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God Is Dead
A short story musing on the last day of God.
God Is Dead
April 8, 1966. Time Magazine declares that God is dead. They were premature.
The end of Him (or Her as you may prefer) came on October 22, 2011 at approximately 5:46pm EST. The cause of death was unknown. Perhaps it is as Time Magazine suggested that we all share some of the blame. Maybe it was old age that finally did Him in. Personally I think he simply thought Himself away. Whatever the reason the fact is that He is gone and is never coming back. I should know; I was the last one to see him alive.
Back then I was working as a beat reporter for The Times. I was still relatively young, being in my early 30’s and possessing all of my hair, so I eagerly took any assignment that was given to me. This assignment did not seem out of the ordinary. The Yankees were looking to build a new stadium over some dilapidated buildings. I was given the duty to talk to the soon to be displaced inhabitants and get their feelings on the matter. Easy stuff, pretty much writes itself.
On October 22, I arrive at the West 11th street apartment complex. The plump older Jewish landlord greets me in her floral dress and invites me into her office. I once again explained why I was there and asked her opinion on the new stadium. As you would imagine she wasn’t thrilled about losing her home and business.
“But the city’s relocation money should help me out. I just worry about some of our older residents.”
“Like who?” I pressed, wondering if maybe I can sneak an eccentric people angle into the story. She scrunched her nose and looked far off, obviously thinking hard for someone who would validate her claim. Suddenly her face relaxes.
“Like the poor old man in apartment 23. I don’t think he has any family. All lonesome by himself up there. I don’t know what he’s going to do.” With this she sighs and shakes her head.
“What’s his name? Can I speak with him?”
The woman shrugs. “I don’t see why not. I can’t pronounce his name, it’s one of those foreign ones with almost no vowels. Begins with a Y I think. Anyway, I’ll show you where he is.” With that she gets up and picks up a large set of keys from a nearby file cabinet. I follow behind her as she shuffles down the red bricked hallway and up the oak wood staircase. “Such a beautiful building, it’s a shame it’s going to get knocked down,” I say to her as she breathes heavily. I mean it to. It was obvious that people have renovated this building countless times. Each time rot and decay eventually won out. And it seemed that soon the Yankees would finish the inevitable. I thought it was fitting but that could’ve been my inner Red Sox fan talking.
“Hello, are you home?” the landlord sweetly asks while knocking on the old man’s door. She turns to me and softly says, “He’s such a nice man. Pays his rent on time and leaves the nicest notes when he does. Been here forever, before I owned the place, yet I’ve never had one problem with him.” She knocks and calls for him again.
A raspy yet still powerful voice answers. “Yes. Come in, the door is open.” The woman smiles politely at me.
“There’s your story in there. People like him are those that always get hurt in the end.” With that she walks back towards the stairs. I open the door and walk into the apartment. It was studio style but was filled pack rat style. Besides the usual old newspapers and magazines were paintings, artwork, mechanical devices, almost anything you can name. I look to the west side of the room and see the man. He’s laying in a very simple bed, just mattress and blankets. From there he can look out and see the busy street outside.
“Hi, my name is George Jung from The Times. Do you mind if I sit and ask you some questions about this apartment?” He turns to me and nods with a smile. I pull a chair near to his bed.
“I apologize for the mess. Unfortunately there isn’t a refrigerator large enough to stick all of these objects onto. And where would I find magnets strong enough!” with this he chuckles loudly. I snicker too, not knowing quite what he means. I pull out my notepad.
“So what’s you name Sir?” A worried look comes on his face.
“I think it’s for the best if I’m just anonymous.”
“No problem. What do you think about the relocation? I’ve been told you don’t have many family members.” He shakes his head and softly talks to me.
“I have many children. They may not visit me physically but we stay in touch through our hearts. Listen,” he beckons me towards him with his hand. I get on my knees right next to the mattress. From here I look into his eyes, a deep shimmering pool of ebony. It seemed to perfectly match his light brown skin and wispy white hair.
“I don’t have much longer and I want someone to hear this,” he continued. The sense of urgency in his voice made me instinctively reach for my notepad. He firmly put his hand on the notepad and sternly stared at me. “The feeling is more important than the words. That is what I want you to hear.” I drop the notepad. He relaxes and closes his eyes. After what felt like forever he opens his eyes and looks at me again. He seemed so weak, so different from what he must’ve once been.
“When I was young I wanted to give my children everything they could ever want. I wanted them to be independent yet still obey all my rules. Yet they always disobeyed, did what I knew was bad for them. I tried pleading, scolding, giving gifts and punishing. Nothing worked.
Then one day I finally looked through life from their eyes. And I realized my children were trying their best to do right. Sometimes they went down wrong paths but it was always with the best of intentions. And that’s when I decided to simply watch them grow up. And they did so admirably. Look at all the beautiful things they have made.” He looks around the room at nothing in particular.
“They’re so hard on themselves for their mistakes, not knowing I love them despite of it. They no longer need my help in everyday matters. And that’s why I’m not sad about leaving. They’re grown up, they can solve their own problems, and I’m proud of them. They do what they hope is the best and for that I’m proud of them. I’m proud of them.”
At this point he reached out and tenderly grabbed my neck. He pulled me very close to him. I remember I distinctively smelled lavender, my favorite type of flower.
“I’m proud of you George.” And with that he was dead. Now you may not believe that he was in fact God. You may point out that officially he was listed as a Turkish immigrant who indeed had many children and grandchildren. But I know deep down that I saw God die. And because I know that I live everyday trying to make him still proud of me. I hope you do as well.
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"If God were dead then there would be nothing more..." -- needful.
"i thought your story was beautiful...and it really brought a realistic perspective to the omnipotent One. seems we have a hard time believing in what we can't see. I think your story will make people see God exactly as you portrayed him...part of something, part of everything. Well done. " -- km.
"Pretty well written Jamar. But this Turkish immigrant was definitely not God. The answer is simply this: God attempts to make everyone in His own image and likeness. With some of us, He just does a better job. " -- Richard.
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© 2008 Jamar Graham
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