Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Gospel According to Stan by James Carson


And the people of Israel found themselves in the desert, with only locusts and wild nettles to eat. And they cried out to God, "Lord, send us a saviour! Or at least give us the recipe for pan-fried locusts in a nettle sauce." 

And God, who had been busy project managing a plague of frogs, heard their cries and said, "I will send you Moses and he will lead you into the Promised Land." And the Israelites rejoiced, for Moses had gained a solid reputation for producing plain, but wholesome food. 

But Moses called on the Israelites to offer their hunger to God, and he preached to them by day and by night on the virtues of fasting. And when the Israelites saw that Moses was all gong and no dinner, there was much gnashing of teeth and rumbling of stomachs. They cried out to Moses, “You must take our grievances to King Herod.” And because he was new in the job, Moses listened to the people and said unto them, “I will take your demands to Herod, for I am your prophet.” 

And the Israelites said, “Prophet?” 

And Moses said, “All right, shop steward.” 

And so Moses brought before Herod the demands of the Israelites for statutory coffee breaks and free jelly donuts on the Sabbath. And because Herod was unused to collective bargaining, he agreed to release all his Hebrew slaves in return for a condominium in the Sahara. 

Then Moses returned in triumph and cried out, “People of Israel, I have won for you a new covenant! From now on, you shall have flexi-time, private healthcare and a memorial day weekend, whatever that is.” And the Israelites said, “Yes, but did you remember the jelly donuts?” And Moses said, "Bugger." 

Then among the Israelites there was much gnashing of teeth and shaking of fists. And they said to Moses, “If you are to remain our leader, you must take our demands to God.” And Moses said “Demands?” And the Israelites said “All right, prayers.” 

And so Moses went to the top of the mountain and called on the Lord God. But God, who was busy working out the budget for the apocalypse, was angry at another interruption, and threatened Moses with gardening leave. And Moses said, “Lord, give me the tools to lead your people, and I shall trouble you no more.” And God said, “Hang on a bit, I think I’ve got something in the attic.” 

Then Moses returned from God with two tablets of stone, and he called out to the Israelites, “Behold, my people, the commandments given by God.” And the Israelites said, “Commandments? And Moses said, “All right, laws.” And the Israelites said, “Let’s just call them guidelines and have done with it. After all, nothing’s carved in stone, is it?” And Moses looked upon the tablets of stone and said, “Er…” 

Then Moses grew angry, for he saw that the Israelites had created a graven image. And he said unto them, “People of Israel, I have warned you not to worship any image in gold or silver, or wood, or stone. And the Israelites responded, “Yes, but you never said anything about chocolate.” For they were worshipping a great fountain of chocolate, and paying homage with marshmallows, crying out: “All praise to the Fondue!” 


And Moses said, “Who is responsible for this idolatry?” And there came forth a terrible creature, whose skin was blood red, whose head was horned and whose tail was very pointy. 
And the creature said, “That would be me.” 
And Moses said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” 
But the creature said “ Actually, I think you’ll find it’s Stan. Clerical error at head office. Honestly, a thousand years in the outer darkness, and all thanks to a misprint. You just can’t get the staff.” And Moses said “The people will not listen to your blasphemy.” 

But Stan knew the way to the people’s hearts was through their stomachs. So he tempted the Israelites with spinach and ricotta pancakes, with mushroom risotto and with little apricot tartlets. And when they feasted on the food, the Israelites were amazed, saying to each other, “How on earth did he caramelise those parsnips?” and “He can brown my chicken thighs any time” and “If all he wants for that divine quiche is my eternal soul, he can have it.” 

So Moses tried to win his people back by displays of his miraculous powers. But when the Israelites ignored his trick with the cups and the balls, Moses called on the Lord God for help. And God, who was busy putting the finishing touches to a seven-year famine, appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and said, “You’re on a written warning now.” 

And so Moses retreated to the wilderness. But the Israelites rejoiced to see the burning bush, for they had been wondering how they were going to toast their marshmallows. 

Then King Herod unleashed his fury on the Israelites, for he had just read the small print on the condominium. And when he saw the management fees, he mobilised his army. The Israelites were terrified to see a hundred thousand of Herod’s soldiers approaching and cried out, “Moses, save our wives! Save our children! Save our lamb noisettes in a peppercorn sauce!” 

But Moses, said, “Save yourselves. For you have incurred the wrath of God!” 
And the Israelites said: “But you must come to our aid, for you are our shop steward.” 
And Moses said, “Excuse me?” 
And the Israelites said, “All right, prophet.” 

And so, Herod’s army pursued them to the shores of the Red Sea, and among the Israelites there was much gnashing of teeth and soiling of underwear. And Stan said to Moses, “You’ll need a better trick than the one with the cups and the balls to get out of this one, tablet boy.” 

But Moses raised his arms and the seas parted until the Israelites crossed safely to the other side, and their enemies were drowned. And when they had reached the other side, Moses looked upon Stan in triumph. And Stan said, “I still prefer the one with the cups and the balls.” 

Then Moses led the Israelites to the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey and obesity and diabetes. And the Israelites feasted on cheesecake and deep fried chicken thighs until their arteries were like tablets of stone. And Stan set up a fine dining bistro called “Hell’s Kitchen”, where he enjoyed the fruits of his labour, until he perished in a freak accident with a parsnip. 

But Moses lived to the age of one hundred and twenty, for he had followed a healthy Mediterranean diet. And at the end of his days, Moses said to the Israelites, "I will go now to the heavenly kingdom, where I shall prepare a banquet for you at the mansion of the Lord. And I promise that when you reach the kingdom of heaven, you shall feast at the table of the Lord forever!” 

And the Israelites said: “Fair enough, but don't forget the jelly donuts.”

James Carson is from Glasgow, Scotland and has been writing off and on for most of his 49 years on the planet. He has enjoyed some success in writing competitions and his writing has been published in magazines and anthologies. He is currently studying for an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University at Glasgow. He is also a voracious reader, a gay man, an out-of-work librarian in search of a library and a big fan of chocolate cake.

Street artists unknown.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.

The Through and Through Gospel Review is the latest project of Joel Marquard of the band Gospel Claws. 

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