This week, we will be running a series of pieces from Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God. First published in The Paris Review in 1968, Joy Williams has since appeared in our pages many times. 99 Stories of God is her first book of fiction in nearly a decade and was written, she has said, partly in an attempt to imitate the inimitable Thomas Bernhard, that “cranky genius of Austrian literature,” and his The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories.
The Lord was trying out some material.
I AM WHO I AM, He said.
It didn’t sound right.
THAT’S WHO I AM. I AM.
It sounded ridiculous.
He didn’t favor definitions.
He’d always had the most frightful difficulties with them.
The Lord had always wanted to participate in a Demolition Derby. Year after year he would attend the one-day summer event on a particular small island where junked cars, gutted and refitted for the challenge, would compete. He studied the drivers’ techniques carefully. It was mayhem! Usually the drivers would prepare their wrecks themselves, but there was also a raffle where a neophyte could win the chance to drive a donated wreck. A hundred raffle tickets were available each summer. They cost ten dollars each.
Once the Lord bought ninety-nine tickets but his name wasn’t drawn. If He hadn’t been the Lord, He would have suspected someone was trying to tell Him something.
He persisted, however, and one year he won.
You should wear long pants and boots and a long-sleeved shirt, you got that stuff? He was asked.
I do, the Lord said.
A helmet’s always a good idea too, He was told.
The Lord’s vehicle was a pink Wagoneer. The Wagoneer recognized the Lord immediately and couldn’t fathom what this could possibly mean. In terms of herself, that is, the Wagoneer.
She had once had a happy life of dogs and children, surfboards and fishing rods. Oh the picnics! The driftwood fires! Then it had all been taken away.
And now this.
Excerpted from 99 Stories of God. Used by permission of Byliner.