canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Jesus Rides Beside Me 

by Keith Ebsary

I stole the icon one afternoon to get closer to God. I had had a few drinks and it seemed like the right thing to do. I walked into the relic shop and it was either the Jesus with the burning heart or a glowing crucifix. I chose the Jesus. His eyes were generous and his hands looked welcoming. He suffered the little children to come unto him. He also fit nicely under my shirt. 

I bought a small pocket bible to make sure I didn’t arouse suspicion. Tucked into the waistband of my jeans, Jesus felt warm and inviting. I could feel him against my heart, whispering sermons into my left ventricle. He was warm religious porcelain against me. I smiled at the clerk, an old lady, and she smiled back. I pointed to the bible I was buying and told her I wanted God with me at all times. She seemed to like that response.

The bus ride home was pleasant. I took Jesus out of my jeans and rested him face up on the seat. I opened the bible and turned to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I read awhile and was struck by the similarity between Paul’s letters and Don Quixote’s instructions to Sancho. I was impressed. Was Paul the first post-modernist and not Cervantes? I read some more and realized I didn’t care. 

As the bus lurched along, Jesus bounced and rolled across the seat. Face up, then face down, then sideways, I saw all sides of my glowing heart Jesus. Each side was beautiful. The factory that made him must have used an especially good mold. The wounds in his hands seemed to drip blood and the thorn marks on his forehead looked hand painted. I thought it was commendable that they had even managed to give him blue eyes and rosy cheeks. My Jesus was a beautiful Gerber baby. 

At home I set Jesus on top of the television. I watched a lot of television but I also wanted to watch a lot of Jesus, so I compromised. Jesus’ open hands seemed to spread a veil of holiness over my television. I could watch anything and it would look like magic. Golf, women’s basketball, reruns of CBC dramas, everything would look holy. I could watch commercials for dog food and the dogs would look like saints. 

After a few days my living room became a temple. As his power worked on me I realized that, like Jesus, I was not a man but an idea. As an idea I was perfectible, I could be corrected and improved. My life became a ceremony. I wanted to improve, I wanted to be something as great and shining as the Son of Man. I started to genuflect before sitting down on the sofa and I crossed myself every time an impure thought entered my mind. I blessed the wine I drank using a prayer I clipped from the classifieds and I ate only pita bread sliced into wafers and dried in the oven. Sundays I took the Sabbath to heart and lay prone on the sofa to minimize work. I read my pocket bible fervently and scanned the sitcoms for insight into the metaphysical basis of faith. Through it all Jesus watched over me, his face radiating divinity. 

Peace and repose filled my heart. The television hummed day and night and I heard angels singing theme songs. I invented hymns for the souls of the unborn and my knees developed sweet bruises from praying on the hard floor. My beard grew and my ribs showed. I didn’t care. I saw myself becoming something special like Paul on the road to Damascus. It was only a matter of time.

The ambulance attendants who found me were very gentle. They wore rubber gloves and carried strange tools. I tried to bless them as they walked in the door but my arms refused to work. My attempts at stigmata had been unsuccessful and my diet of bread and prayer had starved the flesh as well as the evil off my bones. I heard someone say, He looks like a skeleton, and the voice resounded in my ears like the word of God. As they leaned down to heal me, I mumbled a prayer for the sinners and sadness flowing through the veins of the world. I felt a hand on my mouth. They wanted only my name. 

Keith Ebsary has published fiction or poetry in Bywords, Zygote, Blue Moon, Filling Station, Litwit Review, It's Still Winter (online), others. He works as translator in Québec City and is a great fan of Jesus. 






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