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Carl James Grindley

The God of Minor Inconvenience

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Sometimes I cast off my darker pretensions and become The Part-Time God of Minor Inconvenience, the god, who walking down a busy sidewalk on invisible feet, trips every single person who carries laundry. I am the god who knocks off hats, loses mittens, and causes carefully knotted shoelaces to come undone. I encourage ships to leave early, water taxis to sail past, coaches to be delayed or to never arrive at all. I cause cracks to appear in fresh plaster, bubbles to form in delicate glass, and breads to rise unevenly. I have lost innumerable rings, fouled a hundred million drains, clogged thousands of years' worth of aqueducts, and sent more men than can be counted to wait vainly at the wrong street corner, each holding a quickly and quietly wilting bouquet. I am the god of seemingly inconsequential spelling errors.

In this incarnation I am formless, and can come and go silently and without trace. If I had a body it would be a soft, small one, but still masculine and trustworthy. I might wear gloves. I would always wear a charcoal-colored jacket and conceal a fresh silk handkerchief in my left sleeve. I would carry a golden sundial or a miniature water-clock, and I would constantly consult the time, although I would never have anything particular to do that day. I would be clean-shaven, but might contemplate either growing a mustache or a neatly-trimmed beard. I would wear a knight's ring on my right pinkie, but I would always remove it before shaking hands if given enough time. My features would be mild and forgettable. My favorite writers would write in Provencal. My favorite semi-precious stone would be the citrine. I would never talk about food, but I would enjoy a nice glass of wine once in a while.

You have probably felt my hand a thousand times. I gave your mother a bunion, caused your sister to belch once in church, and, as he grew older, I stuffed your father's nostrils with inch-long, grey hairs. I was the one who declined your credit with the descendants of the Medici in August. I was the one who lost your free passage in Prague. I was the one who gave you the beginnings of a blister on your right heel as you walked alongside the Antonine Wall in Scotland. When you became depressed in Ankara, I was sitting beside you on the side of the road, I took a ten coins out of your jacket pocket and hid them under a rock. Fifteen minutes later, I let you find them again.

When I talk to The God of Forgotten Dreams, he asks me about damnation, but to me damnation is not a lost bookmark, a hole in a favorite sock, or a forgotten number; damnation instead is a burned library, an abandoned house, or a child who no longer visits on anniversary of your birth. The God of Forgotten Dreams says he understands, but I know he does not. I am the god who prevents you from laughing at obvious jokes, the one who continues to look for eye glasses when they are already being worn.

I am the god who spreads himself thin, whose actions are dismissed, never noticed, assigned to chance, forgotten quickly, ignored, sworn at. I am the restless god, the one who stubs a toe in Bangalore then loses the back of an earring in Avignon. I speak all languages and can travel by will of thought. I can control small objects, change small memories, hide small imperfections until later.

Do you remember, three years ago, when you sat down to order your dinner at a modest restaurant? You were so happy to find a reasonably priced place so close to where you needed to be. You ordered artichoke hearts, pasta with clams, bread, wine and liqueur. Of course I considered corking the wine, but I allowed you drink it untroubled. Of course I considered tainting the clams, but that would have been frowned on. Why: for having too many repercussions for The Part-Time God of Minor Inconvenience. By whom: I think you know. I even toyed with the idea of placing a single pubic hair on your side plate. Too crude, though, too easily laughed off by someone as complex and urbane as you. Instead I bided my time and sat beside you in the darkness.

You were dressed casually: a clean shirt, a dark jacket, a pair of fine trousers, and lace-up shoes. Your great coat and scarf were hanging by the door. You spent the day in the library, conducting your research on old books. I thought of losing your notes, but refrained. I considered giving you a paper cut, but I did not. In desperation, I even considered making your sweat smell like fried onions. Instead I did nothing. I stayed with you, my arm around your shoulder. I sat down beside you. I listened to the awkward, hesitant rasp of your odd accent as you ordered. You were lonely, you were sad, so without anyone noticing, my hand drifted across the table and rested for a while on yours. For a while, you thought about your family, and then you thought about a girl, a faraway Eastern girl, with brown eyes and chestnut hair, whose smooth pale skin you knew so well that it was almost like her skin was your skin too. You had just seen her again after a separation of many years. She had been somewhere and you were walking by and you glanced over and you saw her and then you stopped.

I looked inside you and you became relaxed. You were thinking about home, dreaming of a day spent in the sunshine in the town green eating ice cream. You were so removed from the present, so trapped in the past, that when your meal arrived, I ensured that both you and the man serving you forgot about the liqueur. Later, I knew, you would feel disappointed, and that was enough.

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