by Wayne Cresser
Originally published in 10: The Carlow University MFA Anniversary Anthology (Carlow University Press)
At the very beginning of Creation, the first ten minutes or so, God thought he might not be ready to work. If he had a father, he could ask him, “What was that thing you said about taking on a project when there was a lot of stuff to do, and some of it was hard and some of it was easy?” He scratched the hair on his wrist where his skin was dry and flaky. It burned a little so he spit at it and missed. He was unaware that the fallout created the Great Salt Sea.
Do you do the easy stuff first or the hard stuff first? He thought for a moment. Then a common sense notion occurred to him. If you had ten things to do and some of them were difficult, let’s say like creating a land snail tasty enough to serve in a fancy pants restaurant, or easy, like making rain, wouldn’t you do the easy stuff first, so that at the end of the day, you could say you accomplished something?
He wanted a cracker. A cracker is a meal, he thought. And something to spread on it, that’s a banquet. The moment he thought of a cracker, he held a matzo in his hand. The moment he thought of something to put on the cracker, a jar of peanut butter appeared in the other. A pickle or some chips would be nice, he thought, and maybe some orange soda, something bubbly, and a thing with which to spread the peanut butter. Bing, bing and BANG! There they were: a sweet gherkin, some Fanta Orange Soda and a butter knife with colorful vegetables engraved into the handle. Aha! He thought__ so that’s how it works. I want it, I get it.
There were so many more things he wanted, like a tax haven and a satellite radio talk show with celebrity guests and occasional live-in-the-studio music, some corduroy slippers, but he stopped to ask himself if the world really needed any of those things. What’s good for me should also be good for them, or am I mixing that up? I’m supposed to know already.
It occurred to him, too, that he didn’t quite know who they would be, even though the notion had wiggled into his head that he would create them in his own image, only shorter and with less hair. He didn’t know if he was old or new, but he had an unruly head of hair.
All their voices had been in his head from the start, all the beings that would ever exist. What kind of career he would have, what kind of notices they would give him, he could find out if he wanted, but he couldn’t think about that right now. He had work to do.
Among the multitude of voices in his head, some were quite insistent. One fellow kept saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This confused him a little because at the very, very beginning, just a moment before this one, there was a Word that came to him, but it wasn’t God. Before that he could remember nothing but a great yawning and some stretching.
Anyway, even though he couldn’t remember consciously doing it, he had summoned the Word to himself. Together they sat down and had a nice talk. God understood from their talk, that he was to take the Word and put it into the hearts of the beings that would stand straight on their hind legs, and walk, and skip and jump like he did when he didn’t have so much on his plate.
He had been dreaming about what the world might need in very simple terms before he had that talk. For instance, he thought the world might need to eat, sleep, drink and be in love, as the poet would later say.
Some minutes had passed and God still wasn’t ready to get his hands dirty, but he’d tumbled to an interesting theme for his work, a course to chart, a direction. He would instill in the hearts of these creatures a desire for Peace (for that was the Word, nothing more or less) because he was convinced that Peace was a not only a good thing, but also a lovely thing, like the blue of the sky and the gold of the sun, the green of the grass, and the song of the bird.
Images and ideas, myriad things to create, flooded his vision whenever he thought of Peace. I’d better get busy, he thought. Busy is as busy does. Then he thought he’d never want to see that written on a t-shirt. But he’d worry about being quotable later because Peace needed a home. Somewhere lush, fertile, fruitful, twittering with life, a green space between rushing waters full of flying fish and soft-shelled turtles. A place where the beings in his head could walk and skip and jump, like he did when he didn’t have so much on his plate. A place where they could eat, sleep, drink and be in love, like the poet would later say. A place with all the amenities. The idea really pleased him.
He couldn’t be sure because he hadn’t tinkered with time yet, but he imagined it could be 5 pm somewhere in the world, and he decided to have a drink on his plan for paradise. He loved a good Manhattan with a twist and no cherry, and he ordered one up for himself. Then he allowed the voice of Bobby Short to filter through all the other voices, so he could listen to him sing Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top.” This was an attempt to quiet the rumblings, to keep at arm’s length for the time being, some of the other things he’d heard whenever he put his ear to the multitude of voices.
Among them there were all kinds of noisy groups with their own pointed interests, but he had to admit, there was one lot that made some good points. And when they bickered, he found them endearing since they rarely raised their voices. They were the crowd who liked to ask questions, an inquiring lot. They also tended to define things by their opposites. Nature, they reasoned, was defined by complimentary opposites. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, the tide comes in, the tide goes out, the days grow warm, and the days grow cold. In some places, so cold they’ll need a nice piece of fabric to keep themselves warm. He took comfort in the notion that the poets among them would say it all more beautifully and he looked forward to reading them.
The really bright ones among them pushed their inquiries even further and said things like, “By extension then, how can we appreciate joy if we never feel sorrow, harmony if there is never discord, satiety if we are never hungry, love if we never hate? Peace if we never war?”
At hearing this, he put his Manhattan aside and let the crooner fade from his consciousness. He knew these creatures would test all their better instincts, his too. They would not be content with the notion that ignorance was bliss. The innocence of the lamb would not charm them for long. Tears began to roll down his cheeks. Lakes started appearing all over the globe.
He knew what he had to do. It was inevitable. I’ll let them decide, he thought. I’ll give them rules. They’ll know my expectations. They’ll know the rewards and they’ll know the penalties. They can choose to live their lives in Peace and with me, or not. They’ll have a free will and it will be theirs, and everything about it will be fair because everyone will have one. That is the line that is to be dotted, the beginning and the end of it.
It occurred to him that his preparations were complete and he had to begin. His first deliberate act of creation would be the invention of time, and the clock would start now, when he turned to creating all the heavens and the earth.
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