Long time readers of this blog, if there are such, are familiar with stories I’ve posted here in the past for free with God as the protagonist.  I would try to sell them, but there are already too many folks making big bucks off the divine.  Enjoy.

 

God Scoutmaster

Be prepared.

—The Boy Scout motto

 

God’s walking in the woods.  God’s into woods, forests, jungles, like in Eden and Spligg (which is just the other side of Betelgeuse in case you’re wondering).  He’s about to meet Thomas Paine Crawford who is the reason God’s here, but He’s also on Spligg on another matter at the same time.  I’d explain it to you, but you wouldn’t understand.  The human mind can’t grasp it.  Short version:  He’s everywhere.

Thomas—because he hates Tommy and he’s of two minds about Tom—is twelve and pissed off.  Not at God, he doesn’t believe in God, just like his mom and dad who taught him to think for himself.  He’s pissed off at the Boy Scouts of America who wouldn’t let him into their totally fucked-up organization because he doesn’t believe in God.

Matt Bradley’s fat dad, the scoutmaster, knowing the notorious beliefs of Thomas’s parents from certain comments they’d made in PTA meetings, asked Thomas straight out if he believed in God, and Thomas said “not yet,” which he thought was about as far as he could honestly go, but Mr. Bradley got pissy, and Thomas asked a few legitimate questions about the morality of judging him, especially in light of what Jesus had to say on the matter, quoting Matthew 7:1-2, the King James Version, his parents’ (both English majors) preferred translation.  He’s read the Bible, the whole thing, even Numbers and the more tedious and obscure prophets, right down to the wild apocalyptic finish, which is a good deal more than Mr. Bradley has ever actually read.  There was a book of Bible stories when Mr. Bradley was a kid.  Illustrated.  He remembers the long line of animals filing onto the ark.  He knows, however, what he believes, God bless him.

Thomas is into legitimate questions, lots of them.  He’s twelve and smart.  But he’s also into the whole scouting thing, all the woodsy stuff.  A good deal of this is fueled by an intense interest in Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in Hunger Games who figures large in his fantasy life.  Of God’s many creations, God’s most proud of the sex thing.  Is that cool or what?  He’s reproduced it all over the universe with endless variations.  He can’t get enough of it.  His creatures love it, copulating throughout millions of galaxies, billions before the heat death of this universe, and on and on it goes—into the next, God knows—life making life and having fun.  It’s great to be God.

But back to Thomas, the fallen sparrow of this moment on Earth in a National Forest in North Carolina close to where Hunger Games was filmed.  Thomas waited out in the rain to watch Jennifer run for her life repeatedly, all smeared with dirt and clay like God just made her, and he totally adores her to this day, and truth is it’s her he’d really like to run into out on this trail, and she would take him in her strong, loving arms and murmur, There, there.  There, there.  And then fuck him senseless.  God knows he’s a poor substitute, but Jennifer’s got her own life to lead, and God has all the time in the world.

Now you might think God’s here to set the boy straight on the atheist thing even though Thomas is doing so well thinking for himself.  (The kid’s read The Koran and Augustine and Lao Tsu too).  God’s seen what passes for his spokespeople around here, and even He has to wonder where they come up with some of this stuff.  Not that Earth is special in that department.  When God needs a good laugh, there’s a cult on the outskirts of Andromeda that never ceases to amuse him.  Not to judge.  To be God, you have to have an open mind.  It has a lot to contain.  Including (and not forgotten) Thomas.

Nor has God come to punish the blasphemous wretch for muttering “God Fucking Damn!” in a steady stream ever since Thomas figured out he’s totally lost—maybe with a lightning bolt to his heart or a plague on everything he holds dear, even Jennifer.  At least whip up a good whirlwind, tell the little shit off, teach the worthless worm a lesson in groveling humility.

Not in one of my stories.  Why make up a mean, small-minded God?  What’s the point?  It’s been done to death and beyond, down to the ninth circle of Hell.  Give the kid a break.  As worthless worms go, he’s small potatoes.

There’s always the possibility Thomas won’t recognize God.  Happens all the time.  Being everywhere, He sort of blends.  But Thomas is a sharp-eyed lad with critical thinking skills who recognizes God immediately as He lumbers into view, just like Odysseus spotted Athene looking like some kid in pigtails.  (Thomas has also read The Odyssey, the whole thing.  When this kid thinks for himself, he doesn’t mess around).

“Holy fuck!” he gasps when he sees God.  It just comes out.  As an atheist, he hasn’t practiced what he might say should he meet God face to face.  Face to face isn’t Thomas’s long suit either, except with his teachers.  They all adore him.  But don’t worry.  God does too.

“Breathe,” God suggests.  God’s into breath, breathing, lungs.  Gills—they’re really something too.  Oceans.  Atmospheres.  Membranes—God, He loves Himself some membranes.  One disadvantage of being God is He doesn’t have anybody He can talk shop with except scientists maybe, but He’s afraid God showing up in the lab might put them off their game.  There are always omniscient authors, but they can be unreliable, and poets are in their own vast little worlds.  “Let’s walk,” He says to Thomas.  “I know the way.”

Thomas is still taking God in.  He thought he’d be more unknowable.  Scarier.  Not that he’s not plenty scared.  He told his scoutmaster that the root meaning of “Reverent,” which is in the Scout Oath, is to be afraid, to be very afraid.  Thomas recently discovered etymology as a form of specious argument and spends his idle time rooting around for root meanings to undermine his adversaries.  God seems nice, however, which is certainly a relief—if there has to be one:  God Almighty.

“Have you come for me, like a lost sheep or something?” Thomas manages, not entirely comfortable with the silence in God’s wake and being a fan of the 23rd Psalm in spite of being an atheist.  Among the many career choices he ponders are poet and astronaut.

It’s funny he should say sheep because Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is one of God’s all time favorite novels.  Phil Dick was a guy God could talk to and did on several occasions.  You might not know this, but literature is not nearly so widespread throughout the universe as sex, making writers like me especially beloved by God, and don’t you forget it.  God doesn’t mention this, of course.  He stays on task like a good God, like an omniscient author with a detailed outline.  Thomas is a Phil Dick fan too, but God knows the boy is in no mood to discuss literature.

Thomas set out ill prepared to show the fucking scouts he didn’t need them to be prepared.  Now he’s fucking lost.  We’ve all been there, right?  Some big idea gets us in big trouble.  Except God.  No idea’s too big for Him.  His intentions always work out, one of the things that makes Him God.  That and infinite understanding and compassion.  He could just zap the boy back to town into his bed—it’s all a dream, kid, forget about it—but He wants to do this right.  He understands that everybody needs exercise, wilderness experiences, all the rest of it.

Life.

Life is more than dreams, though it’s not a bad start.

“You’re not lost,” God says.  Not a sheep either, but God doesn’t want to talk down.  He’s not sure how all these herd metaphors got started, not that He has anything against sheep, shepherds, or especially sheep dogs, but Thomas is a good deal smarter than the average sheep and might find the sheep life less than satisfying.  While not smarter than God, Thomas is a good deal smarter than the adults who get pissed off at the fact he’s smarter than them and therefore talk down to him.  If it bothers them some twelve-year-old kid’s smarter, what would happen if they met God?  A whole shitload of reverence, God imagines.  Fear is helpful dealing with certain realities like gravity and predators in hot pursuit, but God never intended it as a virtue or a way of life.

Thomas doesn’t say anything for a while.  He’s not exactly well-versed in talking to God.  He’s only argued about God, for and against, not with him like Abraham does in the Bible.  Job also gives God some lip.  They demonstrate the futility of arguing with God, so why bother?  Thomas tried the prayer thing after a particularly good stretch of the Psalms, but he felt like a pathetic kid talking to himself.  They don’t even say grace at his house, no bedtime prayers.  Thomas’s dad has been known to murmur, “please God,” when a field goal kicker is about to attempt a 50 yarder and Dad’s got money riding on the game, but Thomas doesn’t consider that legitimate petitionary prayer.

God enjoys kid prayers, like a soft sigh around the planet at bedtime, but it’s not essential.  The boisterous chorus of audible orgasms is also music to his ears.  The Queem make a chord through their five nostrils when they come, that no matter who you are, hearing it will fill you with joy and more than likely turn you on.  Thomas isn’t going to get that chance since the atmosphere on the Queem home planet would kill him in a matter of moments. God will have to come up with something else to help him get past the Boy Scouts thing.

“I’m here to help,” God says.  Helpful is in the Scout Oath too. Along with trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and bringing up the rear, glancing fearfully over its cowering shoulder, reverent.  Thomas has most of these covered most of the time.  He’s filthy at the moment, and he blows all his money at the used book store, but he was certainly brave to ask his idiot scoutmaster a legitimate question, and he was courteous about it.  He didn’t flip him off or anything.  Maybe he was crossing a line when he said he was only motivated by a desire to honor his mother and father who taught him to think for himself and question authority.  Not that it isn’t true, God knows, but Thomas was just trying to be a smartass at that point.  Who can blame him?  Not God.

In this particular situation, God goes with his personal fave from the scout oath:  Cheerful.  The boy needs to get past this, let it go.  It’s holding him back.  Rage is for the righteous, and God’s seen His fill of those guys—coming and going—bumping each other off fast as they can, like that’s the point of the lives He gives them.  Be of good cheer.  Get over yourself.

You might think the obvious way to cheer the boy up would be to get him into the Boy Scouts, but it’s too late for that.  God would have to make the small-minded Scoutmaster into an open-minded, thoughtful, and sensitive human being, and too many of the species have too much invested in working around this asshole for decades for him to finally get a clue.  God has to consider the startling effect such a transformation would have on the much needed rebellion brewing inside young Matt Bradley who isn’t exactly cheerful about being an asshole’s son and is poised to do something about it with a spectacular rebellion, so he doesn’t have to grow up to be an asshole too.

Not that Thomas would join their organization if they came crawling up the trail on their hands and knees begging his forgiveness, so God doesn’t make that happen either, though He can picture it, like a conga line, twitching their butts.  We’re so sorry, Thomas!  We’re so sorry, Thomas!…

God smiles to Himself.  He shares it with Thomas as a passing thought.

“Why didn’t you just lie?” God asks.  “If you’d said, ‘Oh yes, Mr. Bradley.  Of course, I believe in God! Everyone believes in God!’ you’d be camping with the scout troop right now, learning how to tie a bowline and sharpen an axe.”

Thomas finds God’s impression of him fairly creepy.  God must not know so much if he thinks he would suck up to Mr. Bradley.  “I’m not a liar,” Thomas says.

“So you should be delighted to have escaped folks who would only have you if you became one,” God points out.

Thomas doesn’t have a ready comeback for that, which God already knew of course.  Who wants to waste this valuable time on Earth hanging out in the woods with a cool kid like Thomas with pointless arguments?  Who likes those?  Humans, Zlagkresians, Therjls, Qwhufies—that’s who—plenty in other words.  God, not so much.  As far as God is concerned, all arguments are pointless.

He’s sure you agree.

God is working against some serious time constraints since Thomas’s parents are already worried sick.  One of the cooler things about being God is experiencing what every creature in billions of galaxies is feeling at any given moment, but worried sick isn’t one of his favorites.  Mom and Dad are a few miles away as the crow flies, where they found Thomas’s bicycle chained in a campground parking lot.  The Boy Scouts are camped ten miles in the other direction.  Thomas got a little turned around without a compass.  The plan was to set up his alternative campsite on a bluff overlooking the Boy Scouts and diss on them from above.  Unlike God’s, Thomas’s plans were a little sketchy.

God does what He usually does under such circumstances, He suspends the laws of time and space.  God is all about the miraculous.  Anybody who thought up quantum mechanics clearly gives little regard to whether the universe makes sense or not.  Time, one of those human inventions designed to make sense of things, hasn’t exactly panned out anyway.  Other beings have tried it with varying degrees of success, with a rich and varied plethora of local varieties, but all have the same effects—anxiety, nostalgia, destiny, regret, fucking deadlines—a whole slew of bad shit, but they get attached, poor things, to time.

After a few high school reunions, you’d think they’d figure it out:  Now’s enough.  Now’s plenty.  Good thing.  Now’s all there is.

Thomas suddenly feels different.  “What’s happening?” he asks God.

“Nothing.  I stopped time.  Pretty cool, huh?”

Thomas’s mind, slow to get the message and as passionate about time as it is about Jennifer Lawrence—he’s read A Brief History of Time three times and actually understands it—is still racing like a gerbil on Ritalin, but Thomas’s true self observes the still moment with quiet amusement.  He shares it with the lichen on the forest floor, the twitter, screech and whistle of birdsong, the tides inside of breath and blood, the quirks and quarks of light on tree bark.  The universe.  “Oh my,” Thomas says, and God drops him back into time, never again the same:

He’s prepared.

He follows God deeper and deeper into the dark wood, and he’s not afraid.  It’s not exactly the valley of the shadow of death, but it’ll do.  He’s not just a scout, or even an explorer. He’s found himself and knows where he is, even if he is lost.

God sends a little healing grace to his mom and dad so they won’t totally nut out, and He and Thomas spend the weekend pitching a tent in some of God’s favorite forests in the universe, building campfires, eating smores, singing songs, though they never get around to sharpening any axes, and God knows what Thomas needs with a bowline.  Meanwhile the scouts are inundated with a deluge that’s particularly hard on Mr. Bradley’s tent which leaks buckets as horrific lightning bolts crash into his campsite scaring him so bad he pisses his sleeping bag—a little reverence a la carte.

“What shall I tell everybody when I get back?” Thomas asks.  “I can’t very well tell them I’ve been on a campout with God.”

“Just tell them you ate mushrooms to survive, and you can say whatever you like.  They won’t be listening.  You kids and your drugs.”

When Thomas emerges from the dark wood and is reunited with his parents, they’re overjoyed he’s safe and sound but worry about his being made to feel like an outcaste by the scouts, the trauma he’s endured, but Thomas reassures them, explaining, “I don’t believe in the Boy Scouts anymore,” and they’re relieved.

In the midst of some incredibly complicated bit of business a billion light years away no one on Earth could begin to understand, God smiles.