Me: Forgive me Father for I have sinned.

God (appearing from behind): Really? What have you done?

Me: Ahhhh! Core blimey, mate, you scared the beejesus out of me? What are you doing here?

God: I thought you wanted to have the real McCoy.

Me: I… erm… I… erm… yes… I think that… it’s OK, well, since you’re here, yes, of course, I mean, you’re the top guy, aren’t you? You’re Herr Commander, you’re the one who calls the shots, so if I’m going to confess my sins, better to do it to you than to some perv…

God: Oi, stop it! Nothing’s been proved yet. Anyway, what’s the problem?

Me: Pumps.

God: Pumps?

Me: Yes, pumps.

God: As in water pumps?

Me: No, those are important. They cause the water to circulate in a car’s cooling system.

God: OK, I see, as in ballet pumps, then?

Me: If only! No, pumps, as in those hideous, grotesque, appalling, detestable, horrendous, ghastly, garish, macabre, monstrous…

God: Stop, stop! You’re going to wear out the Thesaurus.

Me: Sorry, I just got carried away for a second. But, I can’t help it, everytime I see those lightweight, low-cut shoes for women, I… I… I am overcome by an insane desire to destroy them. To crush them.

God: Hmmm… I see. And have you done any crushing lately?

Me: Why do you think I am in this 6-by-8-feet cell?

God: Because you went insane.

Me: You’re a clever God. But to be honest with you, now that I look at it retrospectively, what I did was… more than that. I committed murder.

God: Murder?

Me: Against a poor pump. Let me explain the genesis of my condition. To me pumps are perverse. They are objects without a reason. A pair of sandals, for instance, can be worn in summer, or in autumn, with socks on like most male denizens of this country do. Leather boots render female legs elegant and stylish. Converse trainers highlight shapely and well-toned calf muscles. Pumps do nothing of this. They exist for no comprehensible motive. They are the antithesis of footwear. If we attempted to explain their presence amongst us, we would have to apply a dose of metaphysics. Their configuration invites phrenological theories. Their cantankerous nature runs counter to our raison d’être. They have every intention to displease.

God: And that’s why you committed your hideous deed?

Me: What overcame me at that moment I can only call it pure lucidity. There I was, in the South Bank, the river on one side, the music on the other. I was shaking my head side to side to the rhythm of the band on stage, completely immersed in sound and beat when I happened to cast my eyes in the direction of a young woman sitting with her boyfriend on the wall. There was nothing abnormal in her countenance, she looked happy. She was clapping and moving her shoulders in unison with the music. Then I looked down to her feet. And there it was, the cause of my misery, bane of my life, the scourge of scourges. A hateful pump was dangling from her dainty foot, a monstrous slip-on. The way it swung from side to side made it look as if it was tracing semicircles of ghastly smiles in the air. Laughing at me! I stood there watching it for what seemed an eternity and slowly approached the object of my obsession. Yes, obsession, I know I am obsessed, but isn’t obsession part of our human nature? I advanced steadily with my eyes fixed upon her shoe until

God: Until…

Me: Until I snatched it off her foot. I ran. I ran with all my might. I ran eastwards. The people I ran past kept wondering if I intended to become the new Usain Bolt to which my reply was ‘He hasn’t got anything on me now’. I ran down the Thames Path, I ran past the London Television Centre. I sprinted past the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. HMS Belfast Southwark Crown Court appeared in front of my eyes like a grim foreboding. But I did not stop. I continued to run, and when my legs gave up, I stood on my hands and carried on. I was finally caught in Deptford. I had fallen, the result of trying to pick my nose whilst attempting to maintain my pace. Everyone thought I was a fetishist until they saw what I had done to the pump.

God: What did you do to it?

Me: You know those pictures they show in ads about dieting, the ‘before’ and ‘after’? Well, let’s just say that the pump looked like the ‘after’ but with the repulsiveness of the ‘before’. The mob wanted to lynch me there and then. I can still hear their cries, even now, in this cold cell. I sometimes think I am dreaming.

God: Maybe you are. Perhaps you could get some sleep.

Me: I can’t. I keep getting visions of Kanye West turning up and telling me: ‘Yo, man, listen, it’s cool to dream and all that but I just wanted to tell you, right, that MARTIN LUTHER KING, LIKE, HE HAD THE BEST DREAM OF ALL, you know’. I wake up in a cold sweat and then I look at the bars. It’s real.

God: And that’s why you’re looking for help from the divine.

Me: To be honest with you, you’re my last resort. And I never thought I would have to appeal to your support. You see, I’m an atheist.

God: You are what? Oh, no, not another one! Oh, bloody hell! Why, oh, why, does this have to happen to me? Nobody respects God anymore! The other day I had another case, Richard Deakins.

Me: You mean, Dawkins.

God: Yes, that’s the one. He was desperately asking for help. Plugging that old book of his called ‘The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas’, edited by a friend of his, Ariane Sherine. The guy was a total wreck: ‘Oh, God, help me, please, I thought it would be a runaway bestseller but apparently I misjudged the market. Readers have no time for atheist fundamentalists’

Me: So, what did you do?

God: I turned up, as I did today and told him to phone my office. He just doesn’t know the surprise I have in store for him.

Me: What is it?

God: Well, I got me a new telephone system. You know the type, press one for new converts, press two for the new edition of The Bible, press three if you’re a victim of fraud (I’m not based in Nigeria), press four for media enquiries, the list goes on to two hundred and eighty-four options. Hold on the line if you want to be connected to an operator. I forgot to mention that each option branches out into ten more. Richard will go barmy.

Me: And the operator, who is it? St Peter?

God: No, Beelzebub.

Me: ???

God: Don’t look at me like that. Look, the guy has fallen in hard times. He was ousted.

Me: Ousted?

God: Yup. Evicted from his own lair. It all happened seven and a half years ago when the economic crisis started. So many bankers and City people out of their jobs. Suicides went up by 200%.

Me: I see.

God: They were polite at first when they arrived at Beelzebub’s residence. But soon, they began to trade in the flies’ stock market. You can imagine the rest.

Me: The market fell.

God: Hit rock bottom. You should have seen the poor guy. He came up to me, his eyes swollen up from all the crying. I had to give him the job. So, he womans the phones every now and then and also doubles up as a tutor at our call centre in India.

Me: Womans the phone? That’s a funny phrase!

God: Well, things are not good up there either, my friend. It’s the bloody Tories, innit? They’ve cut so much that all the charity work I used to has disappeared. And to think that Ian Duncan Smith calls himself a Christian. I had to amend some of the language in my documents in order to access some of the non-existent government funding available. Now all is in line with the latest equal opportunities policies.

Me: Well, are you planning to change any of the language in the Holy Book, then? After all, Eve…

God: Shhhh… Don’t let the auditors hear you. That’s why I brought out a new Christmas edition in 2015. You know, a clean slate and all that jazz. Anyway, back to you, what are we going to do about you now?

Me: I don’t know, I am the unluckiest person in the world.

God: You are what? Hellooooo? Welcome to the real world. I have been carrying the ‘bad father’ label for many centuries now.

Me: Oh, sorry, I forgot.

God: And all because I left my son alone playing with nails. How was I to know? After all, he was thirty-three. True, he had just moved back in with me. But then again, most Italian men live with their mothers well into their thirties and no one bats an eyelid. Just because he had problems at uni doesn’t mean that the kid should not have had a second chance.

Me: Yes, it was that lecturer, wasn’t it?

God: Pontius. My son used to muck about in his Pilates class. Well, what do you expect? It wasn’t a compulsory subject and the kid just wanted to go out and mingle with people.

Me: Not fair.

God: No, not fair. But that’s life, I am a bad father and the other twelve roommates my son boarded with are living la dolce vita. As for you, I think I have a solution.

Me: Really?

God: Yes, Beelzebub happens to have a contact in the legal world. Not from this new batch, though, from the old guard. They go back years and years: Nixon, Reagangate, Clinton/Lewinsky, the guy’s been there, done it and bought the blue dress with the stain on it as a memento. Anyway, he owes Beelzebub a couple of favours. So we might be able to do something for you.

Me: Oh, thanks God, many thanks. How can I repay you?

God: Well, some voluntary work in one of the mosques where I temp during the week…

Me: Mosque? But I thought that you were…

God: What? That I was what? Times are hard, mate, I already told you. I have to multitask, they call it ‘wearing different hats’ in public sector speak. I am also available for bar mitzvahs, by the way.

Me: The voluntary work’s fine with me, then.

God: OK, now, how do I get out of here?

Me: I thought you knew, you’re God, the omnipresent being, the…

God: Yes, yes, don’t remind me who I am. But I forgot my pin number.

Me: Well, there’s the door and there’s the window and they ‘re both locked.

God: All right, I guess I will have to lie down here with you.

Me: Will we fit?

God: You seem to forget that I am God and fully malleable.

Me: Yes, you’re right. Hurry up, then, lights will go out any minute.

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