BOWLESIAN! – God, the Little ArtistPosted: May 4, 2022 | |
God, the Little Artist
by Jeff Bowles
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.
We were certainly very sorry to hear about your death, Mr. Williams. Happens to even the best of His creatures, we suppose. Rest assured all the finger paints here on Planet Heaven are thrilled beyond words you have finally arrived. Begin reception of extraphysical sense and thought in three … two … one…
There. That’s better. This’ll help us get to know you. We see now, for instance, that your eyes have adjusted to the darkness, that you hear a thin dripping somewhere off to your left and that your feet scrape against rough, rough limestone. Understand, we finger paints have witnessed just about everything there is to witness.
Finger paints, yes. That’s what we are. Self-aware, creation-endowing finger paints. We dribble from a pin-hole wound in God’s lower back, right at the base of his spine. Whenever it’s time for him to paint, he scoops us up and lets out a giggle; a deified, bloody, Technicolor spinal tap. We wish you to know he’s been expecting you for quite some time. Sitting cross-legged here in his cavern, deep below the cliff face high, using his brittle fingers to paint portraits of your existence.
“Yay!” he often exclaims. “Colors time! Colors time!”
Few things get him so excited, save perhaps milk and cookies or his favorite Saturday morning anamatia.
Look, here’s the painting he calls Puppy, and there’s the one entitled First Time with a Lady. Note the lack of definition, of sharpness and lucidity. Sublime, isn’t it? Weren’t you an art history major? We’re great lovers of art, ourselves. In these paintings, Mr. Williams, if you don’t mind our interpretation too terribly, you aren’t so much a man but a concept. Of simple lines, basic shapes. Of any color that can exist in a rainbow of perfectly aligned moons and stars.
You approach God slowly, reverentially, overwhelmed, completely unsure of yourself and a thing so magnanimous as immeasurable love. You suddenly have visions of burning bushes and burning Sodom and savior children left to die on crosses for the salvation of all–
He spots you in an instant. His smile is broad and toothless. “Sorry, Daddy,” he says, eyes wide beneath bushy, peacock-feather brows, “I ax’dently spilled juice all over Taking too Many Per’skiption Pills.”
Taking too Many Prescription Pills, of course, is the one he painted just the other day after you’d passed out on the couch, stopped dreaming, stopped being much of anything.
God is ancient-looking and has paint stains all around his lips. He sits on the cavern’s floor, naked as the day he willed himself into being. He reaches for the painting in question, holds it up for you to see. Yes, completely ruined. The image of you–eyes rolled into your head, slobber trailing from your mouth–transcendentally post-Picassian though it may be, looks vaguely like a melting meat-puppet minus the hand up the meat-hole. It’s like Salvador Dali, but without the clocks.
When God says he spilled juice all over it, he means this rather literally. He drinks a lot of juice. Apple juice, to be precise. Not vino, vin, wijn, or the more aptly dubbed, Jesus Juice.
God cannot imbibe the red and/or white stuff. After all, he’s got the mind of a child.
“Daddy,” he says, “there’s sumfin I needs to ax you. Come closer.”
You lean in closer.
“No, Daddy, closer, closer.”
You get down on one knee, and you lean into his cracked, peeled-wallpaper lips.
“You love me, Daddy?” he whispers.
You nod. What man who can truly call himself a man does not love God?
“Love me bunches and bunches?”
You nod again. How humbling to hear the word and feel the breath and know the power that is–
God plants a big, sticky, icky one right on your cheek. He laughs in your face, then he slaps you so hard you see bloody Egyptian rivers.
Ouch. That smarts.
“Tee hee!” He says. “Got you, Daddy. Got you good. You’re gonna’ be God now!”
Precisely what, you inquire, does this mean, oh Lord of Space and Time?
“Pretend I’m a baby, Daddy! Baby needs changin’. Change me, Daddy! Change me!”
And what, oh Lord of Space and Time, you query, shall be the object, function, and product of the change? For in changing God, does not man–nay, does not the universe–cease to exist in his glorious image?
“Huh?” says God.
You huff and shout, What the hell do you mean, baby needs changing!
And then God starts to cry.
Aw, look at him. You made God cry. Aw. Look at him, all naked, and old, and cross-legged, and bawling his eyes out. With his naked, old soul and his naked, old heart all torn to pieces. Tears and snot stream from every hole tears and snot are apt to stream from. We hope you’re happy now. We really hope you are.
You coo at God, and then you pat his back and scoop him up in your arms, because you’re desperate and just feel like such a jerk.
You never had any children. Never had any grandfathers, either. Leastways, you never had any grandfathers who acted just like the children you and your wife never managed … Well at least you say you’re sorry. Lord of mercy, you are so, so sorry. You never meant to yell at him. You love God. You love him just as much as you loved your wife, and your sister, and your mom, and your dog, and your…
But God, he is hurt. He pushes you away and screams at the top of his lungs, “I’m dyin’ Daddy! I’m gonna’ die real soon. I bleed each time I paint!”
What does he mean by this?
God shakes his head and frowns. He draws his fingers to his back, winces as he touches them to skin. He holds them up for you to see. Color. True and everlasting color, no kind of blood you’ve ever seen. You find us both horrible and enchanting. It’s like Edvard Munch, only you try not to scream.
“I been paintin’ so long,” God says. “So really, really long. I been paintin’ all of you. You know what’s gonna’ happin’ when there’s no more blood to bleed?”
He’s going to die. He’s going to die? Holy hell. You bite your lip and start to panic. He’s going to die? You run a hand through your hair. God can’t die. Holy hell. God can’t die, can he? You pose to him this very question.
He sighs, and though he looks even sadder and more impossibly frail than before, the tears stop flowing.
“I can,” he says. “Yup. And I’m real sad, too. So you’re gonna be God now, Daddy. I slapped you good, so now you got god-power. I made my daddy special. When I was paintin’ your pit’tures, I made sure to con … concen… con-cen-trate real, real hard.”
Enough with this daddy business! Why does God need a daddy? The creator of all that is infinite and everlasting can never, metaphysically speaking, create that which is, by act of temporal creation alone, both a beginning and an ending to his own existence. Can he?
Perplexed, unnerved, you find you only have the strength to ask him this:
Why did God cross the road?
He shrugs. “Prolly ‘cuz the big kids was chasin’ him again.”
# # #
God is dying in your arms, Mr. Williams. Right here, right now. We can feel him slipping away, death a fatal pressure building inside his spine. Recreation, such as painting pictures, is widely known to relieve pressure. And spinal taps are good, too.
He’s asked to die outside, far from his dank, dark cavern, because, as he says, the 29 moons of Planet Heaven remind him of his favorite spaceman animatia. The monstrous, towering cliffs of his river basin rise high and immeasurable all around you. The sky is a deep, ruddy purple, the grass a fine, silky blue.
Colors abound. In your nose. You smell the colors of the universe. On the tip of your tongue. Taste the colors of an endless dream. Smells like burnt cherry wood. Tastes like … paint. Because even though you had no children, Mr. Williams, you were a child once, and you know what paint tastes like. Because children eat it, and eat glue, and paper, and … God dying in your arms … if only you could eat paint and love it like you once did.
God’s breathing is heavy, labored. His lips are pulled back over his teeth, mule and horse-like. Does the body of God go to waste before the end?
“Daddy,” he says. His voice cracks and splinters. “Daddy, come closer.”
You lean in.
“No, Daddy, closer. Please, closer.”
You draw his body into yours, and you press your face in so close you can smell his breath.
“Don’t worry, Daddy,” he says. “I ain’t gonna slap you again.”
Well that’s a relief.
“I should, though. Cuz’ it’d be real funny.”
No, Lord, you say, please don’t.
He nods meekly. “Kay. Kay. Daddy?”
“Daddy … Daddy?”
What is it, oh Lord of Space and Time?
“Don’t forget. Ladies wear dresses.”
You ask him what he means. You barely hear what he says next.
“When you paint ’em. Ladies wear dresses. Men wear pants. Doggies go arf, arf.”
You tell him to rest, to be still. He speaks again. So quiet, so fragile and insubstantial it breaks your heart to pieces.
“Also,” he says, “the act of creation is not a self-validating act in and of itself. Nor is the act of destruction. That’s childish, childish and misses the point of being the child.”
Childish? Child? Why is it he suddenly doesn’t sound like a child anymore?
“Wonder,” he says, “wonder,” and one final time, “wonder. In all that you do, my son, wonder. There is so much in this universe to … to paint for the sake of…”
And then God dies. No great final gasp, no moaning or earthly laments or anything so substantial that you think, yes, that’s it, that is the end. And you, Mr. Williams, are suddenly lost in your own grief, in thoughts of your wife, your sister, your mom, your dog and … how alone they all must be. How it feels to abandon. How it must’ve felt for God–just now, just a moment ago–to abandon so hastily all he’s ever loved and nurtured.
And now he’s dead, and in death so placid he may as well have drifted away, a newly winged thing, to paint pictures on the 29 moons of Planet Heaven.
So peaceful and serene. Except that…
The very next instant, his body explodes.
Pressure in the spine. Explosion, detonation. We come hurtling out. A million-billion gallons of paint splatter Planet Heaven and splatter you and splatter the universe beyond. Buildup, relief. Our viscous, fluid minds have blown out wide and interstellar. It’s like Jackson Pollock, only messier.
An infinite pallet, besides.
We fill you up. Fill you in. Blood in, blood out. And you know such beauteous things. Such things no mere man could ever know. Is this what it means to be at the center of all places and times? You reach two fingers to your back and wince from the pain, bring those fingers to your open mouth and lick them. Oh, you think, maybe I still love to eat paint, after all.
Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!
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