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.

Works in progress

I have a system. The one I was given. The one that was taken away. I live in between the two, developing others, which in turn develop systems within me.

So pieces develop. I find them here and there in the notebooks people have given to me over time. Years later the notebooks have things in them that I think I wrote. I definitely wrote them. But the people who gave them to me may have taken them back while I wasn’t looking. Because some of the things I find in them seem very unfamiliar.

Continue reading

A phantom ocean

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M. Jakubowski

Bored at night I go upstairs to the window that leads to the back roof. Parting the curtains turning the latches pushing up the glass and the screen to bend down to less than half my height with my chin almost touching my knee I side-step over the sill onto the flat rowhouse roof.

My foot is immediately assailed with the waning warmth of the July sun stored in the roof’s surface. I feel the eyes of the birds and squirrels on me, a pale giraffe joining them suddenly thirty feet above the ground to peer at each other between the maple leaves. They stay quiet until I look away. Continue reading

Some expected pain

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They saw us holding hands and made one sort of face or another. This man and a boy. A child without its mother. A father and a son walking around at midday downtown on a Wednesday. A man who wasn’t working regular business hours. Maybe tourists.

The heat as we walked across the sidewalk clamped into the air, fixing the humidity with a vaporous rigidity, giving each breath in and out a clammy form that seemed to widen the nostrils on its way into the body.

His palm was sweaty in mine and usually at the first touch of sweat he’d let go but he didn’t. Continue reading

Seasons at the lake

 

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In photo albums at the lake in Michigan, your parents in the 1970’s haven’t hit 30 yet. They look like happy teenagers in swimsuits and long hair without a thread of gray. You are one of the pudgy faces among a dozen pudgy siblings and cousins, on people’s laps, propped up on a hip, in the shallow water learning what a toy sand shovel is. Your grandparents smile at the scene from the lawn holding drinks. The air smells like fresh cut grass, boat engine oil, pipe tobacco, coconut oil, dead perch, the burnt metal of lit sparklers. Continue reading

Fearing love and its absence

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Credit: M. Jakubowski

When did the boy get so fast? Warnings can’t slow him down and if they did I think I’d regret it a little. His speed is remarkable to see. He’s four. His little blue shoes land so confidently now on the gray dust of the rocky trail as he sprints through the woods. Continue reading

Keeping a private language

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Quantum entanglement is perhaps the loveliest phrase in English. That’s my humble opinion. I heard that at one time a survey revealed that among English speakers and non-English speakers researchers were somehow able to determine among the respondents the phrase “cellar door” was the most beautiful in all of English. How they decided, among every syllable and permutation possible, is a mystery, but I do recall some teacher in my past discussing this anecdote and its disappointing result — “cellar door,” this image that brings to mind the entryway to dimly lit dirty spaces.

If this kind of survey ever goes out to the world again, “cellar door” is going to have some newfangled competition in the form of “quantum entanglement,” this technical phrase that unlocks its beauty like a lotus, seeming to speak its exact meaning hinged with mysteries within mysteries from one clear syllable to the next. I’m sure it doesn’t speak the same kind of thing to other people. Everyone has their own pet phrases and secret languages from the past that evoke memories we’re happy to keep inside these personal worlds within words, and of course there are deep horrors locked in everyday language that we wish we could filter out completely.

I’m happy to stand up for the beauty I hear and feel in the possibilities inspired by the words quantum entanglement. But there are others I’ll never discuss. Like the secret tree language characters use in Christina Rivera Garza’s novel, “The Iliac Crest,” and as Yoko Tawada wrote in her novel, “Portrait of a Tongue,” as translated by Chantal Wright, “You don’t always want to share a language with the anonymous masses.”