El Mundo

“He’s got the whole world in His hands…” The television was tuned to some local televangelist show. An image of big hair, flashy clothes, and too much jewelry filled the small screen as the familiar song crackled through aging speakers. Atlas held the map over his head, reminiscent of some Greek immortal. Oblivious to the glittering ministrations of the television preacher, he flexed his muscles experimentally, watching them ripple in the floor-length mirror before him. He supposed the reflection didn’t look too bad...if he ignored the sagging belly and skin puckered with age. He could remember a time when his body had resembled the idolized figure of youth: well-tanned skin stretched tight over a trim, muscular body, full of strength and vigor. With a sigh, he pulled the map from his head, exposing a receding hairline. Here and there, gray peeked through where the latest dye job had grown out. He tossed the map onto the scratched surface of the old dresser, next to the TV. With a weary sigh, he bent down to pull up slouching dress socks. A vulgar itch crept into his backside as he stood up, the rough cotton boxers pulling and gaping in all the wrong places. He scratched as he shuffled over to a battered armchair in a corner of the anonymous little room. Sinking into the chair, he picked up the television remote and flipped to a news channel, where a stifflooking broadcaster grimly reported the latest disasters plaguing the world. Atlas thought back to his youth. It seemed the world had fewer problems then. Now, the number grew with each passing day. He moved his gaze from the bleary images on the screen to his own tired reflection in the mirror. Time had taken it’s toll. He remembered when the image looking back at him had resembled the titanic portrait painted by so many artists. For a moment, he could actually see the god superimposed over the old man he had become and wondered if it came from his own memory, or something he had read in a book. The thought didn’t surprise him. Books always seemed to present a more interesting interpretation than anything real life could conceive. Atlas glanced back at the television. Pictures of broken bodies in a ruined landscape filled the screen. He frowned. The weight of the world grew heavier every day. Not for the first time, the thought occurred to him that he never should have taken this job in the first place. That was something the books had wrong: they mistook persuasion for punishment. Gods could be slick talkers when they wanted to be. Tired of the news, he flipped through the channels until the loud-spoken preacher once again sparkled into view. “God holds all of us in His heart, because He does have the whole world in His hands!” The preacher’s enthusiastic words drew a faint smile to his lips. “Yes sir. And it’s quite a load to carry.”

Old aches groaned as Atlas eased himself up out of the chair and stretched. Forgetting the remote control, he shuffled over to the television and shut it off. Slowly, he reached for the map of the world and gently placed it back upon His head.

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