MARIGOLD WOMAN: The Prophet Reminisces, for the Benefit of the Hearer

I’ve come here, Marigold Woman (at the edge of the swamp where the daylight is drying the world’s tears, clustered with obnoxiously cheerful flowers and choked with greenery), to sit alongside you on the fence rail and tell you the word I heard. You got time for that?

I know you don’t. Let me tell you about another word I heard once, read it in a book or something. It was this:

There can be no forgiveness without repentance.

It was a hard word, and I didn’t know what to do with it. How could anyone? How could there be any living in the face of that word? You’d be burned up, unless you were an angel. It was too much for me, so I went out looking for someone to tell me another word. Maybe a different word. I heard a lot of those types—sunshine-eyed tale-tellers with their weak tea solutions to unreal problems. You know what I’m saying, right?

So I got to a place, and there were two brothers, Martin and Jean. You know where this is going? Nothing gets past you, does it?

I guess you can tell me what they said, right? It hardly needs saying, right? Another brother said it, quite some while ago.

The Almighty provides the things he demands.

That’s not all of it, though. It keeps going. Yeah, you thought this was a pat theodicy, didn’t you? We don’t deal in theodicy here, kid. Nobody’s dumb enough to touch that mystery here, not any more.

No, here’s what happened next. Very recently, I was walking along and I heard a story—a rumor, right? It was about a ghul. Someone had been telling that story all over the place, bleeding words like they hadn’t got enough sense to sew themselves up. All right, just keep hold of yourself for two minutes.

Okay? Okay.

So I admit that story bothered me a little. A lot, if you really want to know. I didn’t know what to make of that ghul, what to do with him, where to put him in my cabinet of curiosities. What were we supposed to say? Where does obligation start up and leave off? How do you answer all those remarks and expostulations?

I went back to look for the brothers, but they’d gone elsewhere. So I went where we all go, eventually.

Yeah.

You know what the vulture said to me?

You are not God.

That’s all.

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