Myron went back upstairs, back to his chair and his glass of wine. Sitting there like that, he started to get excited. He started to realize what it meant. Screw Smones and Curtailer. Imagine, Jesus Christ Himself as a house guest. Jewel was going to be surprised. He could hardly wait until she got home from work, so he could tell her. ‘Guess who’s here, honey. You’ll never guess.’
She would probably throw together some kind of cocktail party, invite the ‘A’ list. He went over the guests in his mind. There were a couple of surgeons, an interior designer, a university dean, then their very rich neighbor who had recently collected the large insurance settlement when his business burned to the ground—the one who drives the Lamborghini, not the other neighbor whose business also recently burned, although she would probably invite him as well. Seems like there had been a lot of fires, lately. She would invite their spouses, too, of course.
And then there was the manager of the local refinery. He and his wife had never come to any of their other parties, never even bothered to RSVP. But he guessed there was no way they would miss this one, by God.
He chuckled at his unintentional pun, and sipped his wine. Maybe they would not invite Mr. & Mrs. Refinery, after all. Let them chew on that one.
He wondered how the invitations would be worded. ‘You are cordially invited to a cocktail party in honor of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, currently a guest at the home of….’
No, too stuffy. Something whimsical was in order. They would not want to seem as if they, themselves, were overly impressed by their Visitor, but rather that it was just par for the course, an everyday kind of thing for them. How about one of those cards with a cartoon by the guy who draws animals doing things humans usually do, like cows riding in a car beside a pasture full of grazing people, and so forth? Maybe an animal nailed to the cross, wearing a crown of thorns, tears running down its cheeks, a cow, maybe, or a rhino. Or, how about a bear? Open the card and there would be a witty one-liner: ‘We all have our cross to bear, so join us for a little resurrection.’ Followed by date and time and address and all. Something like that…
Myron heard the garage door going up, the growl of the automatic opener. He knew it must be Jewel arriving home from the office.
Jewel was a currency trader. She made ten times more money in one year than Myron had ever made in his life. Which was why she worked, and Myron stayed home and wrote stories. There was no longer any point in wasting his time on the piddly little amount of money he was able to earn. And writing was something he enjoyed, and had always wanted to do full time. So, he spent the days at home, writing, while Jewel earned obscene sums massaging a computer and bashing people via telephone….
Myron was embarrassed to admit that he was writing a screenplay. He did not usually bring it up. Even when people asked, at parties and such, what he did, he generally did not let on that he was writing a screenplay. He would say he wrote ad copy, or was working on a biography of General Lemuel VanDyken, an early settler, for the local historical society. Because the screenplay thing was so trite. It made him feel like someone from Los Angeles. A cab driver, or a caterer, maybe. He was not from Los Angeles.
But he had a friend in Los Angeles, Tad, who wrote for TV, and together they were developing a screenplay. Jewel was excited about this. She knew it would be big, very big. Her investment in him would, like most of her other investments, return handsome profits. She was very excited about the whole screenplay thing. She loved to read what Myron had written each day, when she came home from work. His ability to write amazed her, as her ability to generate income amazed him. She thought Myron was so intelligent, witty, wise. He had to admit he thoroughly enjoy her adulation. Often, it was all that kept him going. But he did not believe he would be able, ultimately, to live up to her exalted image of him. Could any man?
He didn’t think so.
It was a silly, vain thing, writing this screenplay. He did it mostly to keep up appearances, to carry the ball, so to speak, to satisfy Jewel. Really, he thought little of it himself. It was called THE INVENTOR, this screenplay Tad and he were developing together. It was about a man who meets, in his sleep—in his dreams—a character called the Inventor, who shows him inventions. The man then copies these inventions in his waking life, and becomes rich and successful. But he becomes corrupted by his success, and eventually he does something wrong, something stupid, and the Inventor refuses to visit him in his dreams any longer. The man loses everything, his money, his family, all the trappings of success, and ends up in the gutter. And then, finally, when all was lost, the Inventor comes back to him.
It was clever, this story, moving in and out of the dream world, portraying the process of human creativity and imagination, set against a basic drama of human tragedy, a great man plunged into the depths because of his tragic flaw, his willfulness, his pride, his egotism. And then, at the last—when it is too late, of course—he begins to understand….
The cat’s ears perked up as the door from the garage into the house opened. He leaped off Myron’s lap and streaked from the room to investigate.
Myron heard the tap, tap, tap of his wife’s high heels across the marble floor.
“Hi, I’m home,” she sang out. “Where are you?”
“Upstairs,” he called back.
She came up the carpeted stairway, her wool coat flying, her beautifully trimmed hair floating about her face, a big smile.
“Hi,” Myron said, quietly. Her intensity sometimes made him feel shy.
“Hello, darling.” She squeezed him around the neck and planted a quick kiss on his lips. Myron smelled her perfume, one of the ones he liked. He never could remember which was which. Taboo? Evening in Paris? They all had names like that.
“Jesus is downstairs,” he said.
She looked at him for an instant, then brushed by it, just one of those things writers say.
“Well, I talked to Judy today, and she’s leaving for Paris next week. She found the cutest hotel, just around the corner from the Louvre, and the price is…”
“No, really,” Myron interrupted. “Jesus is downstairs. He’s staying with us for a while.”
“Jesus who?” Her brow furrowed with impatience. He could see the wheels turning: ‘Jesus? We don’t know any Jesus, unless it’s that fellow who was here to help with the landscaping, but he couldn’t be staying with us. I wish he’d hurry up and get on with it and tell me what this Jesus thing is all about, he always talks too slowly, time is money…’
“You know, Jesus, THE Jesus. Jesus Christ.”
That stopped her. Myron swore she looked at him for a full ten seconds without a break, bettering her normal attention span by a factor of five. Jewel was like a shrew or hummingbird—high metabolic rate, rapid movements, constant feeding.
“I’ve had a long day,” she said, finally.
“Look,” Myron said.
She turned around, and there He was, standing silently at the top of the carpeted stairway.
“Oh, my God,” said Jewel.
“Please,” He mumbled. “No need to be formal.”
He stepped into the living room.
“Take off your sandals,” said Jewel, pointing. “The carpet.”
Jewel was getting tense, Myron could tell. The pink carpet had long been a point of disagreement between them, her insistence that they remove their shoes in the living room. The way Myron saw it, what good was a carpet you couldn’t walk on? He found it tedious and uncomfortable to walk around in his socks. His arches had long ago surrendered, and he needed some sort of supportive footwear. Also, it was inconvenient for their guests. But Jewel insisted.
Jesus looked down at his feet. Myron felt uncomfortable and, he could tell, so did He.
“C’mon, honey,” Myron said. “Look who we’re dealing with here. Let’s not be dogmatic.”
“The stigmata,” He said, gently. “If I take off my sandals, I’ll bleed on the rug.”
“Get blood on this rug,” snapped Jewel, “and I’ll put a rubber band around your balls.”
Myron had often wondered why Jewel said these things. Over the years, he had developed the theory that it was a reflex, like the leg jerking when the little rubber hammer taps the knee. Her lack of restraint was a weakness, but also a great strength. He had no doubt it protected her in her work, among the currency-trading carnivores. He assumed she’d developed this rubber-band-around-the-balls bit on the trading floor. That’s how they castrate calves—slip the band on, and the little nuggets dry up and fall off all by themselves. He’d learned not to take it seriously a long time ago.
Anyway, the room was suddenly still. No one moved, no one made a sound, not even the cat. This suspension in the flow of things seemed to go on for the longest time.
Myron’s thoughts, however, raced ahead, enhanced, amplified, lubricated by the momentary hiatus.
Images of medieval altar pieces flashed through his mind. For the past two thousand years, painters and sculptors had been depicting the crown of thorns—that garland of cruel spikes wounding the flesh—the droplets of blood, the tears of pain. Symbols of human vulnerability transformed by divine compassion.
Was this the beginning of another two-thousand-year cycle? Would artisans in the centuries to come fashion undying images of the holy and tormented Scrotum, the ever-tightening Band? Surely, this could evolve into a powerful symbol of Divine Suffering. ‘What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?’
Would Jewel, like Pilate and the Roman soldiers, be immortalized as the instrument of His anguish?
Myron imagined floating weightless, hundreds of years in the future, through a museum in an orbital space station, and coming face-to-face (so to speak) with a holographic rendering of ‘The Mortification Of His Flesh At The Hand Of The Pagan Jewel.’ Stunned by the imagery, one would fall to one’s knees. That is, if one could fall in zero gravity….
Well. Myron went off on these little tangents sometimes.
Jesus looked disappointed. He turned without a word and retreated down the stairs. A moment later, they heard His suitcase bump once against the wall, then the sound of the downstairs door closing as He let Himself out.
“I hate religious fanatics,” said Jewel. “What’s for dinner?”
Myron drained the last of the red wine from his glass.
Too bad. He had been looking forward to the cocktail party. Oh, well, at least he’d stopped mulling and stewing over Smones and Curtailer for a while.
[TO BE CONTINUED]