[This piece was originally posted on 23 August 2005.]
Poopsy Clutterbuck is not a suitable name for a god. For that reason, it became a terrible blasphemy ever to speak the name of the God of Gaar aloud. Those who disobeyed the law were banished from Gaar forever. They were put into airtight pods and the pods were stuffed into the sidecars of gleaming motorcycles, and thence ferried far far away, though few knew where they were taken, only that weeks or months later the motorcycle would return to Gaar, at dead of night, and the now empty pod removed from the sidecar and taken to a secret place where the pods were steamed clean and fumigated. I am one of the few who know where the blasphemers were banished to, for I was one of the motorcyclists.
Oh my, I can hardly believe how long ago it was! I am decrepit now, decrepit and wizened, and I don’t think I have kick-started a motorcycle for forty or fifty years. I loved that job.
In those days we had many gods in Gaar, but only one was authentic, the one whose name could not be uttered. In addition, we had fifteen green-eyed weasel gods, a pair of plastic marchmont gods, the hideous centipede god of Tuesday evenings, Bosh the crumpled god, eighty squirrel gods, numberless gods with two or more heads, even one god with no head at all, and a god whose breath ignited stars. We had the bucket god and the athletics track god, the god of railway platforms and the gods of puddles. Some gods were ephemeral, tiny things, like your mayflies. Others were massive and solid and permanent. But only one god was real, the God with the upper case G, the one whose name could not be spoken.
Nowadays, those of us who rode the motorcycles in the sidecars of which blasphemers languished, muffled, in pods, are thought of as fanatics. I still get sidelong looks of contempt or loathing when I go to the post office or the greengrocery. I was spat at in the street as recently as six months ago. When I buy my fireworks, they are invariably tampered with, so that they sputter rather than sparkle. I can’t remember the last time one of my fireworks went whoooosh!
My favourite god was the gas god. It made a tremendous growling noise and it was usually sixty feet high, but sometimes smaller. Every now and then, because I was a motorcyclist, it would carry out its godlike doings in my back garden, and I would watch from the window, entranced. Our windows then were made of cellophane, and I would prick holes in my window with the point of a sharpened pencil, the better to appreciate the misty wafts of the gas god.
I was a believer, yes, but never a zealot. I got my job as a motorcyclist because my mother had been one, because I was unafraid of the weather, and because I prayed that it would be so. Some of my prayers involved animal sacrifice, the evisceration of poultry on a stone altar, for example, but more often than not I would be found squatting in an alleyway singing snatches of Nimrod with not a hen in sight, dead or alive. I have always wondered which of my prayers were answered, for answered they were, on that joyous day when I was bundled out of bed and taken to motorcycle training school. I do recall sprawling in the muck in front of a statue of the beetle-browed god of the railway sidings and the pewter chicken, as a way of saying thank you. But I was young then.
I am all bent out of shape now. A breakfast bowl of tomato soup is scant solace when all the gods have gone away. And to think that every god-jack of them disappeared over the course of a single weekend. As dawn broke on Saturday, the very air of Gaar was teeming with them. Slosher the bat god, the god of toffee apples, twenty little postage stamp-sized pneumatic gods, the clingfilm sausage god, a whole slew of gods decked out in kagouls, windcheaters and funny little pointed hats, all those magnificent deities, all devoted to Gaar and in turn worshipped by all the good people of Gaar. By Sunday night they were all gone. The upper case G God of Gaar whose name can never be spoken was the last to go. It was smashed to pieces at midnight in the town square, by some kind of elemental destructive cataclysm. No human agency could have wrought such ruin. I sip my cold tomato soup and mourn my gods still.
And now only I know to what crumbling seaside town we took the blasphemers, and I will never tell a soul.