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Our Deaf Ears

by  dr_mandrill

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004
Word Count: 1817
Summary: God has one last shot at berating the regulars down the pub.

Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

I remember him always the same. Always sitting bent in the corner with two coats on, scant white hair askew, rolling mean cigarettes with yellowed claws. He was not a handsome man by any means: he was short, and whilst not particularly fat in a loose and flabby way, his musculature was gnarled so as to make him bulbous; his mouth was like a stinking seabed strewn with teeth like shipwrecks, half-embedded and jagged; his eyes were furtive, blank. Aesthetics aside, the fact remained that he was-or had been- our God; so out of a mixture of pity and apathy we allowed him to remain. He waited out his long dotage in the corner of the Half Moon’s lounge; his dole money just buying enough to blur his eyes to the precise nature of his creation.

It was predictable that things would come to a head on the hottest day of the year. Heat boils people’s blood; the bubbles popping in the capillaries in their brains. If something was ever going to happen, that night in August was the time. The balmy night had drawn out virtually the whole village and led them to the pub (which is easy in the village, as all roads lead there). Out in the beer garden were the younger ones. They looked up at the stars and drank and laughed and weren’t awkward. They were the girls with breathtaking and easy beauty; the boys with unpractised, winning smiles and unashamed hands. They are not a part of this story.

Inside, both the front room and the lounge bar were teeming. The bar staff mopped their brows with their forearms- the sweat matting the hair there and serving to underline the extreme heat. A lot of the trade was in bottles as they came straight from the chiller. I drank Grolsch and San Miguel -even alcopops- in an attempt to cool down. The men I was with- the friends and acquaintances I had to show for twenty years of work- were die-hard farts, and stuck to bitter and Guiness. Sweat glued their shirts to their backs. The ceiling fans whirred sarcastically as beer guts and flaccid chests were outlined ever more clearly by saturated fabric. Walls of human flesh surrounded our table- people stood by the bar, in the corridor, and in all the spaces between the tables. I felt groggy and claustrophobic as I tried to listen to Steve’s story.

“So I’m lettin’ her suck me off, an’ I feel something between me cheeks, like…”

I wondered absently whether any of Steve’s sex anecdotes actually ever took place. It seemed unlikely, as he spent most nights in the Half Moon from six until after eleven.

“…’an I’m thinkin’ ayyyyy love, I’m not that kinda fella- not into any o’ that Elton John stuff.”

I smiled encouragingly, let my head swim pleasantly as the story carried on without my attention. Steve was a fuckwit. He was the worst kind of fuckwit- a charmless, joyless, moronic leech of a man, who by some quirk of social dynamics had been allowed to dominate his circle of friends for years. I hated him, but my flat was empty and I hadn’t done anything except the pub and golf for three years now. Steve and the others were the closest thing I had to family. The bastards.

Steve’s posturing and blatant exaggerations carried on and on as I enjoyed the effects of the warm night and cool booze. Thoughts evaporated, the vapours blew away. I was floated to oblivion gently, on a gondola made of marshmallow. My eyelids were beginning to droop.

Just before my head began to nod, my ears pricked and I snapped back to full consciousness- a murmur of silence was running through the packed lounge bar. I recognised the sound of collective bemusement and disapproval and stood to get a better look. Nothing had ever happened in the lounge of the Half Moon. I pushed through the small crowd of polo shirts and polyester floral prints to not-quite the front (a tasteful distance). The old God was making a scene. He’d got up from his corner-table (which was almost enough in itself to turn heads) and had moved right up to the wall-bracket-mounted TV. He was standing on a chair and poking at the controls on the corner of the set whilst Geoff, the landlord, was gently trying to pull him down.

‘If you want to watch the TV, you should just go home, mate. No-one wants Sky News on this loud at this time of night.’

As he spoke, Geoff rolled his eyes around the room. People were exchanging looks. The old man was an embarrassment.

‘You should all be watching. This is fucking important, you callous bastards!’ God spat the words over his shoulder. A mixture of laughter and some mild tutting about his language was the response from the gathering crowd.

“Ooh, let him ‘ave the news on if it’s that important, Geoff. He’s not hurtin’ anybody.” Geoff, cowed by his wife, backed off.

“Okay God, but not too loud mate.” He spoke as if to a three year old.

God immediately punched the volume button and held it down ‘til the little green graphic rode up all the way and the voice of the newsreader sang out over our heads. He was describing something. A piece of wasteland; an urban wilderness in some city down south. It meant nothing to me. A graphic slid in from the right-hand side of the screen that changed everything. It was a photo, slightly blurred and amateurish, but instantly recognisable as one of the grimly iconic images of that summer. It showed a little girl- just about school age, perhaps five. She was grinning, in a party dress. The girl’s loose blonde curls hung over one eye. She was perfect. She was holding the hand of a slightly younger boy- her brother. His mouth was stretched wide in a beautiful laugh. Angels. I smiled back at the screen until my drink-dulled mind caught up and I realised: the police had finally found their bodies.

“Don’t you see what you bastards have done?” God was still up on his chair addressing the room. It wasn’t exactly a burning bush, but it caught our attention. “You’ve all done this. You’ve just let it happen. Your precious fucking society, your precious rules and books and league-tables and morals and responsibility.”

“Look, God,” Geoff looked stern “I think you’ve had a bit too much tonight, with the heat, and you’re a bit emotional. Maybe it’s time you went.”

“NO, Geoff! I’m not going ‘til every one of you fuckers has seen what you’re doing.”

“It’s hardly our fault if some perv goes off and kills a couple of kids.” Sandra- a hairdresser and serial flirt- chipped in. “Most of us are decent people.”

“Yeah ‘an we sort out the fuckers when we find ‘em as well.” Said a deep voice from the back. It was Steve. “We do our bit. When we find the cunt that did this, he’ll go inside. They’ll never be able to guard him 24/7, and you know the first chance any decent con gets, the dirty paedo fucker’ll get sorted.” Steve seemed to be summing up public opinion in the bar. Heads were nodding. “So I think you should just start giving us some slack. Whatever it was you used to do when you were runnin’ things, it couldn’ave been working that well, cos things carry on about the same as always. So why don’t you just fuck off, and stop accusin’ decent people of murder while their tryin’ to ‘ave a decent night out.”

There was a low rumble of assent from the throng. Everyone seemed to think Steve had represented them well. I think they all thought it was over. God got down from his chair. He went back over to his table and put on his coat (his only concession to the heatwave was to strip down to one overcoat). He picked up his pint of stout and drained it.

“Well I’m going.” He bellowed to everyone. No-one in particular. “Enjoy your evening taking bullshit to each other while your kids die and your world falls apart.”

“Fuck off!”


God obviously couldn’t quite leave without a last attempt at driving home his point. “You wanted to take charge, you wanted the responsibility. You wanted to do it yourselves. And I let you. I thought you were ready, but clearly you’re not. Just look.” People were turning from him now, bored. He sighed. “You’re all running the show now, you know. Which means you’re all responsible. If you can’t honestly say that you go out every day and do your share to make the world a better place, then every time something like that-“ He pointed over at the TV “-happens, you’re all murderers and paedophiles, every one of you.”

He had everyone’s attention now. Hundreds of angry eyes.

“I know things like this happened when I was in charge, Steve.” Heads flew round to Steve, who had sat down again. “But my job was to care. Everyday. For everything. Not just the first time; not until I got desensitised, but always. If you really want to do this without me, then every single one of you should permanently be sick with grief and shrieking with horror. That is what responsibility means.”

Accompanied by silence, God reached over to Sandra’s table, drained her banana daiquiri, downed her gentleman friend’s double scotch, and headed for the door. He didn’t look back.

What happened next was very fast. Steve had stood up. He downed his pint and was striding towards the door. He was angry. Steve was always angry, but this was clearly going somewhere for a change instead of just zipping round forever inside his fat head.

“I’m not a fuckin’ murderer, an’ I’m NOT a fuckin’ paedophile! Someone needs to teach that old wanker a lesson.” He was out of the door in a heartbeat. I followed him, slowly, into the scented summer darkness. I looked left, then right, and saw him halfway down the lane. Steve looked like he was dancing, and I smiled for a moment. Then I saw. He wasn’t dancing, he was kicking. God was on the ground. The old man was mewling pathetically like a kitten. There was blood coming out of his mouth.

“Shit Steve, I think you’re killing him. Stop it. Don’t kill him, mate. You don’t know what’ll happen. You can’t kill God without expecting something to happen.”

Steve kept kicking God in the ribs and stomach for a little longer. Eventually he stopped, wiped the spittle from around his mouth on the back of his hand. He bent down and pressed two fingers to God’s neck. He looked up at the stars. Still there.

“Looks like you’re wrong, mate.”