The splinter, loosened, seemed to reach up at just the opportune moment to prick her finger. "Aye-ee!" she wailed. Cognizant of her table's determination to spoil her day, she expended much energy in berating its vile temperament. "I have done nothing but care for you," she gave it to understand, "and now, solely because I invite William to dine with me you vent your wrath on my poor finger. You are odious. But I am determined you shall be purged of whatever demon possesses you. It isn't my fault I'm a poor ignorant woman and must take my furnishing, as I do my food and my livelihood, wherever I can. You shall not spoil my day or embarrass me before the heavenly father. And if you should dare prick His finger, or in any way displease Him as He dines, you will find yourself, and me too perhaps, struck dead with thunderbolts. He is all good and all wise and all knowing and all loving, yes, but He too has His pride."
With these words and with a little hard glance at her table which caused its reddish brown grain to blanch somewhat, the old woman proceeded to a credenza directly beneath the one tiny window in the dining room, a northern exposure which let in a minimum of light, for which darkness her table was grateful even if it chose to give thanks in the most disgracefully ungracious manner. Here she reached in to take hold of several tiny vials containing beneficent medicines; she set these on top of the credenza, walking to a little cupboard half hidden behind the open door to her kitchen, from which she extracted, from a shelf, a kitchen knife with an ivory handle which had accompanied her on her long, now forgotten, journey to this coastal land lying to the east of the great Clara Lux mountains. This knife, too, she set on top of her credenza; upon catching sight of it, her table trembled. It was her surgeon's knife, used in conjunction with her work as midwife to the young girls taken from across the mountain, from the hot dry desert valley, into captivity to be used in the first phase of the initiation ritual of the young men of this land into manhood. When they became pregnant, these young girls, and at the appointed time late in November for them to give birth, she was called, she and her knife, to help deliver, it being her task to sever the umbilical cords from the newborn infants. Her cottage lay on the northern bank of the Luxor, the great river which arose high in the Clara Lux, given birth from the melting snows of God's queen, Mount Wilhelmina. To the north, still farther, and to the east, lay the hospital where every morning during the delivery season she made her way with her surgeon's knife.
It was late in the day, evening already, and she had returned not an hour ago from the hospital after making a most wondrous, propitious delivery, precisely so for its having come so long after the allotted time. Here it was almost into the second week of December, and one lone infant had just this very evening chosen to make its way into the world. Never in her memory had a child been so late arriving; never before had the law been dared to be violated. A most propitious event. The other newborns, those who were male children, had already had their eyelids plucked off and been set out to test for sunspots; but here was this one just now getting its umbilical severed. The old woman was certain this birth foretold great things, possibly even the birth of a messiah to lead everyone, all the captive young girls, to freedom. The reason she had invited God to dine with her this evening was to ascertain if she too would be led away to freedom or if, being neither from among the coastal people nor from among the desert people across the Clara Lux, she would not be allowed to partake of the exodus. And of course she sought too to verify that this marvelous child was indeed to be the messiah. So eager was she to speak to the Almighty that she asked another mid-wife to remain in her place to clean up the afterbirth.
"You might well fear what's coming," she apprised the table, taking up from the credenza the vials of beneficent medicines all in one hand and in her other hand her surgeon's knife to now set them on the table itself, which shook itself hard so as to knock the tiny vials onto the floor that they might break and thereby spill their contents on the dining room floor; in this, however, it failed. The little green and purple and yellow vials, each with its own special medicine, each of a color concomitant with the color of glass which held it, held fast to the table top, refusing to be pried loose, their grip like steel vises. The knife too held fast where it was. The knife, the table, the vials - all her vials, these few, with their beneficent medicines, plus the many dozens of others, whose contents ranged a spectrum all the way to the darkest, deadliest malevolence: these, her sole possessions in life, had all accompanied her on board the frigate which had brought her here by drifting, unmanned, into the waters offshore, eventually running aground at the mouth of the Luxor. She had no idea where she came from or why she alone had been on board the frigate. She had been in a trance at the time and, subsequent to coming out of it, could remember nothing. She was taken by everyone to be a very great seer, whose prophecies would circumscribe the future generations of both the coast and the desert valley beyond the Clara Lux. She used her vials, certain of them, in making her prophecies, for their mysterious medicines put her quickly, when properly combined, into a deep trance from which her spirit issued to deliver these prophecies. Her vials had been given her by a cousin of God, it was said, who stood at His right hand and was therefore good; her knife by a cousin at God's left hand who was accordingly of a mediocre nature; while her table was said to have been the property of the great devil, Jessamin, and, however malevolent, could not be destroyed without risking the devil's wrath. It was not the best of plans, the old woman knew, to invite God to dine at the devil's table, as it might affect Him adversely; but she could not help that, she was not responsible for making the table, Jessamin was, nor had she requested possession of his table, it had been given her, though by whom or for what reason she knew not. All she could do was make the best of it; hence her vials and her knife.
Taking the ivory handle in hand, she approached the blade nearer and nearer the table top, finally slipping it carefully under the splinter, between it and the table proper. After considerable effort, which was heartily resisted by the table, she managed to wrench the splinter loose from the table, prying it up then, as quickly as she could, before it had time to work its way down again, severing it from the wooden top. The table gave a cry and created a tremendous suction in order to wrest the splinter from her hand, but she held firm to it. Now the important task was upon her, that for which her great skill at magic was tested to its fullest. She took up the vials, in turn, one at a time, beginning with the yellow, following a secret pattern known only to her, a pattern taught her long ago by some forgotten magician. One after another she placed from each vial a single drop upon the wound where she had removed the dangerous splinter until finally the last drop from the last vial had been deposited, at which the table calmed down and was soothed into a deep sleep, its wound quickly healing over. She gathered up the many colored vials and her knife, returning the vials to her credenza, the knife to her cupboard, leaving her with only the splinter in her care. She took it into the kitchen, to the sink, where she dipped water from a bucket to put into a multi-colored container, into which she dropped the splinter, quickly replacing the top on the container; from within it came a gurgling noise. She had a trophy, which the devil would some day seek to recover, which would render her a rather enviable bargaining position. The splinter's magical life-restoring powers would seep out of it into the container full of water, the longer it remained submerged the greater the restorative power of the water, until in time all the splinter's power will have seeped out of it. And this, the devil would never allow, no matter what it cost him to recover the splinter. Little by little, drop by drop, immortality bled from the torn splinter into the old woman's water which, owing to the magical pattern of colors within the glass, the devil was powerless to touch or in any way tamper with, lest he become inadvertently blighted. On the sill of her kitchen window, facing south, the old woman set the container full of holy water, to be acted upon by the noon-day light, that it might slowly and subtly ferment. Now she could concentrate on dinner.
Everything going into God's diner came directly from the old woman's own garden. Everything was fresh, picked that very evening, the first thing she did upon arriving home from mid-wifing the young messiah. She had not even gone indoors first; she went immediately down on her knees in the rich brown loam, cut some beans and tomatoes from the vines with her surgeon's knife; then got up and, moving on to the next section of her little garden, went down to dig up some potatoes and, a few steps over, some leeks. She fluffed her big red-black-white-and-green apron to form a basket, into which she deposited, vegetable by vegetable, the raw stuff of God's dinner. Her garden, some twenty feet across by fifteen feet deep, planted in sections according to how as a young girl she had been taught by some unknown foreign gardener so as to achieve the most seasonable and delicate flavorings from each plant, furrowed very narrowly owing to her want of plow or oxen - her garden threw off perfumed mists into the chill December evening air which she stood a moment to sniff once all the vegetables she desired for God's dinner had been collected. It pleased her to take in such fragrance, and it would help insure a most palatable meal, the inspiration it would provide her. To cook dinner apart from the place the food was grown or the subtle odor of the food growing, or to carry food so far from its source that nothing of its genesis lingered in the kitchen, was unthinkable to her. She could no more imagine coaxing from food its best flavors beyond the periphery of her garden's influence than she could deriving value from the cattle raised in the mountain passes across the Clara Lux mountains, which was why she abstained completely from meat. No cattle fed another's grasses then transported across high mountain passes could possibly provide nutrition sufficient to the maintenance of health or enjoyment adequate to the demands of the palate. The very notion was as offensive to her sense of decorum as it was patently absurd.
A few radishes, one or two turnips, a sprig of parsley for garnish and she was ready to commence the preparation of dinner for she and God. He would be there at eight thirty: it was known to her that God preferred His meals on the half hour, to effect better prayers on the hour. She rather hoped He could be done and gone before nine so that she would not have to kneel and pray with Him, as she had pretty much done with praying, preferring kneeling in her garden to grow and harvest food to kneeling on the floor to plead and to give thanks for her sustenance. Of course this would necessitate carrying on a conversation with God during the meal rather than waiting till it was finished, and was likely to pique God since He was known to prefer His activities singly. Perhaps, she compromised, leave it to His mood to decide: if I find Him cheerful I'll speak as we eat, otherwise, should He be somber, I'll wait till afterward, even if it does mean having to join Him in prayer. She went inside; her garden led up directly to her back door, which led directly into her kitchen, whose gray wooden planks were not as snugly placed side by side as she would have liked, for the spaces allowed food, if spilled, to seep through the floor: there were rats and ants living in communion just below the floorboards and to inadvertently feed them was tantamount to drawing up a pact between them, for without food above they would war among themselves for what meager stores were there to be had, rats by night devouring ants, the ants in full strength by day devouring rats. Of course the spiders all lived in the ceiling beams and wanted nothing to do with either rats or ants or with an old woman's orts, preferring the fleas, gnats and occasional flies which managed to find their way into her cottage. There being so few of these flying insects in winter, the old woman sometimes suspected the spiders of having at their behest a diving agency or else of subsisting on wood pulp or on one another, which seemed to her unlikely. The walls of her kitchen were, as the flooring, of grayish wooden planks, these, however, spaced closely enough together to prevent anything from inhabiting the walls, for which she was grateful.
She got three large pots from underneath the sink, heavy round black iron pots with handles on either side. These she filled three fourths full with water; then, one by one and with considerable effort, put the three pots on her stove, each on a separate burner. She lit the stove; soon the water was boiling. She covered the boiling water that its essence might not escape disguised as steam; then, after ten minutes of boiling, shut off the flames. Quickly, so as to minimize the escapage, she placed in each pot the appropriate combination of vegetables which, while the water boiled, she had prepared for cooking. Into the first went potatoes and leeks, for a soup, along with a paste made of flour and salt and herbs; into the second went the beans; into the third the tomatoes. The radishes and turnips she would serve raw, the parsley would go into the soup only once it had finished cooking. She waited while her pots of freshly boiled water extracted and simmered the flavorings of the various ingredients put into each. Thirty minutes she waited, till it was eight fifteen, at which time she took up the food, each pot's contents emptied into a large earthen bowl, any excess water drained off.
She began hurriedly to set the table: two plates, one for her, one for her dinner guest; two forks; two knives; two spoons; two cups for wine, red wine, said to be God's favorite; two crisp clean napkins, slightly yellowed. She was almost finished when at eight-thirty sharp there came an impatient rap at her front door, giving her a start, which caused her to drop one napkin on the floor, the napkin she was about to set at God's place but which now, owing to protocol, she switched with the one already at her own place so as to give her guest the cleaner napkin. Quickly she made her way through the dining room and into the front room, a room little bigger than a foyer, whose grayish floorboards were covered with a green rug, a room without windows, with yellowing walls and ceiling, with two candelabra sitting on little end tables on either side of the big oaken door which faced due west; but, quickly as she traversed the room, she was not fast enough to prevent yet a second, even more impatient, rap at the door. Once at the door she made tremendous haste to open it. There was God's hand poised to rap yet a third time.
"Good evening," the old woman said in salutation. God said nothing but simply glared at her haughtily a second before forging ahead into her cottage. He made straightway for the dining room, where He sat Himself down at the dinner table. "Oh," the old woman practically gasped upon God's seating Himself at the place she intended for herself. "If you'd care to sit over her," she tried to gently coax God out of her seat and into His own, "I'm sure you'd be more comfortable. Why, you'd be able to see out the window, don't you know." The whole time she spoke her eyes were riveted upon the soiled napkin sitting before God, the napkin she had dropped and therefore meant to go at her own place.
"This is fine just like it is," said God, somewhat testily. "Unless there's something I don't know about?" He hinted with a wry grin. God was well known to be somewhat boastful and, accordingly, took every opportunity to allude to His ascribed characteristics, in this instance His omniscience; for this reason God was not everywhere a welcome dinner guest and, in truth, was never asked to the very best homes. He waited to see if the old woman would reply; she said nothing. He took the napkin from the table and set about arranging it over His lap, noting its soiled condition but choosing not to make public His knowledge, to the old woman's chagrin, for, because of His obstinacy, she did not know whether He had failed to notice the napkin or simply ignored the soil. In either event it looked rather bad for God, as it implied a lack of fastidiousness if not to say cleanliness pure and simple. I know I wouldn't wish a soiled napkin to sit upon my lap, the old woman boasted in silence as she spread her nice clean one over her lap.
"Please help yourself," she apprised her dinner guest, indicating the three earthen bowls. God looked first all around the table; it seemed for a moment He would look under it as well.
"No bread?" He inquired in a critical tone, at which the old woman threw up her hands in despair. How could I forget bread? she berated herself over and over. Oh how could I? "No bread then," God answered His own question, adding that "this accounts for the dearth of butter." This matter out of the way, God then turned His attention to the three earthen bowls, asking of each its contents, manner of admixture, proportions of each ingredient, method and time of cooking, and a host of other questions before He would dish out anything. "Where is my bowl? He asked in an insulted tone.
"Bowl?" the old woman questioned.
"Bowl," He repeated somewhat petulantly. "If you've elected to serve a potato and leek soup, why is there no bowl? Surely you can't mean for me to attempt eating a soup off a dinner plate, can you?" At this, once again the old woman threw up her hands in acute despair, berating herself severely for this dreadful lapse of etiquette. "No bowl then," God once again answered His own question. The old woman was beginning to see where God had acquired His reputation for omniscience.
She ventured a compromise. "Perhaps," she offered, "you might care to taste of the potatoes and leeks independently of the broth," But to this suggestion her guest replied simply that He liked broth, it was good for the sinuses, to which she readily though sadly had to agree. "Whereas potatoes and leeks," He assured His hostess, "are good for nothing."
"Let me try the beans," God said, spooning out a pitiful few, "and the tomatoes," He said as He took a nicer portion from that, the third, earthen bowl. He seemed fond of the color of the tomatoes although He refrained from saying so.
"We have radishes and turnips too," the old woman reminded her guest.
"And carrots?" He inquired. A third time the hostess's hands went up; a third time she tasted of despair; a third time God answered His own question: "No carrots then."
"You must think me a terrible hostess," the old woman confessed. God made no reply, He just glared at her as if to say "What do you think?" The old woman hung her head. She had not forgotten the ulterior motive of this dinner; still in the back of her mind were the questions surrounding the marvelous birth she had mid-wifed earlier this evening. But it would clearly be awkward for her to commence questioning God just yet, so she chose to wait till He had tasted of His meal.
"You know," He announced all of a sudden, "I will have some potatoes after all." Pleased and grinning from ear to ear the old woman began, herself, spooning out some potatoes and leeks. "No leeks!" God exclaimed in a thunderous voice, at which she spooned whatever leeks she had put upon His plate back off again and returned them to the earthen bowl. A few moments of absolute stillness passed, in which neither God nor His hostess ate a bite, she waiting for her guest to begin, He awaiting the main course. "Well," he said at length, "I'm waiting. Where is it?"
"Where is what?" inquired the old woman, puzzled beyond words but already preparing herself for yet another round of despair. What did I forget now? she wondered, racking her brain for clues. "If you wish wine," she offered tentatively, "it's right here. Red wine."
"Wine is for later," God dismissed her suggestion with a wave of the hand.
"Then what?" she begged to know.
"The meat," God replied, in a tone of voice which chided her for His having to ask. "Where is the meat? The roast? The steak? The stew? It doesn't matter so much how you've elected to prepare it, so long as it's prepared. Though of course my own predilection runs to roasts, cooked very rare."
"Meat?" the old woman repeated. This time she did not throw up her hands; instead, they surrounded her as if in self-justification. Her arms crossed, her hands stretching about her, she repeated that one word. "Meat?"
Yes, meat," God said.
"I raise no cattle," the old woman explained, as if the implication, that one certainly could not prepare or eat food not raised by oneself, were too self-evident to mention.
"No meat then," God observed in a sarcastic tone of voice, repeating the phrase in a lower voice, one laced with incredulity: "No meat then." He sat a moment, perplexed and deep in thought. The old woman sat too, watching her guest; then, wishing to puzzle over it no longer, began to eat. God began tapping His fingers on the table, at first slowly then, as He picked up the pace, with increasing anger. No meat, He kept repeating to Himself, over and over, each time the words seeming a greater insult to Him: No meat. It was pitch dark outside; the old woman could see it, though her guest could not as He had chosen to sit with His back to the window. She could see herself reflected in the glass of the windowpane. She watched herself eat, it was relaxing, a pleasant diversion for an embarrassed hostess. Suddenly a loud noise startled her, causing her to spill the spoon full of beans she was lifting to her mouth down into her lap. She looked to see what it was.
God had upturned His plate. He had taken it, lifted it just sufficiently to get His whole hand underneath it, and, with a single angry gesture, overturned the entire plate, together with its entire contents, onto the table, spilling the beans, tomatoes and potatoes everywhere and creating so much clamor it caused the old woman to spill her spoon full of beans into her lap.
"Have you done with your meal?" the old woman inquired in a voice noteworthy for its restraint.
"Quite," answered God, with great displeasure. The old woman did not inquire further into the matter, it being well known to her, as it was indeed to everyone, how surly God could be when out of sorts. She set down her knife, fork and spoon, for she held them all three when at dinner, as one never knew in advance which would be needed and it was well to be prepared with all three. It made no difference to her whether she took her meals hot or cold, so she could as well wait till later as to eat now; besides, she feared her guest, already highly indignant at the want of meat on her table, might simply get up and leave altogether should she continue eating, taking it for yet another insult, and this would never do as she still had inquiries to make of Him, though exactly how she would breach the subject was just now a mystery to her. She glanced at the clock which set on top of her credenza, a rather large black box with large brass numbers on its face easy for her to read, since her eyes were not the best anymore. The clock read eight-fifty. Knowing there were but ten minutes before God must pray, and sensing that there was little chance to avoid the ordeal of having to kneel and pray with Him, short of simply ordering Him from her cottage, for He seemed reluctant to leave despite His displeasure, she resolved to speak right out, fearing she would be too exhausted to take up the subject she wished to pursue once the prayers were ended.
"Let me pose a question to your eminence," she began, waiting a polite moment for some rejoinder, but as God made no reply nor showed any sign of preparing one, she took this as a cue to proceed. "I mid-wifed a most marvelous birth today," she laid out before her guest her tale. "A young captive girl from across the mountains gave birth to a male child, the issue of her mating with one of the initiates into the rites of manhood, a fine sensitive young boy of nearly seventeen now. As you know, such births are mandated to occur before the autumn equinox, in order to test for sunspots. This child has missed his opportunity to be of service. Because of this I contend him to be a messiah to his people, to lead them out of captivity into their own land. Is he in fact such a one, and if he is, is it proper that his people should adore him? And what of these coastal people: will they too be sent a messiah, to reclaim their captives out of freedom? And what of me? As I am of neither tribe, what is meet for me to do?"
God appeared to be ignoring the entire matter. He fidgeted, managing to get some potato sauce on His sleeve, which He toyed with as though it were leavings from His nostrils. He glanced all around the room, except for directly behind Him where under the window sat the clock on the credenza, which was in truth what He was seeking. "It's about time for prayer, isn't it?" He mused, as though distracted.
"No," replied the old woman firmly. "We have five full minutes yet. So please answer." By allowing the question, God had as good as inferred He was prepared to respond; however, He did not feel like answering. He was in the mood to pray, not to answer supplications.
"Can you be certain your time is accurate?" He tried a diversion.
"To within a second," the old woman hastily replied. Left with little choice, though reluctantly, God finally did respond to the old woman's inquiry, explaining away everything as no more than a train of coincidences, assuring her that He knew of no such messiah as this newborn infant, that He drew no such inference from it, and that, furthermore, it was quite in excess of the true import of the event to refer to it as a marvelous birth, while in truth it was neither more nor less than exactly what it appeared on the surface to be, namely the birth of a child.
"But the timing," the old woman insisted, "why nearly two weeks late if not for some special purpose?"
"So the child faltered in its duty," God dismissed anything extraordinary about it, "or the girl perhaps held her thighs too close together or too tight, or per chance the young initiate's sperm dawdled a bit - who can say? It matters not a whit, I assure you. Forget the incident. Concentrate now all your energies on praying with me. I fancy it's about time now, am I not right?" God grinned in a self-satisfied way at this. The old woman was compelled to admit that God was right, for the hands of her clock had just that very second struck nine. "Come," said God, "let us kneel." So they knelt, side by side, on the floor, God having motioned to her to come closer rather than kneel across the distance of the table from him. This puzzled her, for she thought it immodest not to kneel beside the chair on which she had been sitting, but dared not question so eminent a practitioner of prayer as God Himself, especially in light of her own laxity with regard to keeping up her praying. Not without a certain amount of trepidation did she approach to kneel beside God, her misgivings as to the propriety of such propinquity to the male deity as disturbing as the actual breach of protocol. God was well known to have a roving eye and was said not to be above lewd conduct, even in the most decorous of circumstances. Besides which, everyone knew the kneeling position to stimulate the region of the privates, some declaring it a stronger aphrodisiac than even the horns of cattle.
"Come," said God, taking her hand in His, "let us pray." No sooner did He take her hand than her misgivings grew, indeed were confirmed; for, even as He prayed one after another of the beautiful prayers out of the holy book written under His auspices, He alternately squeezed her hand and tickled her palm with His long sensuous fingers. From time to time He would glance over at her - once, upon the occasion of her happening to look slyly His way, actually winking at her, all the while still reciting His prayers as if they and they alone commanded His full attention. Meanwhile His free hand began fidgeting, slowly inching its way toward the old woman's skirt, which eventually it reached, undetected by her. He began pinching the coarse material, though not the old woman's flesh underneath it, still unnoticed by her. Slowly He worked His hand down the pleats of her skirt, to the hem; then, at long last, just as He was beginning the solemnest, most beautiful of prayers, He thrust His hand up her skirt and deeply into her groin. She screamed, more out of fright at the unexpected intrusion than from pain or thoughts of rape. God took considerable pains to withdraw His hand without revealing its presence, calling her attention with His free hand to something make believe in the opposite direction, not entirely certain whether He had escaped detection or not, but as she said nothing He was content to assume success. He waited awhile before attempting another such encounter, but when He finally did try a second time He encountered the same rebuff: the old woman screamed. At this point He declared Himself finished with subtlety and threw Himself upon the old woman, interrupting His prayers just long enough to steal a kiss from her old cracked lips. He began to intertwine sweet whisperings of endearment with His prayers, one minute calling upon "the host of heaven" to watch over the world, the next minute upon His "little dew drop" to lift up her skirt to the heavens.
Finally the old woman could bear no more. She had been willing to endure His caresses and His faint kisses, despite His bad breath, and His lewd suggestions, but when He took it upon Himself to lift up her skirt, and then proceeded to remove His own pants, she had little choice but to have an end to this love making. How else was she to preserve that which she had devoted her entire life to preserving? What she had never, even in the fullest bloom of youth and passion, given up to any man, she refused now to surrender, at this late stage of her life, even to God Himself. This, as she had long ago been given to understand by the great magician who had taught her, was the inevitable and the necessary cost of prophecy - and God of all people should have known so.
"I may not yield my virginity to anyone," she stated very firmly as she withdrew her skirt from God's grasp and lowered it, "without suffering the loss of my clairvoyance. I regret the inconvenience to you, but it must be, I have no choice. I am sorry, but as I did nothing deliberately to excite your lust I cannot be held impolite in refusing you. So please finish your prayers then go." With these words she turned her head to allow her guest to pull His pants back up, which, reluctantly, He did.
"Arise woman!" He commanded, His prayers at an end. They both arose, to the creaks and groans of many bones and muscles. "Thou hath sorely offended me woman," God proclaimed in a thunderous voice which shook the walls and floor of the cottage and rattled the windows, the china, even the little vials inside her credenza. "Know thou this very day I put a curse upon thee, a most dire curse. Thou art the devil's hag, woman, the bride of Jessamin himself. Thou art accursed of all mankind. Thou, who ever before hath been nameless, hath gone a lifetime nameless, hath traveled lands and seas nameless, hath prophesied and foretold great and mighty deeds nameless - thou, woman, devil's hag, bride of Jessamin, shall evermore and hereafter be called Jessamina: Jessamina, bride of Jessamin. Upon thy brow, hag, I do place this accursed name: Jessamina. Bride of the devil. And I do curse thee this day: thou shalt die nameless to all but me, thy throat slit open, thy body tossed into the great river Luxor to drift downstream to where, at its mouth, the great sharks shall divide thy foul body among themselves until thou shalt become naught but the excrement of scavengers, to be pecked at by flies and shrimp and algae until every foul trace of thy vile existence shall be removed piecemeal from this world. Go thou from my sight and cower in a corner now! Go hag!" With these words, and one last haughty glare at the trembling old woman who crouched in a dark corner of the dining room, half hidden from view by the credenza, God departed her cottage forever.