The Miracle of the Sun by João Cerqueira

It was dawn when Fátima was woken by the phone ringing. She growled a few unpleasant words, whacked the pillow twice but then realised that a call at this time of the day must be something really important. Meaning God himself. So she pushed the sheets back with a kick of her feet, tidied her dishevelled locks, fished out her dentures from the glass of water and got up, dragging her nightdress in the race to the telephone.

       “Hello’’.

       “Fátima, it’s me, God’’.

       “Hallelujah.’’ God couldn’t tell if this exclamation was to make amends for his delay or just spontaneous joy.

       “My son and I were thinking about the JFK-Castro war and we came to the following conclusion. Despite having promised each other that we wouldn’t meddle where we weren’t asked to, although the risk of failure could mean the end of religion, for the good of humanity we are forced to intervene. We cannot, however, take sides as they are all my sons, although it may not appear that way.’’

       Using this divine pause, Fátima dared to give her opinion. “And what about sending a plague down on JFK and Fidel Castro? Then an angel would appear to them and announce that it was a warning to learn to behave. What do you think?’’

       God listened to her wistfully, recalling the good old days when antibiotics had yet to be invented and everything was clear and simple. “My dear, I see that you remain true to tradition, and this pleases me, but in modern times the old recipes no longer work. We have to be creative. To innovate.’’

       This craze for innovation left Fátima suspicious, convinced that change always brought something bad. “Who am I to disagree.’’

       “So, no more about plagues, flu or colds. We’re going to use diplomacy.’’

       “Diplomacy?’’

       “Exactly, but this time we won’t try and convince half the world. We just need these two to understand that peace is preferable to war.’’ 

       “I get it. You’re going to offer them a place in heaven.’’

       “I can’t. I would be found out straight away and accused of cheating, but, to be honest, it won’t be easy for either of them to make it into heaven.’’

       “Look, tell me this: is it true that rich men can’t enter heaven?’’

       “Oh, this is parable, but in fact some can’t get in.’’

       “Too right,’’ rejoiced Fátima, hitting her hand with her fist.

       “Right, I’m going to send my son to knock some sense into them and I need your help.’’

       Great joy filled Fátima’s heart, she was now sure that her worth would now be recognised and that she would play an important role. ’’Are we to perform a miracle to dissuade them from violence?’’

       God listened to her stupefied, and took his time to reply, convinced that this fashion had already passed. “A miracle? Didn’t you know that miracles are old hat? And what miracle would you suggest?’’

       With her illusions deflated she floated back down to earth without daring to count on her dream of the Miracle of the Sun. After all, in pagan beliefs the sun played a very important role. Soaking up its rays in moderation gave a nice colour. Even oranges became sweeter, producing delicious marmalades. “They had great miracles back in the old days.’’ she replied longingly, remembering incredible hauls of fish using nothing but basic methods, impossible cures without antibiotics, walking on water to save the shipwrecked and even the very resuscitation of the dead man.

       For a moment God felt the warm flavour of nostalgia of the good old days too. Did he still have a parting of the waves in him? This had indeed been the most grandiose of his miracles, so grandiose and perfect that many still questioned its truthfulness. What he would not do again would be to destroy cities, no matter how immoral the behaviour of their inhabitants. Architects, developers and local authorities would never forgive him. It was an impulse, a thoughtless act that brought him fame for being revengeful and, as you can imagine, served little purpose for these incorrigible earthly sinners.

       So, well-briefed on society’s latest customs and trends, he countered, “This was before, there was no television then and films weren’t made yet. Nowadays nobody is interested in miracles. They prefer to play the lottery, visit casinos, or rob banks.’’
But Fátima, noting that sometimes it’s easier for a camel to knit a woolly jumper than for mentalities to be changed, puffed up with courage, insisted, “and what about a little eclipse?’’ 

       “A little eclipse?’’ God asked, caught off guard.

       “Yes, like in that Tintin book.’’

       “You know full well that I don’t have time to read comic books,’’ God claimed angrily.

       Fátima tried to be convincing, putting as much charm as she could muster into her voice. “An eclipse has the advantage of not being a miracle.’’

       “Obviously,’’ God chipped in, as a learned connoisseur of the mysteries of the universe.

       “But the occlusion of the sun, the sudden darkness and the drop in temperature arouse irrational feelings in people.’’

       “And then?’’

       “Then, anything can happen,’’ Fátima concluded, forgetting to complete her train of thought.

       God, noticing the fragile nature of the plan and how the outcome of the intervention would be left to chance, joked, “And what if they interpret the eclipse as nothing more than an eclipse?’’

       “That’s where your son and I come into it.’’

       God tightened his grip on the handset. “Would you like to tell me once and for all just what you intend?’’

       Fátima continued confidently, “When the moon passes over the sun, they will both be amazed, their mouths agape.’’

       “Yes, that’s likely.’’

       “In that very moment we will appear and tell them that the end of the world is nigh.’’

       God became worried. “And what if this makes them form a doomsday cult? What if they start knocking on doors and preaching misfortunes in my name?’’

       Fátima needed a few seconds to reply. “It appears to me that the faith market is saturated, there isn’t any room for more cults.’’

       “That’s what you think. All it needs is for someone to preach some nonsense with great conviction and ‘ping’, it’s suddenly dogmatic truths.’’.

       Fátima began to sweat, but remained firm in the defence of her theory. “Okay, if we have to, we’ll threaten them with fire.’’

       God was shocked by the fundamentalism of his disciple. “Hey, don’t mention these blunders of the past, I’m entirely against such barbarian methods.’’

       “Me too, believe me. I just wanted to give them a fright.’’ Fátima maintained, while fiddling with a lighter.

       “You don’t play with fire my child.’’ God rebuked her, imagining the scourge of forest fires.

       “Of course, what I wanted to say was that under the effect of the eclipse they would both be vulnerable to our line of argument.’’

       God remained skeptical. “I don’t like this eclipse thing.’’

       Fátima wouldn’t give up. “Try to imagine this: the world becoming dark, JFK and Fidel petrified, your son and I suddenly appearing on a white horse.’’

       God put a dampener on her enthusiasm, “Fine, but my agreement with my son didn’t say anything about an eclipse, and then who’s going to put the moon in front of the sun?’’

       If the first observation left Fátima thoughtful, the second didn’t even tweak her. “Don’t spare a thought about the sun and the moon. I’ve got it covered. As to your son, get him on the phone, please.’’

       “Just a second,’’ God laid the receiver to one side, asking the angels to tell Christ to come to the phone.

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