THE FIFTH COLUMN
The lawyer’s office was filled to the brim with eight billion people — the entire population of the world — waiting breathlessly to hear what the Almighty had left them.
Scanning God’s will and testament, the lawyer considered the twin improbabilities of that number of people fitting into his office and of God dying — a fact that proved to a man who dealt with facts, or their derivatives, nearly daily that God had indeed existed, but still left him with the eerie feeling He was never there.
The Church interrupted the legal expert’s moment of reflection and demanded to know what God had left it. Tracing his finger halfway down the first page the lawyer looked up and said: “The house.” To which the Church replied, “The house of God! Great, what else?”
“That’s it,” the lawyer said.
“That’s it?” the Church exclaimed in an accusing tone that made the world sit up and take notice. “Two thousand years of service and that is all we get? What about His word? What about eternal life? Christ!”
“Christ isn’t mentioned,” the lawyer said calmly and turned his attention to the United States, who shoved the Church aside and buttoned its suit. “But there is a complex of great size and unfound supremacy bequeathed to you, America.”
The revelation prompted a collective groan from the world and a shriek from North Korea. “Good,” the US said, emboldened by its gift. “About time. What’s the address?”
“1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington. You’ll find it in an oaf sitting in an oval office pretending to be God when God is clearly dead.”
Reading a divine entity’s will and testament began to weigh on the lawyer even though he constantly dealt with wills of cosmic scale that now seemed small in comparison to the plagues, hardships and trials; the Ten Commandments (that commanded all of 100 pages), riddles of time, existence and meaning left to humankind and put in a document written in cursive in a 10pt font.
He rubbed his eyes and looked over the sea of faces, spotting a country at the back milling about tentatively — careful not to bother anyone — apparently unsure whether they should even be there.
“South Africa, God loved you and left you a precious heirloom: Heritage Day, a day off from work to be spent at home or elsewhere.”
The small African nation, conditioned to expect the worst and not, under any circumstances, to accept anything from strangers, conferred among themselves and returned with a question that baffled the paper-pusher–cum–part-time litigator, who would give the fluffy tassels of his robe to have a day (in September no less!) to laze around with family and friends he didn’t have at a seaside mansion he didn’t own.
“To do what with?” South Africa asked with a curious mix of anger and genuine humility.
The lawyer consulted God’s will and exclaimed: “Ah, here it is: ‘South Africa, for God’s sake, braai chops or smileys, or eat bunny chow or snoek, or just hang or whatever’,” after which he slid God’s will neatly into a drawer and set off home to braai chops or smileys, or eat bunny chow or snoek, or just hang or whatever.