Two Derelicts Talking – Part 1
Mt Victoria, NSW
Two derelicts are sitting around a 44 gallon drum in which they’ve set fire to some stuff – cardboard and some bits of wooden palette and a rat, which initially smelled like singed fur but is now smelling strangely like barbecue.
The two derelicts are talking. The first derelict, Father Able Donohue, is a disillusioned priest who left the priesthood without first checking if he would be actually employable in the real world, which it turned out he wasn’t. The second derelict is a theoretical physicist, Ronald Watts, a brilliant but orderly man who has been turned alcoholic by the eccentric and almost insane nature of the quantum universe.
Ronald Watts has just finished explaining to Father Able Donohue the Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox, using two empty beer cans and a stick. In the give and take, two-way-street of their relationship, Father Able Donohue is now explaining the Great Flood to Ronald. They are drinking wine from a cask bladder they have taken from the box which they used for kindling for the fire. They’re passing the bladder back and forth, drinking straight from the squeezable spout.
Father Donohue says, ‘So, God sent down a great deluge, making it rain for forty days and forty nights, until all the world was covered with water, which rose higher than the highest peaks of the Himalayas, and every single living thing became drowned in the terrible flood.’
Ronald says, ‘Except Noah who rode it all out on his ark.’
‘Exactly right,’ says the Father. ‘Big ark, two of everything. A major project.’
Ronald adds, ‘And quite an engineering achievement for its time.’ He reaches and takes the wine bladder and drinks deeply, then says, ‘What about the fish though? They wouldn’t have been killed, surely. They’d have been right in their element. All that water, it would have been like heaven for them.’
‘Poison rain,’ says Father Donohue.
‘Seriously?’ Ronald asks.
‘Yes, well, that would make sense.’
‘Of course, it’s God,’ says the Father, and he takes the bladder and drinks with his head thrown back so his long, straggly hair reaches down past his shoulders.
Ronald says, ‘And Noah and his family didn’t get poisoned at all? Accidentally, from the poison rain?’
‘God told them not to walk around with their mouths open.’
‘Does it say that? In the Scriptures?’
‘Not exactly, but it would make sense.’
‘Yes, well, points to God for thinking of it.’
They spend a few moments in silence, then Ronald says, ‘Just one more thing about the fish …’ but the Revered Father cuts across him, saying, ‘Forget about the fish. The fish are the least of your worries if you’re going to examine the Big Flood.’
‘How so?’ asks Ronald.
‘Well, you’re a physicist. Consider this. Where did all the extra water come from? If all the world wasn’t covered by water in the first place, where did all the extra come from? You see where I’m going with this?’
‘Maybe God made extra water?’
‘Okay, well where did all the extra water go to after the flood, when the waters receded?’
‘Seeped into the under strata, I don’t know. I’m a physicist, not a geological engineer.’ Ronald drinks some more, then throws the bladder across to the Father and continues in a thoughtful tone, ‘But I’ll tell you this, when it all did seep away there’d be one hell of an awful stink left.’
‘How do you mean?’ the Father asks.
‘Well, the world would have been just one vast ball of death. You’ve got all the dead people, for a start. We were probably about three billion back then. That’s a lot of dead bodies lying around, going off. And then of course there’s all the animals. Billions upon billions of them. All rotting. I mean, just the whales alone. Have you ever smelt a whale that’s gone off?’
Even though the question is rhetorical, the Father shakes his head.
‘You’re lucky,’ Ronald tells him. ‘Someone hid a prawn in the Dean’s car once. Mad Dean Vernon. Eventually you couldn’t get in the thing for the smell.’
The Father nods absently and pulls out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and, extracting one, gets up and lights it from the flames in the drum, singeing further his already singed eyebrows.
When he sits down, Ronald continues, staring, as though watching his past like a film. ‘The old Dean had developed a brain tumour. Nobody realised. He’d always been a bit eccentric, but then he started failing any final year student with a ‘P’ in their name. It was Phillip Happsen Phillpot who put the prawn in the car. He was an honours student, but with six Ps, he didn’t stand a chance. They had to destroy the car in the end. And of course the insurance didn’t cover that.’
‘What, it was a listed preclusion?’
‘I think so.’
‘Nice work thinking to include that. Nothing gets past those vultures, does it?’
‘No, and the banks are no better.’
‘Even Jesus despised the money changers,’ the Father says. ‘That was over two thousand years ago. Nothing changes.’
They just sit for a while, passing the bladder back and forth, watching the flames flicker in the old barrel, then Ronald says, ‘Now here’s something that might interest you, being a man of the cloth as you are.’
‘Was a man of the cloth,’ the Father corrects him.
Ignoring that, Ronald continues, ‘There’s a major Christian learning centre in Texas. Huge place, enrolment of over three hundred thousand; biggest single campus in the world. Anyway, it has the most amazing mural on the wall in the entrance, showing dinosaurs living in wonderful harmony with happy humans. And it’s not allegorical.
Every year, three hundred thousand new souls re-enter the world believing human beings once rode around on brontosauruses. It’s a wonderful thing. There are not many species capable of incorporating scientific truth and theological doctrine like that.’
The good Father nods and holds his hand out for the wine bladder.
Bio: Paris is the author of many varied and interesting books and stories. His most recent release, 2,000 Jews Walk into a Bar, is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/000-Jews-Walk-into-Bar-ebook/dp/B00F2ACBD2/