The Grand Design
A very short story by John T. Clark
A delicious light was flooding into the room. Her face glowed warm, shedding a flow of love that rendered my mouth useless. Her eyes reached past my face, through my body, to my heart where they gripped my soul in a stranglehold. There I sat; frozen and burning in the same instant, as this woman of divine perfection scanned my inner systems; probing my every blemish, and laying bare my every glitch.
Then it came; a belch, no a cough, called from the depths of my lungs. It rose like a rocket in slow motion to my esophagus, but I caught it in mid-fire at the back of my throat where it sat and itched wildly.
My mouth was full of crackers; newly crunched, and shattered into millions of bits, pasted to my pallet like tiny projectiles in the muzzle of a cannon. And then disaster struck. The cough ignored my repudiations, convulsed back down to my lungs for a running start, and bellowed upward for one final blast to the surface.
My eyes opened wide, and met her eyes. Her eyes opened wide. My mouth flew open wide, and crackers exploded in a barrage of half-chewed shrapnel; wounding five shirts, destroying three plates of food, sending one beautiful woman into uproarious laughter, and decimating one formerly powerful ego.
So, I coughed, so what? What difference to the problems of the world does one cough make anyhow? If anything, it helps the world by making one previously unconscious individual arise to the possibility of his limited greatness, and thereby revealing weakness that can then, by choice, be transformed – transmuted into strength separate from the little ego.
Yes, little ego. For as I sat and listed to the exquisitely beautiful young lady, who had previously admired by noble outer bounty, laugh with such vigor at my folly, indeed my ego was revealed to be quite small and shatterable. I am in amazement still at the complete un‑reliability of my ego as a source of strength, and how much I had relied upon it for protection. For when it came down to simply guarding me from one woman’s mirth, it proved wholly vacuous and frightfully weak.
I gained much wisdom by this experience, and a phone number from one very beautiful woman. “Anyone who can make me laugh till I throw up, deserves a date,” she said, as she strolled out of the restaurant.
It wasn’t much consolation, in fact it was a darn right weird way to get a date. If I married this girl, what would I tell our children? “After I spit on your mother in public, we decided to get married. Here’s some saltines, go find a wife.”
Instead of calling that number, I did some thinking; thinking about who I am trying to impress, how long I have been trying to impress them, and how badly I have failed countless times. Don’t get me wrong, I did feel pretty good about myself, yet some areas of the three‑hundred and sixty degrees of my life’s wheel were profusely defective. My thoughts were about fixing those areas of my self, the overall self that I am. How could I become the clean machine of my dreams, and at the same time stay within the bounds of condoned reality? But what are the bounds of condoned reality? And who sets the bounds, anyway? If cracker belching can get a date with a beautiful woman, then what use is a mental precedence designed to guide me to normalcy anyhow?
Yes, I did eventually relent to my weakness and call the girl. She talked profusely about Bon Jovi’s next music video, and detailed my out-of-date brain on current events in the world of Cosmo Magazine. Surprised at the lack of intellectual focus? Not at all. I was surprised at the size of penis that sixty-two percent of women prefer. Okay, so I weakened, but as I mentioned earlier, we must identify our weaknesses to change them into great strengths.
I did not, however, pursue her charms any further – choosing instead to repent and seek loftier ideals. “Seek” is the key word in this situation, due in part to my male‑dominated‑society upbringing, and in part to my inherent male hormone system.
What I’m getting at is this: about a month after I made my noble choice to set this woman free, I saw a picture of her on the front page of a Cosmo Magazine. This alone was sufficient to trigger a phone number searching panic, but there’s more. Inside there was a brief interview with this “international supermodel” in which the question was put forth, “What was the strangest pick‑up a man ever tried on you?” To which she responded, “Once, a very attractive man spit a mouthful of crackers all over a restaurant in front of me.” She went on to use several more endearing adjectives in her description of me, and then came “…and I regret that he never called me back.”
No, I didn’t find her phone number, and the people at Cosmo refused to divulge it – informing me that I was one of two-hundred other claimants to the throne of “attractive cracker-spitter who never called back”. My friends never heard the end of it either. The few who believed my story denounced me at a traitor to the male gender for discarding such a prized possession. The remainder of my companions deemed this another “big one that got away” story. In the end, I failed to reap any satisfaction through telling my equivocal account.
My ego once again let me down. Or I let it down. Perhaps if I wrote an official apology to my ego it would revert to a position of strength and fortitude. Then again, the lesson I was learning through my misadventures was to find something new to rely on, something that bypasses the traitor within.
So I went to church, and then I went to another church, and then another, and then another. And then a synagogue, and then a mosque, and a temple – I hope you get the picture. Preacher after preacher telling me right from wrong, and good from bad through vociferous bantering and high‑handed fist slamming, simply made me question the validity of their wisdom. They offered no simple answers to my ever present questions, and I watched in dismay, as countless parishioners erected these men onto proverbial pedestals, and drank each word they spoke without question, reason, or thought.
On went my quest. I read countless books, listened to positive self-help tapes, attended mind-bending seminars, and basically personal-powered the hell out of myself. I went as far as sitting cross-legged with a skinny, bearded yogi murmuring “ohmmmm, ohmmmm” for three hours at a time. I was told of one path to enlightenment after another, each with its own method of sucking over wallet-fulls of “love offering” cash, or guilt splattered tithing. Oh, by the way, I didn’t even know I needed enlightenment, until I was told. How silly am I?
A year-and-a-half went by, and I was weary, broke and broken. I was tired of yogis, systems, and paths to salvation, and had just about given up on my search. One morning after a fitful night of sleep, I looked in the mirror, and firmly decided that I really wasn’t too bad off anyway. I threw up my arms and said “to hell with it!! I am what I am!”
I giggled like a girl and skipped out the door, down to the very same restaurant where my fateful search for whatever it was I was searching for began.
I sat down to eat a delicious, greasy breakfast, and low and behold, there she was, strolling into the restaurant like a ray of sunshine. It was the same beautiful girl. When she spotted me a smile spread across her face that could melt Mount Everest, and she fell into uncontrollable merriment. I felt a warm, comforting wind blow through my body, sweeping aside my fears and lighting up my heart. Then, as my laughter joined hers, I knew I had truly found what I was looking for. I was laughing at myself, at her, at the world, at everything, and the laughter grew louder and louder until we wound up in each other’s arms with red swollen faces and sore bellies.
She taught me to laugh at life, to see the light side of all things heavy, and to smile at myself in the mirror. To this day, my soul dances, and my heart rejoices when I see her face or touch her hand. We were married three months later, and together we continue to teach each other to love, and laugh, and chuckle at all life has to offer.
JUST THE BEGINNING