It’s a really slow shift. I mean its species are evolving around us slow. I wonder if my little toe will disappear before the night ends.
We are doing what waiters hate to do – wait.
Louis, our token gay waiter, stands near the bar debating if we should start dipping into the booze.
“Hey if you mix the vodka with Sprite who’s gonna know?” Louis suggests wistfully.
“Or Jack Daniels in ginger ale,” I offer.
“We should,” he says grinning.
“No, we shouldn’t.”
Louis and I never drink on shift and it would be a bad idea to start now. Boredom combining with alcohol could have catastrophic consequences.
We talk about movies to distract us from the multicolored containers of temptation shining in the barroom light.
“Hey, I heard Johnny Depp might play Willy Wonka in the remake,” Louis remarks.
“Really I heard it was Marilyn Manson.”
“No he dropped out.”
“Too bad,” I say, “Manson woulda been perfect for that part. He’s a scary bastard. I mean Willy Wonka was really fucked up for a kid’s movie when you think about it.”
“True, kids getting shrunken, drowning in chocolate,” Louis recalls.
“The Oompa Loompas still give me the creeps,” I shudder.
Overhearing us Shlomo, our token Jewish waiter, walks over joining the conversation.
“Actually Willy Wonka is all about the Hebrew idea of God and the nature of Evil,” he announces.
“Huh?” Louis gapes openmouthed.
Now I was a divinity student long ago. I studied the scriptures. I don’t remember the professors mentioning a mad chocolatier.
“Ok Rabbi,” I counter incredulously, my eyebrows arching, “Explain this one to me.”
“Do you remember when Charlie got the golden ticket for a chance to win a lifetime of chocolate?” Shlomo asks.
“Then an evil looking guy named Slugworth tries to tempt Charlie into selling it to him?”
“Yeah and the kid told him to take a hike,” I say trying to remember the details.
“Right, right,” Shlomo puffs professorially, “and the kids go to the candy factory where they exhibit all the sins of humanity; greed, anger, selfishness, and are gleefully dispatched by Willy Wonka.”
“Oompa loompa doompety doo,” Louis says giggling.
Shlomo shoots him a dirty look. “Well the whole movie is a religious allegory. Willy Wonka is God and Slugworth is the tempting Devil. The chocolate prize is eternal life with God.”
“Ok,” I nod, “I’m following you.”
“Do you remember the end of the movie?” Shlomo queries.
“Wonka says Charlie and his Grandpa stole some floating fizzy drink so he throws Charlie out telling him he didn’t win the prize. The kid gives back his everlasting gobstopper and Wonka relents giving him the prize anyway.”
“That’s about right,” Shlomo says,” but do you remember Slugworth appearing at end?”
‘Yeah, Slugworth appears, Charlie gets scared but Wonka says he works for him.”
“EXACTLY!” our rabbi cries.
“I don’t follow you.”
“Slugworth tried to tempt Charlie. Slugworth is the Devil. Slugworth works for Wonka. If Wonka is God – then Satan works for God.”
“And we think we have problems with our boss.” Louis interjects.
“It’s a very Hebraic idea. Satan is God’s agent. He only does what God wants done.” Shlomo prognosticates.
“And that is?”
“Satan provides a choice. Without choice there could be no free will. If there is no free will than loving God would be meaningless. Satan tempts man so he can have a choice and love God freely.”
“God is kinda like a guy wondering if a girl loves him only for his money.” Louis titters.
“Actually that’s not a bad comparison,” Shlomo admits.
I have a flash of remembrance, “Lucifer is the Angel of Light that God sent to test Job.”
“And God created Satan to give man free will. Without the devil we wouldn’t be human.”
“Oh my God,” Louis groans, “This conversation’s giving me a headache. I’m gonna go in the alley and smoke a joint.”
In two minutes we went from booze to Oompa Loompas to the nature of Evil and the human condition. My head’s swimming.
“Some people would say that makes God a manipulative bastard,” I wonder aloud.
‘Yes, but manipulative only to our perception of reality. Maybe there’s a greater reality we can’t see and evil is an essential part of it.” Shlomo says.
Now my head hurts.
“Are you sure that’s the kosher Jewish view?” I ask.
“What the fuck do I know,” Shlomo shrugs, “it’s been years since I set foot in temple. Hey Louis, wait up man!”
I shake my head. I’ve been thinking a lot about light and dark lately. I write about it in my blog. I’ve always thought concepts like Satan and God were actually literary diffractions of one and the same reality. There’s a darkness to what we call “God.” We’re uncomfortable with that ambivalence so we divide the Divine into two separate and distinct entities – God and Lucifer. It makes it easier to wrap our minds around the question of Evil.
Man’s search for the divine brings him into contact with both light and dark. The thirst for God has created scholarship, learning, feats of heroism, compassion, and deep philosophical insight. It also brought us the Crusades, intolerance, and 9/11. Then again maybe there is no God, no golden ticket for endless supplies of chocolate– only a great yawning cloud of insensate electrons. Maybe I’m thinking too much.
“Excuse me waiter,” a customer beckons.
“I’m want dessert,” she moans fluttering her lashes, “What do you have in chocolate?”
I almost laugh aloud.
“We have a lovely dark chocolate torte,” I reply.
“Mmmmmm gimme.” she says clapping her hands excitedly.
I bring her the torte. She tucks into it with gusto.
I walk over to the front and gaze out the window. Outside lovers wander arm in arm. Kids talk excitedly in front of Starbucks. An old man walks his dog. Mr. Smooth, our neighborhood registered sex offender, is hanging out on the corner. A police car drives slowly by. He walks away. It’s a snapshot of existence. Yes darkness is part of humanity.
The night ends. The customers leave.
I’m left alone in an empty bistro contemplating the Darkness of God.
Oompa loompa doompety doo!