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God's Shoehorn

Updated on December 24, 2014
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Chapter 1

Father Paul Osterheal puffed miserably on a bedraggled roly. His lager bereft tin of Fosters slipped between shaky fingers and clattered noisily down the dias steps. Somebody in the congregation tutted loudly. A small boy in over-sized sunday best sneezed.

Father Paul looked back at their judging eyes with his own bleary, blood-shot pair. 'You see..." he continued with what he was beginning to suspect would be his last Sermon, 'The thing is... the thing about God, right? Iz he's a bit of a dick isn't he?'

The congregation stirred with mutinous mutterings.

'Don't get me wrong!' insisted Paul expansively sloshing half the contents of a fresh can onto the knees of the front row. 'Jesus was a lovely bloke!' he said, 'You can't fault him for the sins of his homicidal dad coz... coz, coz s'wouldn't be fair wudet?!'

People began to leave.

'See...' Paul continued obliviously, 'Jesus healed folks'n'stuff... what's God done since the start thas any good, eh? Killed off a load of Egyptian babies? Genocide by flood? Creating this shitty world and condemning us to live in it? What a sadistic, sodding arsehole!'

By the time he'd said the word 'sodding' Paul was left alone in the Chapel with only his enraged echo for company.

'Wankers' muttered Paul and directed his venomous, if slightly cross-eyed glare through the chapel wall after his erstwhile flock. No doubt Mrs Parsonage was already on the phone to the faculty Dean. Father Paul struggled vainly for a moment to recall why he'd taken the Magdelene college chapel post in the first place. It was probably something to do with big dinners.

Paul took a wavering step only to slip on a puddle of sacremental wine and sodden wafer. He tumbled in a billowing swirl of vestments to the foot of the dias. Lying with his bleeding visage pressed into the cold tiling, Paul let the last vestige of priestly leanings slough from his rebellious mind.

'I want nothing more to do with you' Paul mumbled at God through bleeding gums.

'OKAY' boomed God sullenly from the mouth of the wooden Christ on his cross.

Though the reader may find it odd that the almighty designed to reply to Paul's heretical rantings, it didn't shock Paul at all. Throughout his young life Paul had had a two way communication with the Lord that had been the envy of his peers at Seminary school. God often spoke to Paul. It was, in Paul's opinion, one of his most irritating habits.

'Good' mumbled Paul grumpily.

'FINE THEN' said God.

'Great' said Paul. There was an awkward silence.

'I GUESS I'LL BE GOING THEN'

'Shut up!' Paul shouted into the tiles.

'I WAS ONLY...'

"Shut.... up!!!" yelled Paul.

The uninvited yet eternally ineffable presence of the Lord, departed in a huff. At least, He departed in the sense that in the immediate presence of this particular "fisher of men", he ratcheted his omnipresence down a couple of notches.

'Bloody nuisance' muttered Paul as he clambered laboriously to his feet. If he'd cared enough to look he would have been most outraged to see the Christ figure on his crucifix blowing a raspberry at him from behind his back. Paul wiped his bloody chin on the hem of his cassock.

'Right!' he said with a decisiveness that had been absent in his life for many years. He nodded to himself and stepped forth into a suddenly interesting-looking future.

About 6 Months down the line and half a mile away...

Mrs Parsonage finished her tea and pondered the patterns made by the leaves in the bottom of her cup. She had successfully divined the winning numbers for the local raffle in this way once or twice. This was because Mrs Parsonage, though very nice in person, was nevertheless, a witch. She was loath to admit it to her 'regular' friends in the W.I. and the Parish knitting circle, but such was the burden of her lineage. Mrs Parsonage had been born with the gifts of dreamwalking, psychokenisis, flight and shape-shifting. She didn't fly too much in these, the latter years of her long life. She didn't like what the wind did to her petticoats. Neither did she care for the haughty stares of migrating geese, nor the snide remarks from passing crows. Besides - it gets cold up there!

To be honest, since a rather embarrassing incident involving a very friendly doberman from down the street, Mrs Parsonage had decided to abstain from shape-shifting until she had got her whiskey habit under control. There were advantages to being the mother of six hyper-intelligent, telepathic Doberman. She never had trouble from the local gangs any more. Youths had wrecked many a garden on Pilton street, but not hers. When they'd reached her end 'the boys' had been waiting in line on the top of the garden wall with the fires of hades in their gleaming eyes. Poor Sylus had had migraines for a week after but what was she to do? Boys would be boys, after all!

On a damp Tuesday in what had been a rather saturated October, Mrs Parsonage summoned a Demon. Tuesdays had always bored Mrs Parsonage and so she often took them as an opportunity to catch up on whatever gossip was on the lips of folk in the ethereal realm. The Demon in question was rather put out about the whole affair having been interrupted during a demonstration of a new torture device that he had just developed. He'd had three princes of Hell attending the demonstration as the device was on the cusp of gaining approval to be rolled out for Beta testing in the lower circles. Bloody interfering witches! They never considered a Demon's feelings.

Samhael appeared within the chalk circle, bound there by the glowing glyphs of power that were inscribed around its edge. A noxious cloud of sulfurous smoke billowed about him in a disgusting haze that stung the eyes and singed the nostrils. Samhael coughed hoarsely and fought the urge to gag at the stench even as his already red skin darkened to an unhealthy purple.

'You ought to get that seen to' said Mrs Parsonage helpfully. She wafted the yellow vapours that reached her, delicately.

'Quite' Samhael choked out with a sullen glare. 'I was in the middle of something rather important, you know!'

'That's nice dear' said Mrs Parsonage with a condescending smile, 'You can tell me all about that in a bit.' Samhael rolled his eyes and manifested a 1936 Bauhaus chair in chrome and suede. He produced a small Dyson and divested himself from the smudges of brimstone soiling his suit before primly seating himself. He raised a slim eyebrow in query at his statuesque hostess.

'Well?' he demanded after a moment of exasperated silence. Mrs Parsonage sipped her tea.

'Oh, yes! Silly me!' she chuckled, appearing to only just realise he was there. She did love to play with them - they were just so easy to infuriate! 'I'll lose my own head next!' she announced with a vacant smile. Samhael glowered at her and for a moment allowed himself to envision that glorious scenario with accompanying grisly sound effects.

'What gossip do you have for me?' asked Mrs Parsonage and took out a floral note-pad. Samhael realized quite suddenly that for once the old witch was not going to enjoy questioning him. He smiled with such sudden coldness that Mrs Parsonage gasped and nearly dropped her pen. For the first time in many years of summonings, she felt the fluttering of fear in her belly.

'The end' smiled Samhael, 'Is finally nigh.'

To Samhael's intense disappointment, Mrs Parsonage relaxed. 'Oh that!" she chuckled with infuriating good humour, 'I know all about that!' Samhael's jaw dropped. Mrs Parsonage put her pen to the floral paper. 'Now, what can you tell me that I don't know?" she asked in the kind tones of one talking to the very young or feeble of mind. Samhael started to cry.

- Here endeth the first chapter of God's Shoehorn, a particularly odd story by Dan Barfield -

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    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      How long did it take to cobble this together? I like it! Church meets the underworld in suburbia and your friendly neighbourhood witch has a hotline to the Faculty Deacon - whatever that is. Are you a lapsed Catholic, by some dint of fate? Hate to ask these personal questions, but this is laden with 'insider knowledge'!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      I am a lapsed Catholic as it happens! They never let us go... we are never not Catholics it seems. We merely 'lapse'! :)

      I love the Catholic church in a sort of nostalgic way. I also love the mythology/history both within the bible and within the records of the church's development over the centuries. My sense of humour compels me to take a playful look at the various characters involved in the story of Christianity and this story has turned into a sort of 'what if' exploration that presupposes a misunderstanding of the character of God, the devil etc. by humankind. I am purposefully not planning this one out and writing it in an organic episodic way. I'm as curious to see where this goes as anyone. :)

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Otherwise known as 'playing the devil's advocate', standing aside and looking at yourself as if you were someone else.

      Four hundred years ago they'd have burnt you at the stake.

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