Wednesday, April 8, 2020

As We Know It - Epilogue


God rolled happily back on its chaise longe*

*Author’s note: God was not happy, could not roll and… oh do you know what, if you haven’t grasped it by the epilogue then I’m worried there’s just no helping you.*

God rolled happily back on to its chaise longe and stuffed another theoretical grape into its “mouth”. Company should be along in 3, 2, 1 and… Company came bursting in, an aggressive strut propelling it across the rug and into the best lighting the heavens could provide.

“Pleased with your self?” Said the Devil.

God removed a pip from its mouth and smiled, “I am.”

“Why do you leave the pips in? You’re the very definition of all powerful and yet you just leave these little things all over the place to annoy you.”
“I like removing them.” Said God simply, wiping another pip onto the arm of the chaise longe. “Besides, if I didn’t keep a few things around that bothered me then where would you live? I suppose you could always take up permanent residence in the detail.” God laughed uproariously at its own weak joke.

“Save me.” the Devil groaned furiously, “Puns are mine. Keep your hands off. And what are you doing on that ridiculous thing? You are so smug.”

God stroked the plush cover and smirked, “It felt appropriate.”

“You’re not supposed to gloat,” said the Devil, getting churlish, “That’s my thing.”

“Here, have it back then,” said God and the chaise long became a bed of nails, “Pious enough for you?”

The Devil sniffed petulantly, “Only if I can sit on your stomach.”

God smiled benignly, shaking off its moment of revelry. “I’m sorry you lost.”

The Devil shrugged, not wishing to dwell on its own failings. It pouted, sulky. “I don’t really see how you count this as a win.”

It was God’s turn to shrug, but this shrug was a lazy, relaxed shrug. God shrugging really is a beautiful thing. A good shrug is like a good yawn. With a good shrug tension goes, the body is animal and the movement holds a billion words. So imagine a God shrugging. A being that has seen everything, had a hand in all of it, and encounters something new only to roll it off its shoulders with sympathetic apathy. God’s shrug is immense.

“Oh don’t do that,” snapped the Devil, “I hate it when you shrug.” The Devil did hate it. It set its teeth on edge.

“Well I hate that you get a “the” and I don’t.” Said God mildly. It knew it was being provocative, but really, the Devil was right - what was the point of being an all powerful divine being if you couldn’t enjoy yourself a little bit every once in a while?

“I’ve told you about that before,” said the Devil, “You made it too complicated, you should have made it just “The God” but you wanted “The ONE God” and they couldn’t cope. Also, you wanted to be all chummy. You wanted to be their friend, I told you it would make things less clear.”

“I’m not chummy.” God tried out a pout too but it looked very odd. God pouted and somewhere on earth a piece of driftwood appeared with Live, Love, Laugh written on it.

“You can’t be pleased with this outcome?” Persisted The Devil, “Essentially all you’ve done is lost another member of your dwindling stock of religious people? Not a great day for you.”

“I haven’t lost her.”

“Well she’s not going to church any more.” Said the Devil.

“No, but I never asked them to.” Returned God, serving up an easy ball, “that was their scheme - it was never necessary.” The Devil opened its mouth to ask a question but God held up a palm in a gesture intended to silence and infuriate the Devil, “So, yes, on paper, or whatever it is they’re using now, I believe they’re back to tablets of some sort, we have “lost” someone. But, in reality, we have another human being who has chosen the condition of love over all else. She has recognised kindness and love to be the pinnacle, over everything. Even me. As far as I’m concerned, love is truly a win for us.”

The Devil sat, silent, for just a moment, “Eugh. How incredibly… unimaginative.”

God looked at its old friend and a pang of sadness washed through its cosmos of a torso. How awful, to have absolutely no concept of how endlessly entertaining it was to love. And to have no chance of ever experiencing it. It could be terribly sad to think about the Devil for too long, God knew only too well how fleeting were the moments of fulfilment when you fed off creating joy, let alone how empty it must feel to feast on the nothings of the universe.

“Here,” said God, waving a mythological hand, “I’ve got you something, I think you’ll really like it.”

The Devils head snapped up, “What is it?”

“It’s The Comments Section.”

Norton Fitzwarren was bathed in autumn sunshine. It eased the first leaves off the branches and they gathered in excitable puddles at the bottom of trunks, just waiting for rain to turn them into mulch.

The breeze was blowing again, fresh and alive; no more for this village the stale, dusty tasting air of the apocalypse. Norton Fitzwarren felt ready. Ready to carry on.

It was a big day. Bunting was strung out all around the village hall and people bustled around making everything perfect for the day’s celebration. Nigel and Beryl were heaving boxes of food from the shop to the waiting trestle tables. Angela Norman had laid out lovely, if mismatched, table cloths and Martin Young had made a banner.

The Village Hall was a monument to love. It was in every carefully laid out wooden chair and every hand rolled sausage roll. It was also in every argument that had gone on before the big day to decide what the best food would be.

“I want hot food.” Mr Baxter had demanded, he couldn’t put his finger on why, but for some reason he was very appreciative of being able to easily cook things. Mr Baxter felt like that modern invention just shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“You can have a hot buffet.” Grumped Mrs White, but without her usual terrier attitude. She felt mellower, and it wasn’t just because of the crisp white envelope from the local hospital that she had received that morning.

“As long as there’s also crisps.” Said Martin Young.

“We’ve plenty of crisps for sale in the shop.” Said Beryl quickly.

“I don’t want just ready salted though.” Martin sulked.

The Vicar had guided them back on track, with a promise of a coleslaw or two.

Sarah and Hamish hadn’t joined in the debate, the food was largely irrelevant to them in their bubble of togetherness. They sat at the back of the meeting and let the good natured argument rage around them while they concentrated on the feeling of each others fingers interlaced together.

After the big showdown in Staplegrove they had walked back to Norton Fitzwarren in relative quiet. Speaking only to check what they wanted for dinner, confirming it was definitely takeaway and then slowly realising that takeaway was an option again even though they didn’t quite know how they knew this. The clear memories of what had happened began to slip away, like a dream being chased away by a bullying alarm. They were left with the residual feeling of an event, a big event, and the pervading feeling that they had dodged a bullet. Jesus was gone from their minds by the time they crossed their welcome mat and finally put the kettle on.

As they sat, drinking their tea and waiting for the takeaway to arrive, it occurred to Hamish that he’d never got round to proposing and he couldn’t for the life of him remember why. He slipped his hand in his pocket and Sarah had a ring and a chow mein within the same half hour. There wasn’t a moments hesitation in her acceptance of either.

The village shook the pause off and began rolling along again in its own unique way. Mr Baxter and Rufus could be seen lapping the park, Angela Norman was still growing out her fringe and the Ring of Bells emitted smoke and hangovers onto the street every Friday and Saturday.

They’d all really been waiting for today though. The Vicar paced nervously in his living room, wanting everything to go perfectly for his friends and flock. He looked over his notes, hoping he’d summed up his feelings eloquently and warmly. This was a big day; the kind of day you only did once.

Everyone was at home getting ready. Martin Young had actually polished his shoes, combed his hair and fantasised about asking Karen to go with him three times. He hadn’t asked her. He wasn’t too sure on the etiquette, and he wasn’t too sure on whether he’d be able to get the words out in the right order. Rufus had a new collar and Nigel and Beryl were closing the shop for the whole day, which made the occasion more important than Christmas.

Hamish looked at himself in the mirror and flattened his hair for the final time. He was nervous but he didn’t really know why. What was there to be nervous about? He thought about Sarah and the ring on her finger and smiled to himself. In the next room Sarah smoothed down her dress and adjusted the ring Hamish was thinking about. Time to head out.

It was a beautiful day, it would have been remiss of the author to make it any other kind, nothing but a beautiful autumn day could have sufficed. Hamish walked up the last few steps up of the path and greeted the Vicar warmly.

“Hamish!” Said the Vicar, “You look wonderful. What a fantastic suit.”

“Thank you,” said Hamish, awkward, “And I love your…”

“Cassock,” Supplied the Vicar helpfully, “And thank you, it’s new.”

Hamish nodded like he had known that and turned to squint down the path. “Is everyone in?” He asked.

“Yes,” said The Vicar, “All were very prompt. Are you feeling ok?”

“Oh aye,” said Hamish, “I’ll feel better once Sarah gets here.”

“Yes, yes I understand. Well, as soon as she arrives we will begin. I’ll, er, I’ll be inside.” The Vicar turned and headed through the big wooden door leaving Hamish stood awkwardly alone outside. As he waited he saw the shiny black car pulling up at the bottom of the path and Sarah stepped out. He smiled.

Inside the atmosphere was bubbling, energetic but held. The Vicar took the signal from Arthur Arthur at the back and signalled the congregation to silence. They hushed instantly and took to their feet, turning to look at the door. Hamish stepped in with Sarah by his side, holding her hand and leading the procession of 4 impeccably suited men, delicately shouldering a shiny cherry wood coffin.

They moved slowly and smoothly down the aisle and laid the coffin down in front of the waiting Vicar. Sarah and Hamish took a seat in the front pew and the congregation sat down with them.

“We are here today to celebrate the exceptionally warm and welcoming life of Iris Shoe.” Began the Vicar, and the residents of Norton Fitzwarren adjusted to their new reality. Not a single life had been lost through the entire apocalypse, but two easy days after normality had been restored Iris Shoe had had a particularly compelling dream about Colin and chosen to stay in it permanently.

Sarah sat in her pew and listened to the Vicar be absolutely charming and comforting about the life of her friend and neighbour. She stood up to sing, and at one point to stand at the front and read a passage from Mrs Shoe’s own bible. All the time Sarah sat and sang and read, she fingered the little object in her pocket. Running her fingers over the soft little buttons and enjoying the smooth plastic of the tamagotchi. The Vicar had brought it round the day Mrs Shoe had died, apparently she’d left a note on her key table suggesting that Sarah might like a little memento. “Perceptive old bat.” Sarah had thought, smiling through bittersweet tears.

The service ended and they solemnly trooped to the grave site to see Iris finally lie down by Colin. Then, the human contents of Norton Fitzwarren all made their way to the Village Hall to say goodbye in style. With line dancing and a meat bingo.

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