An Exquisite Contempt

One day the gods were filled with ennui and so they peered into the lives of creation, as they often did, in order to make sport. One spotted Job, filled with goodness and verve and hope, and said “I will have his life. Within a month, he will be so wrought with despair that he will exchange his future for a mouthful of dirt. Who says that I will not make it so?”

“And if you lose, then what will you do for Job? Will you let him sip from your own cup and call him ‘brother’?” asked one, who felt less a duty to creation than a desire to humiliate the other.

“I will! I will become his patron and give him tenfold happiness to wash away the misery I inflict. I will jealously guard him and his felicity until he dies an old man!”

Satisfied, the gods made their wagers, cups of amber juice in hand, and settled down to watch.

The divine antagonist scattered every adversity into the path of poor Job until one day he finally dropped to his knees and dreamed only of the knife and forgetfulness. But a sweet and nameless spirit peeled back the invisible curtain that concealed the gods so that Job could see their arrogance and comprehend the audacious wager.

Seeing the specter, Job fell procumbent on the ground and wept. Bitterness grew in him, not because he was the plaything of the gods, but because purpose had been stripped from him. “Very well,” he said to himself. “If my life is to be amusement for the gods, I will be unlike any quarry they have ever baited.” Thus saying, he fashioned a new purpose from his attenuated heart and resolved to live.

And to wait.

He waited until the gods concluded the game and settled their wagers. He waited until he was invited to their table and a cup was pressed into his hands by a god. He waited until a wreath was placed upon his brow and he was honoured as lesser sibling to the gods. He waited until warmth and happiness suffused his flesh and a smile sank into his soul. He waited until they bid him a good life and dismissed him with beauty, bliss and fortune draped upon his shoulder.

Then he drew his knife and flicked it across a vein so that his blood spilled out and collected in a pool at their feet. The gods leapt back from him in consternation.

“What have you done, foolish man? The game is finished and the gifts are bestowed!”

But Job only nodded and smiled before slipping into the black.

A great stillness settled on the earth, thick with distress and perplexity. But then the moment passed, the gods returned to their divine perches, the insects began their buzzing, and the earth refused to swallow the blood.

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