What did Jesus do? 2
‘Jeez, wae the electricity, all the stuff in the freezer will go aff.’ Ian ran his fingers through his hair. And he pouted. His beard was patchy, like bee stings. ‘We’ll need to use up those lamb-cutlets I bought.’
I did the weekly shopping and filled the freezer, one of those shiny delinquent American things big as an off-duty wrestler that sprawled in our kitchen, but he had chipped in with the lamb he’d spotted on sale in the Co-op. I kept my voice even. He could go off on one, when he thought I was mocking him. ‘We can’t, there’s no electricity for cooking.’
‘That’s a shame. They’ll be wasted.’ His lips squeezed together, and he stretched his arms above his head. ‘Maybe we could just microwave them? I don’t want to be losing too much weight. I think I’ve lost 3lb this week already.’
‘Eh, I don’t think electricity works that way.’ I laid the truth on in thin layers. ‘And your shower will be cold because there’s no electricity.’
He was momentarily outraged, but distractible as a child. ‘Don’t worry, it’s a gas boiler. And I’ll just eat all the ice cream. Good a reason as any…’
‘True,’ I give him my avuncular smile. ‘But the shower is worked by an electric pump.’
‘Understood.’ That was his stock phrase for things he didn’t understand. ‘I’ll have a bath…A cold bath.’ He laughed at the expression on my face. ‘I’m not stupid. And anyway, I’ve a high pain threshold. Remember, I did Tough Mudder in gale-force winds and snow.’ He curled his arms and showed me his biceps.
All that training he did left him no time to read or think. I guess he despised my flabby body in the same way I despised his flabby, reactive mind. ‘I’ll get the ice-cream—and a spoon.’
I shook my head and rushed towards the kitchen before I burst out laughing. A three-year-old girl in a sodden nappy would trip when running, but only one of them would be sobbing with a skint kneecap.
He sat on the edge of the couch, near the window with a view of the lane, scrolling through his phone. His face lit up. I handed him the tub of rum and raisin and the spoon and took off the lid. It was still frozen. He dug in and started eating, ignoring me.
People were swarming past our house. We heard some of the younger voices laughing and joking with each other.
‘Any more about Jesus?’ I asked.
‘The ice cream’s good.’ He shook his head in appreciation, as if I’d rustled it up, and not just bought it in Iceland. ‘Yeh, it’s full of that shit… I wish he’d just go back to where he lives.’
I pointed a finger up at the ceiling. ‘You mean in the sky?’
‘Nah,’ he shrugged. ‘But you know whit I mean… back to normal.’
My hand trembled as he handed me the phone to have a quick look. ‘Yeh, probably better for us.’
‘Whit’d you mean?’
I jumped back a little thinking he was going to slap me. ‘I mean, I’m sure it’s as giant a hoax, but it wouldn’t be safe for us.’
I looked at the screen, Jesus was crowded into a doorway with thousands upon thousands pressing against the council fence and squeezing into the garden. He was speaking, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. The Virgin Mary glowed like a Renaissance painting as she looked out the living room window and beside her was the Angel Gabriel, but he was an ordinary looking man with a long beard.
Ian licked ice cream from the spoon and waved it at me. He changed tack. ‘You keep saying us?’
The sound came on clearer. I heard Jesus’s voice, he was speaking in Aramaic, but I could understand what he was saying. ‘We’ve got to go,’ I cried. ‘They’re going to crucify him.’
Pontius Pilot was standing with the police, who were setting up crowd-control cordon. King Herod was on a police horse that came into screenshot, he was wielding a baton, forcing the crowd back. I couldn’t help thinking he’d be too late to kill every firstborn to keep himself in power, but might just be sly enough to slay the firstborn of working-class kids to ensure his offspring got a place in a decent medical school.
‘I thought you said we werenae to go,’ he said.
‘But that was before.’ I was still studying his phone when I heard the crowd’s roar. With all the drugs Ian was taking to help him train, he’d poor impulse control and I decided the only way to get him moving was to rile him up. ‘We’re poofs to them. Shit to them. Cunts to them. Bitches to them. Gays to them.’ I rolled the words around in my tongue before spitting them out so he’d get that gut feeling of contempt. ‘They hate us. They want to cut off our dicks, burn us at the stake, stone us to death, or just give us a good beating. They anally rape us with sticks and make us feed on our own shit. They hate us so much they fear us. Jesus doesn’t even have a bum, and even if he does, he doesn’t have an asshole.’
‘Fucking bastard,’ Ian screamed and jumped up from the couch. He slammed the half-eaten tub of ice-cream down on our good rug. Splashed of rum and raisin coating the TV unit. ‘I’ll rip him a new fuckin’ arsehole.’
‘Only the devil is allowed to have a massive dick and arsehole. He’s always wanted fucked the wrong way. Sodomy as a proxy for allegiance and test of loyalty.’
Onscreen, helicopters were hovering over the houses in Vangaurd Street. Satan, wearing dark aviator specs, was piloting and sitting beside him in the bucket seat was the plum figure of the moron’s moron, smiling his phony smile and holding a hand out to the crowd. His blonde hair was immaculate.
Ian glanced at the phone as he grabbed it back off me to check messages. ‘That Trump?’ he asked. He didn’t like doctors, or police, or people in authority. I could have added school teachers to that list and added my own name. Ian screwing me was one of life’s unfunniest jokes. But he liked Trump as much as a speed-freak, the wrong side of the Atlantic, could like anybody. ‘But I thought he was deid?’
As an inversion of the authority effect, he looked to me for answers, because that was all I was good for. My knowledge couldn’t undermine him because he regarded me as the fucked-up part of himself. And if he could just put his life in the right order, he would come to the same conclusions as me.
I picked up the tub and sat it next to the 40-inch telly screen. Went through to the kitchen and came back with a dishtowel and started cleaning the unit, using it as a cleaning rag. ‘Aye, he was dead, massive heart attack. State funeral and rioting—they did it the American way.’
‘But…there’s the cunt there.’ Ian stared at his phone, tilted the screen to show me as evidence.
I sighed, and he handed me his phone. ‘But with Jesus coming, all the dead have risen from their tombs.’ I pointed to a dot in the crowd facing Jesus. ‘That’s the prophet Ezekiel.’
I could see the helicopter with Trump in it landing on the playpark, nearby.
Ian squatted on the edge of the chair in slatted light, unblessed and unwanted, an empty space around him, I didn’t want to fill. I handed him what was left of the ice cream and cleaned the spoon before holding it out. He started licking the melting rum and raisin. ‘The gym’s going to get really busy…Hope to fuck my Da doesnae turn up, wanting something... I couldnae stand the cunt.