God sighed and flipped the Racing Post onto the coffee table as he heard the door knock.
“Come in, Angela.” His secretary entered, her piercing stilettos causing small puffs of cloud to erupt around her ankles. “What is it now?” God asked, resigning himself to an afternoon of problem solving rather than pleasure. He muted the television and the presenters of RacingUK continued to mouth silently their tips and fancies for the afternoon.
“I’m sorry, Boss, but there’s been another earthquake in the Pacific – some small Island’s been hit badly - and the Hindu gods are still celebrating Divali at the mo’ and wondered if you could possibly take over on this one. They said they’d deal with the next one, and sort out that pile up outside Wolverhampton - just they can’t handle too much right now…” Angela tailed off, seeing the resignation on God’s face. “Fine, fine, let me have the files then. Now would you get on to Allah and see if he could cover the Russian mining thing for me, I really can’t do that and the earthquake.”
“No problem, Boss, I’ll see what I can do.”
As Angela retreated from the room, God plonked the file down, obscuring the Racing Post and knocking the pen which he had been using to circle his selections to the floor. This always happened, he reflected. Some bloody disaster always coincided with the Cheltenham Open meeting. And even then all anyone ever did was blame him for stuff. No-one realised how hard he worked, sorting out all the messes that people got themselves into. When he’d given them free will, he didn’t think they’d be stupid enough to drive home from the pub after a cheery afternoon at the Cider Fest. No wonder there were all these crashes! And as for the earthquakes, he couldn’t do anything about that from his lofty position in the sky. That was all because of that horrible little creature sitting down there in the Core. He had thought that age might mellow the old Devil, but surveying the mounting pile on his desk this clearly wasn’t the case. He thought wryly that age might well catch up with him first. He was now the oldest of the functional gods – all that the Pagan, Greek and Roman gods could do now was sit around snoring in their bath chairs, too comatose to be of any use. His eyes turned back to the silent figures darting energetically over the screen of the television. He looked at the file on the table. Then back at the screen. The runners were circling at the start of the Paddy Power, and his eyes were on a particular favourite creation of his – champion jockey Rory Glen. He couldn’t have predicted how well this one would have turned out – despite the meticulous planning behind it. Indeed the same could be said for his mount, Headintheclouds. However, the striking bay had in fact been an accident – a result of the stallion Heads Up’s free will decision to hop over the fence and visit the mare Summer Cloud who had been destined for a quite different stallion altogether. Well, what a match it had turned out to be! Sod it, he thought defiantly. 10 minutes won’t make any difference to that earthquake. He reached for the remote and restored the sound. As the colourful partnerships jogged around his screen and the commentary advised him on the rapidly shortening price of the favourite, he once again thought to himself that actually the television had been one of man’s finer inventions.
The runners sprang away from the tape and he watched the dark green and yellow colours of Headintheclouds settle in mid-division. Now God did not know much about race tactics, but he knew this was a good sign. This was how the horse liked to run, and having his first race of the season he was sure it was no different. In any case, the man on board knew exactly what he needed to do. Contented, he settled back into his armchair, retrieving the Racing Post and crossing his feet on top of the dreaded file. As always a cool breeze was blowing through his study, and he hugged a cushion to his chest as he stared in concentration at the screen. Headintheclouds was jumping well, skipping along and relishing the ground. God chuckled to himself. He knew he shouldn’t, but when there was a particular favourite of his racing he didn’t think it could hurt to send a little rain or shine to sway the ground in its favour. As the runners swung down the back he watched as a small grey horse called Little Inuit stumbled at the water jump, dropping back to almost last. Well, his day would come. Maybe he’d see if he could get them to put him back over hurdles. Yes. He made a note to do that, and also to send a bit more rain for him next time out.
As the runners turned for home he sat forward in his chair, anticipating the lightning run that Headintheclouds was sure to produce. “That’s it lad” he breathed as the horse ranged up alongside the giant form of Priceless Endeavour. With a flick of the whip down the shoulder, he surged past the Irish horse, charging down the hill, drawing lengths between him and his pursuers. Approaching the last, he had established a handsome lead and God was now perched right on the edge of the armchair. “Go on - no don’t choose that stride. Go for the short one…ohhh…YES, that’s it, GOOD BOY!” He watched with delight as the brilliant little accident skipped over the last, switching his stride perfectly as he approached. As he cantered up the run in, Rory Glen slapped his neck enthusiastically and the crowd of 30,000 roared their new superstar to victory. God glanced into the distance as the camera panned back down the racecourse, and was relieved to see that Little Inuit was cantering into the straight now, bypassing the fences and returning safely to run and win another day.
Much as he would like to have watched the victorious pair enter the winners’ enclosure to the latest feel good song blaring out from the loud speakers, he knew he’d had his fun. He had things to do, even if he was the one in charge. Turning the TV to standby, he rose from the armchair, bent to pick up the file and headed over to the desk. Lifting the receiver from the wall he pressed the green button. “Angela” he called. “Tell Gabriel to get onto Ladbrokes and prompt them to donate the winnings from the anonymous unpaid ticket to the Red Cross Pacific Earthquake Appeal.”
Satisfied at this start, he opened the folder, rooted in the desk for his calculator and started to sift through the destruction.