By Joe Cicero, 1998/99
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The coffee is too bitter, served in a cracked off-white mug and the waitress is alarmingly large so I ask to speak to the man-in-charge at the chef's hatch and explain in powerful tones the situation. One mention of my guest's name and the cheap restaurant is transformed like an illegal gambling den into a place more hospitable; the best crockery replaces the old and the fat girl is given the afternoon off.
Staring into the steam of my new coffee I worry that my white suit is a little too predictable and pray almost seriously that I will look acceptable to Him. I also worry that the venue for the meeting is a little too seedy , but I reassure myself that it was His idea to meet in such a place, at a spot where the annoying and tacky gnatswarm of the paparazzi would not think to find Him.
My thoughts are interrupted by the thwack of the door and I rise automatically to greet my guest without even checking Him. His presence can be felt like a gently suffocating wall in the humid atmosphere.
"That's Him!" murmurs the chef from the hatch. "Jesus Christ!".
"No, rather his father" says God. His voice smells of space somehow and is heavy with reverb. I stride to greet him. I am struck dumb with the realisation that He is wearing a black linen summer suit.
"Hello" is all I can manage in a self-conscious croak. I have prepared for three days for this moment and am suddenly struck with the question of what to call Him, indeed what to say to Him. He knows my plight and takes the lead.
"That is your table. Why don't we sit at it?"
He holds out a smooth white hand toward the table.
"Yes, of course" I say. "Of course. Coffee please!". I am regaining some confidence before falling into doubt again - "Do you drink coffee? I mean, do you, drink, things? Is coffee alright for you, um, is coffeealright?"
"Fret not, my child. I notice something stronger over there. Cook? A brandy please?"
"Certainly God. D'you want anything else with it?"
"Well I could be rather peckish as they say, but looking at that man's dinner I don't think I need to be." He chuckles like a pipe organ. Great, the big man's got a sense of humour. It makes him seem more human, which relaxes me again.
"You are intimidated by me, understandably. You are not sure how to address me and are uncomfortable with your white suit. In answer to your prayer, I find your appearance by no means offensive, though maybe slightly passé in these meet-the-maker sort of situations. You may call me George. Or Tony, if it feels better, it really makes no odds. Ah, my brandy.".
I feel humiliated at His perceptions and then reason that if He is reading my thoughts anyway it is ridiculous to be anything except honest.
"Exactly," He says between sips.
My relaxation is almost complete. I begin to hang my brain back, to mentally chill out. Suddenly a completely spontaneous unmentionable thought bursts into my mind as if to deliberately and involuntarily land me in trouble. I try to fight it but the very battle causes other more inane and obscene images to be generated in my head. God is obviously aware of my turmoil but by grace or by boredom He chooses not to comment directly.
"Another brandy please cook."
The chef unfolds his arms and bounces himself off the wall from his leaning and staring position.
"Whassat? Brandy again? Of course God!"
Nothing is said as we watch the chef perform his duty and bring the drink to the table. He places it in front of God.
"Not for me you fool, can't you see this man sweating here?"
"Oh yes, sorry God, begging your pardon, there you go sir, anything else God?"
"That'll be all for now my son."
"Yes of course God."
The chef resumes his voyeurism now from the other side of the hatch. Through this latest discourse a celestial calm has been settling over my head and I raise the glass to my lips with a decidedly steady hand.
"Feeling better son?"
God smiles. "Bob's fine. You might want to take out your dictaphone now, after all that is why I am here. Be not afraid to ask even the most trivial of questions of me, I have been quite looking forward to this interview. It's been a long time by your reckoning at least since last I was involved in this sort of thing."
The dictaphone is whirring satisfyingly on the table. I wonder why the other cafe customers all appear so unruffled with this great man in the room.
"I have made them so my son. To be stared at is tedious, to be whispered about irritating. I shall now disconnect my mind from yours to give this interrogation some bite."
I immediately feel as if a searchlight has been switched off in my head.
I push my wrist out from my sleeve and rotate my hand at first the watch face is unfigurable then finally I read the time as 3.46 pm. For close on four hours I've been grilling the Lord and knocking back brandies at His pressing which gallops at a most unholy pace. While He booms on I begin to float off in a mildly intoxicated reverie which presents me with scenes of glory; perhaps the single most important journalistic account ever, brought to the gawping world through my very hand, my dictaphone even; I am destined for fame, for bigger things, for satisfaction.
"To me are you? I say, you're not listening to me are you?"
"Wh-I-I need to use the toilet Lord, Bob, uh, I'll be right back."
Out back I lift the payphone receiver and punch in the office number.
"Yeah Jane gimme Paul"
"Is that you John? Sorry love, he's talking to Mr Bowers in his office. Any message love?"
"Shit, uh, yeah, tell him I'm off to London for Monday, so he'd better advertise my post already. I've got something well, bigger than big here Jane, he'll know all about it after the weekend. Got that?"
"Well yes, but what on earth do you mean John love? Are you really leaving like that? You know Paul -"
"Look Jane, just give him the fucking message okay?"
"Well I've never -"
When I return from the payphone the café is empty but for the chef who is busy sprucing the tables back up.
"He shot off mate, and it looks like he's taken all my bloody trade with Him, and the bastard didn't pay me nought. Drunk all my bloody Brandy you and Him! So I'm keeping your bloody tape recorder unless you pay up now."
"Okay mate, chill out will you. It was my shout anyway."
"Oh, I see. Sorry mate, I do apologise, here's your tape recorder then. That'll be uh, let's 'ave a look now"
The elevator trip to the top of the newspaper building was both exhilarating and dizzying. The walnut desk that now separates myself and the sub-editor of the well known daily is polished to a remarkable degree and shines out an aura of solid, visible importance. The sub-editor's voice is thick with experience.
"Your letter interested me Mr Roceci, caught my attention it did. You sound like so many other bloody cranks but even though you're clearly bullshitting me, I just felt that I had to give you your five minutes. So where is this tape, Mr Roceci?" His tone is contrived to appear sarcastic, but nevertheless he gives away a hint of excitement in his cockneyed sharps. "Give me God!" he half cries. I depress the play button and sit back. Immediately the machine emits an erroneous crackle and bursts into blue flames with such an intense heat that no sooner do we place ourselves behind our high-backed seats it has burnt itself out, rendering the unit a mess of aluminium and plastic goo, and leaving a perfect cross branded in the centre of the desk, scored with white lines.
"Out!" screams the sub-editor. "Get out now you piss-taking bloody freak!"
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