Openers: It was Saturday afternoon, and in Heaven, as elsewhere, it was half-holiday. The gate of Heven was locked, the jkey n Peter's pocket, and Peter and the Omnipotent, having shaken off the burden of the week, wre taking the celestial air on the ramparts.
In Hell similar conditions prevailed. The stoking for the weekend was done, the devils had piled pitchforks, and Satan, like a rabbit in the entrance of his burrow, sat idly in Hell's-Mouth, sunning himself.
Meanwhile, in his vicarage upon the earth, the Reverend Theophilus Jenkinson was entertaining to tea Mr. and the Honourable Mrs. Plantagent Jones, the noblest of his parishioners.
Let us return to Heaven...
-- "The Worcester Bowl" by Martin Armstrong (from his collection The Puppet Show, 1922)
In this little fable, the Reverend Jenkinson is a throughly good man. In fact, the Omnipotent had been closely watching him for two weeks and found him faultless over that time. The Omnipotent and Peter feel the Reverend should be rewarded, but how? Rcihes would not interest him. He would find long life rather boring. The Omnipotent decided the best thing to do was to let the Reverend decide on his reward -- without letting him know, of course. Satan, however, hears the Omnipotent's plan over the many universes and dimension and, hearing it, begins to laugh.
If the Reverend had one preoccupation, it was with his collection of china. and the very best piece in his collection was a Worcester bowl. He takes the bowl down from its place to show it to the Honourable Mrs. Plantagent Jones, who, out of politeness, fakes interest. At that moment Satan knocks the bowl ut of the Reverend's hands, it falls to an inevitable crashing on the floor. Halfway on the bowl's journey downward, the Reverend cries out, 'Stop that!" and the bowl stops, suspended in midair. When that happens, all the universe stops, and goes out of whack. Planets and cosmoses crash into each other, worlds smash into pieces, and the biwl continues it journey to crash into its own small pieces. The universe is destroyed and million find them selves either in Heaven or Hell. (The Honourable Mrs. Plantagent Jones finds herself in Hell, in case you are interest.)
The Omnipotent is upset, but as many higher-ups do, tries to find someone to blame. He decides the destructin of the universe was the singular fault of the Reverend Theophilus Jenkinson and call him forward to explain himself and to face the music...
Martin Armstrong (1882-1974) was an English writer and poet, best known for his short stories, which were collected in nine volumes.from 1922 to 1951. He has been cited by some critics as "an example and exponent of some of the finest qualities in Britsh writing." In 1929 he married the Canadian writer Jessie McDonald, the divorced wife of poet Conrad Aiken making Armstrong the stepfather of writers Joan Aiken, Jane Aiken Hodge, and John Aiken.
- Ellen Datlow, editor, Mad Hatters and March Hares. Original fantasy anthology of 16 stories and two poems about the world of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Authors include Richard Bowles, C.S. E. Cooney, Kris Dikeman, Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, Stephen Graham Jones, Matthew Kressel, Seanan McGuire, Priya Sharma, Delia Sherman, Angela Slater, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Ktherine Vaz, Kaaron Warren, Ysabeau S. Wallace, and Jane Yolen. I'm familiar with about half these authors, but those I am famliar with ensure me that this is a top-flight anthology. ..and Ellen Datlow, with her unerring ability to select great stories, is one of the best editors around.
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