The Wild Jesus (Part 4 of 4)

The next morning my Dad is back at his camp to start his great hunt again. The heat keeps him awake. He rarely sleeps. Cicadas buzz like little machines in the trees. He has no bullets, but he wields his knife. He eats cicadas when he gets hungry, or kills a lizard. Sometimes I ride my kangaroo to bring him pork chops and apple sauce. The part of the woods that Ronald Reagan burned down are all grown back.

At school, I tell my teacher I’ve been inventing so many stories I don’t think I can stop. I tell her they keep me up at night and when they sun comes up I’m still writing, even though my hands are like claws from holding the pencil so tightly and scribbling as fast as I can to keep up with the adventures of my characters. She nods and reminds me it’s time to work, but says she’d like to read what I wrote later on. My friends see me talking to her and make kissy faces. I throw stuff at them when my teacher’s not looking.

That afternoon at home, me and my kangaroo flop down on the cool cement floor of the garage. I fall asleep. It feels like the seasons come and go like hours. Years go by. I’m grown-up, asleep in a nice cool house with with a ton of friends in a city so far away from all these fights and hot weather and people who pity me that it seems impossible. My sisters come and wake up me and my kangaroo. The older one looks at me all serious and says, “You have to promise you won’t blab to Mom and Dad.” So I promise. She says, “We think Mom set the fire in the woods because she was mad about Dad hunting all the time.” I say no way. Reagan did it. He went nuts when I hit him in the face with the lizard. But they shake their heads and just say no, it was Mom. I say I don’t want to hear anymore crazy ideas, that crazy ideas are ruining our family, they’re ruining my friends, no girls will ever like me, and all these crazy ideas can go to hell. My sisters look at me with pity and tell me not to use swears around girls.

My Mom comes in the garage and tells us to stop yelling. “What are all these stories I found in your backpack?” she says to me. I look at the papers in her hand. It’s the stories I read in front of my class. My sisters look at them, too. I try to snatch back the papers. “That’s just a bunch of stuff I made up.” My Mom says other people don’t need to know about all this family business. She goes back inside and I know she might tell my Dad. My sisters glare at me. “Why’d you write about all our secrets?” I tell them I don’t know. I can’t believe my Mom went through my stuff. My sisters walk out glaring so mean I almost cry.

Me and my kangaroo hide out in the woods all night feeling miserable. We listen to the chattering cicada noise as it winds up and down. The echoes of their noise layer over each other and create new words and songs. The moon comes out. I hear yelling that sounds like the wild Jesus chasing Reagan. I think about how Jesus disappears whenever he needs to. Reagan gets to keep running around the woods burning stuff. They get bored or for no reason they just go somewhere. The Berlin Wall sinks into the ground whenever it wants, or flies up like a snake to hide behind the moon until it feels like coming back. Or maybe it turns invisible.

I’m thinking about everything and getting angry when my kangaroo snorts. Jesus is standing right by us. Before I can move he goes over to my kangaroo. She’s paralyzed or something. Jesus reaches into her pouch and pulls out something small and shiny. It’s a bullet for my Dad’s rifle, like the one he used when he shot Jesus. It must have fallen out of my pocket the day I rode my kangaroo to go throw the bullets over the Berlin Wall. Jesus blows on the bullet to get some fur off. He hands it to me. “Why?” I say to Jesus. He looks at me and I remember what I said to him that day at the Berlin Wall right before I stole and threw away all my Dad’s bullets. He shrugs, blows his nose, and runs away.

I’m standing there looking at the bullet when I hear my family calling me. Then I hear Reagan calling. Their voices are close. I can’t go home this time. I hurry through the cornfield until my hands hit the Berlin Wall. My kangaroo gives me a boost so I can climb up. I stand on top of the Wall and look as the moon shines down on the land where I threw my Dad’s bullets so many years ago.

I hear people running up through the corn field behind me. “You can’t go!” my family yells. Reagan is there, too. I look back. I toss my Dad the bullet Jesus gave me. Then I turn and jump for it.

*

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

This story was first published in 2013 by Heavy Feather Review. Many thanks to Jason Teal for his guidance and support.

The Wild Jesus (Part 3 of 4)

My grandfather is at the top of the mountain looking for my grandmother. She’s been missing for years and each summer she’s been gone her earthquakes destroy more of the town. Soon, everyone has left. My grandfather stays and promises to find his wife and learn why she’s done this for so long.

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The Wild Jesus (Part 2 of 4)

Me and my mom and my sisters move back to the house. My father stays in the woods. He keeps hunting Jesus. He walks with a knife and studies the blood from when he shot Jesus once and gave him five wounds. He follows the trail of big red drops through the woods and into the corn field where the Berlin Wall has reappeared. He cannot cross. He has not seen Jesus for years. The weather gets hot. The heat makes my Mom fight with my sisters who skip school to fish all day and night in the canal. They dive in with sharp sticks and spear fish. One night my Mom sneaks over and locks them in their room. When she finally unlocks their door she says, “No more fish!” and breaks their wooden spears. My sisters walk past me and yell, “Don’t you follow us!”

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The Wild Jesus (Part 1 of 4)

My father is in the woods far from our house. He is hunting Jesus. Jesus stalks the woods in his antlers. He is chasing Ronald Reagan. That’s when my Dad shoots Jesus. Jesus runs off, bleeding in five places from one bullet. Nice shot! My Dad waits. He lets Jesus go away to see if he’ll bleed out. When my Dad gets down from his tree he follows the blood. He follows it into the corn field and stops. He cannot go any further. There is a Berlin Wall. The blood trail goes over the Wall. My Dad will not. He can smell the blood and the scent of burnt matches on the other side.

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Little Brother

M. Jakubowski

I have a new story online called “Little Brother.” It’s about childhood and darkness and togetherness and escape. It’s one of my favorite short pieces.

It’s had a long life. Though I should say “lives.” It has existed for many years in one form or another. Its longest life was as a chapter of my first novel, which itself had an adventure (agent, submissions, interest, but not enough). I didn’t give up on the chapter. I adapted it to stand alone in these 1,300 words, which encapsulate a lot of overlapping ideas and theories and worlds that tumble around together in my memory of childhood with my sisters. In the story, they’re both older than me. In real life, I’m the oldest. But age is funny. We’re all older and somewhat wiser now, with spouses and children and good and bad jobs. Age doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. I’m so lucky to be close to them now. This story is for them, for us, honoring a piece of the vast, sacred weirdness we went through together.

Here are the first few paragraphs of “Little Brother.”

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Notes on technique and feeling

As a writer, I take matters of style and technique as seriously as I think I should. I listen. I read. I review. I consider and reconsider.

But I am skeptical of all the capitalism deep inside the writing industry. So I sometimes don’t listen. Or read. I ignore. I dismiss and re-dismiss when I see writing advice re-tweeted.

But I did read a craft book by Douglas Glover and it helped. It’s called (ahem), “The Erotics of Restraint.” Subtitle: “Essays on Literary Form.” When I say it helped I mean one specific part of it helped. The very long but very good essay, “Anatomy of the Short Story.”

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Cleanse

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Credit: M. Jakubowski

He would have hands large enough to go to the edge of that green ground, jab his fingerspades into the sod and grip the turf woven with roots and rhizomes to lift the life-giving blanket of the earth, shaking it high in waves through the sky to reveal the giggling children of old and dead and forgotten beneath it, all the bumps and skeletal humps and vertebrae valleys, the shapes of history that are softened and hidden beneath sedimentary layers of the planet’s bedsheets, the holy collective decay of animal and vegetable life like leaf litter under which all the past sleeps until tectonic turmoil strikes at an invisible hour, the dead awaking the living above the blanket, as his hands shake the wavy coverlets free of the day’s greed and corruption.

Gripping the continental edge, standing in the Atlantic off the coast of Maryland, with one shake he sends the concentration camps flying, hurls aside the anti-immigrant shock troops, tumbles the white-power militias, upsets McConnell’s and Miller’s and Kavanaugh’s and Gorsuch’s beers, giving Trump the thump of fate beneath his feet and deep within his temples.

With this generation’s horrors flung beneath the moss, he’d throw his arms out and with his head back shout, “Tsunami!!!!” crashing backwards into the sea, letting his words and energy breach the shore, sloshing back beneath the waves, disappearing into the green black depths, having given, gone, some dreamed echo of justice.