The title of my blog is fitting because more often than not, my pieces are riddled with misspellings, syntactical flubs, and heinous grammatical violations. As a writer, I should be more careful. I should write, then rewrite, then rewrite again in that order. But I often don’t. There is too much to do, too much I want to say, and if I keep looking at what I have already written, I’ll never pen anything important.
This, of course, is horseshit, but it is a point worth mentioning because more than anything else, the mistake I keep making is not editing my posts and below is a prime example. In this essay-a-week below, I tried to change that for there are two pieces; one edited and one not. Both deal with the same story of divine clusterfucks and oopsie-daisies, but the second does so more tacitly than the other. The first is a bulldozer on the crown of your lip roaring along in order to shovel the idea into your head; the second only dances around the motif, hoping you’ll waltz along if only you can pick up its rhythm.
The first time I met Ed Milbrow was at a gay bar. Under fluorescent blubs that could’ve been mistaken for stars, he swayed at the counter surveying the crowd. Neither flashy nor formal, his plain plaid t-shirt and white shorts gave him the appearance as though he had just stumbled into the club by accident. A drink balanced in his hand as I approached him.
“Hi Ed,” I said.
“Do I know you?” He looked at me briefly and then averted his eyes to a male in a white-dress shirt dancing in a booth alone.
“Not quite, but I know you.”
“How exactly do you know me?” His eyes looked back to me, scrutinizing my entire being with the intensity of a microscope.
“I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“What have you heard?”
“Good things, mostly.”
“Great,” he looked away again, “Now if you don’t mind…”
“Ed, I wanted to talk to you.”
He arched his eyebrows to the male. A slight smile appeared on his lips.
“I understand that, Ed, but this is important.”
“I don’t even know you. Can you leave me alone?”
“Ed, I can’t.”
He began to walk away towards the booth, and I stepped in front of him. His chest bumped into mine.
“Okay. What the hell do you want?” Whatever cheeriness was in his voice before was drained; he sounded tired.
“I want to save you, Ed.”
“What the fuck?”
“Please, listen, my son. I want to help.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are?”
“Quite honestly, Ed, I’m God.”
Ed howled. His laugh was louder than the music.
“My fucking luck, right?
“I guess it is, Ed.”
“Alright, God almighty, I am not worthy, so leave me alone or whatever.”
“But you are. All my children are.”
This time, Ed didn’t laugh.
“Alright shithead. I don’t know what you want but if you don’t leave me the hell alone I am going to call security.”
“Please Ed.” I placed my hand on his.
“Don’t touch me, you fucking nut.”
Ed pulled his hands away so hard that his elbows hit his hips. He winced.
“Ed, I’m here because your mother has prayed to me to help.”
“Don’t you talk about my mother.”
“Ed. Listen to me for a sec…”
“SECURITY.” Ed screamed. “HELP SECURITY.”
I stood there silent as Ed yelled, allowing the music to envelope around us in between the exasperated pauses of his screams. The bar room was nearly dark, except for Ed’s face glowing underneath the glint of the lightbulbs. I laughed; to me, it seemed as the whole of the Universe was contained within the walls of the club with all its noises and furry and cosmic lightshows only known to its designer: me. I had created it all, Ed, included, and now he was screaming for me to leave him alone despite it all.
Ed smacked his lips together, “You’re in for it now, asshole.”
“Ed, my child, I’m sorry I couldn’t save y…”
A large arm grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled me away with the force I thought only equivalent to my own. “Let’s get you out of here you fuck.”
In an instant as Ed returned to his drink without looking back to me, I was dragged from the sweat-inducing heat of the club into the cold outside. My shirt was ruined; it swayed at my neck like a doddering drunk.
“Don’t ever come back or I’ll beat your ass.” The bear of a man had a booming voice so loud I thought it was my own ringing across the Universe. I was sure his arms were as big as Saturn’s rings.
“My blessed child, your sins are forgiven.”
“What the fuck did you say? I dare you to say that again.”
I swallowed; holy spit slinked through my throat. Turn the other cheek, I thought to myself.
“My blessed child, your…”
And I quickly learned that even a God can bleed. Because with a punch as powerful as the big bang, everything was as it was in the very beginning. Darkness.
I woke up in Heaven some eternity later.
My head pounded. A flake of blood fell from my nose onto the carpet of cloud below; it was going to rain now.
I was tired – Ed’s eyes trailing back to his drink flashed in my mind – but the Universe kept expanding, kept growing, and I would have to do the same. Complacency and laziness were not characteristics I could afford, even if I wasn’t feeling myself on this breath of infinity. My hands felt as heavy as they did when I was crafting the fjords of Norway.
My thoughts went to Ed again and a feeling of sickness surfaced. I swallowed back the blossoming phlegm and as I did, an earthquake ruptured off in California. From the thousand of instant prayers that reached me, I heard that the state had just split from the US. Thousands had died in the process.
The fault line was a mistake in my grand design and I would have some explaining to do. So while my head still hurt, I began to prepare a speech that would set things right. I would deliver it to a little boy in Spain and he would consequently walk backward, perform some miscellaneous miracles, and heed my explanation to the world.
I hoped this medium of deliverance would be sufficient, though truthfully I had my doubts. There had been problems in the past with divining prophecy to my numerous children. The few who I spoke to were often diagnosed as psychopaths and madmens and they were placed in plush prisons were no one would hear them, let alone me.
A bell soared through the airways. I gurgled out the words through a stiff throat, “Yes?”
“God?” It was Peter. He must’ve been worrying about me while I was away.
“How was Earth?” He already knew.
“Okay,” I said, “A modern crucifixion of sorts.”
Peter let out a rare laugh that disrupted the seriousness of his monotone. He regained composure. “I told you not to go.”
“I know, Peter. I had to.”
“So you tell me.” His voice hinted at disbelief that didn’t require divine perception to notice.
“Ed did not know what he was doing.”
“That’s what you always say about everyone.”
“I forgive him.”
“Well, how is he?”
“Who?” Peter pretended like he didn’t hear the question. “There’s a salt bed in Japan that needs looking into. I have the papers here.”
An assortment of papers materialized in front of my hands. They were a bulky aggregate of hundreds of sticky-notes and scribbled margins worth some 13.7 billion years in the making. The stack was the size of two Effiel towers on top of each other.
“I’ll take a gander in a moment. How’s Ed?”
“Yes?” But I already knew.
“And he wants to talk to you.”
“I see,” I repeated.
The mother’s prayer came to mind. She was just an old woman. I remembered crafting her an infinity ago. Her wrinkles were an art-project that had taken most of my time during the American Civil War. Yet despite my attention or maybe because of it, that night long ago was her first time praying in years. Her prayer was simple, “Save my son, or beg my forgiveness if you don’t.”
Peter remained silent.
“What are you waiting for then Peter?”
“There are more pressing matters at the moment, Lord.”
“Peter – you build a church on stone, not sand. But a church without people is no church worth going to, no matter the build. Please send him here.”
“Yes, my God.”
The papers vanished and in front of me stood Ed Milbrow, or whatever was left of him.
It had happened. He had been beaten, tortured, and killed by homophobic zealots. I had failed him. I had failed myself.
“Ed.” I repeated, my words being lost to the breathless infinity between us.
His mouth hung empty; teeth hidden by lips bruised and battered. One of his eyes were permanently closed and indented. Whatever remained of his hair stood in patches, and with hands bloodied and blue, Ed tried to pull the bits of hair over the bloody wounds in his head. The clouds around him were swimming in blood.
His words were weak, forgotten, almost as if they were a mistake not to be uttered.
Ed was not the Ed I had met at the gay bar; that Ed was torn away when they tried to skin him alive. Ed was gone, and all that remained was broken fingers, beaten bodies, and pain so everlasting that I could taste the red milk of iron in my own mouth.
As I looked at him with tears screaming my shame, I saw the suffering he experienced: while I was in the safety of heaven, Ed was dragged into the streets one night. From there he was stripped of his clothes, and flogged him with a paddle ornamented with nails. They continued by cutting off his penis and cauterized the fountain of blood with a blowtorch to stop the bleeding. Twice Ed went into shock and twice they waited until he came back to resume the torture. They sliced the webs of his fingers, they poured scolding hot water over him, and they tore his hair out in handfuls.
I outstretched my trembling palms to him, hoping he’d see my apology in the silent language of my fingertips, and he stayed still.
“They used your name.”
I was flown back to that night and heard their heavy, holy words. One man held the Bible as Ed was being slowly killed. He read passage after passage, quoted various religious sanctions, and spit on Ed with the holy water of his spit. . The other two men, holding his arms sideways to hold him up as Ed’s feet dangled on the cement below him, laughed throughout it all. And before Ed died, the man with the Bible took a page from Leviticus and stapled it onto his bare red-worn flesh.
“No man shall lie with another unless he be an abomination.” It was my word written into existence, and an abomination was exactly what Ed became.
“I’m sorry, Ed.”
For a God, it was all I could say and all I shouldn’t have to say.
“What good does that do for me?”
I stayed silent. I had no answer. There was none I could give.
“God,” Ed broke the silence that stretched on forever, “that night you came to me. In the club.”
“Yes?” My voice was broken, somehow weaker than Ed’s. A mouse could squeak louder.
“What were you trying to save me from?”
My hands folded on top of each other, almost as a prayer. They shook.
“I was trying to save you from…”
“From myself? Because I was gay?”
I bite my tongue.
He looked at me and he was crying. The tears mazed through the knife-carved cracks in his skin. He was no longer bleeding. No more blood could pour from him, even in Heaven.
“I was trying to save you from me.”
Ed folded his hands and his few flexible fingers tapped a tune that missed a few notes.
“I never wanted to apologize. I wanted to somehow stop time and help you from what seemed inevitable. I wanted to make a different world that didn’t need me, that didn’t try to pen my thoughts as if law. I wanted everyone to love everyone else. I wanted things to go right and no one to notice, especially if they went bad. I wanted you to live, Ed.”
Ed looked at me, and said nothing at all. I knew that he was thinking that since I was God I could do anything I liked and if that was the case, then I had wanted his death. And I wanted to tell him that he was so wrong, but I opened my mouth only to close it again. I didn’t remember what my voice sounded like.
Ed then opened his mouth and found the words he was searching for, “God, why am I crying in Paradise?”
I looked at Ed, and answered, “Why am I doing the same?”
Unfortunately the above piece is not very good. I believe it has potential; there are glimmers in the skin of the characters that allow for greater depth, but I fail to get there. I do not blame the characters themselves; I never gave them the room to stick their fingers in their mouth and blow up like a balloon in order to float around the piece. Instead, I kept them anchored to this page, and in doing so, I barely got to know them.
Besides that, there are some inconsistencies that stick out worse than a splinter (for example, how God cannot save Ed the first time he meets him) and the tone itself jumps up and down with the consistency of a rocking chair with only one leg to stand on. It creaks in some places where the flow sounds rushed, abrupt and then shutters to a halt quite all of a sudden without warning or merit. It’s drama, maybe, but without all the inconvenience. It’s flat, to keep it this edited and succinct.
Below is the edited copy – it takes a different narrative approach, an altered overall perception, and begins exactly where it should and ends not much later than that. As Elmore Leonard said,” Kill your darlings” and I tried to do exactly that the second time around. Murder was the most generous thing to do against the previous monster.
In other words, it is exactly as it should’ve been the first time. That is not to say it’s perfect – only a fool would hope for as much. The second piece is just a baby clothed and sheltered in a crib. Horrible mistakes can still happen – the baby can choke on a screw, it can fall out of the crib, suffocation can occur on a pillow – but the story at least has the chance to grow, to mature, and hopefully in time, speak for itself.
I like to tell myself that Ed was dead before it all but I know that for a while during the worst parts, he wasn’t. He knows it too as he looks at me with eyes bloodshot and red-wrinkled hands outstretched and a tongue that can’t seem to fit in his mouth like it used to. The letters ooze out one at a time like snot droplets.
He nearly faints when he manages to pull the sentence out of lungs slowly swelling with water and mucus. His breaths are laggard and forced; Ed sounds like a car muffler failing to start. He is frail and yet he wheezes into his hand with the force of a tsunami. Blood mixed with phlegm is sprayed on his tattered clothes. He doesn’t even notice.
“Why,” he repeats.
I bow my head. He notices. He steps forward and falls.
I didn’t expect to meet Ed like this, and I wish there had been some other way. But my children had killed Ed and I, their parent, was the reason for his death. I gave them their divine breath, and with it, they took the inhalations and exhalations of others. I was God, the all-powerful, the Omega – yes I was all of that and still am – but as Ed lay folded over top of the purest white cloud, crawling towards me with a trail of dark blood behind him, I didn’t feel like him. I didn’t feel anything.
“You …” the words were hard and muffled. His mouth was filled with the infinite moisture of Heaven’s cloud.
“Rest,” I said, and he fell asleep.
Ed woke and I was still there. He hadn’t moved for an eternity, and he shouldn’t have. He needed his sleep, and I was hoping he would have more. But here he was, awake after it all, looking up at me like he did two other times in his life. The first when he was born, though he didn’t know it, and the second when they were taking pincers to peel off his nails. He screamed my name.
“Ed,” I whisper.
His eyes flutter open. Much of the pain has yet to subside. A trickle of blood seeps from his nose again. He moans silently, almost as if to address his pain would be recognizing my existence.
“I’m sorry, Ed.”
He screams, lunges toward me, and grabs me. With strength of two men, he throws me as far as he can. I barely move an inch. He collapses from exhaustion and sleeps again.
“Ed.” I wake him up again with my voice. It has boomed over the Universe since the beginning of time but here beside Ed, I wish I didn’t have to say anything.
His words are coughed out. “Was it because… was it because I am gay?”
My words are weaker than his. They snake through my throat and I’m surprised that it is me speaking. I barely recognize the sound.
“Because it was always going to be.”
“Me being tortured?”
“Then I wish I was never part of your plan.”
“Sometimes, Ed, I wish I wasn’t either.”
Some liquid seeps from his mouth and he doesn’t brush it off. His eyes, those eyes, they are more powerful then I remember, more powerful than I made them way back when.
“Fuck you, God.”
Worlds collapsed, stars collided, blackholes sucked up parts of the Universe. Ed’s comment was simple and it was everything Ed needed to say right then and there. It was enough for now. He fell asleep, a rare smile creeping on his bruised, battered blue lips. The red were lost from them long ago.
I was there when he stretched the sleep from his muscles. “Why are you still here?”
“Leave me alone.”
“Because I don’t want to. Heaven’s a big place and you’ll get lonely here.”
“I’m fine with that.”
“I get lonely here, Ed.”
“So you just waited for me to join along?”
“I missed you, Ed.”
“I couldn’t done without you.”
I began to cry. “Ed I never wanted any of this, but I don’t know what else to do.”
“Anything. You can do anything.”
“Everyone has their limits, even gods.”
“So what do you do, then?”
“I watched you. You’re a hero, Ed.”
“Save me the fucking pageantries.” He looked stronger, though the wounds did not heal or his voice regain its deepness. His trachea remained crushed as he spoke. A mouse squeaked louder.
“Even a God needs someone to look up to, Ed.”
“Some good that did me.”
“Ed, if there is anything…”
“There was, and it passed, and here we are.” Ed’s lips lost their curve.
I began to cry. Tears flowed like never before. Entire oceans were created in an instant on distant planets and microscopic droplets of water froze in space, forming a mist so fine that one gulp would hydrate a human for years. Ed swallowed as I cried, his throat as dry as sandpaper.
Most of his veins had emptied, and he lay still there on the cloud. A red pool of hardened red flakes surrounded him. He was a fossil in Heaven, a mere print of what he once was.
“Ed,” I said, my tears falling into my mouth. But there was no answer. My voice boomed on for infinity and back and when it rung around to meet me again after travelling to the end of time and back, Ed was still there and so was I and nothing had changed.