by Aidan Butler
A flash of light passed between the two sets of eyes:
"Do you have it?"
In the shadowed hide-out, the scent of hay mingled in
the breezy air with the smell of the sea. It was nighttime.
"I have two partners outside who bet you
The second man, a silent shape in back of a scratchy
wooden table, rose suddenly and struck the table top with his fist. The
gruff voice clacking at the bottom of his throat, behind the chipped bits
of yellow teeth, woke
the small emaciated shadow of a dog sleeping in the
corner of the room.
"Yeah? Your friends call John of Inka a
swindler? You tell them
to wise up. I got your stuff."
John "of Inka" knelt on the straw-covered
floor hurriedly, like a Catholic priest who accidentally dropped the holy wafers in
front of the altar. His hands swept around the floor, brushing away the hay
and dirt, and the dog began growling like a tiny thunderstorm several yards
away from his master.
The visitor to the dark hut turned and saw the
animal's body tense.
"Your friends ought to learn a few things. Or
you ought to learn to chose your friends better."
With a laryngitic bark and a streak of motion through
the dark interior of the hut, the dog leapt like a spring released over to
where its master was digging in the floor.
"Get the fuck away, you stupid dog! I'm not
trying to take your damn bones."
The man's dirtied hand struck the dog's back with a
thud and a high-pitched yip. The animal collapsed on the ground,
its backbone altered to a sharp V sag. The visitor's eyes widened.
"Ha! Here it is. Ya see?"
John stood from the ground holding up a canvas sack.
"Now remember: I've disguised the stuff to look
like frankincense. Oh, no wait. I've mixed the stuff in
with frankincense. No, I've...yes, yes - that's what I
did. Mixed it in with frankincense. Here!"
John thrust the parcel at the visitor, who opened the
sack, held it to his face and inhaled deeply. Then coughed.
"Hey! This is frankincense! What the hell are
you trying to pull off on me?"
A look of disbelief replaced the grim sullen
expression usual to John's countenance.
"I just told you, guy, that I mixed the stuff in
with frankincense - so that if anyone asks to search the
bag they won't notice anything. Now d'you got the gold?"
After a comprehension-time pause, the visitor removed
a smaller sack from the folds of his coat then explained:
"Now remember: I've mixed it in with
frankincense so that if anyone asks to search the bag they won't notice
The second sack exchanged hands. John opened this
eagerly, inserted his soiled fist, scratched at the contents, then
removed his hand. Bits of hardened gum fell from his fingers.
"Hey! This is frankincense! What the hell are
you...oh, no wait. I see what you did. Okay, pleasure doing
business with you. Now get lost, I've gotta go bury the dog."
Outside the hut the full, yellow-tinted moon
reflected on the sandy smoothly undulating ground in hazy pools of light
that were only visible out of the corner of the eye. The visitor, called
Ted, joined his two raggedly dressed bearded companions, Bill and Frank.
"Well," Bill began eagerly, "Did you
get it? What did ol' John of Inka say?"
"Yes, what did he say?" Frank echoed.
"He said you two should wise up, or I should
chose better friends."
"No, I mean about the stuff."
"Oh, yes. I got the stuff."
Ted reached into his jacket pockets. Then his pants
pockets. Then he turned back, his hands grasping at his
"Oh, shit. Did I leave it in there? Oh! Here it
Ted held the sack up in the soft shifting moonlight
"Okay," Bill approved, "But what did
he say about it?"
Putting the sack back into his sagging abundant
clothing, Ted decided, "Now we find somewhere to smoke a little of it,
then off we go to Joe's place. He shouldn't notice if some of it is
"Okay fine, but what did John say about the
Ted's staid, but rather unclean figure began moving
off into the desert.
"Hey!" Bill called out neglectedly, still
standing with Frank outside the hut, "I want to know what he
The two watched Ted pass slowly into the night,
little short-changed, for whatever reason.
"What a dummy. We had a right to know what the
"Yeah. It was our deal too."
Bill stepped forward defiantly then shouted:
"You shmuck, Ted!
You ought to've told us! You ought to've let us
The slightly obnoxious speaker was interrupted by the
harsh voice of John, invisible inside his shack:
"Will you two please shut up! I'm trying to give
my dog a proper funeral."
In a softer, pious tone his voice continued:
"Salve cane, cane del cielo. Alta dio nostra, alta et cetera..."
The ragged trio moved slowly by foot on the tiringly
loose nighttime sands for miles before Ted finally stopped,
and stood statuesquely with his fiery red scarf flapping around
his firm, stony face.
He declared, "Here we shall rest."
As the group's leader began stuffing a pipe with a
sample of their exotic purchase, his companion Bill looked up
at the moon. The bright circle streaked with quickly passing thin grey
clouds asked him questions about his past; he could remember seeing
the moon exactly as it was that night - a spotlight over his memory - when
he was younger, even before he had the smallest idea what his life would
become and where it would take him. He wasn't disappointed with all that
had happened, of course. He sat on the desert that night with his
companions and glanced over his whole collection of diverse memories, and
though there were unfulfilled aims and occasional grievances to be
found, on the whole he was now quite content. He refused to waste time - or at
least he refused to waste time unhappily - and somehow when he let life
carry him, not resisting the direction of its currents, he always managed to
encounter new things, places, people; surely this was all one could want?
High excitement and vast joys were another man's lot. For him, an
occasional gleam of light through the haze was sufficient to drive his body
forward along the path of spiritual progress. Or at least out of bed before
"Pass that over here, wouldja? Thanks."
Frank coughed, and for an instant sparklets of phlegm
and saliva anced in the air over the small campfire they had
"This is great. Are you sure you want to give it
"He already payed for most of it. And no, I
don't want to rip him off. He really needs the stuff. He's impotent, see,
and he wants a son.
He thinks this'll cure him."
The three puffed with fervid pleasure for another
five minutes, then lost themselves in philosophical conversation.
Relaying the entire text of this would wearisome and, considering their
intoxicated digression, a little annoying. Let it suffice to record a few
Ted: "You see, this is all fiction. The only
trace of fact in my life is time itself, and its only side-effects are
precognition and deja vu - not aging, change, or memory. The more we free
ourselves from place, from setting, and the more entirely we focus
ourselves on the single fact of time, the more tranquil we become. And you know,
time changes nothing. Just spend some time thinking about it. You'll
Frank: "Time is a rope fastened to my ankle that
continually drags me through dirty puddles."
Bill: "God wouldn't wish that for anyone. It's
not in God's best interest for people to see repetition in their
lives. Do you think there's a God, Ted?"
Ted: "Yes, and he bends time around us like
prison bars. Being a masochistic God, he gives us free will so that we can
insult him, and disbelieve him. God is a bit of a pervert these days;
he ties people to stable doors then shows them lights, so bright and
beautiful that being unable to follow the lights they are in torture. (I'm
speaking figuratively.) But this torment of being tied away
from the lights is necessary for us. In torture, we learn new things
about ourselves. And as long as we keep learning new things about ourselves,
we don't see the monotony, the repetition in our lives. It's bad for
God for us to see such things, I think you're right about that. Now let's
get moving; we have miles to travel yet..."
"I want to name him Charlie!"
The candles around the periphery of the room wavered,
and shadows leapt across the walls of the barn like dark, long
hands reaching up from the earth to extinguish them. The woman speaking had
tears on her pallid skin, and her hair looked torn.
"Look, I don't think we have any choice in the
matter, hon." The man's soothing, reasonable voice had no comfort to
the woman's hysterics.
"Damn it, no! I will not name our only child
Jesus. I want his to be called Charlie!"
She stamped her foot and glared at her husband Joe,
who with a look of painful guilt frowned, and explained again:
"But it isn't really our child, Mary. It's God's
son, so he belongs to the whole world. Or to heaven. Or to
himself alone...oh, I don't know. I only know that he doesn't belong to
"Then I don't want to keep him."
"Let's get rid of him before he gets old enough
to remember where we live."
"Really! Let's take him out to the desert then
leave him on a dune, or under a date palm. By morning either the Romans,
the Nomads, or the djini will find him."
"Oh, honey, that's cruel! Look, God didn't come
here and tie you up to the stable doors then show you all those lights
"You're right! He tied me up so that I couldn't
get away or claw at him. And he came here in the first place because he
wanted a virgin. And since I'm the only woman in all the world with an
impotent husband who's got no libido at all, I'm the only virgin in the
world. It's your fault he chose me, and I want a divorce. And I don't want any
boy in my house named Jesus."
"Oh Mary, you silly girl. You should be honored,
hear? You should feel privileged."
The distraught mother of God's son thought quietly
for a moment behind her trembling lips and her tear-streaked face. She
recalled, "Actually, being bound up was kind of fun, but the lights? They
"So you'll keep him?"
"Not on your life! I will not be remembered as
the mother of some divine boy named Jesus. I am my own woman, and I want
to lead my own life. Besides, raising a divine boy would be more difficult
then raising a disturbed one."
"Mary, please be careful what you say about that
boy. If you displease God, he might very well punish you for
"Frankly, Joe, although I've had his son, I
still can't say that I really believe in God."
The two stared at each other in conflict, aggrieved
by this new barrier of contrary views. After a moment's silence,
Joe and Mary turned to the doorway - where only moments ago Mary had been
mysteriously bound by invisible ropes - and saw Franz their stable-boy
standing with a look of sympathetic concern for his masters.
"Excuse me Mister Joe, Miss Mary, but those
three wise guys are here. They say they've brought with them a parcel."
"Okay, Franz." Joe replied solemnly,
"Bring um in."
The obedient boy raced off, and Mary leaned closer to
her husband to whisper: "And once we've gotten rid of this bastard child
of God, I want to get a new stable-boy. Someone black, preferably. I'm
extremely tired of being the only woman in the neighbourhood with an impotent
husband and a German stable-boy." -to this, her husband responded
only with a hard, reproachful glare.
Soon Ted, Bill and Frank entered the barn's
atmosphere of dust shadows, wet sheep fur, and old hay. Overcome by the
bucolic charm of the place, Bill fell upon the floor and instantly began
snoring, and as an additional background sound to the others'
conversation occasionally mumbled incoherently about determinism in his sleep.
Ted, with Frank at his side, strode buoyantly up to Joe and Mary.
"Joseph the Carpenter, my fine friend!"
Ted's voice, from resin-stained lips, had the strength and steadiness
of the five-hundredth echo of a pebble hitting the water at the bottom of a
well. "I've finally come with the solution to all your marital problems,
shall we say. Indeed, this herb," his hands darted in and out of the
folds and pockets of his clothes, "This...uh, where is it. Ah, yes! This
herb, smoked in a pipe, shall render you as virile as an ox in a field
surrounded by cows. Or rather, a bull in such a place. Yes,
your vigor will
be so great that we can only hope your wife'll be enough, and that you
won't begin to seek wife-ishness in other barns. Or in barns. That would
surely be sin, you know."
Mary turned her head away from the guests and her
embarrassed husband with a look of incredulity at Ted's rhetoric.
"Uh, thanks Ted. Look, I don't need the stuff
anymore though, okay?"
After a brief look of puzzlement a broad, pleased
smile stretched across Ted's face.
"Joe, that's terrific! Congratulations! Oh, I
always knew this impotence thing was just newlywed's anxiety. I had
confidence in you all along! So isn't it great to be able to enjoy her
Mary's sudden exaggerated laugh caused Joe to spin
sharply around to her again and silenced, she stepped back
away from the men.
"Well, frankly Ted, I didn't mean quite that.
You see, Mary has had someone else's child..."
A look of horror contorted the muscles of Ted's face.
"Someone else's child? Why, the Bitch! She
should be stoned for this. And the man! The fellow should be castrated -
this'll all be great fun, of course. So who was the savage that did it to
Joe's jaw tipped, but he didn't quite succeed at
uttering the name. It seemed so wrong here! Joe paused,
wonderingly, then answered disapprovingly:
"It was God, Ted. God got Mary pregnant."
Frank's mirthful, "'Hm!" was the only
immediate response. Ted's scrutiny of his friend's face failed to detect any
trace of humor.
"Oh, no. Are you serious, Joey?"
"Yeah, I'm serious."
Ted Paused to ponder the situation, then inquired
caringly, "Is it too late to abort it?"
"What? It only took a few seconds, Ted. God got
her pregnant one minute and the next she was the stage for the
Immaculate Conception. There was no stopping it. And anyway, I don't think it's
"Oh, you don't, do you?" Frank entered the
discussion with strong feeling. "My parents had a divine child
before they had me, and let me tell you, it was rough. Really rough. The preachy
brat never stopped moralizing and harassing our poor, imperfect parents.
Eventually they just couldn't handle it anymore, so they gave up and sent
him away to a special school for divine children. They finally got some
"What?" Mary's intrigued voice demanded,
before she had fully reappeared from the shadows of the barn, "What?
A special school?"
As Frank described to Mary the Temple of Jerusalem,
Ted took Joseph the Carpenter aside.
"Joe, I hate to pry, but I will anyway. Does
this mean you're still impotent?"
As any educator could easily imagine, teaching divine
children can be extremely challenging. This is so for a couple of
reason: First, they tend to have a very short attention span when it
comes to earthly affairs and mundane things. Teaching a divine child to make a
fence, for example, would be nearly impossible; why build the fence at
all - a divine child would wonder - animals were not meant to be enslaved
by man. A fence to keep other people away from one's own house would be
equally bizarre to a divine child; if one is afraid that another person
will steal his possessions, the answer isn't to hide them more
carefully or protect them more closely - that would only further provoke
malicious curiosity and greedy desire. Rather, to ensure that one's valuables
not be stolen, one should make them easily available to all people. (The
ultimate solution to this problem from a divine child would be, simply
give all your possessions away!) Equally frustrating to teachers of divine
children is the fact that the kids have, typically, no career aims. Teaching
kids who are going to become fishermen, for example, is dead easy: you
teach them how to mend nets and catch fish. Divine children need no skills
they're not seemingly born with, so their instructors - often hired by
parents more as surrogate parents than actual teachers - often see them as
Jesus was no different. In fact it may be that he was
even more demanding and intolerable than most other divine
children, since unlike many of them he was (for one reason or another) quite
convinced that he was the only child God had ever had. Because of this
possible slight to the vastness of Dad's procreative urges, and because of
the implicit denial of their legitimacy, Jesus' classmates didn't always get
along on the best of terms with the boy from Nazareth. The rivalry and
competition sometimes became so fierce that on several occasions, after
classes had ended and little Jesus (or to use the name his mother stuck by,
Charlie) had cleaned his desk and his slate, he would have stone-throwing
fights and wrestling matches with other children of God. Once in a while
he was more creative than this; one evening a classmate of his - an odd
blue-skinned chap from India - did a homework paper entitled "Twenty
Suggestions For Better Living." Finding this piece petty and shallow
and finding the author contemptible besides, the next night Jesus wrote a
ruthless parody of it called "The Ten Commandments."
Though his stay at the Temple of Jerusalem wasn't
highly enriching (as people of today wish that it had been),
Jesus did have a couple of experiences during the later part of his
scholarship there (roughly when he was seventeen) that were influential
to his emotional development. The first of these occurred just after
dinner one afternoon.
(First, a note about dining at the Temple: The
children were all, regardless of age, served rose' wine with dinner.
This usually wasn't the best quality stuff, and at times bottles were opened
containing wine which looked remarkably opaquely red. Once during a food
fight that he wasn't faring well in (not to derate Christian's deity - he
was out-numbered), Jesus splashed some of this on his shirt and pointed
to it with the exclamation, "Argh! Blood! You see this? This is my blood!")
About one mile away from the main building of the
Temple was a river. This was for the most part fairly shallow and slow,
but in one or two areas the water rushed very powerfully through deep gaps in
the stone riverbed.
At one such spot in particular, the whole bank
opposite the shore of the Temple was a steep cliff of mossy slick hard stone.
Before this surface, splashed against with constant fury by the
unexpectedly harsh river, was a pool of wild counter-currents probably more than
twelve feet deep. Though the rageful churning water at this spot made a
formidable slashing noise that could be heard from some distance away, it was rumored that not too long
ago a couple of peasants negotiating the river with a feeble
rowboat had perished under the lashing waves at this violent point.
That afternoon after dinner the students were playing
fetch with the football team's mascot, a small black dog named
Moses. One of the students, a Hindu son-of-God, decided that the animal
had behaved so nobly during its life that surely it would be
as a human the next time around. To save the dog a long wait before death
and when real life as a man began, the Hindu boy threw the stick
directly into this turbulent spot in the river, knowing full well that the
unintelligent creature would never be able to survive the tight ankle-chains of
the river's currents.
The thrown stick struck the stern vertical bank of
the river and ricocheted into the churning splashing pool of
counter-currents where perhaps even men had died, and with utmost dedication
to its masters the dog raced and dove in to retrieve it. The stick
disappeared under the water only an instant after it landed there, and so
at first did Moses.
But after he had been swallowed by the fierce waves
for several seconds, the dog resurfaced. This sight, though, was even more
terrible than the disappearance of the dog, for when it reappeared the
animal's eyes were half-circles of blood upon a coat of drenched black
fur with white sharp bones broken through it. Its
muzzle pointed into the
air with its teeth shattered, and the dog made a sound almost like a shriek then vanished again into
the savage depths of the pool.
Jesus, standing in horror at the shore, turned to the
boy who had thrown the stick. His face bore a serene smile,
and his eyes were peaceful and content. Incredulous at the fate of the
innocent creature and shocked by the boy's ruthlessness, Jesus was
determined that the poor dog must not die. He knelt swiftly on the grass, then
carefully untied his athletic shoes. His fingers darted across the front
of his shirt and unbuttoned it, cautiously making sure not to tug too
hard at the buttons and break their strings. His left hand flew over his
head to remove the leather cap he wore, while his right hand nimbly
tugged off his socks. Both hands then worked in a furious blur from his body,
and Jesus placed his simple gold chain and his topaz ring wisely on a
stone near the shore so that they wouldn't be lost in the deep grass. Stark,
finally, Jesus' slim muscular body arrowed into the cold water.
Jesus' efforts to rescue the dog were successful in
that the animal was returned to the land, but Jesus;
classmates only despised him more for trying to seem so heroic. Sarcastically,
they nicknamed him "Our Saviour."
I mentioned two significant events during Jesus' time
at the Temple. The second involved a young female student
who had been one of his few consistent supporters in school. Her name was
Mary, and on one of the first days that she was at the Temple (she began
attending much later than he did), Jesus noticed her following him with her
soft grey careworn eyes.
Many other new students at the Temple also stared at
him, for the length and whiteness of his
beard was extraordinary for a
child of seventeen. But Mary looked upon him in a different way; her face had
a still smooth wondering look to it which seemed always to be asking
something of him. In fact the first time Jesus saw her looking at him, he almost turned
to face her, tipped his head, then asked, "What the hell do
you want?" But this he never did, and it was she who first spoke to him. Her
voice was small, and timid:
"I really admired you in the river. Saving the
dog, I mean."
A conversation thus began that evening that moved in
breakless, easy steps from their pasts to their plans, and from their
hearts to their hearts. When late in the night the conversation was
interrupted by the vexed order from the rabbi that they both belonged in
bed, they agreed to meet the next night at the spot on the river where
the moonlight was reflected most clearly.
Later, Mary sat stilly on the edge of her bed in deep
though for a long time, and in recollection: Jesus had said during
their talk that although he was divine, he had come from a
carpenter's barn; he also told her that he longed for a civilization in which only
the truth was spoken, and that it was his aim to bring peace to the world,
and...he had said so many things! She lay back comfortably on the pillow
and attempted to put back together in her mid the entire conversation.
Soon, sleep took her away from this task. And that's not very surprising.
She had had a day of no small excitement!
The following day, Jesus' anticipation of their
clandestine meeting was so great that he forgot where it was they
agreed to rendezvous. This sort of thing was happening to him
with alarming frequency
those days, since Jesus was so constantly
obsessed with all the wonderful things he'd do for the world once he got
his diploma and a little recognition. On this occasion, though, his
forgetfulness was so infuriating that Jesus knelt on the earth, clasped
his hands, and implored God to tell him where he was supposed to meet Mary.
His voice trembled with sincerest urgency...
"My father, who art in heaven, probably in the
den with the T.V. on, thou must tell me, for I greatly long to know: Where
on earth was I supposed to meet Mary? She has truly and duly
fascinated me, and I wish not to make her wait...?"
The night air was still and silent. The grass, just
become dewy, wasn't touched by the faintest breeze. Jesus frowned,
and his eyes glistened with genuine tears of dismay.
"Oh, Father, I beg you to tell me. Your
reticence troubles me. I can understand you not wanting to talk to simple morals,
but you own son...? Please, Father, tell me where it was I agreed to meet
The bassy, slightly sandy voice of God sounded:
"Thou hast disappointed me, Son. Thou has
inquired of thy own holy minght omnipresent great big Father directions to the
place where some lusty Hindu demi-goddess awaits thee. For what
sinless purpose canst thou have to meet with her on a night like this, with
moonlight so strong?"
A pained expression crossed Jesus' face, and his
hands fell to his sides.
"But father, why didst thou givest me this body
of living, warm flesh and also warm blood, alive at the core with fiery
desire, if I cannot use it?"
There was a pause, during which God thought...
"What dost thou mean, 'cannot use it?'"
Jesus squirmed slightly, hesitated.
"Well, you know...my, thing."
"Thy penis? That's to pee from. Haven't you
figured that out yet? I certainly didn't give it to you to impale young
wenches with. I thought Joseph the Fisherman was a good enough model that
you'd learn that quickly."
"He's a carpenter, Father, not a fisherman. And
I don't know what you mean, 'a model'...?"
"Oh, come now son. He also had a 'thing,' but he
used it only in urination. I expected you to realize my point in
creating him. At least, child psychology seemed to suggest that you
Jesus looked offended, and his tone was reproachful.
"Father! You created in flesh a mortal man
unable to procreate - deprived of the greatest, most beautiful gift mortals
possess - just to teach me something of relatively little importance?
Oh, Father, I sincerely hate to sound disrespectful, but that was
wrong! That was truly bad. How could you have done such a thing?"
A few beats of silence followed Jesus' query.
"Son, I don't think we have time to continue
this conversation right now. You're supposed to meet that...Mary. The place
on the river where the moonlight strikes strongest. Quick - go!"
In the discomfort of unresolved doubt, Jesus was
still thankful. He muttered "Amen" as he stood and brushed the
dirt and grass off his white pants.
A smooth path ran alongside the river, hard on the
stone banks. Listening for the tapping of other feet upon it,
Jesus kept his eyes turned to the surface of the water. In one place the moon's
reflection shone in a growth of foot-tall water grass and the blades'
shadows striped the round white, gently rippling image. Further down the path,
Jesus arrived at the spot where the day before he had saved the dog, and
where he had struggled so desperately against the
currents. The moon had here
to reflect on sharply splashing swirls of water; the pointed, frantic waves
were like white flames with the moon's glow. It seemed so harmless
now, and so beautiful! The sound of the glistening waves - just a soft bubbling - was so
different from the deafening crashing roar that had shaken his skull
before. After sending the exhausted dog safely to the shore, Jesus had
found himself worn to utter powerlessness; his arms and legs were
unmanageable logs of dead wood that seemed more to weigh him down to the distant
river bottom that propel him from the peril. By the moon-white jagged waves in
the water now before him, Jesus was reminded of the dog's face as it shot
up from under the water : its clean teeth shattered on the rocks, its eyes
bleeding and terrified - wasn't all this still present in that pool of
water? Was it all somehow washed away by simple waves? Was it really only
These thoughts took him such a distance from his
present situation, Jesus was at first alarmed by the sound of
approaching footsteps. Turning swiftly, he saw in the moonlight
the curve of Mary's face and an even-edged fan of hair hanging to brush
lightly against it.
Her voice, at once nervous and relieved:
"There you are...!"
As the time passed and their nocturnal conversation
roamed, Jesus glanced up occasionally at the moon. Each time,
he noticed it lower and lower above the trees, while the shadows it cast
grew longer. It was cold out, and Mary's voice had become stronger, and
"When I was nine years old, I once played a game
with my sister, who was five then. We had a small muddy dark pond in back
of our house, and there was a sort of stone walkway out to the middle
of it. Near the shore, the stones were stable - you could walk on them
safely. But the further out you went on the stones, the looser they became in
the deep mud."
Jesus' attention to her discourse had hardly been
complete during the last quarter hour. He had had such high hopes that
they would at least speak intimately, or that they would at least
exchange one glance penetrating the meaning of each other's eyes! But
whenever he made an effort to deepen the conversation she unnoticingly
(uncaringly?) made a quick hard mental swerve back into her rather dull
"On the shores of the pond across from where the
rocks were, we had stood a bunch of bottles. Well, we'd each take turns
walking as far out onto the rocks as we dared, and from there we'd throw
tiny pebbles at the bottles. Whoever hit them most after seven throws
won. So at the fourth throw she was ahead of me three-to-one, believe it or
not. (Now by this point I had of course realized that I was divine, but
no one else in my family know that.) Well I couldn't let her win;
beating someone four years older than her would be absurd. So at my fourth turn,
I walked straight out to the last rock - she was gaping in amazement -
and kept going. I walked across the surface of the water until I was four feet in front
of the bottles, then with my last three pebbles hit three of them,
making the score four-to-three, my favor."
Mary tittered and Jesus cringed. How foul wretchedly
unethical and cheap to use one's special gifts - and more
especially one's divine powers - to take advantage of other people! This Jesus had
solemnly vowed long ago never to do; no wrongdoing or crime seemed more
repulsive to him at that moment.
"Anyway my sister's reaction wasn't what I
expected. After gawking at me for a few seconds, she suddenly burst
into tears. I can understand it now; she must've been confused out of
her wits, and very frightened. She couldn't have seen anything so
bizarre before in her whole life. And I began to feel really guilty for scaring
her like that." Mary's voice had become grave, slower and it stopped
Jesus could feel his teeth grinding together in his
intense irritation with her.
"She never trusted me after that. For weeks she
never even came close to me. It was awful."
"Good! It was exactly what you deserved!"
Jesus' sudden outburst was a wounding surprise to her. His fierce
"That was a stupid thing to do - not to mention
unfair and simply wrong. If anyone did that to me, I'd never
want to associate with them again either!"
Mary had stopped walking and stared at him with the
assailed betrayed expression on her face masked in the darkness, but
"That was sick. I'm kind of amazed that I could
even be walking with someone who'd do something like that."
Mary's voice acquired an odd firmness and speed as
"Wait, pal! Don't pretend to be superior with
me. In case you've forgotten, we're both of the same divine lineage, but
just that we're on earth makes it inevitable that make a mistake once in
a while. I was still learning about people at that time - and I certainly
didn't know myself yet. I doubt if even now you know yourself any better
than I knew myself then, so don't start sounding superior. Oh remember:
I've seen you naked - don't start sounding superior, Jesus."
The electric cage of their anger refused to release
"Mary, you are contemptible! You are below
contempt, in fact. I haven't the faintest idea how I could have agreed to
talk with you - I don't even like you."
"No!" She shouted back, "You never
did, and I probably knew that. You're just a poor lost confused fearful divine child
trapped in the Oedipal conflict."
"Oh come on, Jesus. The only reason you were
ever drawn to me at all is because I have the same name as your mother. I
reminded you of her, that's all. You needed acceptance from me because you
never got enough of it from her. It's the classic Oedipal conflict,
that's all your feelings toward me ever consisted of - I can see that now,
it's so obvious."
"And if you were any less subtle I'd predict
that you're going to have other women in you life named Mary also."
A moment of silent head-shaking, then Mary removed
herself from Jesus' vision. He stared after her for a few minutes, then
turned. He noticed that the moon had completely gone also. In the
pitch-black night the river announced itself with the steady sounds of flowing
water, and Jesus slowly walked in the opposite direction.
"Do I know where Joseph the Carpenter lives?
Kid, a'far's I know, there's only one carpenter in this town and his
name's Daniel. Or Matthew. Oh, I don't know, maybe it's Peter - but
it's definitely not something as common as Joseph. Now do you wann buy
something, or did you just come in here to ask me questions?"
Jesus scanned the shelves: A heap of potatoes alive
with green shoots reaching into each other to form vegetable webs;
garlic buds blackened, some completely petrified; several heaps of ashy
powder; further down, several different cups filled with seeds. A small,
fat woman wrapped in pillowy white clothes glanced out from behind the
shelves at him, with bother her eyes set above curved blue puffs of skin,
and her lips looking like a fat slug that had been sliced in half.
"I think I just came to ask you question."
But the road began to look familiar after a couple
more miles. No, it began to feel familiar; Jesus' feet upon the sharp
gravel had become gashed, and with his blood dirt and dust had formed a
stickly plaster between his toes. Jesus sat on the road to examine
"Damn this road is rough! Why the heck do I
always forget to wear my shoes?"
During his last night at the Temple, Jesus' eyes
didn't once close to shut out the world. The darkness entered
through his open window with the sounds of crickets and mockingbirds,
covering his bare supine body with dew, and he wondered what it would be like
returning home after this almost two decade absence. He hoped it would be like
re-living the past - stepping into the memories just as they were, only
with him aged many years and now more able to shape and interpret his
situations. He hoped that he could walk though the setting of his past and resolve
and amend and re-draw in his mind the past itself. This desire was perfectly
understandable; all his life he had felt chained to the past, and somewhat
imprisoned by it. His history was a cruel mind-warden who dictated all of
the future: Jesus wondered if the only time he was really free wasn't
his very first hour on the planet. Taking a retrospective view of his life,
it was sometimes as if he had never had a retrospective view of his life, it
was sometimes a if he had never had anything to do with his existence -
had he? - and sometimes it appeared that he had never really
existed at all until the exact present. The latter idea, if it were true,
wouldn't be so abject - the past was a terrible contamination to the purity
of his life. If only he could have a crippling case of amnesia! To be able
to ask himself, Who am I? and not have his memories provide so much of
the answer, and in such an impersonal, if not formulaic way. (Jesus had
observed that his memories tended to consist almost entirely of images of past
events and actions, but without the enhancement of the emotional values which
in normal life constituted so much of the experiences. He could
remember having done things, for example, but how he felt when he did them
- the most salient feature of the experiences while they happened - was
information that his memory failed to betray. His emotions in his memory
were at most vague colorings of the experiences.) But although his
personal history was a sometimes ruthless, sometimes tormenting despot over
Jesus' life and he often wanted to be free from it, he also felt
dependent on it; it was from the ungraspable rope of the past that Jesus was
dangled over the turbid pool of the present, but it was only in the past that
he could see his reflection, however distorted it was. Horrible! There
were times when he felt that the only way to escape from the past would
be to completely escape from himself: Jesus would sit in the grassy
field a couple of miles away from the Temple and look wistfully at the lofty
lush green trees with their softly rustling branches and wish that he could
just live as one of them, without any thoughts or feelings at all. Jewish
religious rites could accomplish temporary and partial deprivation of his
unique self-ness and so could allow him brief flights from the past, but it
occurred to him that night that the time he felt most free from the past
was that day at the river, feeling death breath at his mouth and inhale
his breath. These considerations, especially the question of hot it
would feel to return to his home town and how it might alter his
self-experience and his perspective on his memories, kept Jesus
from sleep the entire night. Moreover, there was a
raging poker game in the next room, and Jesus wanted to stay up and find out
who would win.
As the young graduate of the Temple of Jerusalem
neared the end of the road where his father's house was, he recalled those
earlier questions and problems and was puzzled and a bit disappointed to
realize that although he was now home, no new light was shed on them. What a
black-curtained subject the past, and how deceptive its revelations!
But when Jesus finally stood before the house where
nearly two decades ago he had lived, he found himself breathless in
"It stands exactly as it did so long ago! Not
the slightest change has taken it.."
Well...the front door had been painted pine tree
green instead of red, one of the chimneys had crumbled to nothing but a
heap of rust-colored dust on the roof, in the back yard a cluster of small
squalid huts had sprung from the earth like mushrooms, the windows on the
front of the house had all been boarded up, and at the side of his childhood
home where the barn once stood was a rather large heap of back coals,
something like the remains of a funeral pyre. But Jesus smiled at all
this with genuine appreciation.
After entering the gloomy dismal house and waking his
father, the two men dragged large blocky wooden chairs out to where
the ashes of the barn remained as a monument to their past. Joseph
explained absent-mindedly that he usually did most of his cooking there,
holding bits of meat over the flames with small spears, or putting fresh eggs
in the dust near the coals, which he re-stoked every morning. The two men
sat beside each other in the initial slightly uncertain silence
typical to reunions, and when the wind began blowing
the small fire's smoke in the other direction Jesus was able to see how much
his father had changed over the years: His hair had become grey and
thinner and it now hung in long, greasy vines over his waxy complexion.
His manner was less precise, with his hands making unnecessary twitching
movements and his feet shifting nervously. His eyes, once distant and
uncaring, were now simply oblivious. He seemed only to look at his son once or
twice during their conversation, and only in rapid glances, as one looks
up from a book when there's a noise.
"So how's mother? I noticed she wasn't in the
same room where you were sleeping...?" Jesus heard the observation
come from his lips and shrunk inwardly in embarrassment; if there was
anything that Joseph was sensitive about it was his failing relationship with
Mary. His father's mouth tensed as he stared at the thick shred of meat
he held just above the small yellow flames.
"Mary..." He pronounced the name as if it
were an experiment with sound, or a code word he'd just been told and was
confirming to himself.
"Yeah, I forgot that you don't know. Well, a
while after you left of the school I guess she...didn't see much reason for
staying around here so she left too. Went to Munich - I think that's where she
went." Joseph the Carpenter turned the meat thoughtfully, watching the
flames blow it sparkle as juice dripped into them. "Business got kind
of bad around here. I lost the use of my leg for a while and couldn't do any big
jobs. Couldn't make much money, so
I guess I just didn't have enough to
give her anymore. My leg got better, pretty much, but she never found out.
I never knew where or how to contact her."
Jesus watched the man's eyes for a moment as they
frail light of the fire, then turned away.
"I'm sorry to hear that. I'm sure if she knew
you were better she'd want to come back to you."
"No." the aging man was shaking his head,
"Let's not talk about her. So," he brightened up, "Let's have a look
at your diploma."
Jesus smiled and removed from his knapsack a small
Unscrewing the ivory lid, he pridefully extracted the
decorated paper and held it to his earthly father.
"Now look at that! Very pretty Jesus, very
nice." He admired the artfulness of it, and being a carpenter respected its
craftsmanship. "I wonder how they managed to
press those leaves on to it so neatly and got them to stay like that."
"Oh, no Dad, that's ink."
"It's ink, Dad. They painted the leaves on with
Jesus' father looked abashed, and didn't know what to
say. "Ink, huh?
'Hm, I knew someone named 'Ink' once. He said he
could sell me something hat would cure my weakness. But by the time my
friends returned after picking it up for me it..." Here Joseph glanced
with an odd look of surprise at Jesus. "Well never mind, that's old
The puny smoking yellow flames laughed in a mocking
cackle at the old man's discomfort.
"Well, so now that you're finally done with
school, what's gonna happen with your life? What'll you be doing?"
"Well," Jesus rolled up the diploma,
"It's my hope that I'll be able to bring some light to the people of our part of the
world who haven't found much happiness - who've been mislead in their
pursuit of earthly, vulgar pleasures, and who've mistaken their ignorant
ways as only the only ways available to them. I want to show people that
God wishes the best for them - provided they're not Persian - and that his
best is something He offers everyone, however grim the world seems to
Joseph was silent for a minute. "Ah. Yeah."
He drew the meat towards him, hand-over-hand bringing the end of the
stick in. "You know, this is really good meat. You can't get anything
finer in this area. Have you had anything yet today? Like to share it with
"Dad, I'm famished."
The leathery, smoky-tasting meat resisted the efforts
of Jesus' teeth. "I bet you'd like some salt."
"Oh, no. Don't get up. Couldn't you call Franz
to get it for us? Where is the boy, anyway?"
Jesus sensed immediately that he had again misspoken.
"Damn kid, he shirked on me too. He went with
your mother when she left. I think she might've got the idea
to leave from
him, in fact. I don't mind, I'll go get the salt."
Jesus watched his father walk back into the house.
There was no dignity left in that walk, and little strength; with
each step, his spine seemed to fall slightly lower over his feet, then
every dozen paces Joe would creak it back upright. That was more the walk
of a weary servant than a man who had once been a successful carpenter
and the trusted upbringer of God's child. Jesus was touched by his
plight and wanted to show him that his life hadn't been wasted, and that
his efforts to be a good person had influenced another man to take the
same path. But how could he do that? It wasn't true, for one thing;
Joe's life had essentially been wasted (in the sense that Joseph
himself didn't view it as at all accomplished or fulfilled), and his
efforts in life had had nothing to do with Jesus'
decision to pursue pure goodness. If indeed there had been such a decision
made; one might wonder if Jesus, being the very son of God, had an amount of
free will equal to most humans'. Besides, what could 'pure
other such ideas mean to a simple carpenter? Could he even conceive of
them? Jesus couldn't reward his simple earthly father with a practically
hollow idea. He puzzled over this while gazing into the weak flames,
descendent of powerful inferno that had consumed the barn where he was born.
Soon he turned to see Joseph approaching with a container of salt and
two cups of water.
The two chewed solemnly. And chewed solemnly. They
chewed solemnly until it seemed as if they'd never stop. Jesus felt
uncomfortable in their conversationlessness - not just because there was no
sound to mask the outrageously loud mansorious sounds of his father,
but also because Joe's silence seemed deliberate, as if
signaling that it
was already time for Jesus to leave. Even if that was what the older man
wanted, Jesus had been away too long to leave after exchanging only news.
"This is good meat, Dad. You know it's been ages
since I've had any - at the Temple we never really ate meat. Something
about the ruthless slaughter of beautiful and innocent
"It's not bad. This water tastes like it came
from a swamp, though."
"Dad," Jesus held out his hand, "Give
me your cup."
Bemused, Joseph obliged him. Jesus an instant later
handed it back to him.
"You made this cup. It's too good for that swamp
Joseph the Carpenter, entrusted guardian of God's
son, looked into the cup.
"Oh, look what you've done. Stolen my water from
me and given me foul plunk in return."
Joseph splashed the miraculously created wine onto
the flames in disgust, and they fizzed out under a sudden blast of
Seven days later - I use the term SEVEN DAYS to
denote a period of confused uncertainty, as the writers of
"Genesis" did - Jesus was sitting at his escritoire trying to write about his baptism.
It was an obscure subject, since frankly he couldn't even remember it
happening, but he assumed that it must've been an important point in
his religious growth.
And more than that, he had floated in the holy water
as a baby so he knew he wasn't a witch.
Jesus wondered about how to begin this composition
aloud: "In the beginning was the Word, and...no wait. In the
beginning was the title, then my name, and then the date. Okay, I have all
that. So, in the beginning after all that was the Word. Oh, God, what
was the Word? It had something to do with, Good, I think. Good. Or was it
Goad? Goad - good. Good goad, what am I saying? In the beginning was the
Word, and that Word was...God! It's hot in here."
Jesus leaned over to the window, and pushed open the
shutter. His motion was so swift and strong that the window pane
fell out onto the hard ground below and shattered. Jesus moved his proud
lighted face out the window and stared down at the myriad fragments of
The glittering crystals reminded him of something, so
for a dew minutes he stared at them blankly with his nose twitching
"Psst! Hey, fella!"
Hearing the somehow too familiar, sly-sounding voice,
Jesus turned away from the window. The door at the back of
his room was still closed, and there was no one in his room. He began to
walk over to look underneath his bed, but...
"I'm out here." He poked his head out the
window again, and saw a figure - a silhouette, really - leaning against the
outside wall of the building smoking a long thin cigarette.
"Who are you?"
The man let the cigarette fall from his fingers, then
shrugged his shoulders minutely.
"'Hm. What's it to you?"
Jesus thought about this, then answered,
"Nothing, I guess."
Jesus sat back down. "How can I do this....In
the beginning, there was God, I've gotten that far. So, after God...no! In
the beginning there was the Word, dammit, not God. Now what was the word?
Was it something to do with drinking? Oh, I just don't remember. Maybe it
wasn't a word at all. Maybe it was just a symbol, or a tune. Yes! In
the beginning, there was the Tune, and -"
Not hiding his vexation, Jesus returned to the
window. "Yes? What do you want?"
The figure stepped away from the wall, and closer to
Christ - maybe I should say he took a step toward God - and Jesus was
horrified with the phantom before him. His eyes were red and glowing
under his brown felt hat, and his mouth was fixed in a misty
that hardly held two rows of yellow cracked teeth in place. His moustache
was brown with touches of grey, and full. One of his cheeks was
sunken, and the other was like the cheek of a trumpet player, puffing with air
as he talked, and deflating in between phrases. His neck was wrapped in
a red wool scarf, and he wore a dark overcoat which covered his entire
body, except for his black leather-shoed feet.
"Heh. I never told you who I was, Jesus."
"Okay. Who are you?"
The figure stared at him for a moment, with those
eerie luminous knowing eyes, then reached into his coat
pocket. The silver of the cigarette case glimpsed the light. The
character stared at Jesus as he lit another cigarette.
Strangely, Jesus didn't notice a lighter in the person's hand, and for an
instant he thought he saw motion in the character's shadow, as if a dark curve
had appeared behind his legs and then vanished again.
"Have I even met you before?"
"Heh. I wouldn't put it that way."
"Well who are you?"
The character exhaled, and the smoke completely
masked him for an instant. He coughed.
"I'm a salesman."
"Oh! That's noble profession, mister..."
"What the hell are you talking about? It's a
sleazy profession. All I do is deceive people, trick them into spending money
on worthless things. I ruin innocent people with the deals I offer them. I
send families into miserable squalor with my deals. Jesus, I've got a
deal for you."
The view from the peak of the mountain was worth the
long, tiring walk. Far in the distance, like a mirror, stood
another solid huge mountain with a sharp, white-streaked peak, gilt by
the melting orange sun as it went down. A valley stretched between the two
peaks, alive with all the life of the earth; shepherds lead their grey,
small packs over hilly green meadows between thin, icy streams; small
villages scattered the area, their clusters of houses quiet and inactive at the
end of the day, releasing steady puffs of smoke into the sky as
bakers prepared bread for evening meals; a grey eagle stroked the clouds with
his long elegant wings, and moved in breath-taking curves over the land. Jesus' eyes were wide as
he stood trying to absorb the vast detailed panorama.
"Oh, of course, it's beautiful. But I still
don't see why you brought me up here."
"Heh..." The strange character, who stood
with his back to all the charming sights below, lit another cigarette.
"Kid, I'll give you all of this. I mean, you can have it. All
you gotta do, boy, is kneel down and worship me. Just once. Do it,
and all that you see before you is yours forever."
Jesus turned, and frowned at the man. "Come on.
What do you think gives you the right to offer me this? It's not even
yours. Who do you think you are, that you could make a deal like
The red glowing ember at the tip of his cigarette
burst into and umbrella frame of sparks.
"Kid, I'm the devil."
The clouds over the valley darkened.
"Oh, yeah right. Well then, Mr. Satan, I'm sorry
but your deal doesn't sound very legal to me. I mean hey, if you
were really the devil, you would have the ability to make such an offer
lasting, and if that were the case I might consider it. But this is just a joke
- you even told me earlier that you were a salesman - so excuse me.
I have to get back home now."
Not all people responded to Jesus as well as Mary,
the girl from his Temple days, did. When he first began
preaching the Word of God and all that, people tended to just stare at the Son
of God in uncomprehending blankness, or snicker, or frown and
walk away. Jesus' landlady got nothing from him but a lot of
frustration. She'd come to him to collect the rent on Sabbath, and he'd make all
sorts of wild justifications for not paying her, such as, "Oh,
I can't pay you today, I have to save the money for the poor." She'd
sigh, and try to explain to him that SHE was poor; why not give it to her for
that reason, if not for the use of her rooms? It was well known that he was
guilty of tax evasion also, and so the Romans especially found him
despicable and untrustworthy.
There were times when Jesus positively feared for his
life. His real father had begun refusing to answer his prayers, and
Jesus began to wonder if his dad hadn't gone deistic on him; had he fled
the universe, preferring some other location? If so, would that indicate that
God has a certain range to his hearing ability, a certain earshot, with
him not answering the prayers? He found this hard to believe, and so
assumed that Dad was just a little busy lately. Still, Jesus felt abandoned and
alone. He wondered what he could do to make himself feel more secure on
the earth, so that he could more fully devote himself to bettering the damn
Late one afternoon, Jesus was sitting in a park
smoking a pipe. A few dozen yards away from him, a person was lying on the
ground in total agony bleeding to death. Jesus was trying to interpret this
as he sat on a bench under the reddish light of the sinking sun, puffing
on the delectable leaf and attempting an occasional smoke-halo. The man
groaned repeatedly and Jesus wondered if there wasn't a particular word the
person was trying to mimic. He was thinking deeply about this when two
armed soldiers appeared at the park entrance.
As they came nearer, Jesus became nervous. Their
uniforms were dazzling compared with his feeble dirty robe, and
their manner was so much more graceful than his! They spotted the dying
miserable man, and as they strutted up to the poor fellow Jesus noticed the
scintillating insignias on their breasts identifying them as members of the
Samaritan Liberation Army. Jesus followed their movements fascinatedly.
"Hey Joe," the taller of the two began,
"Look what we got here: A erson lying on the ground in total agony bleeding to
"Nah," the other opined, "I think he's
just faking it."
"No, look at the guy. He's got knife wounds
across his chest. And that's real blood, by God. I know real blood when I
The two studied the figure silently for a moment,
with their expressions impassive. Then the wounded body moaned
again, more loudly. Surely it couldn't still see - perhaps the man just
felt the presence of the soldiers. Or perhaps he was now only moments away
"Hey Joe, I think he's trying to tell us
"Yeah. What're you trying to say, dying man? You
want a hospital?"
The two soldiers laughed.
"I think he wants a hospital, Joe. Okay fella,
we got a hospital for you! Haha..." The taller of the two grabbed the man's feet, and
with his companion walking alongside him, dragged the man out
of the park.
Jesus was profoundly struck by their compassion. More
than that, he realized what he could do to enable himself
to feel more secure in his mission on earth. He would hire soldiers to
protect him. The Apostular army - totalling only twelve soldiers -
was the least expensive band that had any respectability. Jesus
decided to employ the Twelve as his personal bodyguards.
Jesus loved fish. One afternoon, ravenous and worn
out from an afternoon of dictation from God, Jesus decided to go
to the fish store.
After a few minutes' walking, he glanced around and
notice that he was being followed by an ever-growing mob of pedestrians.
This made Jesus a trifle nervous - I daren't say paranoid - but at the
same time he was flattered. Looking at their eager, pursuing faces he
felt a certain warmth, and assured himself that no, they wouldn't
ask him to dance for them again. They weren't THAT selfish.
Jesus remembered how once as a child he was strolling
cheerfully along the stagnant canal near Joseph's home in which his
maids did the wash, and in which mosquito larvae coiled their tiny worm-like
bodies among the reeds and algae. At one point, he glanced into the murky,
turbid depths and saw a silvery, torpedo-shaped fish with glistening
scales. He knelt beside the canal and stared at the sleek elegant body: The
fluttering of its gills was so subtle, and its fins only moved in the shyest,
minutest ways, as if the fish were time itself, only passing by in the most
imperceptible, gradual motions. How different his impression of time was
then! It seemed so abundant and regular. Curious to see how the creature would react,
Jesus picked up a stick on the shore and pushed it gently through the
water at the fish's tail. Jesus gasped as the fish responded to the tap
by turning like a piece of wood upside down and floating to the surface
of the grimy water.
"Hey! Boy!" Jesus turned at the harsh, loud
voice. He saw Roberta, their huge bald glob of Negro maid, running
toward him in her flapping, soiled white dress and gripping a broom
with her stubby fingers.
"Hey! You pokin' at my dinna, boy! Outta hea
Jesus had insisted to his parents that night that
they let him eat fish too. Ever since then, it was delicious to
him. He went so far as a glue the silver outline of a fish's shape onto the
doors of his apartments - probably the only Christian tradition
that hasn't been spoiled at all since his time.
Jesus was comforted to discover that in the mob that
had formed around him his twelve Apostles - as they were fond of
calling themselves - had also grouped. They were strategically located in the
mass of people of course, and in such a way that if anyone were to toss
a javelin or sling a stone at their boss, they'd either be able to within
seconds capture the offender and protect what was left of their employer,
or if circumstances should so require abscond without falling under fire
themselves. (An observant person in the crowd - and that's purely
hypothetical - would've noticed that the Twelve were making signals to each
other by flapping their robes, tugging their beards, winking, stamping their
feet, and waving small flags.
Such was the ingenious secret language of theirs that
they were able at great distances from each other to coordinate their
movements, and form a well-nigh impenetrable security net.)
To his vast irritation Jesus learned from Satchel -
the fish store's owner - when he arrived at the place...
"Oh, Jesus, Jesus! We've only got two fish
today, and five loaves of bread! Oh, what shitty luck. The largest
crowd I've seen in years is out there!"
Jesus was alarmed: "Well you know that I was
here first, right?"
The man behind the counter - a midget, really -
frowned, sighed, folded his stout arms, leaned back on the
wall, shut his eyes, shook his head, touched his lip, then shouted:
"No I don't! I'm am honest man - a midget, really - and I don't know if you were
here first! Why should I give you the fish, and not them, eh?"
Jesus noticed his fingers forming a fist. Suddenly -
before he had time to protest - four of his Apostles jumped over
the counter and grabbed the midget fiercely, picked him up, and slammed him
against the wall.
"You were here first - I saw you come up before
Jesus couldn't enjoy the fish though, with all the
starved emaciated peasant faces surrounding him. He spat out
a cluster of bones:
"Oh, won't you all just go away!"
The dozens of didn't flinch. Someone at the edge of
the crowd scrawled Jesus' command onto a thin notepad with a
chip of coal, convinced that this fellow was going to write part two of the
Old Testament, or something equally dazzling; this stranger was
determined to publish "The Unheard Christ" and make a killing off it. Or at
least enough money to buy some fish.
Needless to say, Jesus became so flustered with the
onlookers of his lunch that he gave in and created hundreds of fish to
brush them away.
Saul Perseus - smoky black eyes, glowing white
carnation, black suit, handsome rough boxer's chin - sat in the observation
booth above the stage and looked down at the dynamic swarm of bodies in the
audience. It was contemptuous, the way he looked down at them - his
very height above the group allowed him that - but also, since he was the
manager of the Mount Club Theatre, it was a look of satisfaction. The
largest crowd he'd brought in in over a year! Saul glanced down at the list of
acts he's thoughtfully strung together for the evening:
Ding Chou the dancing Chinaman, Guido the dancing
Sicilian, Bo-bo the dancing penguin, and Jesus the Christ. That last one
had been especially difficult to schedule; there was an almost fanatic
following for that guy these days, and the Christ could afford to be very
discriminating in setting up his gigs. Still, his act was
amount of effort spent nailing it onto the billboard for upcoming events;
Jesus created the perfect synthesis of entertaining gags, asinine
humour, and heart-hitting profundities. It would be a splendid show at the
Mount that night!
"Sure I've heard of him before. He's the most
talented performer around," The man standing about ten feet before
the stage assured the traveler, who had been intrigued by the advertising
posters he'd seen pasted around town. "Since you're from Normandy
though, I wouldn't expect you to know about him. But he really challenges the
imagination, even defies human understanding."
"Is he really a Chinaman, or does he just wear a
"Someone agreed to go on after Bo-bo the
"You have a reservation for Miss
No check was necessary.
"Ah, yes good to see you, Madame."
The two-person table was adequately near to the
stage, and suitably distant from the frenzied fanatics flocking
just under it.
"Would you like a drink now, Madam, or do you
wish to wait for the honored gentleman?"
"Actually I'm alone tonight, Mahesh." Mary
Magdelene glanced up to make sure that the waiter's eyebrows leapt up his
forehead in surprise.
"And I'll have a Rainbow of Heaven right
away." Mary had figured out long ago that no one with any high style orders drinks
that actually exist.
"A what, Madame?"
"Just make the drink, Mahesh."
All eyes looked on the stage at the appearance of the
"So that's what a Chinaman looks like,
"I guess so."
"Are there many of them in these parts?"
"No. I've only seen one before, and he was being
"There aren't any up in Normandy, I assume?"
The traveler paused, then cursed, "There ain't
shit up in Normandy."
"Did you know they're trying to get Bo-bo to
have children so that they can form a dance troop?"
"Where are they getting the other
"They don't have any, so they're trying to get
him to mate with chickens."
Mary's faith had recently been revitalized. Her
astrologer had told her that she would soon meet a pure, heavenly
Capricorn in a crowded smoky shadowed room and that this Capricorn would enter her
life with a joyous message, with a hand touching her life like rays of
sunlight, and with badly gashed feet from his arduous journey. It was a
thrilling prediction, and Mary had pursued this figure ardently - almost
ferociously - though that was typically detrimental according to real
astrologers. Of course, Mary couldn't believe that the behavior of a human
could alter life's greater designs, and moreover she had always been one to pursue things for
herself, rather than sitting in hopeful desuetude with her fingers
touching her hem and her face spilling emotional poverty onto the front window's
reflection of her eyes, themselves just reflections. This ambition of course
wasn't quite the fashion for women in her day, and a slanderous
reputation of whore-ishness quickly beclouded her. Fine. People had a right to
deceive themselves in whatever way they preferred. For Mary, life was
something that the living participated in actively - at the risk of death.
The progressive woman tasted her grog-enhanced
chablis kind of thing while staring over at the stage. Guido the dancing
Sicilian was bowing between quick backwards steps off the stage in the
thick enthused applause; his performance had been a delicious blend of
athletic feats and artistic strokes, and now he was retreating to the dressing
room to recover from mistakes that probably only he had noticed, and to
celebrate his new closeness to a truly valuable opportunity in his
career. Mary watched him with some appreciation, but also with expectation of
something for more dazzling. And expectation it really was - she could
almost sense a dramatic turn of fate. An anticipatory chill passed
though her in combination with the perhaps chemically unstable
Rainbow of Heaven.
Saul watched the brainwashed-looking penguin toddle
to centerstage with the accompaniment of a piano's
climbing scale of legato, harp-like tones. At the peak of the scale, at the eye
of the stage, there was silence and stillness. The penguin croaked like a
hungry frog, and the piano began a soft waltz. To the delight of the
audience, the bird refused to respond to this with his white flipper-like wings
or his webbed feet, but instead simply made several more frog-like
sounds. Bo-bo then fell forward like a chopped tree to slap the floor of the
stage with its beak and a soft clap. There was genuine laughter from the
audience but the pianist broke off the tune, and seconds later a man
raced onto the stage to gather the heap of feathers into his arms. He stared
into the face of the obviously talented bird distraught, then shot a cold
accusing glare into the crowd, which returned his hateful expression with
The penguin's bereft owner raced off the stage in
humiliation, and with a frown Saul scratched an X over the penguin's name on
his list of acts.
Great. Now unless the next act is really spectacular,
all those heartless people will be demanding refunds.
"Another drink, Madame?"
Mary stared in deepest awe at the figure on the
stage. That was no pyrotechnic trickery that glowed and shimmered around
the white-robed, youthful body of Christ; his form was alight with a
nimbus of pure, godly truth, and she was entranced. His heavy diamond eyes
poured love onto the audience and they were silent in admiration. His
voice, so flattering to the ears, was serene and withdrawn from the world -
but so strongly present that when he began to speak the walls of the Mount
Club shook, and a weak ceiling beam fell like a hammer from its fixtures to
strike Mary Magdelene on the head full-force. So enthralled in Jesus the
woman had been - she failed to notice this, and her pimp had trouble convincing her of the
disaster when she regained consciousness several days later.
"Oh Madame...let me help that off your lovely
hair. Oh, but how perfect you are when you're unconscious."
Saul sat quietly alone in the observation booth above
the stage as the audience absorbed the words of Jesus with excited
cheers of joyous understanding. Despite the loud enthusiasm and vigor
of the audience's reactions, they seemed to have a certain order to
them, as if not just the speech that Christ gave but also the people's
reactions to it had been prewritten. The crowd returned the energy of the
speaker to him augmented, and this superb emotion he showered back onto them.
Saul witnessed changes in the people below him; the same crowd that had
exploded with laughter when the penguin fainted or (hopefully) died on the stage was listening to
ideas on how to live in peace with one's neighbors and in honor of God and
His world. Not merely hearing the simple scintillating words, they had
already begun to practice the ideas and were enraptured by the glorious
results. And Saul had brought this man into their lives by booking him at
the club. Saul smiled at the thought of it.
Jesus concluded his sermon and the people before him
worshipped the Son of God with praise - not in the undignified,
self-derating kind of worship - and Saul straightened his back and adjusted
his collar. The audience had begun to move onto the stage. In the
box, he found himself standing as the people surrounded Jesus and held out
their hands to him and knelt. Saul stepped eagerly to the edge of the box
and reached out his hands and - they touched the air. Losing his proud
smile he quickly retracted his hands and fell back into his seat. He -
with his deep onyx eyes, white carnation, dark black immaculate suit, handsome boxer's chin - watched them
smother him - with his shabby beard and white robe - with all that love
and adoration. He turned his chin and spat on the floor of the mostly
empty observation booth.
People had begun to clear the stage. Individually and
in small clusters the crowd broke apart until finally Jesus
removed himself from the affectionate droves of his fans, and only two men
remained on the stage.
They stood close to each other and spoke in calm
voices which were nearly inaudible to Saul. But still he felt, as if he were
part of their group, that they shared his isolation inside the empty club,
where moments ago people had congregated in terrific numbers to
celebrate the wisdom of the Christ. Despite Saul's spatial distance from the two
men - the two quiet strangers - below him, there was almost an intimacy
here. And when the two men left the club separately Saul's sense of
aloneness was acute; all those cheers and all that earlier laughter didn't leave the
slightest echo and the total silence was almost dream-like.
The elegantly dressed manager of the Mount Theatre
Club walked down onto the empty stage and looked over the interior of
his place. All the candles were still lit and their dim heatless
off-white light revealed tables cluttered with dishes and glasses and
reflecting spills. Empty chairs were overturned and pushed aside on the
unswept wooden floor. Saul stared up at the large, torch-sized candles surround
by shiny metal dishes that threw their flickering radiance onto the stage.
With a sudden impulse, Saul strode to the very center of the stage
and, his pillar-strong back erect, his shoulders raised, he extended his
right hand before him in a gesture of impotance and adjured thunderously:
"Love thy neighbor! Yes, you peasants scoundrels and thieves - love him! For
he is you, though you be too blind to see it. Love thy neighbor, for his is
good, and..." The make-believe speaker's hand fell back to his side and
his face, as quickly as one appears in a mirror, turned to the stage exit:
There had been a sound. Saul climbed down from the stage intent that
no one should see him there and dutifully began neatening the mess the
place had been put into. He distastefully - conscious of his own distaste -
threw glasses plates and silverware into a large cart that he maneuvered
between the displaced furniture. He wiped off the table tops with a
stained, soaked rag of filth then blew out each candle. Every night Saul
made a point of letting one candle stay lit, however, and after finishing his
demeaning work he would stand at the club's exit with the keys in his
hand and look over at the slight speck minutely shining in the corner of
the large vacant space.
Its weak light fell only on the objects about four
feet around it, bouncing fragilely on the surface of the single table and on
the shellacked thin arches and back supports of the chairs, making them
look like the fossilized skeletons of bizarre animals that had
died kneeling down. Between Saul and that one candle there was
About to leave, the swarthy and good-looking man
wondered what that Jesus fellow was doing right now. Almost certainly
dining with dozens of his raving shouting gleeful worshippers, he assumed.
But when Saul opened the door to leave he envisioned
Jesus - in his mystical coruscating glow - standing right there in
front of him.
"You're Saul Perseus, right? Glad I found you.
I, uh...wanted to thank you for booking me here tonight - the
performance was a real success."
"Oh, yeah, I'd say so too."
A short silence.
"Well I was just about to go by myself to get a
late-night lunch. Do you know of any places near here? Want to come?"
"Oh sure, I'd like that. Let me just lock up,
He stepped through the door and did just that.
"I want the biggest, most beautiful temple in
The architects had just frowned. The only theme, or
motif, that was acceptable to this Jesus character was his
own self. One of the younger architects had brainstormed on this puzzle,
though, and come up with an idea: If you take a normal cross, but raise
the horizontal bar, it becomes anthropomorphic. Not too loudly human-like;
tastefully, subtly so.
Because they wanted Jesus' exact measurements, they
had him stand before two planks of wood - one horizontal, one
vertical - while they marked them with chalk where they were to be sawn.
But whenever they tried drawing the marks, Jesus would twitch in fear of
having the chalk mark his skin.
"Good god," The head carpenter spoke in
some very thick, incomprehensible jargon that he knew Jesus couldn't
fathom. "This guy's a fish! Antchel, do something to keep him from
twitching like that. I can't measure right with him twitching like
Ah, Antchel wasn't so bright but he was a swift
worker. He had Jesus' twitching limbs nailed to the planks securely in less
than a minute. Jesus didn't twitch any longer. But how baffled Antchel was
when within minutes crowds of Jesus fans had flocked around their
workspace with tears flowing, and sobs and shrieks! The head carpenter turned to
them all and snarled: "Get away! Can't you see we're trying to