Continua la pubblicazione del “Grande Elenco Telefonico della Terra e pianeti limitrofi (Giove escluso)” anche in inglese, grazie alla sapiente traduzione di Paola Corazza.
Se volete seguire “Il Grande Elenco della Terra…” potete farlo qui, su Macchianera, oppure utilizzare Facebook: questa è la pagina italiana; questa quella inglese. Ovviamente non ce la prendiamo affatto se invitate i vostri amici a seguirlo.
– Will you please be so kind, since I am sure you have never caused a war between two planets, to put yourself in my shoes and explain – possibly without digressing too much – how could I have possibly caused this war?
– You prefer the long or the short version?
– Let’s try the short one.
– The Jovials are quite unpleasant.
– Do you have a medium-length version?
– Okay, just ask me what you want to know.
– First of all, why did the secret services attribute the sentence on the stick to the Hoitytoities, since I was the one who wrote it, and I am almost totally sure I have used a language of undoubted terrestrial origin?
– You are forgetting, or maybe you just don’t know, that the year of the contact for the Terrestrials occurred less than three months ago.
– The year of the contact?
– The moment in which your civilization found out you were not alone in the universe.
– Never heard anything about that.
– Three of our months, not of yours: it happened at the end of your year 2054. You were celebrating the birthday of a big shot.
– A big shot?
– Yes, somebody who had to come and save you, sooner or later.
– Oh, I see, it was Christmas.
– I do not remember his name.
– No, Christmas is… never mind. But what has the year of the contact got to do with the popsicle stick?
– The Jovials have gathered that you could not have possibly sent it because you didn’t even know the Jovials existed. And the wooden stick, well, that’s the Hoitytoities trademark signature.
– But the Jovials… couldn’t they just sulk a little bit and end it there?
– Are you kidding? With a threatening sentence containing three zeds all together? Not in a million years!
– So, what did they do?
– Three minutes after reading the sentence on the stick, they declared war on the Hoitytoities, simple as that.
– And the Hoitytoities, couldn’t they just spend the following three minutes to explain that they were not guilty?
– You probably ignore there is something else the Hoitytoities are well-known for, besides what I have already told you: they are quite conceited and feel superior to any other existing civilization. So, when the Jovials declared war on them, they carried out an opinion poll.
– An opinion poll?
– Yes, and what they asked was: “Are we capable of winning this war?”. 97% of the people said “Yes”. The other 3% had no clue where to tick the “Yes” box.
– …So they entered the war.
– Yes, but the real problem was another: despite what they believed, the Hoitytoities were absolutely incapable of winning that war…
– First of all because planet Superior, compared to Jupiter, is the size of a stamp. Therefore, as you may also guess, they were in a minority with respect to the Jovials, if I remember well, with a 1 to 13 thousand ratio. Moreover, the Jovials are capable of predicting the enemy’s moves as they can read the mind.
– Let me go on. The Hoitytoities never had an army: they believed it was a tacky thing.
– I see. What I really want to know is the number of dead people, and what damages did the war cause. See, just little things you want know when you feel responsible.
– Dead people? Nobody died.
– Excuse me, how much did the war last?
– Twenty-seven years.
– And in those twenty-seven years of war, not a single person died?
– Just one: it was one of the Hoitytoities, but he was feeling quite unwell even before the war started.
– I don’t understand
– It’s quite simple: the Jovials cannot die.
– They can’t?
– No. When they have finished using their bodies, they turn into fertilizer.
– This is what we call dying.
– Not them. They call it turning into beautiful plants.
– So, let’s put it another way: can you explain how much fertilizer was involved?
– Jupiter had never been greener than at that time.
– Please, spare me the details.
– You should not feel responsible: it just had to happen, and the proof is that we are here talking about it. Try to look at the bright side of it…
– Is there a bright side?
– Jovial children who once felt neglected because their parents would never take them out to play, can now visit their daddies directly in the park. Anytime.
– Thanks, you are really cheering me up. But how come so many Jovials died?
– A war is a war. And the Hoitytoities took very badly that trained Wiglets thing.
– Trained what?
– Trained Wiglets: they would capture them and keep them in captivity, feeding them exclusively with the brains of people with serious self-esteem issues. They would then send them on planet Superior to contaminate it with uncertainty, doubt, discouragement, melancholy.
– And did it do the trick?
– Big time. Imagine that, two years only into the war, if on planet Superior they had carried out that opinion poll again on the suitability of entering a war, 64% would have answered “Huh?”, 20% “No idea”, 11% “As if war was my biggest problem!” and 5% would have not even felt like going out to vote.
– But in the end there was a reaction, and this explains all those dead people on the other side.
– Sure, the biggest retaliation ever seen. Yet…
– There was still this problem of disparity in number: they could have never won the war, not even with thirty times as many dead Jovials. And despite the fact that the Jupiterian government had so sensationally taken the lead from the start – so much that they could have afforded to keep on fighting for centuries – they decided to end it there, opting for the final solution.
– Oh, no!
– Oh, yes: but they did things in style. First of all they ordered the entire population to move to the lower half of the planet. Then they handed out a toy windmill to each one of them.
– To celebrate what?
– Don’t be so dumb: never underestimate a Jovial holding a windmill.
– No. Never. The Jovials were told to wait until the end of the countdown and then to start blowing on the windmills all together.
– I really can’t see what they did it for.
– Just picture the whole of Jupiter – billions of people – blowing on billions of windmills: after a few seconds the planet started to move.
– And where did it move to?
– Against planet Superior, in a collision course.
– So the final solution was suicide?
– No way: the impact with planet Superior would have left Jupiter cold, so big it was. It would have caused, at the most, damages similar to those produced by a big meteorite.
– And so the Hoitytoities ran away…
– Not at all: driven by the little pride the Wiglets had not sucked away from them, they decided they would also aim their planet at Jupiter.
– Using windmills too?
– The Hoitytoities were on a too tight budget to afford all those windmills, so they decided instead to plug up all the volcanoes on the higher half of planet Superior, creating a kind of jet engine.
– So they started a duel in the middle of the galaxy?
– Exactly. Like in a race: the first one to steer would have proved to be the weaker, and would have lost the war.
– Poor guys.
– Poor guys… who?
– The Hoitytoities, it’s obvious.
– Why? The Hoitytoities won the war in the end.
– They won? How? They were much less; their planet was smaller; they were on a tight budget and even had to fight against depression!
– They sharpened their wit, and took advantage of one of the enemy’s assets.
– What do you mean?
– As I have already told you, the Jovials can read the mind.
– Yes, but if you put it this way, it sounds like a further reason for winning…
– No: just think of it.
– You say it isn’it?
– No: the Hoitytoities decided that for no reason they would have steered. And they would have stuck to their plan, despite they knew they were doomed to suicide.
– What is not clear this time?
– Why did the Jovials steer first?
– Because, reading their minds, they were absolutely positive that the Hoitytoities would not have steered.
– That’s way too tricky: I don’t think that the universe is my cup of tea.
– I am with you there. It is not by accident that you only went as far as Mars.
– We’ve been on Mars?
– Sure, in 1980. An American, a Mexican and a Canadian. But your governments decided not to spread the news.
– While stepping off the ladder, the American stumbled and marsed flat on his face. It was so painful they could not shoot the scene again, and everything was hushed up.
– I see. But tell me what happened in the end between the Jovials and the Hoitytoities.
– They signed an armistice following a ritual that, by the way, was imported from the Earth.
– They shook hands?
– No: they crossed their pinkies.
– Their pinkies?
– You mean they have pinkies?
– Like everybody else. They tied them, and swinging their arms from right to left and from left to right, they chanted the Sacred Terrestrial Formula of Harmony.
– And how does it go?
– It goes:
“Damn those nasty Wiglets
Who made us all flare up!
But now let’s cross our pinkies
Let’s kiss and then make up!”
– Of course.
– I’m back.
– What happened?
– Nothing, the crowd out there was clamoring.
– Was it? And what were they shouting? Are you in danger? Are you being threatened?
– No, I’m in no danger and nobody was shouting: one of them, at the back, just coughed.
– Just one?
– Yes. Quite annoying, don’t you think?
– One of the… I can’t remember how many billions, waiting outside that phone booth?
– Three billion, one hundred sixty-eight million, four hundred thousand eleven, seven hundred and twenty-nine people, including me.
– You want me to believe they are all keeping silent?
– They have to, if they want me to hear you.
– Nobody is rumbling, whistling, mumbling, moaning or praying?
– Excuse me?
– You are dealing with a delicate situation all by yourself, that’s why I was asking you if somebody had started making noises, or whistling…
– No, the last thing you said.
– Nobody is praying?
– Praying to whom?
– Well, what can I say… to God?
– And we should pray to him for what?
– For him to solve your problem, for a start.
– And why would he be able to solve it?
– I’d say, first of all, because he is God, so, if you believe in him, you also believe he is almighty.
– Probably we are not talking about the same person.
– I don’t understand: don’t you have a God?
– Of course we have a God, but what you don’t know is that we had an argument with him.
– You had an argument with him?
– With God?
– All of you? All three billions?
– I just cannot see what’s so strange about it.
– Well, you may believe in God or not, but you can’t have an argument with him.
– Why not? It’s not a matter of believing or not: we saw him, so we are sure he does exist. It’s just that he’s not the great guy they say.
– What do you mean?
– See, we got along quite well with our previous God.
– Your previous God?
– Yes. He was really a great guy: very busy, sure, but he would always find the time to listen to all our problems. Of course, the queue was huge, but you just had to submit a regular request and you knew for sure you would get your answer, one day.
– If I have understood correctly, this is what we call “praying”.
– I just cannot see why we should have prayed to get an answer: he was just doing his job.
– I must admit your argument is flawless .
– Of course it is. As I was saying before, on the whole he was all right.
– On the whole?
– Yes, well, we all did stupid things when we were young. That insider trading case was finally closed. And that unpleasant story of the swindle of relics: also there, no evidence for the prosecution.
– Hold on a second, or I’ll get everything mixed up. You were telling me you trusted him. What happened next?
– Well, it’s simple: one day he just died.
– God died?
– It had to happen sooner or later.
– You really mean that?
– Sure: we knew already he was not feeling too well. Recently, he looked quite pale, even on frescoes. The problems started when his son replaced him: he really wasn’t cut out for the job. He had absolutely no interest in anything that may happen to us: he slept until late and spent his nights in clubs; he hung out with the scum; he gambled heavily and would often lose; he squandered all his money in women, fast cars and who knows what else. And he always looked so, how can I say?… Absent-minded.
– To make things clear: we are still talking about God, right? The one who is supposed to have created you?
– Not at all. The guy found everything as it is. It always happens that way with those who come from money, with everything ready and waiting : when you have at your disposal this kind of fortune, something you have not earned since you haven’t worked a single day of your life, it is obvious that, in the end, you will bring the family empire to ruin.
– And he did?
– Just think that once he lost us playing poker.
– He lost what, exactly?
– The entire planet, including us.
– He had one pair with a seven and a two and called a Jovial’s bluff, and the Jovial had a straight: how dumb can you be?
– And how did you get your planet back?
– We raised some money that covered a part of the debt and for the rest we had to pawn our rings.
– Your mean your golden wedding rings?
– I really have no idea what these wedding rings are: I mean the rings around the planet. Some of them were really beautiful: you can see them around Jupiter now.
– The rings around Jupiter were your rings?
– Yes. We lost them after that hand. They only had to widen them a bit because they didn’t fit so well.
– So, one day, you had this argument with him, simple as that? With the son, I mean.
– More than having an argument, we just stopped talking.
– You stopped talking with him?
– Yes, and he stopped talking with us. We haven’t heard from him for some years now: last time they took a picture of him coming out of rehab giving the paparazzi the finger. You will agree with me that we weren’t really making a good impression, also with other species…
– Why, you mean each species has its own God?
– Of course, each of them. You thought if was your God that did it all?
– Telling the truth, yes, we really did.
– Well, he told us.
– No, not personally. He left a note.
– A note he wrote himself?
– Erm… no. He dictated it to somebody who wrote it on his behalf.
– And this somebody… it was somebody he trusted?
– Well, someone who could talk with God, so I guess so.
– You mean that God would only talk to some of you?
– No, no, God talked with all those who wanted to talk to him, when he descended on the Earth.
– But where would he be the rest of the time ?
– Somewhere, or anywhere, I have no idea: you know, things you can afford to do when you are God.
– In brief: he was somewhere else, but dictating his story to someone.
– There you are. Exactly.
– Over the phone?
– Come on, no! God doesn’t need to use the phone. He appears to you, or you hear his voice in your head, I guess.
– You are telling me that the whole theory of the existence of your God , who is supposed to have created the Earth and the rest of the universe, relies solely on the story told by a guy who heard voices?
– Hold on, why are you always so extreme? First of all, that same story was written by many others.
– How many?
– Well, for instance, four of them only for the Christians.
– And you are convinced they were all telling the truth?
– Sure: their stories are quite similar. In come cases they match to perfection.
– I’m asking you the same question again: you are convinced you are the favorite sons of a God who is supposed to have created first you and then the rest of the universe, just because somebody who heard voices wrote the story down and three other guys copied?
– Before I go on, help me figure out if I have to answer for myself or on behalf of the entire human race.
– I just need a general outline.
– Good. Because I am not precisely the religious type.
– I just want to know a few, simple things.
– Tell me.
– First of all, before you said that your God had “descended on the Earth”. It never crossed your minds that he could be an alien, just like me?
– Why not?
– Because, as far as I know, God has opposable thumbs. And no, that’s not how the story goes. And please note that what I am about to tell you is just one of the stories, the story of the Christians’ God, one of the most popular on the Earth.
– You mean you have more than one God for a single planet?
– There are dozens of them, if you want to know.
– Don’t you think it’s a tad too much?
– It depends. Everyone obviously thinks their own God is the right one.
– So, there is a “right” God, and all the others are wrong?
– Let’s say that the idea of God is more or less the same for everyone, with conflicting versions as regards his origin.
– Could you be more clear?
– The God of the Christians, for instance, is the same God of the Jews. Even the first part of the sacred books that talk about him is the same for both of them.
– So why don’t they find an agreement?
– Because the former believe – as I was telling you a few minutes ago – that their God has sent his son on the Earth to save us, whereas the latter (together with the Muslims) think that he wasn’t the son of God, but an ordinary prophet.
– There was this rumor also regarding our God, saying he wasn’t really God’s son. But then the mother asked for the DNA test and God was forced to acknowledge him, if nothing else because he knew he had little time left and needed a heir, so not to leave the position open.
– There are still clashing opinions regarding ours.
– But, excuse me, how can that possibly be? Did he save you in the end, or was he just a prophet?
– We have no idea: they killed him before we could know.
– Who killed him, the Christians or the Jews?
– Both of them: they were all guilty somehow. They nailed him on some wooden poles arranged in a cross.
– What a weird and incredibly cruel way to kill somebody.
– It is, to such an extent that the Christians celebrate that moment every single year, and you may recognize them because round the neck they wear a little cross with the son of God attached to it
– Don’t you think it’s a little gruesome? It’s as if, say, all Marmellinds wore at the wrist a pendant picturing somebody being forced to sneeze.
– I’m not following you.
– On Marmellous Behind the death penalty is in force…
– Okay, got it so far.
– Well, it is inflicted by forcing you to sneeze. They hold you, they tickle your nose with a feather, or in some cases make you sniff pepper, and a few seconds later: atishoo! Blood-curling indeed.
– I agree it may seem a gruesome habit… but you know, we’ve become almost accustomed to seeing him attached up there.
– But what had he done to deserve such a terrible death? Was it debts, like ours?
– No. To tell the truth, as far as we know, he was apparently a good man. A little whimsical, if I’m allowed; maybe a bit out of time; maybe a tad too much of an introvert with odd ideas, let’s say, but in the end – basically – he was only somebody who wanted to change the world for the better.
– Back to the father, I think I have understood that these two versions of God have the biggest number of fans.
– We don’t really call them “fans” and, to answer your question, it’s not as you say: there are a lot more than two.
– Can you draw up a kind of top list for me?
– You really are catching me out : there are dozens of religions, and even more internal divisions.
– Just an overview…
– Well, I am sure Chistianity is at number one, with more or less two billion believers divided into Catholics, Protestants, the Orthodox church and I don’t know who else. At number two, but only slightly behind, there’s Islam. Further down, as far as I remember, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism, in that order. But I shall have to check.
– Just out of curiosity, you did that again: why are you using the word “believers” and not, say, “followers”, or “admirers”?
– Because it’s a matter of believing in God or not. That is what religious people call an “act of faith”, that means “I want to believe God exists even if I’ve never actually seen him”.
– You mean that even those others have no concrete evidence of their own God’s existence?
– No, they haven’t either. They all have books, traditions and stories they have handed on, things that God likes and things that God tells them not to do, but if you want me to show you a photograph of God, or a fingerprint or, say, an autograph on a little piece of paper, well, no, there’s nothing at all, not even on eBay.
– I was wondering: since none of you has seen him in person and nobody, as it seems, knows for sure where he is and what does he look like, wouldn’t it be easier to find an agreement and choose one single God for all?
– You are touching a sore point here: on the Earth most wars are caused by clashing opinions regarding which is the right God.
– But before you said that many religions have a common origin and that some of them even share some of the main characters.
– That’s right. With some exceptions.
– Like which ones?
– Huh, the first I can think of is that, for instance, the Christians and the Jews have the Ten Commandments, but not the Muslims.
– What are the Ten Commandments?
– They are ten laws that God wants you to respect, otherwise you commit a sin.
– A sin?
– Yes, it’s when you do something that God doesn’t like.
– Something that maybe you like doing…
– Right, it happens very often. But those who believe in a God try hard not to make him angry.
– And what does he give them in return?
– It’s not one of those things you do to get something in return! They do that because they believe what God says is right.
– Listen, I don’t know you how it goes over there but on all the planets I happened to visit nobody does nothing for nothing.
– All right, ok, if you want to see it that way, in return they obtain the eternal life.
– You mean that they never die?
– No, they do die, you bet! But God promises them that, when this will happen, he will find for them a much better place to stay, forever.
– Another planet? Couldn’t they just take the trolley bus, instead of waiting to die, to travel around? And one more thing: what’s the point in going to another planet when you’re dead? How can they possibly have a good time?
– First: we don’t know if it’s another planet, and we don’t even know what the place looks like, or where it is. Second thing: when they go there they are not dead anymore: God makes them live again.
– You mean your God is capable of resurrecting the dead?
– I don’t know if he’s capable of doing it: I only know that those who believe in him are absolutely sure he can.
– I have a question.
– If over there is so much better than over here, why don’t you all kill yourselves right now, so you can go there without getting bored out of your minds waiting to die?
– We can’t do that.
– Because we would commit a sin: many terrestrials believe that life is a gift of God and that he is the only one who can decide to take it.
– So, it’s not really a gift: it’s more like a loan.
– If you want to put it that way, it is, more or less.
– I have another question: can you tell me if you are totally sure these dead people have actually ended up in a better place and, most of all, are truly alive over there? Did anybody come back from this place God takes them to, confirming it is all true?
– No, nobody can come back from there. There’s a reason why we call them “dead”.
– Yes but, according to what you said before, once they got there they should have gone back to life again. You would have needed one, just one of them, to take the trolley bus back home and tell you: “Hey, listen, you know that life after death thing we were talking about when I was alive? See, it’s all true! I’m going back there now because, honestly, compared to where we are now, this place really sucks. Send my greetings home and I wish you all the worst, so we can meet sooner”.
– As I told you before, those who believe in God think that only to question such an assumption – and many others – means to commit a sin.
– Oh, are there others?
– Yes, there are. One of those I remember, for instance, is that God is one and triune.
– You really must explain that one.
– In brief, it means that God is one single being divided into three people.
– I didn’t tell you I hadn’t understood, I just asked you to explain how can that be possible.
– I don’t know how it can be possible.
– If you put it that way, it’s like saying 7 times 6 equals 54.
– There, you nearly got the point regarding the Christians: to accept a dogma really means to believe that 7 times 6 equals 54. Because God says so.
– I’m really curious to know who these three people are.
– Well, one of them is God.
– That’s rather logical.
– Another one is God’s son, the one we were talking about before.
– All right.
– What do you mean with “all right”?
– Ok, go ahead, tell me who is the third one.
– Just like that? Not a single remark on the fact that one cannot be at the same time the father and his own son?
– Buddy, I don’t know how to put it …But if you, like me, had seen what a shambles it was when they spread the news we just needed a toaster and some sunscreen to travel through time, I can assure you that meeting somebody who was actually his own son would have been the most ordinary of things.
– Now I’m the one who doesn’t get it.
– I think on the Earth you have this saying according to which a man, unconsciously, in a woman will look for his own mum. Well, at the time there would be people saying: why not screwing directly the mum?
– There’s no need for you to comment. I had told you that time travelling had been forbidden for a reason. Instead, tell me who the third person was.
– The third person is not a person.
– It isn’t ?
– No. It’s a bird.
– A bird…
– Yes, well, this is how it is often depicted: it is called Holy Spirit.
– But it is a bird or not?
– The believers have described it sometimes as a dove, others like water, or fire, or a cloud, or a ray of light.
– Honestly: you have no idea what it looks like.
– I haven’t, no.
– But this trinity thing, almost all of you believe in it.
– The Christians believe in it, because according to the Muslims and the Jews, the Holy Spirit does exist but is not a part of God.
– But they believe the son is.
– No. According to the Muslims the son was a prophet, but not the most important. The Jews also do not recognise him as God and not even as the son of God, even though he was one of them.
– One of them, who?
– The son of God was a Jewish preacher.
– You are telling me that even the son of God believes in a different religion from the one that claims he is the son of God?
– You always have this bad habit of reducing everything to next to nothing.
– You are right. Let’s sum up the main points again, so you can tell me where I’m going wrong: one of the most popular gods of your planet preaches humbleness but cultivates an outsized ego to the extent that he demands to act under a monopoly system; he obliges you to be faithful to him and to respect his laws, making you believe that if you do so and if you’ll be nice to him after you die you will go to a much better place that nobody has ever seen not even in a picture, nobody knows where it is and from where nobody has ever returned; you say he’s given you life, but you cannot do with it what you like; he claims to be one but also three, and to the few who say they have seen him – who had clearly serious issues of their own – he has appeared one time dressed up as God, another one as the son, sometimes as a bird, and then as a cloud, as light, as water and other times as fire; finally, he has a son who follows only one of the religions he is starring in and, strangely enough, is the only one in which he is not the son of God. Have I left something out?
– I have no idea, but let’s pretend you haven’t.
– There’s only one more thing I would like to know.
– Tell me.
– This “God”, did he make you sign anything?
– Not as far I know.
– And you immediately called the consumers’ unions, right?
– I wouldn’t call it a real obsession… Let’s say that some of us take comfort in thinking a second life may exist.
– And in the meantime you make a lot of sacrifices during this life that – if I’m not wrong and until proved otherwise – is the only one you are sure of?
– Our sacrifices are, on the whole, bearable. I mean, giving up meat on Fridays is not the end of the world.
– But why you are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays?
– Well, because God doesn’t want us to.
– And what has God got against meat?
– I’d rather ask what has he got against Fridays, but I’ll tell you why: it’s the day he died.
– Forgive me but, if I am correct, he hasn’t “died”: you killed a ⅓ of him.
– We did.
– And to punish you, he forbids you to barbecue?
– No, let’s put it this way: eating fish or any other less expensive food on Fridays is a way to show God that we haven’t forgotten about that day.
– I think that God would have been happier if you had thought about that before.
– Probably. Anyway, it depends on the specific religion we are talking about. The meat thing is true only for the Christians’ God.
– Good to know. For a moment I had this idea that all the gods you have chosen had this strange obsession with meat.
– Absolutely not. For the Muslims’ God, it’s pigs.
– Yes, and alcoholics: things you drink that cheer you up.
– You should all be sad?
– No: the thing is, if you are too happy you forget about God and about praying too.
– Hold on. One: what is praying? Two: what is this pig? Three: why being too happy makes you forget about God?
– This is getting harder. Well… we already talked about praying: it’s when you humbly address your requests to God, or you just want to say hello. Pigs, instead, are animals, and not among the luckiest, since their meat is almost all good to eat, and the parts we don’t eat are employed to make useful things, like paintbrushes…
– Hang on a second…
– If your intention is to ask what paintbrushes are, we’ll never get out of this.
– Isn’t that important?
– No, not that much. Anyhow, they are objects we use to paint things. Like our house walls, for instance.
– And why would you want your house walls to be the colour of pigs?
– Just try to follow me, it’s not that difficult: you have to load the colour onto the paintbrush, and use the piece of pig to spread the colour.
– I see: you put colour all over the pig; you lock the pig inside a room; and the pig colours the room by rubbing itself against the walls.
– Look: I may even try to explain to you that a pig cannot rub itself against nothing because it is dead, but I know you would start playing the Requiem for the dead like you did for the slippers. So I’ll say that, yes, you’re so right! The pig does the whole job and we are so grateful we let it free when it’s all finished.
– You never seem to show any patience. Is that an exclusive feature of yours, or do you share it with the rest of your species?
– I have no patience and no memory, and I have forgotten what the third question was.
– Why you tend to forget God when you are happy?
– Right, that one: because when you are happy you have no demands and nothing to pray him for.
– All right. To recap: on Fridays, no meat for the Christians and no pig or alcohol for the Muslims.
– No: the Muslims are never allowed to eat pig meat as it is considered a dirty animal.
– Dirty of paint?
– It’s a long, complicated and controversial story that, besides, I can hardly remember. You really want me to tell you?
– Could you sum it up for me?
– The God of the Muslims believes that blood is impure, so the only way they are allowed to eat animals is by killing them slitting their jugular to let all the blood come out. The pig is a fat animal and has a type of neck that makes this operation impossible, as the blood would remain inside the body and contaminate the flesh.
– Will you excuse me for a second?
– I am back, thanks.
– Any problem with the people out there?
– No, I just fainted for a little while.
– I’m sorry. I hope the people outside that phone booth are not worried
– They didn’t have the time.
– What do you mean?
– When I fainted, I knocked my face against the phone booth’s glass and my nose started bleeding. And they all fainted.
– All three billion?
– … three billion, one hundred sixty-eight million, four hundred thousand eleven, seven hundred and twenty-nine.
– Yeah, whatever. For a little blood running down your nose?
– Our species really cannot stand the sight of blood.
– I see, but you were the one who asked me to tell you the story.
– You are right: you had no idea. I’m just kindly asking you to keep this in mind for the future. It is also one of the reasons why we had ruled out the purchase of the Earth at first.
– What, blood?
– No: TV serials with vampires. You show far too many.
– What did you say, again?
– I didn’t say anything.
– You made a “Beep”.
– I heard a “Beep”.
– I believe you did, but it wasn’t me, I swear.
– Are you sure?
– Of course I am: usually I never make a “Beep” without a precise reason.
– That’s strange, but…OK, never mind. Where were we?
– It depends on which of the many digressions you are referring to.
– Let’s say we may end the digression on blood.
– All right.
– I was about to tell you it’s not an easy task to keep up with all your gods
– Too many variables are involved: no meat for the Christians, but only on Fridays; the Muslims can eat meat, but never pig meat. If I were you I would choose the God of the Jews, who seems to have no special demands.
– No, right, if we don’t want to mention that the Jews are forbidden to eat pig meat exactly like the Muslims, but are also forbidden to eat camels, horses, rabbits, some bird species, some locust species and all fish with no scales and no fins, so, no, you were right: no special demands at all.
– All this… every single day?
– Right, every single day. And it gets worse on Saturdays, with thirty-nine more things they cannot do.
– Can you tell me a few of them?
– Only if you promise me you are not going to ask the meaning of each one of them.
– I promise.
– I don’t remember all of them, but I know that on Saturdays, for instance, they are forbidden to plow, ventilate, grind, sew, weave, hunt, skin, write, draw, put out or light a fire, tie and untie, divide two threads, card and make sheaves.
– Make… what?
– Hey, you promised!
– Beep Beep
– Here it is again! What was it?
– I don’t know. This time I heard it too.
– Are you sure it is not you making a “Beep”, say, even unintentionally?
– Who doesn’t make a “Beep” in some special moments of the day?
– Are you serious?
– Of course not, I was being ironic.
– So we still don’t know what was it that made a “Beep”.
– And our lives won’t be the same until we find out, right?
– Beep Beep. EarthCom, “Spice your Space”…
– Here it is, it was only…
– Hush! Shut up, listen!
– …The time at your disposal for this TimeCallTM with Genesis option is running out. If you wish to continue this conversation, we kindly ask you to insert more coins in the dedicated slot, otherwise we invite you to hang up and thank you for choosing us.
– I guess that was the lady from the telephone company.
– Why did she have that voice?
– What voice?
– Her falsetto, shrill voice. Almost like the Jovials’.
– That is the voice women have on the Earth. Women on your planet, don’t they have that same voice?
– They do not. Luckily, we have other ways to recognize them and tell them apart from men.
– Yes, I can imagine.
– Exactly: it’s the huge Adam’s apple, obviously.
– You know what? I have this feeling it’s not going to be an easy life for you on the Earth.
– You really mean that?
– I am talking in particular of the interaction with humans.
– Well, that won’t be a problem anymore.
– Why not?
– You have all vanished.
– I guess you must be right.
– And this brings us back to the problem that lady was referring to a few moments ago. A serious problem.
– What problem?
– I do not have any more metallic disks to insert in this telephone.
– Coins. You have no more coins?
– There’s three billion of you over there, and nobody can lend you a coin?
– Three billion, one hundred sixty-eight million…
– …Four hundred thousand eleven and something, I know.
– …Seven hundred and twenty-nine. But, no: as you may have easily figured out when I explained to you we do not use money on our planet, none of us carries around small metallic disks.
– Beep Beep. EarthCom is glad that our services are being appreciated…
– There she goes again.
– …To the point you are ignoring that the time at your disposal for this TimeCallTM with Genesis option has almost run out. To carry on with this conversation it will be necessary to insert more coins within the next five minutes, or the call will be ended. Like we did a few minutes ago, we thank you again for choosing us.
– We have a big problem. And five minutes are such a short time.
– Why you’re saying “we” have a big problem, in the plural? And “five minutes are a short time” to do what, exactly?
– I think it’s logical to consider this problem as both ours and yours… Or maybe I’m wrong?
– You’re wrong. Much as I have deeply appreciated our long conversation, when this call will be ended, you know what I will do?
– I’ll hang up; I’ll take my slippers off without asking for their permission; I’ll lace my shoes up; I’ll grab my house keys; I’ll open the door with my house keys; I’ll walk out of the door; I’ll go down the stairs; I’ll walk for about 300 yards; I’ll turn at the corner; I’ll sit down at the table of my favourite pub and order my usual sea bass.
– What is a sea bass?
– It’s a kind of fish.
– Why, is it Friday today?
– I’ll have that even if it’s not Friday, as I do every day of the week.
– You only eat sea bass?
– May I ask you why?
– Because I like it. And because that pub makes a delicious barbecued sea bass.
– Regardless of its will?
– What do you mean with that?
– On our planet it is the animal that chooses the way it will be cooked: we think it is fair for the animal to die showing all its potential, fully aware it is giving its best.
– What happens then, the animal commits suicide once it has dived into the pan, or it keeps dictating the recipe as long as it breathes?
– This must be irony, if I get it right…
– Well done!
– I am glad about it. The fact is, you are not going to do any of the things you have just mentioned.
– No. Let me explain: I am calling you from a future that is not too remote from where you are right now.
– Exactly. At least that’s what you claim.
– …And in that future you will not exist anymore. Forty years on from then, you will have disappeared. Probably – and I say “probably” because I am not sure about it – you will become extinct, something you could have avoided, hadn’t you got this nasty habit of not reading under fruit juice caps. It means you will be there, close to extinction. By the way: have you got children, are you married?
– It won’t make any difference: with you, your future children and wife will also become extinct, together with your friends down at the pub, all the sea basses you could have eaten, and your entire species. The only possible way to prevent all this- correct me if I’m wrong – is that we understand, from here, what happened to you and when, so that you may avoid getting there.
– And I shall be the one to warn everybody else about it?
– Of course, you. And you, by the way, embody our only hope to survive: we need to know whether after what happened it will still be possible to live upon this planet or, as an alternative, if we shall have to call somebody to pick us up and bring us back home.
– But I am totally useless at things like that! I am not one of those folks who get easily noticed. Or heard. I don’t even know the name of the waitress who serves me every single night, and if she does the talking, I can hardly manage to swallow.
– Let me give you my advice, if I’m allowed- and since the destiny of two species is at stake I think I am- and let’s try to solve a problem at a time: there is no intention whatsoever on my side to play down your shyness problem, but I am sure it may be pushed in the background for the time being.
– Beep Beep. EarthCom keeps thanking you for the faithfulness you are demonstrating. Nonetheless, we are obliged to remind you that ignoring our warnings will not lengthen the duration of this TimeCallTM with Genesis option beyond the 4 minutes you have left. In case you have more coins, please insert them. Otherwise, hang up. A call is like an emotion: do not force us to interrupt it. With our undiminished consideration.
– I have four minutes left. Four minutes to save the Earth!
– Let’s not get into a panic, for a start.
– You sound like you have the solution ready.
– To tell the truth, maybe there is a way out.
(…to be continued)