In the Afterlife After-Hours Bar

by Diane Duane

You know the place. It’s where deities and divinities and avatars go when they’ve clocked off and they need a casual after-work pint or a quick remedial stiff one or some casual conversation with their peers before going home to the family.

So Christ is sitting there nursing a nice Pinot Grigio (he gets so tired of red wine, you have no idea) and he’s saying to the gods and near-gods at the bar with him, “You know what really gets to me, though? The tat. The kitsch. The dashboard ornaments, the endless dodgy art — ”

“I saw that doll,” says somebody down the bar past Mithras and Izanagi: a god with his hood pulled up and a long cloak that looks and flows like shadow. “With the puffy sleeves and the crown.”

“The Infant of Prague, yeah. Take my advice, do not do apparitions after hours in Prague, it’s something about the beer they brew there, what those people will do to you after the fact just does not bear considering. But you know what’s worst? The ‘Sacred Heart.'” He actually does the air quotes, which leave little traces of (appropriately) red fire. “On the front of me, outside my clothes, like I’ve had some kind of bass-ackwards transplant. Usually with rays of light coming out of it. Aorta and vena cava and wobbly bits all aglow. There is nothing that does not appear on. Lunch boxes. Key chains. Night lights, do you believe that? How many kids’ nights have been ruined by having that thing glowing at them like a refugee from a Bill Cosby skit? You should see some of the stores at CafePress. I’m amazed they haven’t done My Sacred Spleen yet. Except probably none of them can figure out where it would go.” He rolls his eyes. “I have it way worse than any of you.”

Mutterings of agreement run up and down the bar. Then a voice speaks up.

“I got that beat.”

Heads swivel. Down at the far end of the bar, past Odin (brooding into his mead again, there’s just no cheering that one up sometimes), everyone is surprised to see that it’s the Bodhisattva who’s spoken. Normally he’s not one to put himself forward quite this way: normally when he joins in it’s some pithy and Zenlike observation that doesn’t hit you with its full meaning until three in the morning.


“I,” says Gautama, hitching the belt around his ample self as he turns around on the bar stool, pushing his soma away, “have that beat. Because I…” He pauses for effect. “Have…”

“What is this, MasterChef? You have what?”

“A butter dish.”


Looks of shock and amazement and then rueful commiseration run all up and down the bar. “Oh, my dear God.” “Holy cow.”

Christ shakes his head, disbelieving. “Now that,” he says, astounded. “I mean, there are ones with quotes from me on them, sure, that’s kind of unavoidable. But this. Why would they even — ”

He shakes his head again and reaches around behind Odin and Loki in Gautama’s direction. They fistbump. “I stand corrected, my god,” Christ says. “What’re you drinking again? Let me get you one.”

“I can’t believe it’s not Buddha,” says somebody down at the other end of the bar.

A package of salted peanuts sails through the air (divinely guided) and catches Zeus right in the chops.

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FiveAcres November 21, 2013 - 2:44 pm

Is it wrong to want one? However, my next butter dish is going to be constructed so that the top can be easily held even when it’s greasy. Because our butter dishes are always greasy.

dianeduane November 21, 2013 - 3:40 pm

I don’t know that it’s wrong. But then it’s easy to say that, as it’s no good here anyway: in Ireland butter doesn’t come in sticks, but only in pound or half-pound chunks. …And the “greasy” point you make is well made. We use these, anyway, from Luminarc: they take the standard one-pound block without much trouble.

tomwest November 25, 2013 - 1:27 pm

Diane Duane: Author, screenwriter, kitchenware advisor.
(And my UK-dwelling parents have that exact butterdish)

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