Sometimes life can surprise us. Sometimes, just when you think you have life by the tail, life turns around and kicks you in the balls and suddenly everything that can go wrong, indeed has. I wrote the following story in response to a request for a "happy story." It was written during a depressed period, however, and can only be described as all we can ask for when we are

Far from Power

A YOUNG GIRL sat at her window in deep depression, staring out blankly past her desk into the night sky which seemed empty of any hope or promise. She sat, hearing without listening at an empty void without sounds of happiness or pleasure. And she thought that, for tonight, anyway, the world was one stinking, awful mess.

GOD WAS FEELING particularly melancholy one day; and, wont of entertainment in a Heaven devoid of playgrounds and television sets, He deigned to inspect the world of His creation and see what he could see.
And so it was that on the quiet night of October 10, 1994, God descended past the layers of misty troposphere and glided to a gentle hover somewhere above Central Park in New York. From there He began His tour of the works His hands had wrought.

The first place He visited was, quite naturally, a church. A midnight service was being held at the First National Baptist Church of America, a tiny little building right inside the limits of Manhattan. God watched as the preacher spoke, his arms wildly gesticulating, his face a contorted mask of anger, his body writhing in religious ecstasy. Then God watched as the well-dressed preacher looked out into the tear-stained audience, gestured to the two ushers standing nearby, and secretly smiled as the offering plates going around became fatter and fatter. God blinked in anger, and the preacher fell over, victim to a sudden heart attack.

In the fog was a lovely bridge. Underneath the bridge flowed the waters of the polluted Hudson River, the waters of the sewage systems pumping rotting waste into the murky green depths. God sighed, and with an imperceptible gesture of His pinky, turned the waters into a deadly poison. The carcasses of dead fish floated to the surface as He thought in satisfaction that nobody would ever come near that river again. The parched grasses on the high banks were tinged a dying yellow.

On the bridge was a teenage drug user. His arms were lacerated with the marks of past abuses of all the worst substances modern chemistry could offer. He was now out of money and, for the first time in weeks, coldly sober. He had decided to kill himself and end his destructiveness, which (as God in His omniscience slowly absorbed) had already brought himself, his family, and even a few of his friends to both financial and emotional ruin. There was nobody to blame but himself. God darkly agreed, and with a vindictive node of His head, a sudden gust of wind blew the adolescent into the murky depths of the newly poisonous Hudson River.

God continued on to Ohio, where in Akron he saw a police imposter shoot one of the citizens his uniform declared he was here to protect. With a twitch of His eyebrow the policeman fell into a convenient manhole and was drowned.

In Gary, Indiana, a husband was beating his wife in a drunken fury. God lifted His index finger and the husband fell to the ground, victim of a sudden and inexplicable cerebral blood clot.

In inner-city Chicago, God watched as two gang members methodically placed old rags around the base of a dilapidated old house and set them on fire. As flames licked around the base of the building, the two youths watched in grim triumph. Suddenly, two wails pierced the previously silent night; sirens in the distance heralded the arrival of the police, and--peering out terrified from a window on the third floor--a toddler left alone at home on this night of nights sounded his fear as the fire raged ever stronger. One of the gang members fled at the approaching sirens; the other instinctively ran inside the building and, as God watched, one figure clutching another staggered out from the flames minutes later. The larger of the two fell to the ground, dead from smoke inhalation, as the toddler struggled out of his arms and stared blankly at the police cars collecting around the area.

In bewilderment, God drifted back to Gary, where He saw the wife whose life He had just saved standing crying over the dead body of her husband. God hardened momentarily, thought back to what He had just seen, and then watched with a melting heart as the husband suddenly revived, victim of nothing more than a sudden, nasty migraine.

In Akron, a muddied criminal dressed as a policeman and covered with shit crawled out of the manhole into which he had fallen and, facing for the first time his imminent mortality, turned himself in to the nearest police station. His sentence would be relatively light, and for the rest of his life his atonement came in the form of a loving family life.

Above a stone bridge spanning part of the Hudson River, a boy looked down at the river into which he had been about to jump when, reflected in the strangely green river, a shooting star fell past the image of his head as if aimed at his soul. He looked up at the lights above him, broke down in tears, and walked, weeping, to the nearest drug treatment center, where he would break his dependency on crack, decide to become a substance abuse counselor, and eventually heal more lives than he could ever have broken.

The smooth green surface of the river that the young man had been staring morosely into just minutes ago broke as if sprayed with buckshot as a gentle, life-giving rain began to fall. Fish which had seconds ago floated as if dead suddenly flipped their fins and dove back into the depths. A moving current washed the poisons of industrial sewage to the edges of the river, where they would eventually collect on the concrete pylons and be cleaned away by the annual Department of Sanitation river cleanup program. As the sudden shower continued, the grasses at the edge of the banks began to grow anew.

At the First National Baptist Church of America, the Reverend James Johnson, who had tripped over his lectern and fallen to the floor a few minutes ago when his indigestion had thrown off his reflexes, had picked himself up off the floor, nursing his bruised head and taking in the spectacle of the offering sitting up. He looked greedily out into his audience when, for a second, his eye caught a glimpse of the dignified face of a raggedly dressed baby in the arms of one of his impoverished parishioners. At the end of the service, Ms. Agnes Matthews and her five children would look up in surprise as their pastor discreetly slipped a check into her purse as she left. For almost a year, the children would receive enough to eat each week.

A YOUNG GIRL sat at her window in deep depression, staring out blankly past her desk into the night sky. But, as she watched, a thousand stars appeared as if Someone had flicked a cosmic switch; the clouds hiding the moon drifted gently away, and the gentle glow of the city lights in the distance suddenly bore a strange resemblance to a chorus of angels. Above the pitter-patter of the raindrops, church bells pealed nearby, bringing sounds of life, sounds of hope. She cradled her head in her hands, strangely touched, and, despite herself, she had to think that, for tonight anyway, the world wasn't such a bad place to be.

HIGH ABOVE THE human plane, God looked down through the falling rain at what He had created, and saw that it was good.

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Illustrations by Edward Hopper
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