God’s Neighbor (Mitch Russell)

God moved into the house next to ours a few months back. This was a pretty big deal on our block. We were all watching from behind the blinds when the moving truck rolled into God’s new driveway. We all wanted to see what kind of furniture God used. We wanted to see what kind of TV God had. We thought we were being real sneaky. 

We’d slow down when we drove by God’s house on our way to work. We’d linger at the end of the driveway while we were out getting our mail. We were all trying to get a good look through the window. We all wanted to see. 

In truth, we thought the fact that God chose a house in our neighborhood meant we were all hot shit. It seemed special . I think, for a brief time, we all felt we were occupying this special place in history. It felt pretty good.

But once the word got out that God was living in a one story rancher in Nowhere, Idaho everything got out of hand.

People started showing up from everywhere. India, Italy, Russia – everywhere – and they all wanted to see God. They didn’t care about our neighborhood. They didn’t care about our community. I mean, we were God’s chosen people and they acted like we were in the way or something.

Every morning our driveways were clogged up with cars from all over. There were piles of prayer beads and shit all over the street. There were throngs of worshippers out there every hour of the day – chanting, praying, waving their arms around and shouting like lunatics right in front of our kids and everything. They were always there. It was a literally endless procession.

And God was talking to them! The door to God’s house was open to all! These people, after waiting in that line for days on end, would get to the front door, (which opened on its own volition) they would go in for about 5 minutes, and come out later with some stupid expression on their face like their whole life had just been changed or whatever. 

Anyway, things went on like this and eventually we all just got used to it.

Then one day I was sitting around watching Dateline when I heard a general grumbling coming from the procession of worshippers. I heard things like “Where’s God? Why’d the line stop? What’s the deal?” They seemed so damn put out. I chuckled to myself as I turned up the volume on my television. “Haha” I thought. “Dummies.”

But soon I started thinking “where is God?” Then I couldn’t even pay attention to Keith Morrison anymore. I turned the TV off and went out to the deck. I was gonna see if I could spot God through one of his back windows. But when I got out there, I saw God sitting on a folding chair on his patio. He was breathing really hard into a brown paper bag. 

I said “God?” and then God noticed me and jumped a little in the chair. He very quickly stuffed the paper bag into his back pocket and said “Oh!”

I was embarrassed. I was pretty sure I startled him.

I said “you doing okay God?” And he said “yeah… no… no, not really haha.” I said “you wanna come over and have a beer?” God seemed to think about this for a minute. Then he shrugged, got up from the folding chair, and hiked his long leg over the chain link fence separating our yards. 

I gave God a Blue Moon from the fridge. I apologized for not having any orange slices but God just waved his hand and took a big swig. Then he sat there peeling the label off the bottle looking tired. God said “thanks for the beer.” I told him it was no problem.

I asked God how he liked the neighborhood.  I asked him if he ever watched Dateline. I asked him how much he paid for the house but he just laughed. He wouldn’t tell me. It seemed like he was opening up though. We just kept drinking Blue Moons and joking around. It was pretty nice! But every time he’d lean back in his chair or start chuckling at whatever we were talking about, he’d hear the worshipers out front complaining and I could tell it was distracting him. 

Then God got this wry sparkle in his eyes and the corners of his mouth started twitching like he was trying not to smile. He said “hey lemme show you something.” I followed God to the window in the front room. He peeked the blinds open so we could see all the whiny followers complaining outside God’s front door. Then God said “watch this” and he snapped his fingers, and all the followers instantly turned into lamas. 

I just about fell over. It was so fast. So seamless. All down the street, thousands and thousands of lamas all screaming and belching and whining into the air. They looked ridiculous. They looked pathetic. They looked frightened. They all had those big terrified livestock eyes and they were all going “bwaaaaaaa!!!” together. 

Bwaaaa!!! Bwaaaa!! Bwaaaaa!!!

“That’s not funny” I said. God was snickering into his fist. “That’s not funny. Turn them back.” And God, still yucking it up, said “why?” I said that these were people. And yeah they were annoying but they were just people looking for help and it wasn’t fair to turn them into lamas just so we could laugh at them.

God, no longer laughing, just rolled his eyes. He took a big gulp of Blue Moon and said “they’re not people.” 

I said “what?” 

God said “they’re not people. None of you are. You’re all just characters in my dream.” God slumped down into my couch with a faraway look in his eyes. “This is all just a dream. It’s a big cosmic dream I’m having. And I’m trapped here in this dream with you for now, but one day I’ll wake up and you’ll all die.”

I said “…”

And God said “none of this means anything.”

I said “get out.”

And God said “what?”

I walked back to the kitchen and opened the sliding door so that God would get the message. 

“I said get out. You may be God, and I may be just a character in your dream, and none of this may mean anything, but this is still America and this is still my house and I’d like you to leave now.”

God was quiet for a minute but then he stood up and walked through the sliding door. He looked at the bottles of Blue Moon we had left on the table and said “I shouldn’t have been drinking.” Then he stumbled over the chain link fence and went back into his house. A few minutes later the procession of worshippers turned back into people and resumed like nothing had happened. The people went in and the people went out, and I went back to watching TV.

I got a voicemail from God a few weeks later. He said he was sorry. He said that things do matter and that we aren’t just characters in his dream. He said he didn’t know why he said that. It wasn’t true. He was just going through a tough time. He sounded like he might have been drunk.

I guess I was glad he called. I was glad he left the message. I was glad he said we weren’t just characters in a long, pointless, cosmic dream. It softened my feelings towards him a little. But still, truth be told, I knew in my heart that the damage had already been done.

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Favorite Drink: Two parts Campari, one part vermouth, olive juice, olives, round slice of orange, topped off with a splash of seltzer. Served in a rocks glass with one big fat ice cube.

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Mitch Russell is a wildly famous author operating under a pseudonym. Don’t tell anyone. You can read his other junk in Maudlin House, JAKE, and Functionally Dead.

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image: MM Kaufman