The following is based on “Intelligent Design,” by Paul Rudnick, which first appeared in the September 26, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. The principal difference is that the original piece's inherent misogyny has been ameliorated: a few gods have been switched to goddesses, and non-gods (for example, the Buddha, the Angel Moroni) have been replaced by deities. Mr. Rudnick is a very funny man!
And God said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light.
But then God said, “Wait, what if I make it a sort of rosy, sunset-at-the-beach, filtered half-light, so that everything else I design will look younger?”
“I'm loving that,” said Isis. “It's new.”
“You should design a restaurant,” added Dionysus.
“Today,” God said, “let's do land.” And lo, there was land.
“Well, it's really not just land,” noted Vishnu. “You've got mountains and
“It's not a single statement,” said God. “I want it to say, ‘Yes, this is land, but it's not afraid to ooze.’”
“It's really a backdrop, a sort of blank canvas,” put in Athena. “It's, like, minimalism, only with scale.”
“Brown with infinite variations,” said God. “Taupe, ochre, burnt umber — they're called earth tones.”
“I wasn't criticizing,” said Isis. “I was just noticing.”
“Just to make everyone happy,” said God, “today I'm thinking oceans, for contrast.”
“It's wet, it's deep, yet it's frothy; it's design without dogma,” said Isis, approvingly.
“Now, there's movement,” agreed Allat. “It's not just ‘Hi, I'm a planet — no splashing.’”
“But are those ice caps?” inquired Frija. “Is this a coherent vision, or a highball?”
“I can do ice caps if I want to,” sniffed God.
“It's about a mood,” said Sarasvati, supportively.
“Thank you,” said God.
“One word,” said God. “Landscaping. But I want it to look natural, as if it all somehow just happened.”
“Do rain forests,” suggested Mamaquilla.
“Rain forests here,” decreed God. “And deserts there. For a spa feeling.”
“Which is fresh, but let's give it glow,” said Isis. “Polished stones and bamboo, with a soothing trickle of something.”
“I know where you're going,” said God. “But why am I seeing scented candles and a signature body wash?”
“Shut up,” said Isis.
“You shut up,” said God.
“It's all about the mix,” Allat declared in a calming voice. “Now let's look at some swatches.”
“I'd like to design some creatures of the sea,” God said. “Sleek, but not slick.”
“Yes, yes, and more yes — it's a total gills moment,” said Apollo. “But what if you added wings?”
“Fussy,” whispered Isis to Zeus. “Why not epaulets and a sash?”
“Legs,” said Allat. “Now let's do legs.”
“Are we already doing dining-room tables?” asked God, confused.
“No, design some creatures with legs,” said Allat. So God, nodding, designed an ostrich.
“First draft,” everyone agreed, and so God designed an alligator.
“There's gonna be a waiting list,” Zeus murmured appreciatively.
“Now do puppies!” pleaded Kali. “And kitties!”
“Ooooo!” all the gods cooed. Then, feeling a bit embarrassed, Zeus ventured, “Design something more practical, like a horse or a mule.”
“What about a koala?” asked God.
“Much better,” Zeus declared, cuddling the furry little animal. “I'm going to call him Buttons.”
“Today I'm really going out there,” said God. “And I know it won't be popular at first, and you're all gonna be saying, ‘Earth to God,’ but in a few million years it's going to be timeless. I'm going to design a human being.”
And everyone looked upon the human that God designed.
“It has your eyes,” Sedna told God.
“Does it stack?” inquired Allah.
“It has a naïve, folk-artsy, I-made-it-myself vibe,” said Isis. Inti, the Inca sun god, however, only scoffed. “Been there. Evolution,” he said. “It's called a shaved monkey.”
“I like it,” protested Isis. “But it can't wear a strapless dress.”
Everyone agreed on this point, so God announced, “Well, what if I give it nice round breasts?”
“Yes,” the male gods said immediately.
“Now it's intelligent,” said Aphrodite.
“But what if I made it blond?” giggled God.
“And what if I made you a booming offscreen voice in a lot of bad movies?” asked Asherah.
“You know, I'm really feeling good about this whole intelligent-design deal,” said God. “But do you think that I could redo it, keeping the quality but making it at a price point we could all live with?”
“I'm not sure,” said Isis. “You mean, what if you designed a really basic, no-frills planet? Like, do the man and the woman really need all those toes?”
“Hello!” said God. “Clean lines, no moving parts, functional but fun. Three bright, happy, wash ’n’ go colors.”
“Swedish meets Japanese, with maybe a Platinum Collector's Edition for the geeks,” Isis decided.
“Done,” said God. “Now let's start thinking about the planet Pluto. What if everything on Pluto was brushed aluminum?”
“You mean, let's do Neptune again?” said Isis.
Jerry Merchant and Mary Matthews