I was so deep in thought and so desperate that I didn’t notice the hole in the ground till it swallowed me up. I landed at the bottom of some stone steps. Technicolor graffiti lined the stone walls and a guy with creamy dreadlocks and a dirty caftan was strumming a guitar. The tune had a good groove to it and as I got nearer he threw in some words.
I ran for a long time and boarded a boat
I’d get on anything that looked like it could float
I wanted to get away from the call of God
The call to go to Nineveh was dangerous and odd.
His voice was a mix between Bob Dylan and Tracey Chapman, which was unusual to say the least. But the sound was good and he acknowledged me with a nod as I slowed up to listen. I felt obliged then to hang around. I looked for a hat full of coins on the ground but there was nothing.
So I got on this boat and I sailed the other way
Then a storm blew up at the height of the day
I was fast asleep but the crew woke me up
And when they told me about it I knew what was up.
The storm wasn’t normal – it was plain divine
I knew I had to put my life on the line
So I told them ‘Throw me over and I’ll see you round’
And they hurled me in the waves and I fell down, down
Then the strangest thing, a fish came along
And this is the weirdest part of the song
Many folks claim that I made it up
But I kid you not the fish swallowed me up.
Inside the beast was no game of skittles
So I got on my knees amongst the food and the spittle
And I talked to God and I changed my mind
And I told him my life was right there on the line.
So the whale got sick and he felt real sore
And he threw me up on Nineveh’s shore
I walked around preaching and covered in vomit
And those Ninevites sure got the message from it.
They prayed and fasted and laid their lives on the line
And God took a look and changed his mind
He didn’t want to kill them, he wanted them back
And I felt like I’d been stabbed in the back.
I knew he’d turn around and forgive those folk
After I’d walked round looking like one big joke
Being a prophet ain’t the kind of life you’d wish
There are days when I’d rather just be a big fish.
So I found some shade from the heat of the day
And would you know it – the shade withered away
I was mad with God for letting me fry
And I told him he’d better just let me die.
But he answered me back after not too long
Told me I’d got my priorities wrong
The loss of one plant had filled me with pity
But God cared about all these people in the city.
That’s about the end of this really strange tale.
You may know it as Jonah and the whale
It’ll be round forever to tell the people all
Not to be surprised when God gives a call.
Not be surprised when God gives a call.
Not to be surprised when God gives a call…
He went back to strumming the tune. I felt in my pockets for a couple of coins and laid a few in a little stack in front of him. He’d shut his eyes now and wasn’t watching. I waited to see if he’d spot my generosity but there was nothing from him. So then I wondered about picking up the coins again as he didn’t seem bothered, but I heard footsteps coming and realised I couldn’t be seen stealing a busker’s wage. I moved on quickly, breaking into a run as the words of the song rattled around the backstage of my mind.
[Taken from the forthcoming Breaking Into the Good Book by D Hopwood]