by Christopher Hsia
"J-Man, how you doing?"
He looked puzzled. "You recognize me?"
"Sure. The white robe, the long hair, the silky beard, the healthy glow. And that little halo thingie up there."
"Damn. I thought I had that taken care of."
I shrugged. "Hard to get good help these days."
"I just came from church. Nobody recognized me. They looked at me like I was a freak."
"It's the clothes, J. Robes are out. Tell you what, I'm almost finished here. Let's go over to Wal-Mart and get you some jeans, a nice shirt. You want shoes or keep the sandals?"
"Sandals are good." He peered down at his toes.
"Umm. How about underwear? You wearing any?"
"That's sort of personal, don't you think?"
"I'm cool with it."
He looked around nervously for a second. "Maybe we could skip Wal-Mart and go to, oh, I don't know, maybe that store over there."
He pointed across the street at Joe and Annie's Good Time General Store and Computer Repair.
"Sure. I know Joe and Annie a long time."
"Good. Good. It's just that the Old Man doesn't really approve of Wal-Mart. They don't treat people right."
"Amen," I said.
I bought him some nice Pakistani jeans and a white shirt with just a touch of red and yellow embroidery, and we went for a walk in the city park down the street.
When we settled into a nice walking rhythm, I said, "So J-Man, what are you doing here? You didn't come to try to convert me again, did you, because we had that talk when I was twelve."
"You were thirteen, and no that's not why."
"Okay. What's up then?"
He fidgeted, picked up a rock and threw it in the lake. It skipped all the way to the other side and hit a duck. "Damn. You think he's alright?"
"You hit him in the butt. His dignity's ruffled is all."
"Everything's out of quack." He smiled, then shrugged.
"It's all these people going around asking "What would the J-Man do?'".
"Yeah, that would get annoying."
He smacked his forehead. "It's getting worse than all the praying. You don't know how many times I've had to listen to the Old Man rant about that. "Why don't they get off their asses and their knees and do something instead of whining to me? Tell me when I designed pathetic whining into them, tell me! Whine, whine, whine. Please fix Aunt Jean's liver. Please kill the dictators. Please get rid of Bush. Please kill all the Muslims. Please help Anna Nicole's baby. Please find money for heat. Please fix my car. What in Hell do they think I am?' Yada yada yada. He goes on for years sometimes."
"Must be tough in the god business these days."
"You've no idea. Oy!" He shook his head. He looked at me curiously. "You're an atheist. Why are you even listening to me?"
"You're an interesting guy. You tell some funny stories."
"I'm supposed to be your God."
"You hit a duck in the butt."
"Look, even if you did a miracle right here in front of me, I'd just shrug and tell you that David Blaine can probably do it better."
"You know, him and Copperfield have really messed up the miracle business. I saw Blaine levitate once, on the street, in front of people. He had me convinced."
"He has a god-given talent."
"I should mess up your karma for that one!" He laughed. It was good to see him laugh. When I was thirteen he had been so serious I was sure he was headed for a heart attack or a stroke.
"So what about this WWJD stuff?" I said.
"Well! I mean, it's ridiculous isn't it? First time I'm back I see a 747 roaring in over my head. I was terrified."
"Probably not a good idea to come back in an airport."
"Yeah. And trying to cross a city street for the first time? No oxen, no horses, no asses."
"You haven't seen some of the girls, have you?"
"Whole other story. I actually tried to chastise some of them for their immodesty. They laughed."
"They ask to see under your robe?"
"The redhead did." He paused. I think he blushed. "I was tempted. She was really very pretty."
I let him have his moment.
"And TV. First time I saw TV I tried to find out how the little people got in the box. And where'd they come from? We didn't make them. I told people it was sorcery, and they threw me out of the bar."
"Yankees, playoffs, right?"
"Oh yeah. I learned not to mess with people's Yankees."
We walked on in silence for a few minutes along the edge of the lake. Lots of people were out enjoying the sunshine, walking, jogging, playing with their dogs. Several of the women cast appraising glances our way. Well, his way.
"J-Man, you should pick up one of these women, have a few drinks, go out on the town, relax."
"I know, I know. That's what my therapist tells me. Loosen up, loosen up, she says. But this WWJD stuff""
"Well, what would you do?"
"What difference does it make? They know what to do. They don't need to be pinning it on me and the Old Man. They've got science and reason. Can't any of these people think through a problem and come up with solutions? They have to whine to us about it? It's pathetic."
He said, "The world's going to hell, they're responsible, and they won't do anything about it. Look at me. I come from a two thousand year old village barely out of the freaking Stone Age, and they want me to fix the world. They think that the stuff written by a bunch of post-Stone Age fanatics, neurotics, psychotics, poets and essayists is what ought to govern the world. These people are on drugs."
"And I thought I was alone in thinking that."
"Nah," he said quickly. "But don't tell anyone I said so."
"My lips are sealed."
"Do you think that duck is really okay?"
"Sure. Trust me, they see worse every day."
"Yeah, I guess. Want to go to the Yankees game today? Double header. Drink some beer, flirt with the girls a little."
"How're we gonna get tickets?" I said.
"Dude, I'm the J-Man." He flashed a couple of tickets seemingly out of nowhere. "I may not be David Blaine, but I've got some pull."