Chitika

Excerpt

on Saturday, 10 March 2012
Just posting an excerpt from an old abandoned novel idea I was working on a while ago:

Phillip turned off the stove and extracted the sausages from the frying pan, carefully arranging them on two slices of slightly stale bread. There was more fat left in the pan than he had added to cook the sausages, a sure sign that one should possibly reconsider their choice of breakfast.

“Now this is a breakfast fit for a king,” he said to no one in particular. Phillip lived alone; in fact he spent much of his time alone. Truth be told, he probably couldn’t tell you the last time he met with friends or spoke with his family. He liked it that way; he was his own man; no one to tell him what to do, no compromises to make. He did what he wanted, when he pleased. He was about to get the chance to do something that pleased him greatly, as there was a knock on his front door.

He grumbled and put down the dripping sandwich he was about to clog his arteries with, and stood up to peer through the net curtains. There by the front door stood two youngish men, dressed in cheap suits and holding pamphlets. Oh boy, thought Phillip, breakfast can wait. He had recognised the men as Christian missionaries.

“Hello sir, sorry to disturb you but we’d like to talk to you about Jesus,” said the nervous looking man Phillip had opened the door to.

“Well by all means, come on in,” replied Phillip. The two young man looked at each other in slight disbelief and stepped through the door. They were not accustomed to such agreeable treatment; they were more used to having doors slammed in their face and strings of obscenities.

“Sit, sit.” Phillip scooped piles of various things off a sofa that had seen better days. “OK, hit me, what have you got?” he said, with an attitude of someone who was about to win a fight. There was an uncomfortable silence.

Looking unsure of how to start, one of the men piped up “Good afternoon sir, my name is Tom and this is my brother David, we are here to bring you into the light of Jesus.”

“How do you plan to do that exactly?” asked Phillip, unsuccessfully fighting the urge to smirk.

“Well, we are bringing you the word of Jesus. Through his teachings, you can know peace and assure that your eternal soul makes it into heaven.” This was David, he seemed the younger of the two, more open and, well, simple looking. This was a man not over-burdened with thought.

“Is that all it takes? Just to know the teachings of Jesus?” Phillip lit a cigarette, to the obvious discomfort of his guests. He’d always enjoyed that aspect of smoking; it annoyed the “squares”, although he could do without the coughing fits. He made sure to blow the smoke in the direction of the brothers.

“Well, no, you have to believe in them. You have to have faith,” said Tom.

“Ah, faith. The ability to believe in something that is obviously wrong, right?” Here we go, thought Phillip.

“Not at all, faith is believing in something because it is true, because you know it to be true and because you need no explanations. It’s believing in something greater than yourself, a higher power. Once you know faith, you know peace and love,” said Tom smiling a big open smile.

“Amen!” said David, bordering on obnoxiously loud. Tom winced a little at his brother’s exuberance.

Phillip took a long drag from his cigarette and eyed up his guests. “So what about the rest of the bible then, the bits that aren’t about Jesus?” he asked.

“Well of course they are important, but Jesus is the most revered prophet in the Christian faith, we believe he is the messiah, brought forth to spread the word of God and to save mankind from its sins,” Tom explained. He began to look uncomfortable, like a man who is on trial. He was not used to such questions, the only people willing to talk to him were usually people who believed or were already on the fence and willing to believe. He could see that this man did not have an open mind about such matters. He steeled himself; it was his duty to spread the word and that was what he would do.

“Would it surprise you to know that I have actually read the bible?” asked Phillip. Before they could answer, he continued: “The passages about Jesus’ life aren’t really that long, there’s not that much about him to be fair. It could be said, that if you took a leap of faith and believed in an almighty God, that the story of Jesus could be pretty believable. He was the son of God, performed miracles in his name and died for our sins. OK. So then what about the rest of the bible? It’s supposedly the word of God, who is an infallible, omnipresent being, but it’s riddled with discrepancies, contradictions and things that flat out don’t make any sense. How far are you asking a man’s faith to stretch?” He sat back in his chair, looking slightly smug. I’ve got them there, he thought.

“Well, if you have faith, then you don’t need to ask those sort of questions. God has a plan for us, it’s not always clear what that plan is. If anything seems wrong or doesn’t make sense, it’s not our place to ask why; it is simply God’s plan at work. Man cannot hope to comprehend the work of a higher being, can he? We can simply devote our life to His teachings and await the day when we are welcomed into his arms.” Tom’s turn to look smug.

“But how can you devote your life to teachings that contradict themselves? If the bible is the irrefutable word of God, then how can you follow one bit that directly contradicts another? It’s impossible.” Phillip was getting annoyed; why do I do this to myself, he mused, you can’t reason with these kinds of people.

“It’s not always about the exact words, it’s about intent. All you can do is try to lead a good life, by the moral codes set down in the bible, and pray for God’s forgiveness when you sin,” Tom replied, looking frustrated.

“God loves us and forgives all, we need but ask,” piped up David. He seemed oblivious to the battle of wits that was taking place in front of him. There’s really no hope for that one, thought Phillip.

“Well, OK, then why even have the bible? If it’s just about a moral code, why not write that down and scrap the huge tome of gibberish that you cling on to like it’s the air that you breathe? Why clog everything up with ancient fairy tales, why not just try to live a good life and hope for the best? It’s what you’re doing anyway, basically. If God really is so benevolent then he will forgive you, and job’s a goodun.”

“That is not enough, one has to have the faith. God will forsake those who do not believe in Him.” Tom’s hand subconsciously squeezed the bible he held, as if it were an embodiment of his hope.

“Doesn’t sound very forgiving to me. In fact, he sounds downright vindictive. Take the book of Job, for example. God has a little spate with the devil, and ends up ruining a man’s life, just to test his faith. Kills his family, ruins his health, destroys his livelihood, and why? Just because he can. That’s my favourite story in the bible, most poignant example of why I don’t want to believe. If there truly is a God, he’s not the sort of god I want, doing crazy shit like that.”

“God tests us all in different ways, he is testing you right now and you don’t even realise it.”

“Oh, I’m being tested alright,” snapped Phillip. He took a drag of his cigarette and steadied himself. He was losing his temper, he needed to keep a cool head or this would turn into a petty slanging match. “OK, so let’s test your faith shall we, see how deep it runs. Do you believe in witches?”

“Well, no, everyone knows witches aren’t real-“ David interjected.

“Of course they are! It says so right in the bible,” Phillip smirked. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live if I remember correctly. So, what happened to the witches? They obviously existed, it says so in the bible. Did we kill them all? Are there no witches left?”

“God’s word is not always easy to understand-“

“So why say that you do? Your priests claim to have all the answers, a free pass into heaven and life eternal, but really you have no idea! You are as clueless as the rest of us, clinging onto some mass hysteria from centuries past to make you feel safe in your bed at night. You blindly follow a make-believe God so you don’t have to open your eyes and see the cold, hard truth that is all around you. That Man doesn’t know bugger all about anything in the grand scheme of things. Don’t you think that questions deserve to be asked? Mankind cannot evolve without curiosity, and you’ve just flushed yours down the toilet and replaced it with blind faith. Oh sorry, I forgot you people don’t believe in evolution, despite the evidence staring you right in the face.”

“Your ‘evidence’ was put here by God to test our faith,” interrupted David.

“You know, your God does a lot of ‘testing’. If faith is so important, why does he have to test it all the time, isn’t it enough that you have it? He’d know if you were faking it, he’s omnipresent. And for that matter, why bother to spread your faith at all, surely if every single person on the planet believed in your religion, then there would be nothing and no one to test your faith. Seems antithetical to God’s plan to me, surely you have to have a few non-believers around to keep you on your toes. Maybe that’s why God put so much nonsense into that bible of yours, not to directly test your faith but to make sure people like me, with rational minds and a natural curiosity, would find it unbelievable and give you someone to argue with about it. Come on, Tom, you seem like a bright fellow, you can’t possibly believe all this guff?”

“I think we should leave,” said Tom. “Come on David, this soul is not ready to join us.”

“What’s the matter, hit a nerve?” Philip asked as he showed them to the door. “Come to the dark side!” he said mockingly, making ‘spooky’ motions with his hands.

“I’ll pray for you,” said Tom as the front door shut behind him.

Phillip scowled and went back to the kitchen to eat his now cold breakfast. Don’t bother praying for me, he thought, I’m a lost cause. He laughed a little to himself. He enjoyed testing the religious, it gave him a sense of smug self-satisfaction, made him feel righteous, and the irony of that was not lost on him. “Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam,” he said to the empty room, smiling.

After breakfast, Phillip set out to the corner shop to buy more cigarettes. He knew he should quit, his health had been pretty awful lately, even the lightest of tasks usually evolved into coughing fits. These things will be the death of me he thought as he queued at the till. A young man was trying to pay for Tic Tacs with a cheque. Bloody students, he thought, I don’t have all day, although of course he had nothing better to do. As he fumbled for the change to pay for his cigarettes, an uncontrollable coughing fit struck him. This is just what I need right now, he thought.

“Are you alright?” asked the shop girl.

“What do you think?” Phillip snapped in between coughs. He doubled over in a spasm, sending his handful of change spinning across the floor. The shop girl rushed around the counter to help him back up. He turned to her to tell her to mind her own business, but could not speak. As the girl tried to help him, a great cough burst from his chest and sprayed dewy drops of blood over her face, a small part of him thinking good, that’ll show her for being nosy. She recoiled in horror, wiping her face with her sleeve. There were panicked looks exchanged between the shop patrons and the girl; they had seen this before. Maybe this time, they all thought collectively, maybe this time it’s something different. It can’t be happening again. Not after what we did.

Phillip lay motionless on the floor now, unconscious. The customers began to leave; some ran, some walked, but they all left quickly, dropping the items they intended to purchase where they stood. The shop girl tried to phone an ambulance for the prostrate man who was lying lifeless on the floor, but could barely speak. She was squeamish at the best of times, and now she had a pretty good idea that she was going to die, one way or the other. She sat next to his body, held his hand and prayed.


8 comments:

Baur said...

That was really interesting!

Tenment Funster said...

Have you thought about making an ebook collection with your short stories and releasing it for free? It could get you some attention, great writing!

Wilhelm said...

Wow really good

Mark said...

I really did love that. If you did write a novel around it I'd read it, but it also works as just a short story.

teganwilson said...

Thanks guys :)

Yeah I plan to release an ebook at some point this year, I've been looking into self-publishing options and ebooks seem like the best route these days.

Crack You Whip said...

You are extremely talented and should keep your options open:)

G said...

Cool writing - very talented

SammyK said...

Very good. I really like the conversations between the characters. felt like I was sitting in the kitchen with them

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