Day of Dedarkment, Aprilcot 13, 41 A.B.

"To Hindus, India is the Holy Land,
its sacred mountains and rivers enlivened
by more than 300,000 local deities."

- Newsweek (March 27, 2000, p. 58)


     I read that at breakfast this morning. 
     I don't believe I've ever had a breakfast quite like it before. 
     A bowl of Total corn flakes, a cup of lactose-free milk, half a banana (sliced), a small glass of Minute Maid orange-tangerine juice, and the knowledge that there are over 300,000 "local deities" running around less than 7500 miles from my back door. 
     If they were to all line up between that back door and India as a spring-time lark akin to that old phone booth stuffing fad that used to be so popular back when calls only cost a dime, there'd be almost 50 deities per mile
     Now, that's a lot of all-knowing, all-seeing omnipotence by any measure.
     And truth be told, it's one thing to be an atheist when all you have to do is deny the existence of one god, or even the three-in-one version that a lot of folks hereabouts favor.  It's a whole 'nother thing  requiring a whole lot more energy to be an atheist when you're having to deny the existence of a procession like that!
     I got me two slices of cinnamon toast and some coffee before rolling my trash out to the curb just in case circumstances kept me busy denying gods all the way through lunch.

     As I rolled that trash out, I did some calculating.  (I figured it couldn't hurt, since I wasn't actually handling a writing utensil at the time.) 
     India has almost exactly 30 times the land area of Ohio.
     Thus, everything else being equal, Ohio ought to have 1/30 the number of local deities as India.
     Which works out to 10,000.
     Or approximately 113 for each of my state's 88 counties.
     I mean, we only have 3 county commissioners, after all.  Do we really need 113 deities to run a mere 410 square mile piece land?
     It seemed highly improbable to me, even if these deities worked in shifts and got two weeks off every year once they'd made it through their probationary period.
     Nonetheless I took extra care as I rolled my trash out to the curb, not wanting to start my day off by accidentally running the wheels of my Waste Management container over the toes of a single god.

     It was after I had safely positioned that container at the end of my driveway and had turned back towards the house that I noticed a Certain Something.
     Blowing across the front lawn!
     A piece of paper that I might have grabbed and thrown away on any other day, but not today.
     Not when it looked to be a note.
     Not when there were at least 113 deities in my area, not all of whom could be expected to remember everything they needed to remember without jotting a few things down.
     So this morning I not only grabbed the paper as it wafted towards and then over my feet.
     I actually read it.
     And thus my life was transformed....

     It turned out to be an 8.5" by 11" sheet of white paper, folded in half.  Exactly the sort of commonplace paper you'd expect a deity to use so that if it was lost, no one would be any the wiser.
     On this paper was written a series of notes - in pencil.  Exactly as if what was being noted was so important, it had to be written down immediately after grabbing the first and most common writing utensil available - which is almost always a pencil!
     With beating heart and bated breath, I examined the paper more closely and - with fluttering eyelids - read the words upon it.
    Here is what they said:

     DeHavens  2/100 nut rack or 2 - 2 tier rack 
                         shelf - for meat
                         Chip  99¢       Reg - BBQ

     Smittys - 2/100 Nut Rack  3' or 2 tier shelf (2)
                     Old Mega Container (for her candy)

     Pharmacy - Ada                                             2x6  Fisca
     Coffee House - Ada                                      Snack items - Sams

     Ohio State
     Ohio Northern

     Lucky's - 2x4                                                  Fax Waruger Re Racks
     Billy Bob's - 3x4
     Joe - 3x4

     Being a typically rational, educated American, I pondered all this several full seconds before concluding that the gods had delivered this message of theirs into my hands for a reason.
     The question became, "Can I make money off it?"

     I read these notes again and again in the admittedly implausible belief that if I understood what they meant, I'd be in a better position to exploit them for personal gain.
     DeHavens, I knew, is the name of a local hardware store not far from my home.  But why would a hardware store be associated with nuts and chips? 
     And then I knew - I knew!
     The gods had written this in English so I would understand it.  Not Hebrew.  Not Sanskrit.  English.  They weren't trying to be mysterious.  They expected me to read and understand their message as I naturally would. 
     And reading the notes naturally, as a little innocent child might, their meaning became crystal clear:
     I was to go to DeHavens as a hand-picked prophet of the gods and convince the owners to start selling chips and nuts for the convenience of the local deities!
     I almost fell over, having never before having had such responsibility placed in my hands!
     And once I had succeeded at DeHavens, I was clearly expected to spread the message and the commandment of 99¢ chips to select pharmacies and universities across the state.
     It's when I realized this that I actually did fall over.
     I wanted to be sure I got it right.

     When I recovered my senses and read the notes again, the full enormity of their importance hit me.
     Like, who do you think "her candy" refers to?  Huh?  HUH??
     And how would you feel if you finally had incontrovertible proof that people with names like Lucky and Billy Bob actually and truly lived in your area???

     And then - oh, and THEN!
     I unfolded the paper and read the flip side.
     That's when I saw that it was no ordinary paper at all!
     It was actually a flyer for the Meat Snacks, Co.
     A flyer promoting Limited Edition Nascar Mugs packed with 6 of Bull's Biggest Beef Sticks!
     I gasped, I sighed as I dropped to my knees and full knowledge and understanding washed over me like ladles of gravy over raw steak and mashed taters.
     "The gods are rednecks!" I whimpered into my holiest pocket.  "And that last note there on the right implies they've learned how to operate a fax!"

     The horror... the horror... and the enormity of it all!  But mainly the horror.
     I quivered, I sobbed, and then I involuntarily raised my arms to the sky and begged the gods to relieve me of a burden bigger than I could bear.
     "Please!" I begged.  "Relieve me of this burden that is bigger than I can bear!"
     And at that moment - at that very moment - a truck went by, fluttering the paper in my hand.
     And I knew that had I only chosen to let go of it, it would have gone sailing on down the road.
     And then I knew - I knew! - I had been relieved of the terrible burden placed upon me.  All I had to do was let go.
     But since letting go would only clutter up the road or someone else's yard, I wadded up the paper and tossed it in my trash.

     Thank the gods it was merely paper and not stone tablets I'd been entrusted with, otherwise I'm sure Waste Management would have charged me extra to haul it away.
     And thank the gods that March 27 issue of Newsweek hadn't been published in burning bush form, otherwise there'd probably be one hell of a nasty landfill fire somewhere out there tonight....


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By Restaurant Employees Told It Is His Birthday)