A Present for Pat

Story Background
“A Present for Pat” was published in Startling Stories in January 1954. I read it in We Can Remember It For Your Wholesale: The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick: Volume 2. It can be found there on pages 221–235.


Plot Summary
Eric Black returns from his business trip to Ganymede with a gift for his wife, Patricia. He tells her that the present is a god for Ganymede, not an idol of a god, but an actual god named Tinokuknoi Arevulopapo. Alive and well, Eric and the deity, discussed many issues while on the trip to Earth. He had wanted to see Earth and forced his worshipers to sell him at a low cost to a Terran. They give a sacrifice to the god through a cup he is holding on his belly. After the sacrifice, he begins talking to them. He explains to Patricia that he is a benevolent Weather God. Patricia is in disbelief, not trusting the concept of gods. Eric’s colleague Thomas Maston arrives and is also introduced to Tinokuknoi Arevulopapo. Interested, Thomas asks for an explanation of the first cause problem. The god deflects this by explaining that gods inhabit a different plane of reality. When they pass through to a lesser continuum they are often worshipped as gods. Matson says that this is not really a god, just a superior lifeform. In response, Tinokuknoi Arevulopap turns Matson into a toad, proving he can manipulated matter. Eric urges the god to turn him back, but he thinks that a couple centuries as a toad will do Matson some good. Pat and Eric begin to turn on the deity for disrupting their family and social life. The god then turns Patricia into stone. The god asks about Eric’s company, asking if his boss, Horace Bradshaw, is a local deity. Eric receives a call from the Bradshaw asking him and Matson to some in immediately. He gets into a cab with the Matson-toad and prepared to explain what happened Matson.

In the office, Eric tells Bradshaw how Matson was turned into a toad. Bradshaw describes the situation to Jennings, a company biology researcher. He is charged with returning Matson to human form and takes the toad into the lab. Bradshaw fires and promises to blacklist Eric.

On the way home, Eric discusses the situation with the robot cab. The cab mentions that robots have worse problems than humans. Eric “feeds” the god and confronts him on his recent actions. With some understanding, the god turns Patricia back into human form. When asked about restoring Matson, the god explains that his omnipotence is limited to a local area. Proving he can convert any matter, he creates some gold and platinum to help Eric get through a period without his work. Eric develops a plan to convert Matson back to human form by driving the god past Terran Metals. Before they can go out, the police, guided by Jennings, who arrive to arrest Eric for importing an alien to Terra. With the god’s help, Eric manages to hold of the police for a while, but the situation quickly becomes dire. Eric proposed a deal where the god will turn Matson back to human form, return to Ganymede, and Eric will get his job back. Bradshaw, who has accompanied the siege, agrees. The god transforms Matson, but Bradshaw betrays the agreement and orders Eric’s arrest. The god identifies Bradshaw as Nar Dolk, another deity, in disguise. After a brief battle, Tinokuknoi Arevulopapo defeats Nar Dolk. When Eric’s present for Pat gone, he promises a new one.

In “A Present for Pat” we get yet another thought experiment on the naturalistic origins of religion. In this way, it stands alongside “The Skull” and “Prominent Author.” In this case, gods are just run of the mill entities form another dimension. Coming from that alternative universe, they have complete power over our reality (within some naturalistic limits). It is actually a fairly clever explanation about why different societies throughout history had different gods, each with a different character and abilities. Given the history of religion, this is much more believable than a single, truly omnipotent God who seems to have constantly had troubles getting his message right. (Still, cultural diversity is a much better explanation yet, not requiring the odious ancient alien thesis.)

As with many of Dick’s stories, what is most interesting is not the main plotline but rather the social context of the story. In “A Present for Pat” we have Eric Blake who is oppressed by a variety of forces. His wife contributes to his chains, but his authoritarian boss (proven to be a god himself) is the more odious of the two. He is also burdened by a need to be liked and respected by his peers. He tries to impress Matson with the alien god he illegally imported to Terra. As things get worse, he is eventually driven to begging for advice and recognition by a robotic cab driver. Even acquiring the god in the first place seemed motivated by Eric’s quest for respect and legitimacy among his family and his peers.

The fact that the head of Terran Metals is a malevolent god needs little interpretation. Dick’s anti-capitalism and anti-authoritarian position is very clearly presented by 1954. Most bosses, if not actually gods, like to think of themselves that way. We cannot help but imagine that the world—and Terran Metals—will be a better place without Bradshaw (Nar Dolk).

Philipkdickfans.com page on “A Present for Pat.”

Boy oh boy! Hindu gods were aliens.

Youtube commentary on it. I do not think it adds to much.


About tashqueedagg

Searching for the radical themes in American literature. American literature for the age of Occupy
This entry was posted in Alien Life, Consumerism, Humanism, Philip K. Dick, Power, Religion, Supernatural Abilities and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Present for Pat

  1. This is of course one of his most comedial pieces.It’s a modern myth presented as farce.Below the light-hearted humour though,is a much more serious intent.The god’s name seems to recall the dialect of the Aztecs or Incas.If this is true,I think then he must have had their mythologies in
    mind when he wrote this.He is therefore recreating their ancient faith in the form of religious experience,that would increasingly fascinate him later in his career.Gods would have been divine entities but present everywhere in the natrual world around them.Dick has taken it one step further,by casting it as literally true.

    Within the subtext of this piece however,the most interesting I think,is the role of the robot taxicab.He is already anticipating the talking,empathic machines that would become one of his trademarks in his later work.It is contrasted to the human characters,who have less humanity.Eric responds in turn,by understanding that machines have complex lifes too.

    The defeat of the buisness man who’s a malevolent god,by the good deity,recalls the battle between Palmer Eldritch and Leo Bulero in “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”.Palmer Eldritch is a man possessed by God,albeit of an uncertain morality,while Leo Bulero represents a benign force.Both are buisness men struggling for control of the drugs trade,but the underlying theme,is an apocalyptc battle between good and evil.Capaltalism takes-on an ancient religious meaning.

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