I picked Jesus up from the hospital where Cindy worked. He was in a corner of the basement with his hand broken off and his paint chipped, covered with dust, and I thought that had to be a sin. She planned to make him a new hand and paint him and return him to a place of honor. The maintenance man helped me carry him to my pickup. I wrapped his body in a blanket and left his face free so he could see the heavenly blue sky rushing overhead.
I stopped at a McDonald’s drive-thru, and the kid asked me if that was Jesus, and I said, Yes, and he would like a free super-size, and we got that with no charge.
I put him in the corner of the kitchen, where the light from the glass doors would be good for painting. He had shoulder-length hair parted in the middle, a neatly trimmed beard. He had blue eyes. I looked into them for a glimmer of life, but they were dull. He wore a red tunic over a white robe. He had a golden sash. On his chest was the bleeding heart. He had his left hand over it. The hand had a bloody hole. The other hand, which was missing, was probably meant to be outstretched. He looked good standing there in the kitchen.
I got the Windex and paper towels and did a head to toe. When I was on my knees, I thought, Here I am washing Jesus’s feet with Windex. I did his back and found a quarter-sized hole, something to do with the mold. I dropped a quarter in, but he didn’t do anything.
Cindy had her paints and brushes on a little cart, and some putty for fixing blemishes. We filled the nicks and drank some red wine while it dried. We sanded a little and had some more wine. She got to work painting. Jesus was looking good, shining, like there was a light within.
She bent the wire and sculpted the clay over it. She fashioned fingernails with a little tool. Then she baked it in the oven. When the hand was done, she glued it on. She told me to hold it tight until it dried. I swear it warmed.
In the morning Cindy put finishing touches on the hand. She put shellac on his eyes to make them shine. She pecked my cheek. I promised to mow the lawn. After she left, I poured my Sugar Pops. There was not enough. I pouted. The box overflowed onto the table, Pops everywhere. I ate one big bowl, then ran out of milk. When I rinsed the bowl, milk flowed from the faucet. I ate two more bowls while looking at him.
I lay on the couch while my gut rumbled. I heard the back door open. When I looked, Jesus was gone. He was coming out of the shed with my rusty scythe, swinging through the overgrowth. He looked to the sky a lot, raising that new hand of his. A couple clouds moved in and he split them so the rays burst through. I started out but then saw my neighbor Mrs. Cox on her lawn looking over, hands on her hips.
When he was done, he went back into the shed. I went out, waving to Mrs. Cox. He had found the cigarettes I hid from Cindy and was having one.
“What are you doing?” I said.
He blew smoke rings. “What does it look like?” One ring circled his head like a halo, and he laughed. His voice was not a good Jesus voice. It was high pitched with a crack. “It can’t hurt me, right?”
“It doesn’t look good.”
“Why do you think I was in the basement?” He flicked the ashes right on the floor. “I’m not a good Jesus.” He put the butt out in his palm.
“Hey, my wife just fixed your bloody hole.” I brushed the ashes off. I brushed the grass from his robes. I’d have to wash his feet again. “Come on, get back and stand in the kitchen. Cindy will be home.”
“Fine. You’re welcome for the lawn by the way. And the Pops.”
“Yes, thank you. Can you do more Pops?”
“That’s one thing I’m good at.”
Mrs. Cox was like the neighbor on Bewitched. She rang my bell and poked her head in. “Who was cutting your grass?”
“Local teenager. Mower broke.”
“Something like that.”
“I’m sick. I could use some help.” She stretched her neck to see Jesus as I closed the door.
I heard her behind the door. “I know that’s Jesus in there. I need his touch. My arthritis.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Does Cindy know?”
I opened the door. Her painted eyebrows formed accusing arches.
I led her in. She was faking her stiff-legged gait. “It’s amazing,” she said, placing her claw hand in his. She mumbled some prayer and after a minute started to shake, her bracelets jingling. “I feel it!” She fell like a tiny tree. I caught her just in time. Her purple eyelids quivered. I slapped her jowls lightly until she opened her eyes.
I walked her to the door. She jerked across the sidewalk like a marionette. I called after her: “I’ll tell Cindy myself!”
I got the Windex and wiped him down. I washed his feet. I got my box of red wine and asked him if he wanted some, but he stayed a statue. I drank until I had a buzz. I wondered if I was going crazy. I asked him if he wanted to go have a smoke, but he didn’t respond. Now I missed him.
Cindy came home, found me drunk and was angry. She’d looked at the lawn. “Why the hell did you chop it like that? Were you drunk then, too?”
“The mower didn’t run.”
I opened my mouth, but just couldn’t tell her about Jesus. She stormed off to the shower and then to the TV in the spare room. I put my head on the table. I drifted off and felt a hand on my shoulder. I knew it was his. It was strong and put me at ease. I slept.
Cindy woke me. It was morning. She was making her power shake. I sat up with drool hanging down.
“Make sure you rake the lawn today,” she said. She touched up some of his paint. “He looks dull again. I don’t get it.” She sniffed him. “Smells like smoke.” She gave me a dirty look and put the newspaper in front of me, opened to the help wanted page. She left for work.
“Bye,” I said, opening the Sugar Pops. They overflowed into my giant bowl. Something else popped out too: a toy, a little plastic jet. I held it and saw the tiny pilot inside with his thumb up. It took off down the hall leaving vapor trails. It went upstairs. I tried catching it, following the sound, which was like a mosquito, but it dove and rolled and I couldn’t come close. I finally gave up.
When I went back, Jesus was gone again. He was out back bending over, picking something up.
“Get in here,” I said.
He held a baby rabbit. He had nicked it. It was barely alive.
“Jesus,” I said. “Can you save it?”
“I don’t know.”
“I suck at miracles.”
“You can do it. Just believe. I believe in you.”
He sighed. He closed his eyes and waved his other hand over the bunny. It twitched a few times and then was still.
“Shit,” I said.
A shellac tear coursed down his cheek. “I’m sorry.” He bowed his head.
I found a shoebox to put it in.
“I need a cigarette,” Jesus said.
“Let me check that the coast is clear.” I peeked out. Mrs. Cox was doing jumping jacks on her lawn like crazy. We hustled to the shed and lit up. He coughed a couple times and dust came out. “So when do you come to life?” I asked.
“Just for you. You picked me up.”
“I can’t tell Cindy.”
“She’ll think you’re a loon.”
We ran back in and found the bunny squirming. I gave Jesus a high five and his hand flew off. “Fuck!” I said.
“Fuck!” he said, and we started to laugh. His face cracked a little, something we’d have to fix later.
“Some vino!” he said. “To celebrate.”
We drank from the box. Most of it ran down his chin. We finished the box and tossed it across the room. A buzz circled our heads — it was the toy jet, and we giggled. We didn’t notice the rabbit. It had escaped and hopped away. Eventually we passed out on the couch, and when Cindy came in she saw a wasted me with a heavy, handless, wine stained, smoky-smelling statue with a cracked face across my lap. She tore me a new one, talking about all her work gone to shit because I’m alone at home, irresponsible like a child.
“I’ll clean him up,” I said.
“You know you will!” Off she stormed again, just as the jet ripped by, inches from her face. “And get that insect!”
Jesus and I were laughing inside.
I filled the cracks in his face the best I could with putty before going to bed. I said goodnight and went upstairs. In the bathroom something brushed my foot, scared the hell out of me. It was the bunny. It sat on my foot, trembling and so damn cute. I held it in my hand, watched the little nose twitch. It was too much. I wondered what to do with it. I put it in a bigger box, but in the morning it was in bed with us. It chewed my toes and then chewed Cindy’s and she sat up and threw the covers off, burying the bunny in them. “What are you doing?” she said, flicking her feet. “I thought I’d try something different,” I said. “You sick son-of-a-bitch,” she said, and went off to the spare room. I heard the jet fly after her.
“Hold still,” I said. I was gluing his hand back on, and he was fidgeting. “Can’t you turn back to a statue until I’m done?”
He closed his eyes tight. “Nope. Guess as long as you’re around I’m human.”
“Well, you’re not really human, because you still break.” I pressed the hand on and held it there.
“I want to be a real boy.”
“Very funny. Here, you hold this.”
I sprayed the Windex and polished him. “Damn, there are these tiny cracks all over you. It’s from moving, I think. You’re going to have to take it easy.”
“I don’t like that. I just came to life and now I have to be an old person? You don’t know how many years I stood at that hospital and watched the happy young people, and the sad old ones. Then the young turning old, sick and dying and praying to me to save them but I don’t think I did jack shit for them.”
I cleaned his face. The cracks I’d filled were forming again. “I’m sure you did people good, just seeing you and believing. I’m sure you helped many.”
“I don’t know.”
“Stop talking a minute.”
The rabbit came from somewhere, hopped across the kitchen and started gnawing on a cabinet. It had grown tenfold overnight. “Holy shit. You helped him, or her. Look at the size of that thing.”
“This calls for more vino.”
“Try the faucet.”
I turned the knob and the wine flowed. “I don’t think we should.”
“Come on. I want to live.”
“All right. But use a straw this time. Try not to move your mouth too much. And use the other hand.”
“Blah, blah, blah.”
“You know what I really want?” he said. We were sitting on the couch, quite wasted. He lifted his arm with a crackling sound and draped it over my shoulder. “Chinese food. I’ve seen so many people eating it.”
“It is good. It’s hard to describe.”
“Let’s get some. Right now.”
The rabbit was sitting on our feet. He was now about three feet long and forty pounds. Somehow it didn’t seem so strange to me. And the jet was still zooming around, growing with each pass. It was quite noisy now, about a foot long. I’d have to let it out soon. There was the faint whiff of jet fuel. “Man,” I said, “Cindy is going to kill me.”
“That’s why we should go out.”
“You still have to be here when she comes home.”
“We’ll do takeout.”
I found the menu and called in an appetizer sampler and a couple combos.
“I’ll drop the bunny somewhere. I know a nice meadow.”
“Wait a minute.” I grabbed one of my tee shirts and slipped it over him. “And you stay in the car.”
I picked up Bunny. Jesus held the door and we watched the jet fly out and climb into the blue. On the way to the car we saw Mrs. Cox running down the street. She had weights on her wrists and ankles. She looked a foot taller. Her shirt had a big “C” on the front.
Jesus didn’t look good. In the car he was half man, half statue, like he’d had a stroke. His words were jumbled. “I shouldn’t have taken you out,” I said.
“Okee-dokee I be,” he said.
Bunny’s nose twitched between us, the whiskers poking my eyes and making me swerve. All I needed was a cop right now.
And I could see the jet up there, flying low. The air force was probably on its way.
I pulled into the park, found the sunny meadow I had in mind. I stopped and opened the door and said, “You’re free!” But Bunny just looked at me.
“Bunny b-bye,” said Jesus, lifting his new hand with difficulty and waving the fingers.
I went around, opened the other door and pushed. This Bunny would not budge. I went into the field and pretended to eat clover. “Num, num . . . “
“Nummy,” Jesus said.
Bunny flopped over, looking bored. I sighed, closed the doors, and drove to the Chinese place.
I raced in, because there were a few people hanging around the sidewalk. I rocked on my feet, waiting in a line of four people. The cooks seemed to be arguing over their woks in Chinese. “Please,” I mumbled, and everyone turned to look at me. “Emergency,” I said. Just then there was an explosion outside, the shockwave scattering the other patrons and dropping them to the floor with arms over their heads. The boom was followed by the roar of jet engines. I knew it had broken the sound barrier at a low altitude. I was composed. I stepped up to the counter and gave the lady my number. “Thirty-four dolla,” she said, not missing a beat. I threw two twenties and darted.
Kids had gathered around the car, legs still wobbly from the boom, sticky hands on the windows. Mothers were huddled, speaking of the world’s end. Jesus was stiff, his forehead pressing the ceiling. The giant rabbit was the draw, of course, Bunny’s quivering nose smudging the glass under slapping hands.
“Break it up, “ I said. I dug into the bag and handed out fortune cookies, herding them to the sidewalk. I hopped into the car and sped away. I thought about typing tiny threatening fortunes: Giant rabbits will haunt you forever. And, Jesus is coming for you.
He came to in a minute, his body crackling, easing to a sitting position. He’d left a big dent in the ceiling. Paint had scraped off on the glove box, and in fact a lot of his paint was peeling, like a skin disease. I had a bad feeling, like he was dying. “You can’t die, right? I mean, being Jesus.”
He talked more clearly now. “Of course. That’s what Jesus is famous for, duh. Died for the sins of man?”
“But a statue can’t really die.”
“Well it can’t really live, either. I’d say you’re in a real mess.”
“Let’s not think about it. Let’s eat our food.”
Bunny was already eating the bag. I handed Jesus an eggroll and he chomped it with difficulty, shreds of cabbage and red pork product dribbling down the tee shirt. Bunny nibbled them off. Jesus writhed in agony and giggled. “What is this called?”
“I’d say you’re ticklish.”
“It’s amazing! I do want to live!”
I felt tears in my eyes.
“And this is so good. What is in it?”
“No one knows. Chinese food is one of well-guarded secrets of the universe.”
When I opened the front door of my house, the Sugar Pops poured out. They were to the ceiling. Bunny dove in and disappeared; we heard him crunching away.
“Do something,” I said, trying to kick a path.
Jesus held up his hand, glistening with grease. He was distracted and licked his fingers. “I can’t think straight,” he said. “This is so good.”
He closed his eyes, made the sign of the cross, but nothing happened. Mrs. Cox saw us. She was about seven feet tall now and wore gold tights with her giant red “C” and red cape, red boots. She came with her snowblower and blew a path, but then left, a half-assed heroine, saluting us and leaving me to clean the rest up with broom and shovel and Shop Vac. There was still Pop dust on the walls and windows, but fuck it, I heated the food so we could eat.
“I think this is my first and last meal,” he said. He could no longer lift his arms, so I had to feed him.
“Shhhh,” I said, holding a noodle up to his mouth.
“Lo Mein. Suck.”
He slurped those noodles and I tried to keep up with a napkin, wiping the flying soy sauce. He was in ecstasy. “This must be heaven,” he said.
He finished the whole container. I took off the tee shirt and wiped him down. He was covered with fissures now; it looked like he might just fall to pieces. I heard Cindy’s car pull up. “Better get back to your corner,” I said.
I did some half-hearted swipes with a paper towel at the windows, the table, but I was tired and didn’t care. She came in, put her briefcase down slowly, looked around. “What did you do now?”
“I’m going to tell you the truth.”
“Okay. So earlier the house was filled with Sugar Pops, because Jesus can do that, and it just got out of hand. I got most of it.”
“Really.” She toed the torn edge of the carpet and looked at me.
“Oh, that’s probably from the snowblower. Mrs. Cox — you should see her, she’s like an Amazon now, and wears a costume, because Jesus cured her arthritis — anyway, she came through with her snowblower.” I shrugged.
She toed something else, a big rabbit turd I missed. “This looks more like a Cocoa Puff.”
“Oh, and there’s this giant rabbit. Jesus brought it back life, and it just kind of grew. It’s around here somewhere.”
She took a slow, deep breath, the kind just before her head explodes. She walked past me to the kitchen and stood before Jesus. “What have you done to it?”
“I think he’s dying,” I said.
“What is this?” She pinched something from his hand and held it up.
“Lo Mein. He wanted it.”
“You are a sick, sick man.” She tossed it at my face. “I want you to take the statue back, or to the dump. I can’t fix it. It’s deteriorated too much.”
“He’s not an it, okay.”
“I’m going to my mother’s for a while, and when I come back I want him gone and the place cleaned up.”
I helped him out to the car. Bunny hopped behind us. “I’m not taking you back there,” I said. “We’ll just go somewhere.”
He couldn’t answer. His cheeks split and I could see inside, hollow emptiness. For a second I thought I was hearing and feeling the roar of some sacred storm, some force within him that would suck me in. The ground shook, trees swayed.
It was the jet, landing on my street. Mrs. Cox was out there waving her long arms, directing it. The bubble opened and the plastic pilot waved us on board. “We can’t fit,” I said.
He pulled off his helmet. His tan plastic face grinned. “This is a special aircraft,” he said, “with one mission. You will fit.” His molded jaw was determined.
We got Jesus on with difficulty, jigsaw pieces of him hitting the pavement. I sat in the back seat with him, and the pilot mashed Bunny in front. He put his helmet back on and spoke into a little microphone.
“Don’t we need helmets?” I asked.
“Where we’re going, it doesn’t matter.”
He closed the cockpit before I could object, fired up the engines. Mrs. Cox held up a couple cars and waved us on. In seconds it seemed we were going straight up, my screaming head smashed against the back of the seat.
We shot through a bank of clouds and I closed my eyes. After the great boom the sound of the jet disappeared, along with my fear. There was utter silence. We were floating. A firm hand held my shoulder, and when I opened my eyes Jesus was a man of flesh and blood, that heart on his chest beating, the tear on his cheek real. He took my hand and we stared into the bright light, unafraid.
GARY MOSHIMER has stories in FRiGG, PANK, Monkeybicycle, SmokeLong Quarterly, Bewildering Stories, Eclectica, and other places.