A Marriage Story

by Andrew Plotkin

Once, beneath the moon, there lived a fisherwoman and her husband. They lived in a small hut by the sea, and they had lived there for many years. But somehow, they weren't happy.

It wasn't that they disliked each other; they were as comfortable together as they could hope. The sex was great. And it wasn't that they were sick of each other, either, because for half the year, in the fishing season, the fisherwoman was out on the sea; and half the year she sat at home and mended her nets. They were married both ways, but neither way were they happy.

Sometimes they talked about this problem, and sometimes they didn't talk about it. But one day, the man decided to do something about it. For there was a mountain nearby; and it was said that on top of the mountain lived God. So the man figured he would go climb the mountain, and talk to God, and ask God for a solution to their problem.

The fisherwoman said, "Well, talking to God can't hurt." She had to stay home, anyway, to mend her nets and ready her boat.

So the man set out. It took him all day to reach the foot of the mountain, and he slept there. In the morning, as the Sun was rising, he began climbing the mountain. The trail was steep, and the Sun was hot; soon he took off his cap and put it in his pocket. And he kept climbing. The trail got steeper, and the Sun rose as the trail rose, and it got hotter. Halfway up the mountain, the man had to take off his cloak and hang it over a bush. And the sky got hotter and hotter, and the trail got steeper, and the Sun got brighter and brighter, and then he was in the presence of God.

God said, "Glad you could make it. Have a beer."

The man said, "Thanks." And he explained that he and his wife weren't happy.

God said, "Marriage trouble. Well, I know how that goes, and I know what to do about it. But there is traditionally a challenge or a price involved in these things. Do you have a preference?"

The man said, "The riddle game? That's always nice."

God said, "No, the riddle game is no fun. I invented all the riddles, anyway. How about this: a game of jokes. If you tell a good enough joke, I'll help you. How's that?"

The man thought. Then he said, "Why did the Buddha cross the road?"

"I give up," said God.

"Because he saw the Zen master coming. And, you know, he didn't want to be killed."

God grinned. "That's pretty good. Any more?"

The man said, "Knock knock."

"Who's there?" asked God.

"The Tao."

"The Tao who?"

"The -- never mind, it wasn't the real Tao anyway."

"Ennh," said God, wincing. "Try again."

"Okay," said the man. He considered. "They say that the first words You said, when you created the Universe, were 'Let there be light.'"

"Yeah," said God, "I've heard that."

"So. What were the last words that were said before you said 'Let there be light'?"

God thought for a moment. "I don't know."

"The last words that were said were, 'All right -- how many Creators does it take to screw in a light bulb?'"

God laughed and laughed. And then God stopped laughing, and thought about it. And started laughing again.

"Okay," said God, "you win. This is my cloak of divinity." God took off the cloak and held it out. "Take this, and put it on, and go back to your wife; and you'll be happy."

The man looked at the cloak for a moment. Then he took it, and put it on, and went out the door. He began walking down the mountain. Halfway down, he reached the bush where he'd hung his own cloak.

"Great," he said angrily. "Now I've got two of these things!"

And on top of the mountain, God stood up. She picked up her hat and put it on. And she slipped out the back door, heading towards home. Hurrying -- because she wanted to get there before he did.

Written in September, 1997, for the wedding of Paul and Hayley. (They are no longer married.)

Last updated September 10, 1997.

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