Actually, It's Jesus, 1: In the Beginning
This is a story about a very real and alive man named Jesus. Whether he could be described as an historical figure depends on how far you’d like to stretch the meaning of the word, but it’s true that a suitably-dedicated researcher could provide documentary evidence that he once walked the Earth. This is his story. It begins in a small farming town on a hot summer day when Jesus, traveling with Jason, gets the crap kicked out of him by a bunch of bikers.
“Pull off here,” said Jason, pointing to a hamburger stand.
Jesus looked at the place skeptically – it was run-down to the point of being slightly sketchy, the bright red paint had long since faded to a dusty salmon color, and the sign on the roof could only manage to read “epsi” if you squinted hard enough. Although neither Jason nor Jesus would ever know this, the “P” had for the past two years been propped up on the wall of a former cashier’s apartment as a decoration he found far more amusing than anyone else, particularly his girlfriend.
On the other hand, Jesus was hungry, so he pulled Jason’s old Honda into the dirt parking lot to the side of the stand between a pickup truck and half a dozen motorcycles. Across the parking lot was a chain link fence holding at bay a narrow yard choked with weeds, a seafoam green single-wide home and a rather sickly palm tree. On the other side of Mac’s was what might have been a self-storage lot, and across the street was a brown wood building with dark brown trim whose dusty windows failed to completely hide the offer of pool supplies within.
The dry noon heat was just starting to reach the level where dust hung in it and coated your tongue when you walked around. The day promised to get much hotter very soon, and Jesus did not look forward to the next two hours with no air conditioning in the car. He hoped conditions would be better at the hotel but nothing was certain.
The two men walked up to the counter in a swirl of stale grease aroma and “Don’t Stop Believing” wailing away through a pair of loudspeakers sticking out the side of the building. They took order slips and Jesus marked an X down next to the Mac’s Original Style Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries O’Plenty and a large Diet Coke on his. He handed the order slip to the clerk who treated him to a narrow-eyed adolescent glare before fading back into the gloom of the kitchen.
Jesus was almost to the table when Jason started. “Shit’s fucked up,” he said. Jesus waited. With Jason, shit was usually fucked up but it was his job to declare what that shit was and what was fucked up about it. One did not assume, one waited and was informed. “Like, these assholes think it’s cool to front us six weeks worth of shit and then be all like ‘gimme the money’ a week later. What, I’m gonna dump it off at wholesale prices?”
“All he did was ask how it’s coming, man. I was there.”
“Fuck that, you gotta read between the lines with him.”
Jesus sat stone-faced. Neither the Jason in front of him nor the Jason whose shit was fucked up for fronting them shit was given to any kind of subtext. To Jesus this was helpful, took out gray areas which was nice when the stakes got high. But trying to argue with Jason about fucked up shit was a waste of energy. Fucked up, the shit would remain.
Journey gave way for “Order ready for Jason, order ready for Heysus!” and Jesus sighed. They walked up to the counter. Jason said his name and was handed a Señor Mac’s Authentic Chile Dog de San Antonio (with fries). Jesus looked at the clerk and said, not for the first time in his life, “Actually, it’s Jesus.” For that is his name, pronounced Jeezus just like the preachers on the 700 Club used to say it.
“Whatever.” The clerk shoved the basket to Jesus and disappeared once again. He sat down at the table and picked up a fry, then the sky darkened and he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning to this shoulder-tapping eclipse, Jesus saw several large men wearing jeans and leather.
“You trying to be funny?” demanded the shoulder-tapper.
“No, not at all. Those your bikes?” Jesus asked, hoping to change the subject. He’s always liked machines, especially machines that go places, and can usually strike up a coherent conversation about them.
No such luck this time – “I was ASKING you, you trying to be FUNNY?” Jesus looked closer at the patches these guys had on their vests. The one he remembers, and they all had it, was this green and gray patch with a US flag with the stars replaced by a Christian cross. Not good.
“Hey, listen,” he said and started to stand up. In retrospect he probably could have made it out fine if he hadn’t stood up, but he was hoping to escape to Jason’s car before things got out of hand.
Things got out of hand.
Things got out of hand in ways that hurt far more than those bikers could ever dream of. They thought they were just kicking the shit out of some punk kid making fun of their religion, but what they didn’t know was that they were forcing this kid to live through untold sorrow, loss, misery and death. What they were setting in motion was way more than fucked up enough that if they had known what was going to happen they would have settled for a lot of yelling and intimidation and just run him off.
But they didn’t, couldn’t, know any of that. It’s not as if Jesus wasn’t a threat to any one of them – he was 24, a bit over six feet tall and worked for a living which showed, so when he went to stand up they made sure he couldn’t. After the first couple of blows landed Jesus curled up on the asphalt covering his head as best he could while the kicks came in. Jason roared in rage and Jesus heard the sound of someone running away, then back. “Gimme that,” somebody said and he heard a clank, then a whoosh, then
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