The day dawned like every other day since first God’s cosmic jism resolved itself into a manageable and predictable system of galaxies and nebulae and stars and planets and all the other things that conspire to give us upses and downses and sidewayses just so we can navigate an ordinary street without falling on our collective glutei like so many surprised muffets, but, unlike every other ordinary day, this was the day that God, in his wisdom, decided to stop jacking with the cosmos and jack with me instead.
So rather than walking naturally and calmly across the street like most folk I managed to slide off the edge of a curb and fall roughly at the speed of sound to the hard pavement of the street and hurt my shoulder. I did not hurt my shoulder a whole lot. Indeed, a lesser man would have said the shoulder hardly hurt at all and would have sprung eagerly from the asphalt all self-deprecating smiles and rapid assurances of, No, no, I’m fine, thank you; but doing so the lesser man would have missed the poignant significance of this event. It took a man of my insight to realize that this was no ordinary fall, but in fact the first step in an ugly vendetta against me by the Almighty.
Despite my lack of serious injury, it remained a tremendous fall. As my flesh collided with the earth it seemed to me at first that I might very well die. My life flashed before me, as lives do for people faced with their imminent demise, but I—resentful as I was of the entire situation—refused to watch it. Instead, I lay on my back with my eyes closed tightly plotting my future strategy. God had started this; his was the first move. Now it was up to me to return fire, but how?
A voice above me asked, “Are you all right, sir?” A voice above me! Could it be God? I opened my eyes to find that it was not God, but rather an acned avatar from Domino’s Pizza.
“Don’t touch him,” said a woman’s voice.
“You sure went down hard, mister,” said the pizza man.
“Don’t touch him. He might have multiple sclerosis,” the woman said. She leaned down to peer at me, checking over my scleroses, I presumed, counting to see just how many extra I had. I doubt I’d have paid any particular attention to her had she not borne a striking resemblance to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Gompers, who had inspired my love of learning as well as my first public erection.
“Thank you for your concern, Madam. I am genuinely touched. However, you are treading on my right hand with your brogan. Do you mind?”
Oh my,” she said and leaped backward, ordinarily a capital idea had she not used my hand as a springboard. Others were gathering. “I am so sorry,” she gushed, then held out her hand to ward off the others. “Don’t touch him.”
“And don’t step on his hand,” said the pizza man.
A new figure squatted beside my head, so near his touch seemed imminent, and I feared the faux Mrs. Gompers might perish from a purple snit of anxiety, but she braved the moment. The new figure said in a calm, assured voice, “Just lie quietly, I’ve called 911.”
“Good God, what an extraordinary thing to do,” I said.
“What happened?” asked some newcomer.
“Guy fell,” said the pizza man.
“It’s muscular dystrophy,” said Gompers redux. “I’ve seen it before. Don’t touch him.”
I considered her comments. Apparently, God assailed me in earnest, giving me not only a likely bruise on the left shoulder but a teeming horde of sclerosis, an achy hand, and a withering attack of muscular dystrophy with all that implied including, I presumed, a hug from Jerry Lewis.
“Excuse me,” said a new voice. “I can see there’s been an accident and all, but do you think I could have my pizza?”
“Sorry,” said the pizza man. “Over here.”
“What kind?” asked the man hunkered by my head.
“Ham and pineapple,” said the pizza man.
“Is that good? I’ve never tried it. I’ve always meant to try it,” said the dopple-Gompers.
“No time to try,” I muttered. “Probably too busy learning to spot a spastic colon through binoculars.”
“Look, I only ordered two pies. There’s not enough—“
However dire my own situation, I could not tolerate this vulgar creature’s complete abnegation of the social contract. I chastised him loudly from my spot in the street. “If you did not have enough for everyone, you should never have brought it up.”
“Hey, look you—“
“Leave him be. Can’t you see the man is dying from progeria? Don’t touch him!”
The group moved away from me and towards the pizza delivery car. There was no denying their intent, and like many another man confronted by the mob, the customer relented. Soon pizza was being passed around like hallelujahs in a Pentecostal whorehouse.
An ambulance chose that precise moment to take the corner on two wheels, sirens blaring. The driver’s eyes widened at the sight before him of some half a dozen terrified pedestrians waving pizza flags. He cut the wheel hard to the left which, I noticed with some small amount of trepidation, put him decidedly on a course with my own supine self.
The driver, a man of astonishing physical gifts, immediately recognized his error and corrected his bearing to miss me entirely save for running over both my legs. I noted with interest that this final adjustment was just enough to send the ambulance directly into the bole of a majestic pecan tree which—with an obstinacy typical of such trees—was disinclined to dodge, and instead took the impact with such vigor that the driver and another, rather sad-faced old gentlemen were thrown directly through the windshield head first into the tree where—one must presume—both perished immediately from the blow.
My own situation was no bed of roses as I now had suffered a rather nasty tire smudge across my trousers compounded by the nuisance of being pummeled by several thousand ambulanced pecans. Here God had already struck his second and third blows at me while I had yet to lift a finger in my own defense. Indeed, were it not for the fortuitous declivity in which my buttocks and legs lay, and were it not for the fact the ambulance had taken the corner on two wheels, and were it not further for the fact that my Samaritans had—only moments before—moved away to gorge on questionably topped pizza thus prompting the newly deceased driver to veer away from them straight for me, and that the unit’s forward momentum propelled it such that it passed over me only as the driver’s side rear tire descended to earth just enough to soil my trousers before landing with a screech on the pavement immediately beyond me, goodness, were it not for these perfectly ordinary bits of physical business that ambulance’s tires might well have put me to considerable inconvenience. In addition, my attempts to keep up with all this frenzied activity while lying on my back had given me quite the crick in the neck.
Meanwhile the crowd grew and the general mood escalated from a tailgate party to a caterwaul.
“Are—are they all right?” someone asked.
“Oh God, the humanity, the humanity.”
“Don’t touch them.”
A man, white with shock, dropped to his knees beside me. “Don’t move. I saw what happened. We all saw it. How are your legs?”
“They seem to be fine, but I’m not sure that tread mark is ever going to come out.”
“Easy, easy. Help is on the way.” The man rose and said to another, “He says his legs feel fine. How is that possible?”
“It’s the shock,” said someone else. “He’ll feel it later.”
All around me men stumbled, women sobbed, and pecans scrunched under shoes. I wondered idly if there might be any pizza left, but was distracted by the sound of more sirens in the distance. Determined that there should be no repetition of events, the Gompers clone took sentry twenty feet down the street to guard me against any further ravaging by medical care.
However the sight of her, arms wide, legs spraddled like a human railroad crossing sign so shocked the driver that he hit his brakes without thinking. This was news to the driver of the ambulance barreling up behind him who, unaware of any Gompers doings, simply plowed into the rear of the first ambulance (or second, if you count the pecan dispenser) without benefit of deceleration sending both units screeching in a shower of sparks across the street where they crashed into a bus filled with touring nuns who had stopped nearby to offer intercessionary prayers on my behalf and to ask for directions to bingo. The air filled with flying nuns and emergency medical technicians all suffering grievous wounds and all landing with sickening crunches on their noggins.
The bogus Gompers wailed like a stricken gospel star. She spun round and round until, overwhelmed by the numbers of people to protect from anti-curative human contact she collapsed in a swoon in the middle of the street, untouched herself until the fire truck ran over her.
Said engine, large and heavy and shiny red, effectively cut the mirror Gompers in twain throwing me into a dolorous mood. Now I was left with no more than a slight ache in my right hand to remember her by, that and an overwhelming urge to enjoin the firemen against groping her.
And perhaps I would had done just that had not a lit cigar jutting stubbily from the thin-lipped Mother Superior come in contact with the rapidly spreading pool of gasoline which leaked from the rutting ambulances. The resultant conflagration swept the street catching all, including the fire engine in its blazing fury. Before the firemen could react to save their engine the ambulances exploded with a mighty whump sending shock waves so powerful they disrupted the beating rotors of the CareFlight helicopter overhead which fell like a rock only to burst spectacularly like some flaming, spidery egg on the fire engine.
It was at this point I considered getting up.
The depression in which I lay ran decidedly downhill such that the gasoline was never really a danger, but the heat from the chopper’s fireball was deucedly warm so really, I had little choice.
Springing to action, I rose and moved away from the flames. I shook a fist at the sky, cursing God. “Is there no end to your enmity? How much more must I suffer?”
The police and National Guard had arrived and might have helped me away had not hundreds of men wearing camouflage ball caps and brandishing rifles chosen that very moment to stream forth from their compound shouting “No more Wacos!”
The air shimmered in the crackle of the flames and the roar of gunfire. The ensuing firefight among the three groups made passage difficult, and the noise from so much rifle fire got on my nerves. I massaged my brow thinking this was going to give me a headache for sure. Somehow, slowly, I picked my way across the battlefield ruining a perfectly good pair of shoes in the gummy blood on the ground. It was all him. All Jehovah. What did he want from me? How much did I have to sacrifice?
But as I reached the edge of battle, I could not help but notice a pair of butterflies flitting above the body of a young corporal. I reconsidered. Could I stay angry at a creator who could make such heart-breaking beauty? I could not. What I took for an attack was only God’s love, reaching out to me, to teach me a lesson about working through the pain, being a better person.
Just as Christ had died for me, all these people had died for me, too, to teach me to show more empathy. God makes a man in some foreign land beat his wife for me. He allows tens of thousands to starve for my sake. Every bad thing on the earth happens just so I can learn a little lesson. I felt humbled.
From that day I became a new man. I was firmly on God’s side no matter what. And I learned to look on all the world’s ills as a kind of wacky reality show. Bring it on, God. Bring on the tornado, the tsunami, war, pestilence, earthquake and volcano. You know me. I’ve been tested.
I can take it.