Inspired by a visit to the Baltimore Aquarium, where we saw some very weird creatures.
Gabriel, Herald and general manager of the Heavenly Host, tapped on the door to God’s workshop. “Sir? If I could have a minute?”
God looked up with a grin. “Sure, or a thousand years. All the same to me.” He was elbow-deep in something that looked like mud. “I’m working on a new idea here. I’m excited about it. Another bird.”
Gabriel smiled briefly. God’s ideas were very good, but Gabriel had trouble getting behind some of them. God had spent the entirety of the last week creating nothing but beetles, which Gabriel privately considered a waste of time. But then, God had all the time in the world to waste.
Gabriel let himself into the workshop, holding a thick file folder. “I’d like to go over the results of the Fish Design Contest you held two weeks ago for all the angels.”
“Oh, yes, I’m looking forward to this!” God rinsed off his arms with a small rainshower. “What do we have?”
Gabriel hesitated. “Well, I know you were looking for creativity, but Michael and I thought it would streamline things if everyone knew what to expect. So we gave everyone a list of general guidelines. Nothing restrictive–basically we asked for the creature to have fins, a tail, recognizable facial features, and to breathe underwater. I mean, with those massive oceans down there, it really makes sense to have creatures who live in them, right?”
“Oh, sure,” God agreed earnestly, but he looked like he was trying not to smile. “So what’d we get?”
Gabriel opened the folder. “Some really great stuff. Some of the sharks are just top-notch. Some really excellent goldfish, and I’m personally fond of the trout. Beautiful fish, designed exactly according to specifications.”
God nodded. “These are great! I’ll get started on them immediately. Or in a couple of centuries, it’s all the same to me. What else is in there?”
“Well, we were pretty pleased with what the children’s group submitted. Kind of cut into our supply of insanely vibrant colors, though.”
God looked over the display with a broad smile. “Beautiful. Pick up some more colors from the Joy Department when you leave here. And drop some by the Sunset Division–they’re working on a new layering technique that I think is going to be stunning over mountains. What else have you got?”
Gabriel frowned. “Well, not everybody followed the guidelines exactly. Or even remotely…” He pulled another page out of the folder. “Look at this, God! This gets the Did you even read the directions? award!”
Gabriel waited for God’s horrified exclamation. Instead, God gazed at the fish in unbridled delight. “Look at those! Wow, I’m going to have fun with those!”
“God, they’re grotesque! Some of them don’t have fins… this one doesn’t even have a face!”
“I know! It’s just amazing.”
“It’s… disgraceful. I personally suspect that some of the angels got into the wine you were saving for that wedding.”
“Possibly. I can make more when the time comes. Any more?”
“No, that’s all the fish.”
“What else is in that file, though?”
“Rejects. The You Weren’t Even Trying category.”
“Let me see them.”
“It’s not worth your time.”
“Gabriel, I’ve got all the time in the universe. Let me see them. Come on.”
Gabriel sighed. “They’re not even fish. They’re blobs of mostly water with some poison thrown in.”
“Fantastic. I’ve got some advance design ideas I’d like to try with these. Like restricting growth during low-food seasons to ensure survival.”
“Why? Why would we want these to survive?”
God gave him a quizzical look. “Because they’re beautiful and a little terrifying. Kind of my specialty.” He nudged Gabriel in the ribs. “Come on, last one. What’s that?”
Gabriel looked downright sulky as he pulled the last page out of the folder. “I was so excited about this one. Look at it — fins, tail, beautifully designed facial features, lives in water… I was already polishing the Grand Prize trophy when Michael pointed out the problem.”
God gazed at it in rapt delight.
Flinging down the empty folder, Gabriel said indignantly, “They did it on purpose!”
“On porpoise,” God murmured, but not so Gabriel could hear him. Aloud, he said, “I’ll take all of these ideas. I love them all.”
“Tell everybody who participated to take a day off. Or a month. Doesn’t much matter.” God plunged his hands back into the mud.
“They’re not even fish!”
“And break out that wine. This is good work here. Thank you, Gabriel. Well done.”
Gabriel sighed deeply. “All right. You’re welcome. It’s just… not what we were going for.” He watched as God shaped the mud into a vague form of a duck. “But you’re very gracious to accept everyone’s offerings, even though I know you like things to be exact and orderly.”
“Mm-hmm,” God said, concentrating on his work.
“That’s a great bird. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.”
Once he was gone, God said, “How about we add a beaver’s tail to this one? That’ll mix things up. We just won’t tell Gabriel.”
And in happy ignorance of what would become a platypus, Gabriel set off to spread the good tidings of great joy that Heaven got a holiday.