What did Jesus do? 3
My dad used to tell everybody how smart I was. He used to show me off, tell me to memorise things like long poems that rhymed. (And that was no crime). I spout them out without understand what they meant. Dad left school before GCSCs were invented to work in the building game. Said he wanted me to study medicine, ‘to look after him’. He was only half joking. He didn’t think working-class kids could become doctors—and he was mostly right, it wasn’t any easier than passing through the eye of a needle—or they could be poofs and he was totally wrong. I couldn’t have been more of an embarrassment if I’d grown a beard and taken smack as a recreational hobby (he distrusted men with beards). I wondered what he thought now he was dead and risen. There was always room for an epiphany, even if it was time-lapsed and backdated.
Ian handed me his phone. ‘I’m goin’ upstairs for a quick wash. It’s nearly out of charge.’
‘I’m going out,’ I replied.
‘You’re goin’ naewhere, ya cunt. Until I tell yeh.’
A crude message popped up from Ian’s latest boyfriend. I wondered if he’d done it on purpose. His timing was off, but then again, it always was. He liked testing my endurance in the same way young girls liked tormenting a gangly classmate wearing the wrong kind of jacket.
‘There’s nowhere to charge it,’ I shouted after him.
‘You’ll figure something oot,’ Ian headed towards the door. I heard him climbing the stairs.
Onscreen Jesus had his eyes closed and head bowed in prayer. Shouting all around him and the flashing of phone photos amid an increasing din. Light spilled out into a surge of brightness that lit up the living room and made me drop the phone as if it’d burnt me.
I nipped into the kitchen. I spent a lot of time cleaning and cooking. A dinner table that folded out to seat six. I used it as a single desk and spent lots of time looking out through the vertical slats of blinds at the backs of houses identical to mine. Sometimes I smoked out the back door with the lights out. The streetlight outside our garden fence had become ornamental, and it was a dark night, growing darker, but I was used to that.
I felt underneath the unit for the vodka bottle, in beside the chip pan. Took it out and had a quick up and downer to help me think. One thing about being sick to fucking death was you didn’t overly worry about dying. Or the end of the world. I’d another drink to celebrate, I didn’t know what. Perhaps the end of panic attacks.
I smelt marijuana from next door. My neighbours had motor neurone. She was young, well younger than me. Thought it helped her. She was forever lecturing me, but in a nice way and was into all kinds of healthy eating and shit like that. I felt the overwhelming urge to fling the door open and tell her Jesus is risen. And remind her she can eat chocolate now, and not feel guilty.
I crouched and then slid down into sitting on the floorboards with my back against the unit and had another, longer, drink. Watched my thoughts congeal like an Ojibwa in snow shoes over a frozen snow hole. Talked myself down towards quiddity, iconoclasm and agnostic secularism. One breath at a time sweet Jesus, I reminded myself.
The banging on the front door was not real. The shouting at the front door was not real. Ian running down the steps springing off the landing and flinging open the kitchen door was real.
My body knew what to do. I was standing there holding the kettle, with a half-smile on my face. He didn’t seem to notice, he was mad. He was always mad.
‘You gonnae get that fuckin’ door?’ he asked.
‘I never heard anything.’
The banging at the door got louder. I could see the parallel worry lines on Ian’s forehead.
‘Gee me a minute to get upstairs… and get my stash, ready to flush it…you get the door.’
He bounded away from me and up the stairs. I hurried at his back. If it was the police maybe they could catch him in the act and solve both our problem. I flung the door open.
‘Peach be with you,’ I forgot Peter the Apostle had a slight speech impediment. He wore a pinstripe grey suit and a blue tie that matched his eyes. His shirt was too big in the collar and his shoes needed a shine. A small, balding, red-faced man with a squiggle of his ginger moustache which he fingered when nervous.
‘Peace be with you,’ I replied.
I mimed, forefinger to lips, he should keep quiet. He looked over my shoulder. Ian had bound down the stairs. He was standing four steps above us on the first landing in the hallway, with a shiny baseball bat.
‘Whose this cunt?’ Ian asked.
‘Peach be with you.’
‘Whit? Is he a fuckin’ daftie?’ Ian voice soared. ‘Tell ‘im to get tae fuck.’
‘Peace be with you.’ I nodded my head toward Peter the Apostle, keeping my voice low and even. ‘He doesn’t mean it,’ I reassured Peter the Apostle who was toying with his moustache.
‘I mean it alright.’ Ian pushed my shoulder and I stumbled against the wall.
I grabbed at the bat as he swung, but was too late. He clunked Peter the Apostle on the side of the head. It was a sore one and landed with a clunk that lit up Ian’s eyes. Not as sore as getting crucified upside down to the cries of a jeering Roman crowd. But that had been over 2000 years ago. He now lived in eternity, which was like a bucket with two holes in it. Peter the Apostle’s physical body may have crumpled to the ground.
Ian remained standing with the bat in his hand, a pillar of salt.
‘When salt-t has lost its taste…’ Peter the Apostle laughed. ‘It’s been a while since I’ve been-n-n in a fight. Remember-r-r I beat the total shit-t-t out of Judas-ss?’
‘No, I don’t remember anything.’
‘Emm,’ he grunted. ‘But-tt Simon, your-r time has come again. You must-t help-p carr-ry the True Cross-ss.’
‘Fuck,’ I said. Then it all made sense. No wonder I was depressed. Carrying the True Cross, weighed down with the sins of the world, even for a fraction of a second all those lifetimes ago was eternity. ‘I need a vodka—you wanting one?’
‘S-spose I could.’ Peter the Apostle followed in at my back. ‘S-star-rving, have you caught any fresh fish in your nets?’
I blew out my checks. Peter the Apostle always did like his grub. ‘There’s fish fingers and steaks. Ian’s appetite’s gone. But I suppose he’d be good for the seasoning.’
‘Fis-sh have finger-s-s now. Truel-ly, I’ve been-n away too long.’