I have a wild desire to smell the ocean. I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, his lazy. I believe he takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us. He gives us a need for love and no way to get any. He gives us a desire to be liked and personal attributes that make us utterly unlikable. Having placed his flawed and needy children in a world of exacting specifications, he deducts the difference between what we have and what we need from our hearts and our self-esteem and our mental health. This is how I feel. These things seem to be true. But what’s there to do but behave with dignity, keep a nice cell, be polite but firm when Vic asks me to shimmy while wearing a hat, join in at the top of my lungs when the geriatric murderer from Baton Rouge begins his nightly spiritual?
Maybe the God we see, the God who calls the daily shots is merely a sub-god. Maybe there’s a God above this sub-god who’s busy for a few God minutes with something else and will be right back and when he gets back will take the sub-god by the ear and say, “Now look, look at that fat man. What did he ever do to you? Wasn’t he humble enough? Didn’t he endure enough abuse for 1,000 men? Weren’t the simplest tasks hard? Didn’t you sense him craving affection? Were you unaware that his days unraveled as one long bad dream?”
And maybe as this sub-god slinks away, the true God will sweep me up in his arms, saying, “My sincere apologies. A mistake has been made. Accept a new birth as token of my esteem.” And I will emerge again from between the legs of my mother a slighter and more beautiful baby, destined for a different life in which I am masterful, sleek as a deer, a winner.
"The 400 Pound CEO" is in George Saunders’ book of short stories CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.