Reprinted from Memoirs of a Minor Deity with the permission of the author
By David Turner

The first, and only, time I made a Covenant with any people, it was with the Kozinsuki, who once roamed the entire western coast of the continent. In fact, although I signed the Covenant, I didn't negotiate it, and I'm not sure even now that I fully understand all of its wrinkles.

Udzh, the leader of the Kozinsuki, was an American Alexander the Great long before either Alexander the Great or America. He was educated by the greatest minds of his time in logic, rhetoric, and military tactics. His whole upbringing had prepared him for a life of greatness, and I had been watching him hopefully since his youth. By the time he was eighteen, he had conquered what is now Arizona. Alas that at this critical juncture, Udzh came down with a vicious stomach virus. For a week he was afflicted with horrible stomach pains, and he vomited so much blood that he nearly died from dehydration. When he was cured, he spoke to his witch doctors and demanded that they prevent this sickness from ever afflicting anyone again.

For three weeks, the witch doctors prayed and chanted, and before I knew what was happening, I had received an order from my government's Mortal Relations Board (for even gods have governments) that I should negotiate a Covenant with the Kozinsuki about this stomach flu. At first, I laughed. They were voluntary worshipers -- if they didn't like the deal I was giving them, they could go find another god to make them a Chosen People.

But the Board insisted. Udzh's military victories had made him so arrogant that I couldn't bear to talk to him, so I appointed the chief Kozinsuki witch doctor to negotiate on my behalf. I had granted this witch doctor a vision every year since he was six, so he truly believed in my power. He was afraid to negotiate on my behalf, concerned as he was that he might make a deal I couldn't agree to. I assured him that I trusted his understanding of my views.

witch doctor with tablets Illustration by Heather Jones

Five years later, he came back with a train of donkeys carting six hundred massive stone tablets, painstakingly engraved with a Covenant, each marked with the sigil of Udzh (who, by this time, had taken the areas now called Nevada and Washington). I thought six hundred stone tablets was rather a lot for a little agreement about a stomach flu, but the first sentence explained everything to my satisfaction: "throughout the entirety of this Agreement the masculine shall embrace the feminine and the singular shall become the plural." I signed it without reading further; gods don't have time to read everything that passes over their desks, after all. This turned out to be a mistake that cost me, and the Kozinsuki, greatly.

For in this contract, I was obligated to provide benefits the likes of which no other people have ever known, and nor have any known them since. Not only were the Kozinsuki to be protected from this particularly heinous stomach condition, but also from most other diseases, from wild beasts, and from earthquakes and floods. Additionally, I had to keep the ungrateful wretches well fed. All of this pampering left them spoiled and decadent, and within a few decades, their worship shrank to a mere vestige, only enough to formally fill the letter, though not the spirit, of the Covenant. The elaborate ritual headgear of the early years shrank, shedding feathers and fronds until it finally devolved into a rough leather skullcap. I was exhausted from the effort of holding the San Andreas Fault together and regulating the weather of a whole coastline. I hadn't been out drinking in years, and my friends had almost forgotten me.

Soon the Akitara, a tribe from the east, grew to envy the Kozinsuki. The Akitara took advantage of their dissolute defenses to launch ever more daring raids, finally killing the last of the Kozinsuki in the contract's hundredth year. Released from the terms of the contract, I went to a pub to celebrate and to mourn the loss of my first Chosen People over several pints of a malty nectar. I don't fault the witch doctor for negotiating the Covenant (although I did torment him with insects until he threw himself off a cliff). I should have sent him a higher class of visions. But I've resolved never to make another Covenant. Let the Mortal Relations Board do their worst!

Copyright 2003, David Turner