There was a loud knock at the door, so I got up off the couch and opened it. To my surprise, Jesus was standing on the porch, looking a little tired.
“Jesus! What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I was just in the neighborhood, Bo. Thought I’d stop by and see how the family’s doing.”
“We’re fine. But don’t stand out there in the hot sun–come in where it’s cool. It’s fall, but you wouldn’t know it by the weather. We’ve got the AC on.”
“Hey, thanks. Give me a second to shake the dust off my feet. I’ve been walking all day.” Jesus stomped his feet on the concrete and brushed his sandals on the welcome mat. Then he stepped inside, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the relatively dim light inside.
“Excuse the house. It’s a mess. It’s always a mess, to be honest.”
“No worries. It’s just nice to get out of the heat. Shouldn’t be so hot this time of year. Global warming, I’m sorry to say. You guys have really screwed it up. Anyway, you should see my dad’s place. It may be a heavenly mansion, but it looks like hell. I know the guy’s busy, but I swear he never cleans the bathroom or folds the linens. What’s the point of having all those snow-white linens around if you don’t fold them? Anyway, the place is a total bachelor pad. No wonder he never really got a wife. I’ve told him to ask the angels for help, but he insists on doing it all himself. Talk about independent–that dude’s as stubborn as a mule. Or maybe I should say donkey, huh?”
“You’re a funny guy, Jesus. Look, sit down. Use the recliner and take a load off your feet. Would you like something cold to drink? Water? Tea? A soda?”
“You wouldn’t have a cold one in the fridge, would you?”
“A beer? You drink beer?”
“Sure. Wine, beer. Sometimes after a really hard day arguing with that bonehead Glenn Beck or the church clergy, I even like to relax with a little gin and tonic. Sapphire Bombay, if I can get it. Good stuff. And you should’ve seen the Johnson wedding last weekend. I brought the wine. Not the cheap stuff, either. Everybody had a great time. But I don’t much like light beer, if that’s all you’ve got. That crap’s worse than watered-down goat piss.”
I walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door.
“I’ve got a Fat Tire,” I shouted. “Or a Guinness. Your choice.”
“Guinness, thanks. The Irish know what they’re doing when it comes to beer. It’s a meal in a can.”
“Guinness it is.” I tossed him a can. It popped when he pulled the tab, and a little of the creamy foam spilled over the lip onto his hands. He licked his fingers, and wiped them dry on his robe. Then he took a long, deep draft, breathing hard and smacking his lips when he was done.
“That’s nice,” he said, smiling as he leaned back into the recliner. “So, what’s up?”
“Not much. Lazy day for me. Ruth and kids are out shopping for shoes. I had yard work, but I’m watching the game instead. Later, we thought we’d go out to eat.”
“Notre Dame. They’ve got the Blue Devils.”
“Guess I’ll have to take Notre Dame, then. Ha!”
“Like I said, you’re a funny guy, Jesus.”
It was a good game. The teams were pretty evenly matched, but in the final 2 minutes of the fourth quarter, it was 26-20 Blue Devils. The fightin’ Irish had possession, though, and they took the ball down to the 32-yard line with one timeout and a fourth down to go. Then the quarterback threw a Hail Mary pass. I didn’t think it would work – it never works – but for once it did. The kicker finished off the extra point for the win, and Notre Dame’s fans went wild.
I stared at Jesus, incredulous.
“What?” he said, smiling.
“Did you do that?” I asked.
“No! I’m just having a beer with my friend Boaz and watching the game.”
I raised an eyebrow and stared at Jesus straight in the face, still suspicious.
“No, really. I never call a game. Takes all the fun out of it for me.”
“No, really! Wars and political elections, sometimes, sure, OK, I admit it. We’ve got prophecies to fulfill. But not football games. I mean, come on, it’s just a game.”
About that time, my wife returned home with the kids.
“Jesus!” She dropped the plastic bags she was carrying and ran to give him a hug. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I traveled to Colorado Springs earlier this week to thank Dobson for retiring. That bag of wind’s been a real thorn in my side for years now. He’s all law and no grace. For years, I’ve been telling him, ‘Jim, don’t go through life with a stick up your butt. Relax a little. Smile. Strike a balance.’ But he can’t see it any other way. Nutty guy. Lots of drive, though. I’ve got to give him credit for that.”
Jesus paused and shook his head. He looked a little sad for a moment, but shrugged it off.
“Anyway, after I left, I didn’t really have any plans, so I just wandered north doing all the usual stuff – you know, healing the sick, helping people with their finances and trying to set people straight. That’s the hardest part – setting people straight. People pretty much do what they want to do. I don’t know about this free will thing. But that’s more dad’s gig. It is what it is, I guess. Anyway, I did meet a woman near Castle Rock who had a lame horse. I don’t usually work with animals, but I fixed it for her. She was so grateful she loaded me up with sausage rolls and a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies for the road. I think I gained 10 pounds.”
“So you’re not hungry?” Ruth said. “We thought we’d go out to eat tonight. You could join us.”
“I’d love to join you.” He patted his stomach. “Always room here for a hot meal.”
“We’ll get a babysitter — so we can talk.”
“No,” Jesus said, frowning. “The little ones should come, too. We won’t suffer for it. I’d enjoy seeing them. Where we going? Maybe they’ll have a balloon guy. That’d be fun.”
“We were thinking Tony Sermon’s place up on Green Mountain. They’ve got a fish special.”
“Sermon’s on the Mount? I’m in!”
We got a good table. It was in the back, where Jesus could maintain a low profile in the shadows. Except in parts of downtown Washington, D.C., people always bothered the guy like he was rock star or something. Usually, they just wanted him to get things for them – a car, a better-looking boyfriend, a new job – things like that.
Our waitress had just moved here from Hollywood and she didn’t recognize him, which was great because she didn’t bother us much, either. When it was time to order, Jesus insisted that he would take care of it.
“But you can’t afford this,” I protested.
“I insist,” he said. He turned to the waitress.
“Give me the fish, some bread and a pitcher of cold water, “ he said. “Oh, and we’ll need five extra plates. Your portions are huge.”
“But I don’t like fish,” said my youngest son, Jacob.
“Not even fried fish?” Jesus asked.
“No! It’s fishy!”
“Mac and cheese, then?”
“I like mac and cheese.”
“Me, too,” Jesus said. He turned to the waitress. “Add a mac and cheese for the young one. And three Sprites for the kids. No maraschino cherries, though. Those things don’t have any cherry left in them — just red food dye and chemicals.”
When the food arrived, Jesus passed out the fish and bread to everybody except Jacob. Our plates were full.
“White or red?” he asked.
“White,” Ruth said. “It goes better with fish.”
Jesus dipped his finger into the water, and it instantly turned into wine – a Chablis, I think, although I’m no expert on wines.
“I never get used to that food and wine trick,” I said. “How’s it work?”
“Got me,” Jesus said, shrugging. “Benefit of the job. Scares people here sometimes, but it’s a huge hit in India and China, where food’s always tight.”
We ate and drank, talking. It turned out there was a balloon guy on duty. Jesus asked him to make my kids a hat, a sword and a poodle. I liked the poodle the best, but Jesus asked him to make me a hat, too. I put it on, and everybody laughed, but Jesus was laughing the hardest. “You look stupid,” he said. But I didn’t mind because I’d had several glasses of wine. I just laughed with them.
When we were finished, Jesus ignored our protests and paid the bill.
“What’s 20 percent of $115?” he asked.
“It should be less than that,” I said. “You only ordered for one – plus the Sprites and the mac and cheese for Jacob, but that couldn’t be much.”
“I know. But I tip on what it would’ve cost without the coupon, so to speak. I hate to cheat the waitresses. They work hard, and they have a hard job.”
“OK,” I said. Who was I to argue with Jesus? ”And thanks for dinner.”
“Yes, thank you,” Ruth said.
“My pleasure,” Jesus replied.
As we were leaving, Ruth invited Jesus to spend the night at the house before moving on. “We’d love to have you over. You can stay in the guest room.”
“That would nice,” he said. “But don’t you have church in the morning?”
“Sure,” I said. “At 9 a.m. You can come with us. The pastor would be thrilled.”
“I’d rather sleep in, to be honest. It’s been a hard week.”
“Us, too. We were just being polite because you’re you — you know, you’re Jesus. We’d much rather sleep in, too. We can get up in time for brunch. I’ll make pancakes.”
“I love pancakes, especially with butter and real maple syrup,” Jesus said. “Maybe my face or mom’s face will show up on one and you can sell it on eBay.”
“That would be awesome. eBay it is. So we have a deal, then?”
“Amen — let it be so,” Jesus said, grinning.
“You’re a funny guy, Jesus. I’m glad you knocked.”
“Me, too,” he said.