I walked into a room this afternoon and saw Good.
“Oh, hello,” she said, turning to me. She’d heard me come in.
Good was a pretty blonde woman. Her round, kind face was young but already worn, as if she spent a lot of time worrying. She smiled a warm smile that lifted her bumpy cheeks and crinkled her eyes.
I liked her, but I had some questions.
“So tell me,” I said. “Why is there so much suffering in the world?”
She sighed and patted a red leather chair that had suddenly materialized next to her.
“Sit down,” she said. “It’s complicated.”
I took my place and listened.
“When I first made the world, I intended for it to be a happy place,” she said. “And at first it was. Then Evil appeared out of nowhere and started mucking things up, and then he made his helpers and I made mine, and we’ve been fighting ever since.”
She looked up at the ceiling and opened her palms in a gesture of frustration.
“When I created humans I didn’t account for the presence of Evil, seeing as he wasn’t there yet,” she said. “By pure coincidence, there’s something in your composition that makes you, as a species, very susceptible to him. It’s really a terrible design flaw. Ah, Luck.”
She clucked her tongue.
“I would call her up to ream her out about it,” she continued. “But she’s horribly unreliable. Doesn’t answer her phone half the time, never there when you need her, always showing up late, running off with other people.”
“Wait,” I began in confusion. “What’s the difference between Luck and Fortune?”
“Fortune?” Good asked, her brow creasing. It made her look even more weathered than she already did. “Fortune? Oh, God, I’d forgotten that she used to call herself that. She went through an ‘artistic’ phase back in college and thought it would be cool to change her name.”
“What about Fate?” I asked.
“Cousins,” Good said. “They’re cousins. They help each other out, but he gets a bit irritated with her after a while. I can’t say I blame him.”
“Well, back to what we were talking about before,” I said. “You said humans are susceptible to evil?”
“Yes,” she said, suddenly sheepish. “Yes, you good ones are actually defective. Each one I’ve ever made came about when I was in an altered state of mind. You, for example, were the product of a delicious caramel frappucino I drank one evening about twenty years ago.
“Barack Obama happened at one o’clock in the morning after I’d eaten an entire bag of jelly beans. I was hyped up on sugar, bouncing off the walls, and next thing I know, poof!—there he is. Several amazing authors have come out of lovely dreams of mine. J.K. Rowling popped up on the tail end of an exquisite custard I ate right before bed.”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Do you mean to tell me that every genuinely good person who’s ever existed has been an accident?”
“Well,” she stammered, avoiding my eyes. It was clear this was an embarrassing subject for her. “Yes, pretty much. I made the formula for humans before Evil came around, and something in it leaves most of you wide open to him. For some reason the handful of people created out of my cock-ups have an inborn resistance to his power.”
“If that’s true,” I said. “Why don’t you just mess up all the time, on purpose? Eat pie every night before you go to sleep, down coffees, go running naked outside through the snow and get sick. You could try staying up a few nights straight and see what happens.”
“That’s just the thing!” she exclaimed, her eyes widening. “I can’t figure out how I’m doing it! Every time I’ve ever once tried to do that intentionally it’s gone awfully wrong. Adolf Hitler, for instance, formed himself as I was dealing with the flu. George W. Bush was the result of nothing more than indigestion.
“And had not Evil intervened, nothing would have happened in either case. It’s not that most people are born bad, it’s just that they have a fatal weakness that could be exploited in any of them given the right circumstances. Occasionally my mistake humans have less rather than more resistance to Evil. For goodness’ sakes, all I ever intended Hitler to do was paint landscapes! I was hoping he’d do some pretty drawings and maybe lighten up someone’s day.”
“What about Bush?” I asked.
“Who?” she returned.
“Bush,” I repeated.
“Oh, him,” she said. “He wasn’t supposed to do anything really. Just wander around Texas, not bothering anybody. Some people are only made to fill things out. If I’d had any idea he’d become President of the United States…
“But that’s the thing; Evil has been very good at seducing your species. It hurts me very much to see it. And while he and I continue to battle, along with our allies on either side, I often feel as if he is perpetually at the advantage. He has such a wide field and mine is so small…”
Her face brightened.
“Of course, recently I’ve had some good victories,” she said. “You’ll know about Obama, naturally. If he makes it through, he’ll do a tremendous amount of good. If he makes it, though.”
“Will they try to take him?” I asked, aghast.
“Yes, they will,” she answered. “They will. They tried to take you, too, you know.”
Now it was my turn to look down.
“Yes, I know,” I said. “I remember.”
“It was awfully close,” she said. “You had me worried for a while.”
It took me a while to answer.
“I still cry sometimes,” I said, looking into her face. “Did you see me this morning?”
“I really am sorry about all that,” she said in consoling tones. “You got plunked down in a whole sea of evil, one little white speck surrounded by black. I felt guilty about it for a very long time. I do try to help you out, though, particularly of late.”
“I know,” I assured her. “I’ve noticed, believe me. You’ve done so much.”
“Tell me, though,” I said. “You’ll eventually win, right? Even though the war goes on, you will win out in the end, won’t you?”
I expected the usual spiel about Good triumphing over Evil, but she shrugged her shoulders instead.
“I don’t know,” she said. “If we’re actually keeping score, he’s quite a bit ahead. I haven’t been in the lead since the dawn of agriculture, and my last big thing before Obama was ending World War II, which I only had to do because of him anyway. Well, no, that’s not true, I did bring down the Iron Curtain. I had to use Reagan to do it, though, so that one’s probably a draw.”
Catching the horrified expression on my face, she rushed to bolster my spirits.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’ve had a couple of slam dunks. Music; Martin Luther King, Jr.; line dancing; snow. And have you ever really tasted an empanada? I was smug for a whole month after I came up with that one. Still, these things coexist in a world with racism and the Macarena, both of which mortify me to this day.”
I stared at her in disconsolate shock.
“So there’s no answer?” I tried, hoping her response would be different.
“I’m afraid not,” she said. “I wish. I’m trying my best, though.”
“I know,” I said. “Could you do me a favor, though? I’m coming out soon, telling everyone I’m gay, so if you could work on homophobia a little I’d really appreciate it.”
“I’ll do everything I can,” she said. “There’s a lot going on, though. Evil’s been working the hell out of greed lately, and now I’m left with a whole lot of hunger to clean up.”
“My aunt works for AIG,” I admitted.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “It wasn’t her fault. She’s a malfunction, too. A very raucous baby shower preceded the creation of your Aunt Meggy.”
“Well, I have homework to do,” I said. “So I’m going to go.”
“Alright,” she said, pulling me into a hug. “Come back whenever you want.”
“I will,” I promised.