As God, I try to create things–new and wonderful things that fit together in ways you can’t imagine. But first, I’d like to talk to you about something we all understand very well, failure. Failure and the power of mistakes.
I’m going to start off by telling you a little story about the first time I created life. You see–I always wanted to create something new. I wanted to find what I called The Factor. That aspect of life that made it more than just entertainment.
My first attempt at this was hunger.
I know, it seems simple now, silly even–it gets worse. I created a species of life I called Migs. Migs were these small, rather adorable, creatures you can see here:
Yes, I was not much on an artist in those days–but these adorable creatures didn’t last very long because I forgot one crucial piece of the puzzle. I didn’t create them with the knowledge of their own hunger, or how to satiate it. So, of course, they began eating the only thing they could think to eat–themselves. Don’t worry, I didn’t bring pictures of that.
Needless to say, they didn’t last long and I was forced to start over. I refined hunger, directed it best I could and came out with the first human beings, as you can see here.
Well, everything seemed okay, they lived, they ate. Then– nothing. And I mean nothing, they just sat around. Occasionally a clever one would take a bite out of another or someone would hit someone with a rock, but it was dull. So, I got back to thinking about that factor. I was sitting there watching one human hit another with a rock, over and over, and over. What started off as a promising–and I’ll admit, humorous endeavor suddenly became very bland. I was losing my funding, I was as low as I’ve been. Here, I made my second mistake. I reached down and crushed the rock-beater into nothing, right there in front of my other creations.
What happened next astonished me. The other human beings gathered around. They looked up and down, they acted in all sorts of strange ways I’d never seen before. Before I could finish my research, funding was pulled and my project was scrapped. But it was from that mistake that I realized the factor, as you know it now; death.
So, I started over. I put together a proposal, got the funding and started again. I looked long and hard at my failures, my mistakes. I not only implemented an end to life but also gave my creations knowledge of their imminent end. The result, as you well know, produced the longest lasting single most entertaining project in history.
Last thing I’d like to leave you with is a message from my creations themselves: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet.”
Sometimes I’ll look out of the window of a house in a movie and feel homesick. It will bring back memories that have nothing to do with the window. It brings back smells and muffled voices that become sharp and whole, and suddenly, I’m there, again.
Eric is over. He knows how to use chopsticks.
My father gives up first, forking chow-mein passed an outflow of grumbles and groans. I don’t give up; I like Eric. He has big hands and a lot of hair. He is fond of saying “whatever keeps them out of church,” and I don’t like church very much. He says it all the time, like later in the night when my mother talks about me getting detention he says “whatever keeps him out of church.”
My mother laughs every time, even though she’s the reason we go to church.
I don’t get it but I eventually get the hang of the chopsticks as Eric is telling a story about his time in Namibia where he was in a bus accident.
I ask my father, quietly, where Namibia is. He shrugs.
“Africa,” Eric tells me. He must have big ears under all that hair. He smiles, “I was in the Peace Corps,”
“What’s the Peace Corps?” My sister asks.
My mother smiles, “they go to other countries and help people.”
“Like Dad,” my sister says.
At this, Eric laughs, “not exactly,” he says.
“What does that mean?” My father frowns across at him, fork down.
Eric chop-sticks a piece of broccoli with an adroit flick of the wrist. “Nothing–no, it’s just, does the military really help people?”
My father takes a breath the way he does when he is about to yell. Instead, he looks to my mother. He looks back to Eric.
“Hm,” is all he says. He picks his fork back up and continues eating. I realize my mother and sister aren’t eating, neither am I. A moment later, we’re all fumbling with our chopsticks again. I manage to get some pork. Chewing, I look up, out the window. I can hear Eric telling another story. I hear him say something about being trapped at some airport. I hear my mother say that I want to be a pilot. I look back to the table and smile. I open my mouth to tell her that I’ve changed my mind but Eric is already chuckling as he says, “whatever keeps him out of church.”
My mother laughs.
My father clears his throat as he pushes away from the table. Then, without a word he walks off.
I can hear a door, somewhere, slam. I look at my sister, she shrugs. My mother pats one of Eric’s large hands and says, “oh, it’s alright.”
She pats his hand again, softly.
“It’s just fine,” she says.
But, I’m watching his other hand as it uses the chopsticks to create a graspable pile of noodles. It really is quite impressive.
I didn’t mean to, really. It wouldn’t have been so bad had I gotten beer–I meant to get beer. That woman, the shopkeeper, “the gin is on sale,” she said. So, I’ve now hit a baby in the face with a bottle of gin.
It made a dink sound.
“Shit!” I cried, as the baby hit the sidewalk. It could have only been in its first hundred, or perhaps two-hundred steps, ever. I dropped the bag on the ground. It clinked. I bent to help the baby.
“Shit, I’m so sorry.”
The baby’s mother pushed me away. She picked up her baby and looked at me, horrified. The baby wailed against her neck. It was a little chilly outside.
“What is wrong with you!” The mother yelled at me.
“Stop saying shit!” she cried, holding her baby’s ears.
I stepped back, “sh–I mean, I am sorry, it just stumbled at the last second.”
“It’s not an it!”
I nodded, dropping my cigarette behind my back. I nodded again, for good measure. “I’m sorry.”
The mother eyed my bag of groceries, suspicious. I tried to hide it behind my leg, stepping away slowly. Boy, did that baby wail. The mother checked over its head, then kissed it, seeming a bit calmer.
“Is it okay?” I asked, not thinking. Slowly, she turned. She looked at me with all the fury a mother can muster, and trust me–it’d send God running.
And I’m not God, but still–I ran.
We were having some sushi near the Cardinals Stadium in St. Louis. It was too early to have a whiskey, so I ordered a beer.
The waitress nodded politely.
“Don’t you want to see his ID?” my brother asked the waitress. She looked at him, then looked at me, an eyebrow raised.
“You don’t have to,” I grumbled, hand in my pocket. She walked off.
I shot my brother a look, “thanks.”
He smiled. “You’ve been wanting someone to ID you for days, trying to help.”
“I know how you feel,” my cousin interjected from across the table. He was turning thirty soon, too. He looked younger than me though.
“A few weeks ago,” he told us, “I was at this bar and when I ordered my beer, I took out my ID automatically. The bartender just looked at it and said ‘does that make you feel young?'”
My brother whistled, “geez, that’s harsh.”
My mother, whose age is not allowed to be written anywhere in the known universe, looked from my cousin to me, “fuck you both,” she added.
I turned, opened my mouth–thought better of it.
“It’s just,” my cousin began, treading softly, “we’ve gone past our Hogwarts moment.
The waitress came back, setting down my beer. We ordered some sushi before asking, “Hogwarts moment?”
My cousin nodded. “Yeah, you know, when someone comes and takes you away somewhere magical or tells you about some magical adventure. The chosen one is never thirty. That guy tried to help with those books about magic college–”
“But, even that was early twenties, I mean–what are thirty year olds good for in any book these days?”
We all thought for a bit.
“Falling in love?” My mother tried.
I sighed, “getting murdered.”
We brainstormed for a bit but never got much further than love and murder. By the time the waitress came back we were deep in thought. She placed the sushi down in front of us and paused. She looked down at me, my face fallen. She sighed.
“Would it help if I checked your ID?”
Not thinking, I looked up. “Could you take me on a magical adventure?”
Her face took a step back before the rest of her could react. “Uh–” she managed, before heading off to another table. I turned back to a frowning family.
“Looks like it’s murder for you then,” my brother said, before helping himself to some sushi.
As a kid my mother used to make a joke when the McDonald’s drive-thru took too long. This was before they took credit cards.
She’d say, “what, are they killing the chickens or something?”
My brother and I always laughed, or rolled our eyes or both.
We got older, yet still we laughed, rolled our eyes, or both. We started dating. My brother had long-term, strong, targeted relationships. I dated like shotgun pellets in a tree full of birds.
Once, I was dating a girl named Fern; her real name was Kate, but people called her Fern. She didn’t like McDonalds.
We were on our way to the train–it was late. My mother asked if we’d like to stop for McDonalds. I said, “yes.” Fern said nothing, but ordered a milkshake. The line was slow, long.
“What, are they killing the chickens or something?” my mother said.
I didn’t laugh as hard as I usually would have; it was cut short. Fern was bristling, I could feel her heat.
“McDonalds tortures birds,” she muttered to me.
I rolled my eyes. “I know, please, not now,” I tried.
So, she addressed my mother. She went on for a while. I’d heard it before; “it’s barely real meat anyways, they keep them in cages, poison them”–I’d seen the documentary with her.
Fern was practically in tears by the time she finished educating my mother from the backseat. It took so long that we had made it to the window before she finished–out of breath and wet-eyed.
I put my arm around her and sighed. I couldn’t see my mother’s face. The drive-thru window opened. It was a young girl, two nose piercings.
“What, were you killing the chickens?” my mother asked the girl.
They both had a good laugh. Fern took the train alone.
Hank and I walk down a street in Grenada with a group of twenty-somethings. “Woo-hoos” sound so much worse echoing off of two-hundred year old cobblestone, I think.
“Woo-hoos sound so much–what?”
Hank is looking at the road ahead. I follow his gaze, a man in a ski-mask is half-way out of a car window. Before anyone can react, he starts throwing. The group scatters as something orange whizzes by my face. I look up, it is raining oranges. They burst open on the ground around my feet.
The car passes, yelling something in Spanish. The crowd of twenty-somethings come out from under an over-hang. Some are crying, some are screaming after the car. Hank picks up an orange and tears it open. He starts to eat.
One of the bigger twenty-somethings punches a road sign. “I’ll fucking get you, you bastards!” he screams. Some of the girls start complaining that their night is ruined and the men of the group start offering to guard them on their trip back to the hotel in case the crazed orange bombardier strikes again.
The man who punched the sign has a bleeding hand. He takes the lead as most of the group heads back to the hotel. A few of us stay. Hank is examining the oranges, occasionally picking one up and putting it in his backpack.
“That was nuts,” a guy beside me says.
I look around us. “Nope, oranges, those were oranges, look around you.”
I smile, he doesn’t.
“Who would do something like that?” he asks me–or humanity, I’m unsure.
“Like what? Throw oranges?”
He nods, “yeah, it’s fucked up.”
“It’s oranges. It’s not like they threw rocks.”
“Oranges can still hurt.”
I roll my eyes. “It’s oranges, man, it was funny. It’s not like it was a drive by shooting, or something.”
The guy puts his hand on my shoulder. I frown down at it. “So, you’d do something like that?” he asks, annoyed.
I step away from his hand. “No. But, if you’d asked me twenty minutes ago, sure. But now I’d just be a copycat and I refuse to be a copycat, that’s messed up.”
“I don’t think that’s very funny.”
He looks like he might hit me. Hank comes between us, bends down and picks up an orange. He examines it. There is a small tear on one side. He sticks his fingers in and rips it open. He holds half out to me, half to the guy.
“Still good,” he mumbles through juicy lips.
The guy pushes Hanks hand away and storms off. I take my half. Hank takes a big bite off the remaining half.
“Oranges are better in Spain,” he says.