Cosmic Charlie
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson

The Charlie Effect
by Keith Campbell

Cosmic Charlie
by Island Girl

Cosmic Charlie
by Misha

KamiCosmic Charlie
by Colin Campbell

Sea Foam
by Swagman

Cosmic Charlie
by Jeffrey P. McManus

Holy Lunch
by Aidan Butler


to Swagazine


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 don't."

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 anything."

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 clothes nervously.

"Oh, shit. Did I leave it in there? Oh! Here it is."

Ted held the sack up in the soft shifting moonlight proudly.

"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 missing."

"Okay fine, but what did John say about the stuff?"

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 said!"

The two watched Ted pass slowly into the night, feeling a little short-changed, for whatever reason.

"What a dummy. We had a right to know what the guy said."

"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 know-"

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 sundown.

"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 built.

"This is great. Are you sure you want to give it to joe?"

"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 quotes:

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 see."

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 us."

"Then I don't want to keep him."


"Let's get rid of him before he gets old enough to remember where we live."

"Oh, Mary..."

"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 for nothing."

"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 confused me."

"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 it."

"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 fully now?"

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 her?"

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 that bad."

"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 peace then..."

"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 unteachable know-it-alls.  

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 re-incarnated 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 Mary."

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, 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 would..."

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 history now?

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 confident.

"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 reminiscence.

"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 momentarily.

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 vehemence continued:

"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 somehow felt.

"Jesus, what...?"

"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 she replied.

"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 them.

"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."

"The what?!"

"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."  

"Good God..."

"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 his feet.

"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 amazement.

"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 reflected the  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 scroll tube.

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 ink."

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 history."

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 us."

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 me?"

"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 goodness' and 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 creatures..."

"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 water."

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 steam.


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, 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 glass.

The glittering crystals reminded him of something, so for a dew minutes he stared at them blankly with his nose twitching slightly.

"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! 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 -"

"Psssst! Hey!"

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 sinister smile 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.

"Like it?"

"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 that?"

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 place.

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 death."

"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 see it."

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 from death...?

"Hey Joe, I think he's trying to tell us something."

"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 right now!"

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 them!"

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 worth any 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 costume?"

"Someone agreed to go on after Bo-bo the penguin? Gutsy."


"And stupid."

"You have a reservation for Miss Magdelene...?"

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."

"Yes, Madame."

All eyes looked on the stage at the appearance of the first performer.

"So that's what a Chinaman looks like, huh?"

"I guess so."

"Are there many of them in these parts?"

"No. I've only seen one before, and he was being tortured."

"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 penguins?"

"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 uproarious laughter.  

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 featureless shadow.

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, okay?"

He stepped through the door and did just that.


"I want the biggest, most beautiful temple in the world!"

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 that!"

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 work?"