The Lungfish and the Little Plastic Castle — a short-short play

SCENE: A SITTING ROOM, WITH COMFORTABLE CHAIRS AND A COFFEE TABLE, POSSIBLY EVEN A FIRE BURNING. IT IS BATHED IN THE PUREST WHITE IMAGINABLE. GOD — WHO IS IN THE FORM OF A HUMAN, GENDER AND RACE ARE IMMATERIAL — IS SITTING PATIENTLY, LEGS FOLDED AND HANDS ON HIS KNEES, CONGENIAL AND CALM.

michelangelo-buonarroti-creation-of-adam

AN ANGEL WALKS IN, LEADING HUMAN WITH HIM/HER. GOD RISES TO GREET THE HUMAN, SHAKE HANDS, ETC.

GOD: Thank you for coming, I really appreciate it. Please, have a seat. Can we get you something to drink? Pellegrino? (GOD ADDRESSES THE ANGEL.) Pellegrino.

(THE ANGEL ROLLS THEIR EYES AND EXITS.)

GOD: Anyway, thank you for coming.

HUMAN: (UNCOMFORTABLY) Uhh… It’s my pleasure.

GOD: I get it, you’re uncomfortable. Totally understandable. God the Almighty asks to meet with you, and immediately your reaction is the “What did I do to get called into the principal’s office?” Nothing. You did nothing wrong. I just wanted to talk to you about something. But you know what? I’m omniscient, I know all about you. Any questions for me before we get started?

HUMAN: (STILL UNCOMFORTABLE) Uhhhh, did you… really create the universe in six days?

GOD: (SMILING) No, I didn’t. Certainly not in six days. In a sense, I didn’t even create the universe. But I also didn’t NOT create the universe. Your species is probably a couple hundred years of physics and differential calculus away from figuring it out, and it will all make sense. Spoiler alert: It’s not super strings, but I LOVE that idea. Far more elegant than how I actually did it. You humans are so clever. Anything else?

(PAUSE. HUMAN LOOKS DUMBFOUNDED.)

GOD: Fair enough, it’s overwhelming. Here, I’ll just give you the highlights of the things that all people want to know: It was a lone gunman, but not Oswald. The ’69 Mets? It wasn’t a miracle, some drunk in Vegas sold his soul to Lucifer. Laid a grand on the Mets in February, made millions. Run down by an Elvis impersonator on the Strip a week later. Come on! I was pulling for the Cubbies!

(THE ANGEL WALKS IN WITH TWO GLASSES OF ICE AND A BOTTLE OF PELLEGRINO ON A SILVER TRAY.)

GOD: Thank you. I got it from here. (ANGEL GLARES.) I HAVE it, thank you.

(THE ANGEL MAKES A FACE, BUT TURNS TO LEAVE.)

GOD: I’m sorry about that. The angels, even the ones who were loyal, they remain… jealous, of humans. Lucifer couldn’t handle that, so he rebelled. The ones who didn’t rebel, well, they loved and trusted me, but they still don’t trust you. So it really plucks their feathers to be bringing you mineral water. I have always meant to make it up to them, but I don’t know how. Chew on that a second — I, God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, don’t know how to fix that. Kids? (GOD LEANS TOWARD HUMAN, SHRUGS, AND PLAYFULLY SLAPS HIM ON THE ARM IN A FRATERNAL MANNER.)

(HUMAN CONTINUES TO LOOK UNCOMFORTABLE AND CONFUSED.)

GOD: Well. I can see the small talk isn’t helping you to relax. No worries. Down to brass tacks.

(GOD POURS THE WATER INTO THE GLASSES WHILE HE SPEAKS, AND HE HANDS ONE TO HUMAN.)

GOD: I need your opinion on something, but before we talk about it, I need to explain something about me. I have many, many names. I am Yahweh, He am, Who am. I am Allah. I am El. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. G-dash-D if you’re M.O.T.. I am Odin, and Thor, and Freya, and Sif, and Loki. I am Jupiter and Zeus, Mercury and Hermes, Isis and Osiris. I am the Sun, and the Wind, and the Rain. I am Anansi. I am Crow. I am Raven. I am Weasel. I am Brahma the Creator AND Vishnu the Maintainer AND Shiva the Detroyer. I am Zarathustra, thus I spake. If she had been real and not just made up for Ghostbusters, I’d be Gozer the Gozerian. Do you follow me?

(HUMAN NODS WEAKLY.)

GOD: I am all those things. I have thousands of names. Every single person on earth has a different idea about me, each one completely wrong and also exactly right. How can that be? How can one Being with infinite power and wisdom and Who is present in all things have so many different names? Well, as Tom Petty sang, “You believe what you wanna believe.” You still with me?

(HUMAN NODS AGAIN.)

GOD: Good. One other thing for you to understand. When you look at a goldfish in a bowl, it swims in circles around the little plastic castle. It has no memory. Every time it swims around, “Oh hey! A castle! Oh hey! A castle!” It doesn’t (AIR QUOTES) “know” anything. It lives in a permanent, unending present, unaware of either past or future. A few billion years of evolution — and yes, it was evolution. You don’t honestly think I’d spend my time personally creating one kind of beetle for rhino dung and another for elephant dung, do you? I have PROCESSES for that stuff. Delegation, that’s the key to successful management. Anyway, a few billion years of evolution later, one of these fish got it into their heads that there’s a MAYBE. And if you can imagine maybe, you can imagine a FUTURE. “Maybe there’s more food up on the shore?” And so one of these fish, pulled itself up out of the brackish ooze, and breathed. This is completely oversimplified, but you catch my drift.

(HUMAN NODS, THIS TIME WITH A LITTLE MORE CONFIDENCE.)

GOD: If you can imagine a future, you can start to remember a past. The little plastic castle ceases to be a surprise, it becomes part of the landscape. “Yesterday, we found berries by the acacia tree. Maybe we can go back there tomorrow?” A few billion years more evolution, we get to you, the hairless apes who split the atom, eradicated polio, wrote the Fifth Symphony and the theme from A Summer Place. You marvelous, clever creatures. You, who saw the stars and went there.

You, you, you, my most wondrous of wonders. You remember the past, and look to the future. You imagine new little plastic castles, and they become real.

(GOD SMILES, ALMOST BROUGHT TO TEARS; TAKES A DEEP BREATH, AND A SIP OF WATER.)

GOD: But even if you can imagine the past and the future, you remain only able to perceive the present. For all your brilliance, you are locked into a time and a place. Unlike me. I exist in all times and all places. I exist in the warp and weave of the space-time continuum. All pasts and all futures and all presents — yes, there are multiple nows — they are all before me, and I am always in them. There is no plastic castle for me, nor is there not one. Right now, I am here with you. And I am also watching the Milky Way and Andromeda collide in a few billion years. And I am also standing on the edge of a brackish ooze, watching a lungfish linger on shore a while longer. Are you with me?

HUMAN: I think so.

GOD: Good, because I want you to think carefully about what I am about to say. Recently, I was… surprised. (PAUSE) RECENTLY, I was SURPRISED. As a divine, omniscient entity co-existing in all space and time, nothing should ever be recent, or a surprise. Never mind the theological or philosophical implications, that just shouldn’t happen to me.

HUMAN: (A LITTLE SLACK JAWED) What happened?

GOD: It’s a little hard to explain.

HUMAN: With all due respect, this whole thing is hard to explain. But you wanted me here for a reason.

GOD: (DEEP BREATH.) The universe contains waves and particles, protons and electrons and neutrons, quarks and bosons and ones you haven’t even imagined yet, just wrinkles in the calculus waiting to be divined. Okay, particles. And me, existing in all spaces and times, and I should add at all scales — I am as large as galaxies and as small as a lepton, and everything of all sizes in between. I am the fusion, and the fission. I quite literally AM the cosmological constant. But a new particle just… popped itself into existence. I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t make it. It just… happened.

(PAUSE.)

GOD: I had a now. I had a singular moment that I perceived exactly once, and then it was gone. “Oh hey, a castle.” Suddenly I feel…

HUMAN: (INTERRUPTING) Human.

(PAUSE.)

HUMAN: I have a daughter. When she was three, she fell off the jungle gym and landed on her head. She lost consciousness, internal bleeding. It was scary. I prayed that day. For her, I prayed. I am not really a prayerful person. I didn’t even pray for myself when I when I had a really bad car accident. But I prayed for her.

GOD: I remember.

HUMAN: Huh. Yeah. I guess you would. Anyway, I went from being the person she depended on most, to protect her and save her from the bad guys and the monsters. To her, I was all powerful. And I was totally powerless. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even drive her to the hospital. So I prayed. Now, there’s something you can’t do. You, God, Zeus, Osiris, Shiva. Terrifying, isn’t it?

(GOD NODS.)

HUMAN: That’s the thing about those moments. If I were like you, existing in all space and time at once, always watching her crack her skull on the jungle gym, waiting by her bedside for a week as a she recovered from surgery, I’d lose it. I know, because I lost it then. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have created a universe, or the theme from A Summer Place, but I have created a perfect, beautiful life. And when I was powerless to help her, I was a wreck. So I prayed.

GOD: Do you know why the angels are jealous?

HUMAN: No.

GOD: They will never, ever be able to create anything. I could bring that angel in here, and tell him to write a poem, and she [OR HE] would bring tears to your eyes with a tragic song of love and loss, and they would feel nothing. It would emerge from them already perfect and complete, no work, no struggle. And as soon as it is done, it is forgotten. Finished and on to the next. The angels are short order cooks, churning out perfectly delicious burgers, one after the other. Humans get to be chefs, and they resent it. They will never know the experience of creating something, whether a universe, or a daughter.

(PAUSE)

GOD: There is something new in my universe, something unforeseen — which for me is saying something — and it scares me. But I don’t have anyone to pray to.

HUMAN: What did you say? Millions of ideas about God, each one completely wrong and exactly right? Maybe that includes your own ideas.

THE END.

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