“The Old Joke,” by Lillie E. Franks

Aug 20th, 2023 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Okay, so there’s a flood. A man is caught in it, and he climbs up onto the roof of his house in order to escape the water. As he’s sitting there, another man comes by in a raft.

“Jump in!” the man says. “We can row to safety!”

The man on the roof says, “No, leave me. I have faith that God will save me.”

So the man in the raft paddles away.

An hour later, a boat comes by.

“Jump in!” the captain of the boat says. “I’ll take you to safety!”

The man on the roof says, “No, leave me. I have faith that God will save me.”

So the boat sails off.

An hour later, a helicopter flies over.

“Climb up!” the pilot of the helicopter says. “I’ll take you to safety!”

The man on the roof says, “No, leave me. I have faith that God will save me.”

So the helicopter flies off.

An hour later, an airplane flies by.

“Get on!” says the pilot. “We’ll take you to safety and provide complimentary nuts!”

The man on the roof says, “Should you really be flying this low?”

But the airplane had already flown by. Airplanes aren’t really good at slowing down.

An hour later, a train comes by.

“Hop on!” the conductor of the train says. “I’ll take you to safety!”

The man on the roof says, “I question the logic of a train track running close enough to a house that I could hop onto it, not to mention the question of how a train would be running in a flood situation.”

The conductor of the train says, “I have faith that God will get us to Union Station by 12:45.”

“Well, I have even more faith that my God will save me, so take that.”

The conductor says, “Have you considered that the series of increasingly unlikely vehicles might be manifestations of the will of your God acting through other the physical laws of the universe rather than breaking them?”

The man on the roof says, “Actually, according to question 43 of the third part of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, the grace of miracles is—”

But by that point, the train had moved on. Not because trains are fast, although they are, but because so would you if you had a train and someone was talking to you about Thomas Aquinas.

An hour later, Thomas Aquinas rides past on a tandem bicycle.

Thomas Aquinas says, “Actually, you have to take what I said in that section of the Summa with the context that I was explaining scripture, rather than prescribing—”

The man on the roof says, “Wow, another hater trying to question my faith. Yawn.”

Thomas Aquinas replies, “No, I’m just trying to explain your misconception about my—”

But the man on the roof says, “I think I know a little bit more about Thomas Aquinas than you.”

So Thomas Aquinas pedals away.

An hour later, the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicea, from the year 787, arrives, all balancing on top of a single skateboard.

“Get on,” says Saint Tarasios of Constantinople. “We’ll take you to safety and also explain to you why you’re wrong about miracles.”

But the man on the roof says, “Oh, nice try. Like I care what you have to say.”

So the Ecumenical Council of Nicea does a kickflip, then skates on.

An hour later, an Angel of the Lord descends from the heavens.

“Be not afraid,” the angel says. “I have come to take you to safety.”

The man on the roof says, “Oh, stuff it. I said I had faith GOD would save me. Not some angel.”

The angel answers, “Okay, but I was literally sent by—”

“Yeah, don’t wanna hear it, pigeon boy. How many universes have you created?”

So the angel flies away.

An hour later, the flood waters descend.

The man’s neighbor walks by. “Hey, you know you can come down from the roof, right?”

The man on the roof says, “It’s a matter of principle, now. God started this. He’s gonna have to finish it.”

The neighbor says, “Uh, yeah, that’s nice, I guess. Um. See you around!” and goes into his house as quickly as he can without looking like he’s running.

An hour later, God comes to Earth.

“Okay, fine, I’ll get you down.”

The man on the roof says, “I also have faith that you’ll make dinner for me tonight.”

God replies, “You’re pushing it.”

The man on the roof says, “I was thinking maybe a risotto? Also, I’m gonna need you to kick me, like fifty bucks for the electric bill.”

God says, “Yeah, I’m not doing that.”

The man on the roof replies, “Your power comes to you secondhand. You rely on others to have faith in you. I create my own faith. Let’s see which of us is truly strongest.”

God attempts to smite the man with a lightning bolt, but the man dodges it, and does a spinning roundhouse kick that knocks God backwards like ten feet. God summons a raft, a boat, a helicopter, Thomas Aquinas on a bicycle, an Ecumenical council and an angel, but the man beats them all up with cool karate chops.

“Now I’m God!” the man says, and he body slams God unconscious and leaves Him, trapped on the roof.

Lillie E. Franks is an author and eccentric who lives in Chicago, Illinois, with the best cats. You can read her work at places like Always Crashing, Poemeleon, and Drunk Monkeys, or follow her on Twitter at @onyxaminedlife. She loves anything that is not the way it should be.

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