sat in silence for a few moments. Then Eve spoke. “It’s strange,” she said, “but I suddenly feel that this fig-leaf is the best present anyone’s ever been given, ever.”

“Me too,” said Adam, surprised. “In fact, will you get me one for Christmas?”

 

Exploded View

“So basically,” said Gabriel, “you’ve got the whole world in your hands.”

It was Creation Day One, and God was holding a small orb.

“Not exactly,” said God. “In fact, it’s the whole universe.”

“The question is,” said Gabriel, “why?”

“Omnipresence,” said God. “Have you any idea how hard it will be being everywhere at once when everywhere is, well, everywhere? This way I can carry everywhere around with me, so that I’m always there and won’t have to work as much.”

God waved his hands expressively as he said this, and the universe slipped out of his palm. Gabriel watched as God dived after it. “You should put in in your pocket,” he said when God came back. “Otherwise you’re going to keep dropping it every time you wave at something, or feel the sudden urge to dance to YMCA.”

“Good idea,” said God, trying to put the universe in to the pocket of his robe. “It won’t fit,” he said. “I’ll just squeeze it a little tighter –“

“Er, that’s a bit dense,” said Gabriel, looking nervously at the universe.

“It’s not dense at all,” said God huffily, “it’s a perfectly sensible –“

The universe suddenly shrank into tiny ball of infinite darkness. God let go of it, gently, and looked at Gabriel.

“Run,” he said.

They only got a few steps before it happened.

There was a big bang.

There was a flash of brilliant light, light which expanded until it illuminated every farthest corner of absolute distance.

“Yes, well that had always been my plan,” said God. “On the first day I’d planned that there would be light.”

“Good idea,” said Gabriel, “because now we can see what’s coming next.”

Following the expanding light came, well, everything. God and Gabriel ducked as galaxies flew past, stretching as they went. Pluto flicked a few feathers from Gabriel’s wing as it rocketed past on its way to the far reaches of the solar system. Several of Jupiter’s moons shot by, like popcorn bursting from a faulty microwave. Uranus hit God a ringing slap on the bum, because schoolboy humour has been around since before the beginning of time itself.

Slowly things slowed. The universe solved its own jigsaw puzzle, and everything fell into place. God turned to Gabriel, who was wearing Saturn’s rings on his head, which would later give God the idea for the halo. He pointed to a particular planet, which from that distance looked blue and green.

“Ok, I’ll go more slowly,” said God. “I’ll start by working on that one.”

 

 

First Among No-One

Kinderspiel

Today’s Flash! Friday is 200 words based on the above photo, with the theme of Man v Man…..

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Adam yawned, so widely he could hear his jaw crack. “God, I’m bored,” he said.

“How could you be?” said God. “You have the whole world.”

“What I have,” said Adam, “is a garden full of nothing and a tree you won’t even let me climb.”

“Talk to the animals,” suggested God.

“I think you’re mixing me up with somebody else,” said Adam.

“There isn’t anybody else,” said God.

“That’s the problem,” said Adam. “I need someone to pit my wits against. I need to be challenged.”

“Very well,” sighed God. “I Spy, with –“

“Oh, for Your sake,” said Adam. “I’m not playing that again.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s too hard against someone all-seeing. Last time your ‘something beginning with A’ was the Andromeda nebula.” He yawned again. “I’m going for a walk,” he said. “Down to the angels with flaming swords and back.”

“Wait, “said God. He pointed to his toolbox. “As it happens,” he said, “I have some bits left over from you – ribs and stuff. I was thinking of making you a companion.”

“Another man?” said Adam.

“Sort of,” said God.

“And will I find him –“

“Her.”

“- and will I find her challenging?”

“You have no idea,” said God.

Lest You Be Judged

*

There’s no book. I found this disappointing. I believe in tradition, and on Judgement Day there should be a book. A Book, in fact.

Instead, when I reached the top of the queue God flicked through a filing-cabinet, held up a sheet of paper and looked me in the eye.

“Your sins,” he said.

I looked at the sheet.

“That doesn’t look too bad,” I said.

God lifted it higher. It turned out to be like that old computer-paper. Sheet after sheet unfolded, the whole thing stretching out like the toilet-roll after the Andrex puppy has run away with it, leaving the kid sitting on the toilet yelling to his mum.

When it finished God was visible only from the waist up, his lower half looking like a Jane Austen heroine sitting down in a ball-gown.

“Bloody hell,” I said.

He started to read. White fibs, pulled pig-tails and knick-knocks filled the early pages. The teenage years featured smoking, underage drinking and desperately hoping to get off with girls, which God said qualified as “coveting thy neighbour’s ass”. The adult pages mentioned tax returns with small “errors” – he actually made the quotation-marks sign with as fingers as he said this -, speeding, and a hatred of the song “The Fields Of Athenry”.

The list seemed to go on forever, which unfortunately we had. Eventually, though, he reached the very last line.

“Swearing,” he said, “by saying the words “bloody hell” while standing in front of the Lord.”

“Hang on, that doesn’t count,” I said. “If this is Judgement Day then the contest is over. Adding stuff on now would be like the judges giving an ice-skater a load of 5.8s, and then changing them to 4.1s because she slipped onto her bum on the way off the ice.”

God considered my argument. God saw that it was good.

“Very well,” he said. “We’ll work with what we’ve got. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“The Devil made me do it,” I said.

“Get stuffed,” said the Devil, who I hadn’t noticed sitting behind God, like the other bidder at an auction. “You can’t blame any of it on me. I was too busy starting wars to make sure that you farted on a crowded bus.”

“Have you any other argument to offer?” asked God.

“I’ve done some good things,” I said. “I’ve held doors open for people, I’ve given directions to lost tourists, I’ve put money in the collection-plate at mass – well, I never took any out, like my friend Jimmy used to do.”

“A bit feeble,” said God. “Anything really impressive?”

“I fought in the French Resistance,” I said.

“You were born in 1957,” said God.

“Ok,” I admitted. “I root for the French Resistance in war films.”

“That’s not enough.”

I knew when I was beaten. I began to gather up my worldly goods, ready for my trip down the Stairway From Heaven.

“Wait a sec,” said God, “you play the harp.”

“How did you know?” I said.

“I know everything,” said God.

“Yeah, right,” snorted the Devil. “The shape of the case he’s carrying is a huge clue, it’s probably not a ukulele.”

“You’re in, so,” said God.

“Really?” I said.

“Yes,” said God. “Since the invention of the bloody guitar no-one plays the harp anymore. I’m running out of angels.”

Return To Sender

Recently I wrote a story about Mary Poppins, and was a bit surprised by one of the comments I received.

It was from Mary Poppins.

It was sent from this lovely website here, and I have to say that I was thrilled that they (sorry, she) would take the trouble to come along and comment, and do so in keeping with the tone of what I had written.

Very few of the subjects of my stories write back. Hamlet, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, The Loch Ness Monster, Captain Kirk, William Wordsworth and Pavlov’s cat (yep, cat) have all featured here and not one of them has felt the urge to reply.

Snow White hasn’t either, which perhaps isn’t surprising. I did write one nice story about her, but in another one I made it clear that I thought her the thickest person on the planet, and in yet another I had the Mirror on the Wall call her a minger.

God hasn’t commented either, despite appearing in several stories. It can’t be that he doesn’t know about them, so I can only assume that he’s miffed at me.

Perhaps it was the one in which I applied to the Vatican for his job, and got it, that upset him.

Last Call

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “late”…

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It had been a long day. But then, Judgement Day was always going to be. All of mankind having a list of their deeds read to them, then each being allocated to a particular line, was always going to take ages, like being in the “ten items or less” queue in a supermarket.

Most of Earth was in ruins, because War, Chaos, Famine and Pestilence had turned up, as foretold, and that’s a lot of crap for a planet to put up with all in one day.

The Devil had taken his people with him, through the door that read “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, being nasty gets you in as well”. The more fortunate had gone upstairs, where even now they could be heard practicing for the choir. Billions of voices were making a fairly bad first attempt at Hound Dog, and not for the first time God wondered whether it had been a mistake to make St Elvis choirmaster. Oh, well, he thought, they’ve plenty of time to get it right.

He was just starting his way up the stairway to heaven himself when out of the corner of his eye he saw something move. He turned. There was a man standing there.

“Sorry,” said the man. “I’m late.”

“For Judgement Day?” said God. “How could you possibly be late?”

“Oh, I’m always late,” said the man cheerfully. “My mum used to say I’d be late for my own funeral.” He looked at the devastation around him. “Funny, I’d always thought that was just an expression.”

“But where were you?” asked God.

“I was asleep,” said Dave.

“Seriously?” said God. “You slept through the clarion calls of the Angels? The trumpets? The weeping and the gnashing of teeth?”

“Gnashing of teeth is not actually that loud,” said Dave. “I doubt it’s ever woken anyone. As for the rest of it, two words – ear muffs.”

“Isn’t that just one word, hyphenated?” asked God.

“Don’t ask me,” said Dave. “You’re the one who knows everything.”

“Not everything,” said God. “For example, I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with you.”

“Why?” asked Dave.

“Well, all the files have been put away,” said God. “And the computers have been turned off and the doors have been locked.”

“I could stay here,” said Dave. “I could be a ghost.”

“And haunt who, exactly?” asked God.

Dave thought for a moment. “Well, there are still the animals,” he said. “They can’t have been part of all this, it’s a bit difficult trying to decide whether a goldfish has been naughty or nice.”

“You’re mixing me up with – oh, never mind,” said God. “Look, ok, if you want to spend the rest of eternity jumping out in front of zebras and going “boo” then go ahead. Sounds like Hell to me.”

God left, or at least had as good a go at it as any omnipresent being can. Dave sat down alone for a few minutes. They say Mankind is the great survivor, he thought, and they’re not wrong.

He whistled softly, and his wife Julie stepped out from behind a tree.

“It worked!” she said.

“Told you it would,” said Dave. “Now, we’d better get down to begetting. We’ve a human race to rebuild.”

The Prototype

Sidey’s theme for last weekend was “should that be there?”…

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“Should that be there?” asked Gabriel.

“Should what be there?” asked God.

The two stood, Frankenstein-and-Igor-like, at the slab upon which the body of what would become Adam lay, for the moment inert.

“That little dent in the middle of his tummy,” said Gabriel.

“It’s called his belly-button,” said God.

“Ah, a button,” said Gabriel. “That explains it. What happens it you press it?”

“Er, well, nothing,” admitted God. “That’s just it’s name. I just thought his torso looked a bit featureless without it.”

“Not really,” said Gabriel, “because there are these two…”

“…nipples,” said God.

“Nipples,” said Gabriel. “And what do they do?”

“Well, on a man,” said God, “ also nothing.”

“I see,” said Gabriel, in the tone of somebody who doesn’t often get to poke fun at his boss, and is determined not to let the chance go by. “What are these?” he went on.

“Ear-lobes,”  said God.

“And they do what, exactly?”

“Um,” said God, then realised that he was tugging at one while he was trying to invent an answer. “They help you think,” he said, a bit desperately.

Gabriel raised one eyebrow, which at least stopped him asking what eyebrows were for, which had been going to be his next question.

“Ok, said God. “The ear-lobes don’t do anything either.”

“I see. Is there any part of him that actually does stuff?”

“Of course,” said God. “He can carry things in his arms, walk on his legs, stand on his tippy-toes.”

“Why would he want to do that?” asked Gabriel.

“So he can reach up to things that are too high for him,” said God.

“Why not just make him taller?”

God, who hadn’t thought of that, decided to ignore the question. “Then there‘s his arse,” he continued. “He can sit on it, scratch it, and talk through it.”

“How can he talk through it if he’s sitting on it? All you’ll hear is a muffled noise, he’ll sound like a railway station announcer.”

“Like a what?” asked God.

“Um, no idea,” said Gabriel. “The term just popped into my head.”

“I suppose you’re right, though,” said God. “I’ll have him talk from someplace else.”

“Where?”

God though for a few seconds. “His nose,” he said eventually.

“Then how will he smell?”

“Terrible,” said God, straight-faced.

“Oh, come on, not that old joke.”

“How can it be old? This is only the sixth day.”

“Some things are just always old,” said Gabriel. “Anyway, is there anything else this apparently multi-talented arse can do?”

“Yes,” said God. “It’s also for farting.”

“Why?”

“To keep him amused. Man will find farting funny, at any age. Don’t ask me why, even I don’t know, and I know everything.”

“And this bit here,” said Gabriel, and God groaned inwardly. “What’s it called?”

“Er, it’s his thing,” said God.

“His thing? That’s the best name you could come up with?”

“It’s just so odd looking, I haven’t been able to think of anything else yet.”

“And should it be there?”

“I think so,” said God. “I have this idea that it could be used in some sort of procreative way, though I’m not sure yet how, or with who.”

“But at the moment it’s just a load of balls,” said Gabriel.

“Actually, that’s not bad,” said God. “That’s what I’m going to call it.”

“Let’s face it, he’s a bit of a mess, isn’t he?” said Gabriel.

“Yes,” admitted God. “Look, I spent a whole week creating the sun and stars, and the earth, and beasts of the field, and even the firmament, after I’d looked up what a firmament is. I just threw Man together at the last minute, so that I could have tomorrow off.”

He looked down sadly at his creation, then frowned. “Hang on,” he said, “that shouldn’t be there.”

“What shouldn’t?”

“That rib,” said God. “There’s one more on this side than on the other.” He took the rib from the body (“Eeeuuwww”, said Gabriel) and looked thoughtfully at it.

“I’m going to have another go,” he said. He waved a hand, and another body, like the first one yet not quite exactly, appeared beside Adam. “This is Man 2.0,” said God. “though I‘m going to call it woman. I’m going to find uses for the nipples, and the ear-lobes-”

“Really?”

“Yes, she’s going to dangle things out of them.”

“Why? So she can pick up long-range radio?”

“Shut up,” said God. “She will be a better model in every way. In fact some women might become models.”

“And will she fart?” asked Gabriel.

“Women won’t fart,” said God. “They will be quite definite about this, even sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

“Then what will her arse -”

“It’ll be called a bottom on a woman,” said God. “What it will do is sway when she walks.”

“What good is that?” asked Gabriel.

“It will change the world,” said God. “Just watch.” He waved a hand, and Eve got up and walked across the room. God and Gabriel watched in silence.

“Wow,” said Gabriel eventually. “I see what you mean.”

Grand Designs

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “a grand entrance”. God seems to be in a surprising number of my stories lately…

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“Er, it certainly is a grand entrance,” God said, looking up at the Gates of Heaven.

His cloudmates, having spent many an hour watching makeover programmes on TV, had talked him into doing the place up and so it was that they’d hired St Claude, patron saint of tat, the man who had designed Caesar’s Palace, the rings around Saturn, and the island of Krakatoa (it was supposed to have simply been an eternal fireworks display, but, as St Peter said afterwards, “D’you reckon you used enough dynamite there, Claude?”).

Getting the Heaven contract had been a big deal for Claude, so he had not stinted on expense, loud taste  or garishness.

“Why are the gates two hundred feet tall?” asked God. “The average person going through them will be about five feet nine.

“This is Heaven,” said Claude. “We must impress new members.”

“Why?” asked God. “It’s not like they’ll decide to go somewhere else if they’re not impressed. And how come the Gates are so shiny?”

“They’re Pearly Gates.”

“Is that not the name of a blues singer?” said God, who was more into Choral music himself.

“No, I mean that the Gates are made of pearls,” said Claude.

“Wow,” said God. “How many oyster shells did you have to open to get all those?”

“Just one,” said Claude. “We created one giant oyster, with loads of pearls inside its shell.”

“And where is this oyster now?” asked God, a little queasily.

Claude pointed toward the night sky. God realised that what he had thought was the Andromeda Nebula was actually a giant oyster, drifting through space.

He peered out through the gates and down the long, long Stairway to Heaven. He felt himself getting Vertigo.

“I’m almost afraid to ask, but how long is the stairway?”

“Three million miles.”

“Dear God,” said God. “Why have one at all? Heaven is all around. You just die, and you’re here.”

“But people believe that you ascend to heaven, therefore they have to climb a stair, or they won‘t believe they’re here. It’s all about giving the public what it wants.”

“And what about what I want?” said God. “We just had a simple front door, painted a soothing blue, with the number 1 on it. It had a door-bell that played Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door when you rang it, and a small sign that said “No Junk Mail” above the letter-box, and before you ask, yes, I do get post, though it’s mostly letters from St Paul. It was homely, and comforting to new visitors bewildered by the sudden change in their circumstances. I preferred the old entrance.”

Claude looked crestfallen, so crestfallen that God said “oh, just leave it,” and walked back to his throne.

The Devil was sitting on it, drinking coffee from God’s mug (it had “you don’t have to be a supreme deity to work here, but it helps” written on it).

“Hi,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’m not staying, I just came to see what you did with the place.”

“How did you get in?” gasped God, who’s omniscience was having a really bad day.

The Devil stood up, handed God his mug, and started to leave.

“Simple,” he said. “There’s no Pearly Wall. I just walked in around the gates.”