From What a Friend We Have in…The EnChristlopedia!
Altitude in Mile High City made Jesus a ¼ C. holy water short of being the Messiah, so he made a list of all the people who had really screwed him over royally. These were less forgiving days before eternity had softened the edges. He settled on a group of Jamaican movers who’d pulled a bait and switch on him outside Miami.
But Florida was too far to travel for revenge. Better to stay local in Colorado. He finally answered an ad in the Post to be a home school bully for an Abecedarian family in the valley. He called the number and the mother explained the situation. She was a librarian who worked nights at a seminary, stoking the cocoa for a group of night owl ministers-to-be. This left her days to her lone child, the product of a single night of passion between herself and a prizefighting man of the cloth who dinged her and left her bell-shaped. Jesus strained to listen to her sob story high atop a double black diamond on his mobile. After spending the morning shushing down the slopes letting his blood boil, he racked his skis, cracked his knuckles and drove to the door of a slender house on the corner. He knocked abruptly.
Cloudy weather always put him in a foul mood. His hair was matted down from the rain. A well kempt woman answered the door.
“Didn’t mean to keep you waiting,” she said, inviting him inside. She called out in a stage whisper over her shoulder to her son, Gus.
“Entering a house,” Jesus said, interrupting, “I usually have someone wash my feet. I’ll let it slide this time, but I hope your son is ready because I brought all my rage and I am itching to scrap.”
Fran, Gus’s mother, watched as Jesus wiped his feet on the mat and rolled up his flannel sleeves under the shroud. The water wicked off his elbows. She paused and looked at the man in the white gown.
“Gus, honey,” she whispered, “this is Jesus. I have asked him to come into our home to give you a special lesson to help with your transition into public school. Your life is in His hands now, and I have invited him inside to take over.”
“Hold on there,” Jesus said. “I’d like a proper introduction. You know like they do in the fights on HBO: ‘In this corner . . .’ in a strident tone. I wrote out a little something. All you have to do is read.”
Jesus handed Fran a small note card. As she cleared her throat, he shadowboxed and hopped from foot to foot around Gus, chuffing like a train.
“In this corner,” Fran feigned in her best ring announcer’s tone, “hailing from the year zero and fighting out of Colorado by way of the Judean flats, weighing in at 260 pounds with a record of 700 wins and 666 knockouts and 5 losses, author of Adam, beatified Bethlehamian, crucifixiest of Christmas-card couriers, dominating driver of demons, eternal emperor of the Easter egg, forever flattener of faulting fatties, gospel grappler, high holyman of heiney-hurting—is this really necessary?”
“Just keep reading,” Jesus said.
“Keeper of the Kabbalah of KOs,” she continued, in a much lower tone, “marauding multiplier of mountains and molehills, nasty Nero-negater, original obliterator of oily onanists, pugilistic prince of perfection.” Fran paused. “It just says, here ‘think of one for Q.” She continued: “Rock-ribbed rabbinical rabble-rouser, the Sunday stunner, the triple-threat-throwing, TKO-flowing, Trinitarian-knowing, unswerving, unyielding, usurping, undisputed vindicator of whiners, xeriscapes, and yarmulkes… Zion’s zero-tolerance zealot…Jeeeeeeesus.
“Keep your guard up, son,” Gus’s mother said. “Defend yourself like I should you.”
“Let’s be friends, first,” Jesus said and extended his hand to Gus who accepted the gesture with a forlorn look, but it was already too late as Jesus jerked the hand, knocking Gus off-balance, and then sprung into the boy, hooking his leg and sending him down to the ground where the Son of Man wrenched him into a headlock that made Gus wheeze.
“Maybe you should listen to your mother, Gus,” Jesus said. “How are you going to survive public school if you can’t even duel like a gentleman?”
“No, that’s not dueling,” Gus said. “You ambushed me. Dueling is when the other guy take a shot at the same time you do. It’s about honor, not surprise.”
“Oh,” Jesus said, squeezing the headlock tighter. “So you’re saying I don’t have honor?”
“Pivot your hips,” Gus’s mother whispered. “You can roll him, Gus.”
“Quiet, mother,” Gus wheezed. “Let me fight my own battles.” But before Gus could say another word, Jesus dragged him by the head into the bathroom. He lowered the boy’s giant dome into the ceramic bowl and held him under until he couldn’t hear bubbles. Then he flushed.
“Resign,” Jesus asked and the boy nodded, blurting a high pitched “yes” into the empty bowl so it echoed.
Satisfied, Jesus led him back into the room where they sat and ate a reasonable lunch. The mother explained over orange slices that since Gus’s real father was gone, the boy needed a strong male role model and she spent the afternoons reading from examples found in the good book. That day was Noah and she asked if Jesus would testify a little on his journey. He agreed, but when she handed him the book, he waved it off and spoke with his eyes closed.
“They had already loosed the animals and seen the rainbow,” Jesus said. “But the son was lazy, spent the whole trip whittling wooden figures–nothing much to do on an ark at night but listen to animals bray in heat. Now he stands outside the tent, watching his brothers walk in backwards with that cloak over their heads. The son remembers that camel they left behind with too many humps, the pair of joined eagles falling along the mountainside, mating. Noah exiles him for peeping. The son’s note in the cloak’s pocket goes unread later: Dear Dad, sorry for laughing at your balls. No hard feelings. This all gets glossed in translation, Gus. The Hebrew word for gonad is not as close as it sounds to nomad in English.”
“Usually,” the mother explained, interrupting, “we stick to the text or would it be better to reserved this time for quiet post-lunch contemplation?” But Jesus ignored her pleas, told her Bible study was under B.S. in the Dewey decimal system for a reason.
“Verily,” he continued, “I saw my own father naked once when I was seven. Mother shoved us into the shower, both dusty from yard work and late for 5:30 service. I had only taken baths before. He stood in the back of the tub and gave me a subway nod as I stepped in.
“We both faced forward until he made me spin around to get the shampoo off my scalp. ‘Keep spinning,’ he said, pulling my shoulder. I got dizzy and slipped. From the floor, I saw his scrotum hanging like a small red garbage bag half-filled with grass. He turned off the water and pulled the curtain. My own balls were hidden in my cavity, held high by a talon of muscle.
“‘You still got grass in your hair,’ I think he said. If he cursed, it was nothing memorable.
“‘Z’ounds?’” offered the boy.
“Z’ounds indeed,” Jesus said.
Patrick Crerand lives, writes, and teaches in Florida. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Tarpaulin Sky, and other magazines.