[image description: An earnest looking soul in a cook’s uniform – a bright orange shirt, a striped apron, and a hat, around which a University diploma can be seen. Dark acrid smoke billows up in the background. Text reads, “149, ‘3rd Degree’ Burns ~ small god of the Over-Qualified”]
He got used to being treated as a cautionary tale a long time ago.
Every time a parent points to a sanitation worker, a janitor, a cafeteria lunch lady, a salesclerk with derision in their eyes and judgment in their hearts, he is there, standing between his faithful and the cruelty of the careless, trying to intercept and absorb the blow. He can never take the hit completely, is too insubstantial in mortal eyes to protect them in full, but he does what he can to lessen the sting, to keep them from the inevitable realization of the fact that they are seen as less in the eyes of their fellows.
He is a god. The best of humanity has always been forced into the lowest of positions, placed there by accident of birth, by gender, by the absence of connections, and he has been there from the beginning, since the first time someone laboring well below their capabilities wept to the heavens. He’s had time to understand two great truths about the universe:
That without his faithful, the world would crumble into ruin. There are no unskilled jobs, only jobs that people have chosen, for whatever reason, not to value. Leave the garbage to pile up and the hospitals will be overwhelmed in weeks with all manner of disease—overwhelmed, and unable to provide aid, as their own waste will be swallowing them whole. Leave the bottoms unwiped and watch the babies rot in their diapers, leave the burgers unflipped and watch the hungry mob lose all patience with the world. No unimportant positions, no unimportant people.
And that humans, being hierarchal creatures, will reinvent the hierarchy of worthy and unworthy over and over again, despite the fact that it serves them poorly. They will always push someone to the bottom to place themselves at the top. And his faithful, being only mortal, will never have the time he’s had to find acceptance of their lot. This will happen, over and over again, forever.
But he can shield them. He can deflect. And he can love them.
That much, he is more than overqualified to do.
Artist Lee Moyer (13th Age, Cursed Court) and author Seanan McGuire (Middlegame, Every Heart a Doorway) have joined forces to bring you icons and stories of the small deities who manage our modern world, from the God of Social Distancing to the God of Finding a Parking Space.
Join in each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many tiny divinities: