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God rests secure

By Michael McGirr

You can’t call yourself a Catholic unless you think that Makybe Diva should have been allowed to come on and kick the winning goal in last week’s World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.

It has been a curious fortnight in Inner Springs. The parents who support the local community childcare returned from their excursion to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Many of them said they picked up valuable hints for dealing with difficult children. They believed that any self-respecting supernanny should add exorcism to her repertoire.

Other than that, the only bit of inclement weather to disturb the early summer heat came in the form of an article in the Dry Reach Morning Post.

The Dry Reach Morning Post never reaches Inner Springs until the afternoon. And it doesn’t come by post. It arrives with Don Andon on the school bus. Distribution is sometimes interrupted if a child has been sick on the bus and the Post is needed to help with the clean up. Don has been driving the bus for twenty years. He keeps a supply of old Posts in the luggage compartment and, if the current issue has been used to absorb a child’s bad news, then he drops off old ones at the pub and the store.

He has never had a complaint about this. It’s not that people don’t notice that the paper is out of date. It’s more that, in Inner Springs, people prefer to be reading old news. The point of the paper is to confirm what they already know and hence to provide reassurance that the reader still has the world firmly within his or her grasp. The only safe source of fresh news is gossip. Our local community radio station went out of business because it couldn’t rely on talkback callers to repeat what everybody else was saying as if they had just thought of it. The callers of Inner Springs just couldn’t get enough passion into their cliches to make the station viable.

Feathers were ruffled when last week when an article appeared in the Dry Reach Morning Post of which Soapie Burnside, the publican, had no prior knowledge.

This had never happened before. Not even when Soapie’s obituary appeared pre-posthumously in the paper. Soapie had had a hand in its composition, a fact which did not help the case for defamation Soapie wanted to bring against the paper for publishing material which referred to his loss of hair and gain of weight. The Post said that, as the years went by, Soapie had the same amount of hair on his body. The sad thing was that it had so much more skin to cover. The result was that his scalp started to look as threadbare as the carpet in the front bar.

These clever words were devised by the college of regulars who drink in the pub. It has long been considered a great lark among them to get somebody’s obituary published before they are dead. It is even better if one can bluff the paper into publishing an obituary for a dear departed dog. This is the reason why the dogs of Inner Springs tend to have such distinguished names, such as Nelson Thatcher or Clinton Lewinsky.

Soapie received legal advice that it is very difficult to sue for defamation on behalf of the dead.

“But I’m still alive.”

He was told that the court would accept publication of an obituary as evidence of death. When the college of regulars received this news, it turned its attention to writing obituaries of people from whose estates they might expect to benefit. They also wrote many fine and moving tributes to their wives and partners.

Finally, the paper stopped all the fun. It instituted a strict policy of refusing obituaries of the living and reinforced this by checking with Keith Greaves, the undertaker in Dry Reach, to see who was dead and who was not. Greaves is the fourth generation in the firm of Greaves and Losse. He has a better memory of the dead than the living. He says that business was never as difficult as it was during the recent drought. It was virtually impossible to sink a grave in the rock hard cemetery. Greaves is admired for his generosity. The obituary of his father published in the Post drew lavish attention to the discount Greaves gave his father for the pre-paid funeral he sold him on his death bed.

“It was the least I could do,” said Greaves. “After all, the old man had done the same for my granddad.”

Not just those who read the Post in the pub but the whole of Inner Springs was thrown off balance  last week when it was announced in the paper that the mayor of Inner Springs, Howard Winston, intends to introduce new security legislation at the December meeting of the local council. This comes hard on the heels of the new sexual relations act.

My neighbour, Cardinal Shallots, is dismayed.

“We won’t be allowed to read the Bible any more,” he told me.

“What do you mean?”

“Just look at the Book of Job. The word terror just keeps cropping up. As does the word fear. They are everywhere in that book. For much of the book of Job, God is a terrorist. He says that the ’terrors of God are arrayed against me’. He doesn’t mince words.”

I hadn’t thought about that.

“To say nothing of the psalms.”

I was beginning to think this could be a long conversation. I got the point. After all, I knew that Christians believe that God had sent his son to die for a cause. I imagined that God would be in serious trouble under the new legislation.

“Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit,” says Cardinal Shallots.

“But doesn’t that mean respect rather than terror?’

“If you’ve never known terror, then you’ve never known God,” says the Cardinal.

I knew to leave it at that. But the Cardinal went on.

‘The mystery of faith is that so much love and so much terror can come from the same source.”

The cardinal can be crude when he has a point to make.

“Every Christian will have times when they piss themselves laughing. And times when they crap themselves with fear. And it’s God who sets the times.”  

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