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In the surprisingly near future, religion has been outlawed. Caving under pressure — and living on Earth as a famous actor — God agrees to resign his throne in heaven and relinquish his control of the Milky Way – under one condition: A mortal man must best him by way of knock-out in a 10-round boxing match in the world’s most famous arena.

Chapter 1

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

Ready audio, ready segue. Ready cue Mary – cue Mary, take one.

You never forget the first time God gets punched in the face. With all that flash-slave photography catching and freezing the world in white-hot bursts, it was like seeing a twin-engine jet airliner crash into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Just like that, the whole world changed. Whether you noticed or not, the earth stopped spinning and, truly I say to you, it would never spin right round again. Without going all Newtonian Physics, suffice it to say the inverse-square law went semi-kablooey when that conserved, collective quantity radiated outward from those scruffy, fight-worn leather gloves.

His opponent, the newly anointed Pluto Speck, had thrown a bolo punch and, as God was trying to dodge it, Pluto miraculously landed a straight right – also called a cross, funnily enough.

Cue Foley sound FX, CROWD ROAR, sporting event, laugh track. Foley HUGE AMBIANCE, man clearing throat.

As far as human experiences go, seeing the Alpha and Omega take a crack in the jaw ranks pretty high in the canon – somewhere above the middle, I suspect: more amazing than snowboarding by moonlight on the slopes of Niseko, but less amazing than having brunch with Morgan Freeman at The Edgewater. Similar to that aforementioned tragedy, I’m not saying it’s better or worse than one thing or the other. I’m just saying it’s memorable.

It happened in the fourth round, about two minutes in. According to the CompuBox stats, this was the first punch Pluto Speck landed, after seventy-six missed pitty-pat combinations. It was in that moment that the whole planet went focal zoom, all inverted and negative like in a xenon tube. We all sat up and took notice with stroboscope eyes, watching the fight like a Doc Edgerton exhibit. As if it hadn’t before, every swing became a bullet tearing through a King of Diamonds, every landed punch a milkdrop coronet.

Foley BONE BREAK SMALL, indirect walnuts cracking, juicy ripping lettuce leaves, eggs crushing.

Now, in the world of boxing, a bolo punch is a flashy, wide, sweeping uppercut that’s more about showboating than raw power. At the advice of his corner man – who was also his cutman – Pluto Speck deliberately roped himself after God landed a nasty haymaker, knocking him off his Rumble in the Jungle feet. Literally kissing the canvas during the mandatory eight-count, Pluto scanned the huge Madison Square Garden arena, trying to bridle his galloping senses while his cornerman, his trainer, his only friend in the world shouted at him, “Ali versus Foreman, 1974!”

Climbing to his knees, his spinal fluid surging with neurofiliment light, his vision spinning all helter-skelter, Pluto waved the referee away, and tried to focus on his training. His cornerman had a real thing for Cassius Clay, as only the Swedes can. More often than not, they were too busy daydreaming about Viking myths to notice their country being vandalized by radical Islamic hordes, but Pär had been the exception. Not Old Parr, mind you, though the coincidence is hardly coincidental. Pay attention, Pluto. Angelo Dundee is dead, and God is dancing all 6/8 time in the white corner.

He was a handsome devil, that God. Standing six feet, four inches, and weighing a ton of wrought iron muscle, try not to picture some old white man with a flowing beard. Foley FEMALE MOAN. Contrary to popular Western belief, man has made God in his image, not the other way around. Squirm with iconoclastic contempt if you want, but God is a hybrid alloy of Nova Scotian and Samoan slag. I’d say Obama paved the way, but nobody really cared that God was a steroid-infused wrecking ball fresh off a WrestleMania circuit. And he looked like that because, well, that’s exactly what he was. Or is. Or, whatever. Foley GRUNT, heavy woman breathing.

Holding up his prayer-sponsored gloves and proudly dancing a jig, God wasn’t going to win any awards for sportsmanlike conduct. Kissing those bloodstained gloves, God waved to the swelling, roaring capacity crowd and, pursing his lips, winked at the nearest camera, going all bedroom goo-goo eyes, pretty much molesting the entire PPV audience with that million-dollar come-hither swagger. Women swooned. Publicists scurried.

Grabbing his mouth guard from the canvas, Pluto Speck slipped it back into position and shook his head vigorously like a dog, slinging sweat and sputa and blood and The Eternal King’s own spit in a gross spray of excretions. Fully standing now, Pluto tried to remember what he was really fighting for, and focus on a little boy named Carl Johnson the Third. Sitting a thousand miles away, in total darkness and total silence, the boy had no clue what was happening right now. The way he lived every day of his life, even the European Court of Human Rights wouldn’t allow on the grounds of it being totally barbaric.

Tapping gloves in the center of the ring, the referee barely had time to back away before God knocked Pluto on the button with a grazing left hook. Staggered and desperate, Pluto deliberately clinched, hoping his rubber legs wouldn’t give out again. Leaning his weight into God’s broad shoulders, Pluto took a series of punishing jabs to the breadbasket, wincing and gagging. When the referee broke up the clinch, before taking the full backward step, God sucker-punched Pluto on the break square in the liver. Instead of soaring through the ropes, this time Pluto fell against them, suspended by them in mid-air, somehow maintaining his feeble grip on consciousness. Seizing the opportunity, God unleashed a hurricane of jabs and hooks, pummeling Pluto’s midsection. When one punch doubled him over, God would throw an uppercut, knocking him back into standing, stilted position, turning poor Pluto into a human Weeble.

Wobbling there in the ring, suffering one merciless blow after the other, Pluto Speck scanned the cheering, jeering crowd. All around the ring was the haut monde of Hollywood and world’s wealthiest people. He couldn’t remember the exact price those front-row seats had eventually fetched, but the alphabet sections alone totaled an aggregate net in excess of 4.6 trillion. Renzo Rosso was there, as was Tory Burch. The former was religiously ambiguous, but Burch was Jewish on her mother’s side. That seemed about right, for some reason.

Suspended in time and dangling from a string, scanning the world’s who’s who, all Pluto wanted to do was the right thing. All Pluto wanted was a little global human decency. A little reassurance would’ve been nice. A warm smile or a sympathetic thumbs-up could’ve worked wonders in that moment. Knowing his son loved him, or could forgive him someday would’ve been tops. Forgiving himself would’ve been asking too much. Scanning the flashing, roaring crowd, Pluto tried to imagine what it was like to be dead and desperately hoped to shake free the image of Mel Gibson sitting ringside, flipping him the birdie.

Pounding on the canvas, his cornerman and manager and promoter, his truly true best friend in the whole wide world was shouting at him in slow motion. His hand looked overcranked as it fired dropping down, slamming in stretched time against cotton duck in loud musket gunfire. BOOM BOOM POW, it sounded like. His mouth opened and closed like the wings of a John Woo pigeon, and Pluto loaded up his taped, clenched fist, swinging with the left in huge bolo style, wild and arching. God saw it, as did the whole world, and when he bobbed to dodge, Pluto surprised him with a cocked right straight to the teeth, piercing The Light’s defenses like an apple core with a supersonic .30 caliber bullet.

What Pluto Speck was thinking about in that moment or – more importantly – the moment that directly anteceded that moment, nobody knows for sure. Maybe he was thinking about Sister Maggie and how darn pretty she looked framed in black and white, painted against a Belizean sunset. Maybe he was thinking about Carl Johnson III’s thermoceptive prison. Maybe he was thinking about all the suffering in the world, like the moral corruption and needless violence, or the diseases and earthquakes and floods and famines. Whatever it was, whatever he was thinking about, whether it was Mel Gibson’s middle finger or Helen Keller’s posthumous honors, it probably had little to do with wedding cake.

Ready segue from present to parley – segue. Read to roll VTR three, SOT – roll VTR three. Two, one, take VTR three, sound on tape.

In movies – specifically any comedy involving a wedding – the cake will always, undoubtedly be destroyed. The movie will probably star Sandra Bullock or Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson or Patrick Dempsey or Dermot Mulroney or Matthew McConaughey. The woman will always be as love-lorn as possible relative to her spectrum of reality, and the prospective groom can’t help but be dashing and handsome, like an old stone mansion – you know the one, sitting a stone’s throw south from the church. The cake will be beautiful, like Jennifer Garner’s lips, and be made of rolled fondant and hand painted chocolate roses and gum-paste cherry blossoms. It’ll be multi-tiered with edible pearls and luster-dust bracelets and look less like a customary dessert and more like Kate Upton can-can dancing in a Lacroix-designed silk chiffon lace gown. And, wouldn’t you know it, the cake will always be knocked over and wrecked, totally threatening the success of the ceremonial vows. The bride and her gaggle of besties will bemoan the tragedy like a broken mirror or like three butterflies hogging the same flower. In romantic comedies, a destroyed wedding cake is the harbinger of bad tidings, even though you know as well as I do, the destruction of said cake is the whole reason some screenwriter penned it into existence in the first place.

As far as movies go, this rule can apply to just about anything and isn’t strictly limited to its own titular constraints. The Ferrari inFerris Bueller’s Day Off, for instance, was that particular story’s wedding cake. At the risk of getting all dystopian, that car wasn’t real. It was one of three models made out of fiberglass and ripped like cardboard when it smashed through that window into the trees below. Its stagecraft wasn’t out of John Hughes’ appreciation for Italian sports cars, though. It was about his paltry Paramount production budget. It’s there for our emotional punch, and serves no other purpose. In movies, wedding cake – like that Ferrari – is beautiful for the sake of being beautiful in order to be destroyed.

In the middle of Madison Square Garden – in New York City, New York, North America, Earth – humanity’s wedding cake had just taken a turn for the worst. Or was it for the better? The bottom minute of that pivotal round felt downright interminable, like an in-flight Adam Sandler movie. Try as you might, there was no escape and the whole time you’re sitting there praying for death, another glacier is melting because of your commercially funded contrail. No one man or woman was guiltier than the next, and every neighbor was suddenly out of sugar and compact fluorescent light bulbs. The day and date will be redacted, no doubt, but nobody would forget where they were when a regular Joe drew bright red blood-pixels from God’s mouth.

Foley BONE BREAK, harsh ripping sound of twisted leek. Foley CROWD EFFECTS, children on school playground, Baby Crying #2.

So surprised by the first punch, God couldn’t properly react to the second or third or fourth or even fifth. For one crazy moment, the tide of the bout had turned, and Pluto Speck hammered away on the Almighty’s face like a megatsunami. Each punch crashed like a harbor wave, rolling and huge, boring and surging through the sanctioned, narrow bay of human equity. God stumbled, buckling and bleeding as Pluto’s arm came swinging like Densmore Shute’s iron driver in an archimedian spiral, stopping time in its tracks with that legendary leather glove. The way that sixth punch grinded, the way it crunched God’s face in strobing, stop-action nanoseconds, the way God toppled backward and collapsed onto the canvas like an imploded landmark structure, it really was like seeing the north tower shatter in a holy mess of reinforced faith and zealous, wanton hate.

Right now, front and center, our wedding cake was getting all smashed and pulverized, and for the first time ever in history, we weren’t just human beings having a spiritual experience, we were spiritual beings having a human experience. All together and connected, linked up and slow-mo, ordered and paid for and authorized, we were all a willing, eager audience. We were all a smiling receiving line. And when it was done, when it was time for the reception, when it was time to raise our glasses in a toast of goodwill, there would be no cake leftover. There wouldn’t be a crumb to freeze.

As with any traditional cue, I should probably ready the take and say something like, Lights, camera, action. Roll title. As God falls in the center of the ring, busted and bleeding, I should probably say something like, Ready ONE with your wide-shot. Ten seconds to ONE, five seconds to ONE. Cue talent. Ready mic?

Now, Go to black.

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brandt miles

Devil's Elbow, USA

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