John Lyttle

God picks up a thunderbolt and waggles it playfully in my direction
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I have this recurring dream, with variations: I talk to God. I don't remember booking a regular appointment. I can't even imagine the conversation I must have had with St Peter ("Pearly Gates. Can I help you?") to gain access. But about once a week now God and I religiously get together at his place; serious white-on-white motif, swirling mist, and - this detail drives me crazy - a mirrorball, suspended not from anything as humble as a ceiling, but just hanging in mid-air. Just hanging there.

Last night I brought it up: "The mirrorball. Floating there."

"Yes?"

"Does it symbolise the world?"

"Which world?" God examines his fingernails. They are Immaculate.

"The earth."

"Oh, no. Not at all. I just decorate in mysterious ways."

"I thought you moved in mysterious ways."

"Nope, that's St Vitus. He's the greatest dancer."

God giggles, a habit I still find disconcerting.

"You have questions?" God asks. "New questions, I mean. You keep asking the same questions."

"You keep not answering them. Northern Ireland. Will the peace hold?"

"Do I even remotely resemble Gerry Adams? Do I look like (and here God gags) the Reverend Ian Paisley?"

Here's a reply I prepared earlier: "Well, we are made in your image."

God is calm: "Two eyes. A nose. A mouth. It doesn't suit everybody."

Deja vu. We have had this conversation before. Many times.

God prompts: "Aids."

"Aids. Why ..."

"Talk to him downstairs." God points to the floor, makes a disgusted face. "Germ warfare is his style."

I'm nervous now. "It's not a judgement from you?"

"Of course not. And, as to your next inquiry, your friends died because people die. Now, death has a purpose: it concentrates the mind wonderfully. Like I made Nature to be unpredictable. That's the wonder and horror of it. You get iridescent butterfly wings and the Kobe earthquake, beauty and disaster."

"Chaos theory," I prompt.

God smiles that secret smile. "It's not that chaotic. It takes care of itself. I hoped that would be true for so many systems." God gazes down at the floor again. "Immune systems included."

I'm on a roll: "The world economy is in crisis. The environment literally stinks. War is everywhere. Children are murdered in the streets. And have you seen Mark Rylance's Macbeth?"

God says, "Life's a bitch."

I'm sure I've misheard. "What?"

"Sorry. Irony doesn't always work in dreams."

No. It doesn't. There's an embarrassed silence. Finally, I blurt: "Is life a test?"

God considers. "Let's not say test. Let's say I wanted it to be a challenge."

The quiet is suddenly more comfortable.

Then He says: "Aren't you going to ask me about Andrew?"

I gasp. "How ..."

"I'm everywhere, remember?"

"You and Liz Hurley. She doesn't know about Andrew."

God picks up a thunderbolt and waggles it playfully in my direction: "And neither do you. Getting warm?"

I nod. "I want to know ..."

God slips his arm around my shoulders. He smells of Eau Savage. I recall him telling me he wore it so he'd always be reminded of the human race. "You want to know if it's going to work out. If there's time left for happiness."

I sigh. "Yes, yes. You're all-seeing and all-knowing, too."

"Indeed. Told you those Sunday school lessons would come back to you."

"And?"

"And I don't do predictions. Shall we repeat our mantra? What do you think I gave you free will for?"

I moan. One moment he's my Mum, next minute he's my therapist, only my Mum and my therapist have the good sense not to wear freshly ironed denim with wrinkled leather chaps. I'm dying to say something, but you try telling the guy who created the universe in seven days that his dress sense sucks.

"Listen, I just want to know what everyone wants to know." Big breath: "What am I here for?"

"Oh, that. Why didn't you speak up?" A heartbeat's pause. "You're here to do your best."

"That's it?" I'm outraged. "Very enlightening, I'm sure."

"Very, I'm sure. John ..." God's voice is soft. "Questions are complicated, but answers are simple."

I'm angry. Frustrated. I'd leave in a huff if I could find one: "Well, right then. If that's it. If that's the big deal ... See you in Heaven sometime."

"OK. Let's make it Saturdays, though. That Friday night mixed-disco is at least 80 per cent straight."

I laugh out loud. Hard. "God, sometimes you sound exactly like me."

God gives me a look that is keen and, as widely advertised, infinitely kind: "At last - we're getting somewhere."

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