by Aileen O'Dowd
Aileen O’Dowd lives in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in Maudlin House, Monkeybicycle, Rejection Letters, Kiss Your Darlings: A Taylor Swift Anthology, and elsewhere.
God, God's Wife, and the Artist
God, God’s Wife, and the Artist have a threesome. When the lights come on, God takes a shower. He uses a new bar of soap. He uses his wife’s exfoliation gloves. When he comes out, his skin is scrubbed raw. God’s Wife laughs. God’s Wife wouldn’t usually laugh at God, but something has come over her. The Artist sees it right away and takes a photograph. God’s Wife opens her arms wide and spins. The Artist zooms in on her nose. “No,” says God. “This is not a studio. It is a bedroom. It is sacred.” The Artist flashes. “Goodnight,” says God, and the Artist goes home.
God and God’s Wife go to bed. God sleeps with his arms at his side, on his back. God’s Wife lies beside him counting sheep. Each sheep tells her a story. The stories are not memorable. Except for the story about apples. The story is just the sheep listing every variation of apple. “Pink Lady. Empire. Fuji. Gala. Golden Delicious.” “Golden,” says God’s Wife. “McIntosh,” says the sheep. “Delicious,” says God’s Wife. “Honeycrisp,” says the sheep. God turns onto his left, then onto his right. Then back onto his back. This is God’s way of telling God’s Wife to be quiet. “Red,” God’s Wife says to herself. “Granny Smith,” God says. “Delicious,” says God’s Wife. “Crab,” says God.
* * *
The next morning, the Artist returns. He carries a giant ball of clay. God is in the study working. “He is always working,” God’s Wife tells the Artist. “God is an important person,” says the Artist. “That’s what important people do.” The Artist drops the clay onto the dining room table. “Don’t move,” says the Artist. He shapes the clay carefully. “I want to make sure I get your nose.” The Artist closes his eyes. “Don’t breathe,” says the Artist. “Yes, perfect,” the Artist says. “Wait—still no breathing.”
God’s Wife takes a break from posing to make BLT’s. “Lunch,” she says, and God comes. God pushes the sculpture of God’s Wife to the side of the table and sits down. He eats two BLT’s, his, and the Artist’s. The Artist notices but says nothing. He is too inspired to eat, anyway. He sets up his easel. He squeezes Burnt Sienna onto his palette. God’s Wife bites into her sandwich. “Do you like it?” God’s Wife asks God. “Yes,” God says. “I love BLT’s.”
* * *
By the end of the week, God’s house is filled with God’s Wife. Sculptures, paintings, photographs, pastels. It is a God’s Wife menagerie. God’s Wife watches God walk around, pretending not to notice. God says, “I am working on something very big.” God’s Wife makes God a coffee. “Really?” God’s Wife says. “What is it?” God adds sugar to the coffee. “You wouldn’t understand,” God says. “But it is world-changing.”
* * *
“God thinks he is so much smarter than me,” God’s Wife says to the Artist. “He thinks my entire purpose is to make meals and dust the house. He forgets that I was the one who encouraged him to be a God in the first place. If it wasn’t for me, he would still be a worm.” The Artist braids God’s Wife’s hair. “Sometimes,” the Artist says, “we can get lost in our desire for success.” “Desire,” says God’s Wife. “Desire,” says the Artist. He puts her braid to his cheek. “May I cut your hair?” the Artist asks. “Yes,” God’s Wife says, “you may.”
* * *
The Artist presents seven miniature God’s Wives to God’s Wife. They are all made of hair. Some of them have wisps of hay-coloured blonde sweeping through them. Others are more ash. “I love them,” says God’s Wife. She lines them up, side-by-side on the kitchen counter.
God comes out of his study. He calls for the Artist. “You are not the only artist,” God says. “Look,” God says. He is holding a diorama in his hands. “Interesting,” says the Artist. “What is it?” God puts the cardboard box down on the counter. God’s Wife moves the miniature God’s Wives out of the way. In the box, there is water, and hills, and a sky. “I’m calling it Earth,” God says. “Really interesting,” the Artist says. “Do you need my help?” God looks at the Artist. “No,” he says. “Do you need mine?” “Help with what?” asks the Artist. “Exactly,” says God.
* * *
God’s Wife makes spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. Carbohydrates make God cranky and tired, but God’s Wife doesn’t care, she is bored of cooking. She serves a bowl to God, and to the Artist. The Artist twists the noodles around his fork. “It’s a beehive,” says the Artist. “I will have real beehives on Earth,” says God. “Not fake ones made of flour.” The Artist pauses. “What’s the difference?” he asks. God’s wife eats plain Bolognese sauce with a spoon.
God and the Artist go to bed. Their blood sugars crash. “Goodnight,” God’s Wife says, tucking them in. She walks through the house. Her face is painted on an 80x60 canvas beside the TV. Her face is sitting on the dining room table made of clay. It is papier-mâché, in the foyer. Her face is framed in photographs, gallery-style, on every wall. They stare back at her, wildly. They speak to her in a kind of humming. It sounds like songs without words. She touches her clay nose. In her pocket, she carries the seven miniature God’s Wives made out of hair.
God’s Wife opens the door to God’s study. The diorama is on his desk. She crouches down in front of it, and stares into the cardboard. It is dark and hollow. She cuts stars out of paper and hangs them in the sky. She makes origami trees, and a garden of hydrangeas. The sheep return. They walk in circles, single file. Instead of baa, they say, delicious. “Delicious,” they say. “Delicious.” Apples fall out of the trees. They fall into the grass, which has sprouted across the hills, to catch them.
God’s Wife reaches for an apple. It is glassy and hard. Her face is reflected in the skin. She bites into her mouth, crushing the sweet, white flesh with her teeth. The miniature God’s Wives eat too. They march out of her pocket, and fill their mouths with apples. They swallow them whole—seeds, stem, and core. Their golden strands unravel, and they slither across the grass. They wrap the trees in pungent bark. They sink like worms into the soil. They syphon the sea like straws.
God’s Wife watches the Earth expand. It has taken over the study. It is taking over God’s house. God calls her name from the bedroom. He tells her to be quiet. He says he has a big day tomorrow, and she is ruining it with her dramatics. The Artist calls her, too. He is flashing his camera. “Stay,” he says. “Wait,” he says. “Stop moving,” he says. But God’s Wife can’t stop moving. She is growing bigger and bigger, taller and taller. She spreads her arms wide, as wide as the sky, as wide as the Earth that is spinning, that is bursting, that is cracking her open, splitting her in two. The Earth that is sucking the light from her body. Sucking and beaming, sucking and beaming. Beaming like the sun and the moon and the stars. Beaming like the faces on the walls of God’s house.