Second Chances

Well, here I am again.  It’s me, Jesus.  I know, I know, you don’t believe me.  But I’m here to tell you that  I’ve  had just about all I can take.  The fact is, if I had it to do all over again, I  probably wouldn’t.   This is it, the last time.  I almost said “Thank God”, but if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t  have had to go through all this crap to begin with.  HA!  The crucifixion was nothing compared to what  I’ve been through for the last two thousand years.

 What happened was, after the crucifixion, dear old dad decides that he’s not going to let me go back after all.  Here I had given my word, and people were already rolling the rock away from the tomb, and he’s standing there arguing with me.    He says “Look, you tried.  I’m telling you, they’re hopeless.  I’m not about to let you go down there and make a fool of yourself again, do you hear me?  I didn’t give you permission to tell anybody that you’d be back, did I?”

 Well, he hadn’t, of course, but how could I just leave them there with nothing to look forward to but death and damnation?  Anyway, before he would agree to le me go, he forced me to make a deal.  Well, maybe he didn’t force me, but I was in a hurry, and it sounded pretty good at the time.  I should have realized what would happen.  After all, I was dealing with the same guy who put boils all over some poor sap’s body just to win a bet.

 He says “You want to go back for more, huh?”  Then he shook his head like I was some kind of a dunce and added “You still think those insects are worth saving.  Just how many times do you think it’s going to take, then?  Ten?  Fifty?  How many?”  How did I know how many times it would take before the world would take me seriously without killing me off?  I figured it might take a few, but he wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise.

“Seventy-five?  Do you think seventy-five times might do it?  A hundred?  I’ll bet that even with a hundred chances you couldn’t convince a measly five thousand people, much less save the world.  But, I’ll tell you what I’ll do.  I’ll give you a hundred chances to convince five thousand people.  How does that sound?  Do you think you could manage to pull it off with a hundred chances?”

  He was deliberately trying to make me feel stupid, and he was succeeding.  By this time, I was so determined to prove him wrong that I would have probably settled for fifty chances just to shut him up.  You can’t imagine what it like to have to live with somebody who thinks they know everything.  I can’t count the times I had to hear “Well, I created them so I oughta know.”  So I said “Yeah, I think a hundred would be enough.”

  “Okay, you got it.  Just one thing, though—don’t expect any help from me.  You want to waste a couple of thousand more years, fine.  But I’m through with ‘em.  If you can pull this off, I may reconsider, but until then, you’re on your own.  So here’s the deal.  You can go down there a hundred times, but there’ll be none of this turning water to wine or walking on water stuff.  And you can forget that bit about the sun going dark and the stars falling out of the sky, too.  No grand entrances, no prophets, no fanfare.  You come in just like anybody else.  The only thing you’ll have that they don’t is the ability to remember who you really are.  Oh, what the hell, I’m feeling generous.  I’ll even let you remember whatever you learn each time for the next time around.  HA!  I’ll bet you’re back here on your knees begging to be let out of the deal  before you’re even halfway through!”

            “I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction!”

He laughed that arrogant laugh of his and said “Those are mighty big words coming from somebody who was just crucified.  So, am I to understand that you accept the challenge?”

   What could I do?  I had to.  Either that or spend eternity listening to ‘Hey, remember the time you begged me to let you save the world and they nailed you to a cross?  Guess it was just their way of saying thanks, huh?  Har har har.”  It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that he had a bet going with Satan all along. In fact, he probably lost, and was taking it out on me.   Oh, I can just hear it.  Satan says “Hey, I’ll bet I can make it so your kid doesn’t last five minutes down there.”

Dad says “oh, yeah, Well, I say I can make him last fifty years.  And by the time he’s through, he’ll have cut your following in half.  What do you say to that?”

“I say you’re on”

    Well, he didn’t exactly lie.  I was born just like anybody else, all right.  But I’m convinced that he went out of his way to make sure that I wouldn’t succeed.  Like I said, I didn’t have much time to negotiate, or I might have thought to hammer out some details.  Details like where I would be born, and to whom.  But noooo.  I just assumed.

 Let me tell you, I was hopping mad at the end of that first life, which only lasted three days.  As soon as I got home, I stormed up to him and said “I suppose that was your idea of a joke, sending me down to some starving slaves.  Well, I am not amused.  How am I supposed to convince anybody of anything if I starve to death before I even learn to talk?”

 He said “Well, couldn’t they hear you crying?”

I shot right back with “You know very well that there was nothing they could do under the circumstances.”

“Oh, and what circumstances are those?  Oh, yes, slavery, that institution your precious humans are so fond of.”  He was always doing that, asking questions and then answering them himself.  Then he looked like he was about to launch into one of his lectures, so I said “Forget I said anything.”   I kept my mouth shut after that, which wasn’t easy.  In fact, it was probably harder than any of the crap I had to endure on earth, which was plenty.   I’ll tell you one thing, by the end of a few dozen more lives, that first one looked pretty good.  At least I died in my mother’s arms.  And there was something very comforting, even beautiful, about her weeping over me.  It left me more convinced than ever that I was doing the right thing. 

 So you can imagine my surprise when in my very next life, my mother carried me down to the river and promptly drowned me.  I didn’t even get a chance to figure out where I was.  Oh, sure, I survived infancy a few times.  There was that time I was born in China.  Like anybody was going to take me seriously hobbling around like that, claiming to be Jesus.  And even if I’d had the right to speak in public, I wouldn’t have lasted very long with that crown.  The malaria was actually a relief.

 One time, I made it to the ripe old age of thirty-seven.  The only trouble was, I’d had my tongue cut out as a blasphemer when I was twelve, so those extra years really didn’t do me much good, although it did lift my spirits when someone was kind enough not to spit on me, or slipped me some bread on the sly.  By then, I was grasping at anything because with each passing life, I was more and more tempted to just crawl back home and admit defeat.

 But I held on.  Held on through a life in the desert, born to parents who couldn’t read or write and didn’t even have a word in their language for God.  When I’d try to tell them who I was and why I was there, they’d just flog me until they felt that the evil spirits had fled my body.  It’ didn’t happen too often because I was usually too tired to talk much after searching for food all day anyway.

   The time I was eaten by a lion, I accused dad of interfering.  He denied it, of course, saying “Hey, humans get eaten by wild animals all the time.  What makes you think I had anything to do with it?”  I had to admit this was true, but the way he was smiling when he said it really ticked me off.  Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  Later on, I didn’t have to worry so much about wild animals.  On the other hand, in retrospect, in some ways that was a less painful way to go.  I mean, animals have to eat, right?  It’s nothing personal.  But it’s really hard not to take being burned at the stake personally. Oh, I learned my lesson that time!  Up until then, I was a slow learner.  But after that stake business, the very next life that I managed to survive infancy and learn to walk, I took off into the woods and lived on berries and such.  I hated having to leave that mother and father, because they were very good to me.  What made it even worse was that sometimes I’d creep back into the village after dark and hear them weeping and lamenting.  But what could I do?  They were the kind of people that proved humanity was worth saving.  And I had to stay alive long enough to do my job, right?  I knew one thing, though.  Just because my parents were kind to me didn’t mean that the rest of the village wouldn’t kill me.  I’d learned that the hard way.  All right, maybe the memory of the stake affected my decision, too.  Call me selfish, but I wasn’t about to risk another death like that.

   Oh, I thought I was so clever.  I figured that when enough time had passed, I’d come back and tell them that I’d been out acquiring wisdom from foreign lands.  Then they’d take me seriously.  Surviving on roots and berries wasn’t the worst part of those years.  The worst part was eating alone.   And then, too, I had to go far away from the village, because every time I heard my parents’ voices, I’d long for them so much that I could hardly bear it.  Anyway, I managed to survive.  I think what kept me going was the idea that I’d see my parents again one day.  All those years of separation, and for nothing!

 The problem was that during all the time I was away, my parents had died, so all I could do was cry.  So by the time I got to where I was ready to wow them with everything I’d learned on my travels and tell them who I really was,  they’d just pat me on the head and smile.  In the end, I gave up trying and was content just playing the drums.  I was grateful they gave me that job because during those lonely years in the bush, whenever I’d hear the sound of the drums echoing through the forest, it gave me comfort to imagine they were speaking to me.  It wasn’t such a bad life, all things considered, though I was sorry that I’d left my parents since things turned out the way they did.  At least I was spared the grief of losing anyone else, because the whole village was wiped out by the plague about a year later.

Even though it was obvious to me that dear old dad was determined to do everything he could to make sure I failed, I kept my mouth shut.  In fact, after the stake incident, I refused to speak to him at all for about a thousand years.  At first, he’d follow me around saying stuff like “Well, sonny boy, have you had enough yet?”, you know, trying to get a rise out of me.  I’d just turn around and walk away.  After a couple of hundred years, he finally got the hint and left me alone.  I swear, he acts like everybody just lives for the privilege of hearing the sound of his voice.  One time, I did try to get mom to talk to him for me, but she just laughed in my face. 

   I was feeling a little desperate because I only had about a dozen chances left.  So I asked her for help.  I told her dad was being unreasonable, and that it really wasn’t fair of him not to let me be born in a time and place where I’d at least have a fighting chance.  Then I said “C’mon, mom, you remember what it was like to be human don’t you?”.  Boy, was that a big mistake!  She erupted like a volcano.  

She practically screamed “Oh, I remember all right!  You bet I remember.  I remember my mother and father calling me a liar and a harlot and throwing me out of the house.  I remember my beloved being the first in line for the public stoning and having to run for my life.  I remember having to spend year after year following that boring Joseph around just because he was the only man who would have me, and help keep you from being murdered.  And for what?  All those years of sacrifice, and what did I get for it?  I got to watch them crucify you.  I suppose you think that was easy?  Ha.  What I oughta do is have your father let you live long enough down there to have a child and then have to stand there watching helplessly while they crucify it.  That’s what I oughtta do.  What would make you think that I’d want any part of saving humanity?  You think I want to spend eternity with that kind of trash?  I’m ashamed to say I was ever born as a human, and if you think for one minute that I’m going to help you save those creatures, you are sadly mistaken, young man.”

 In the end, I had no choice but to swallow my pride and try to reason with him myself.  I said “Look, even you’ve seen something in them worth saving.  You let Noah live, didn’t you?  And what about Lot?  Only you know what you saw in that cowardly little pimp, but it must have been something. I’m not asking for any miracles, okay?  But this is my last chance.  I just want you to let me make the most of it.  I’ve been studying the situation and I feel that I’d have the best chance if I were born as a white male in America.  Is that too much to ask?  

He said “So I guess you’re speaking to me now, huh?”  Well, after that sarcastic remark, I knew that appealing to whatever love he had for me wasn’t going to do any good.  After all, not speaking to him for almost a thousand years hadn’t seemed to faze him.  So I decided to try a different angle.  I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to sink that low, but I was desperate.

I said “Boy, you must be pretty desperate, sending me down to Somalia three times in a row like that.  What’s the matter, scared that I might actually prove you wrong unless you stack the deck in your own favor?  Boy, for somebody who’s supposed to be omniscient, you don’t seem to have much confidence in your own predictions.  I’m going to tell everybody that you were so afraid you’d lose that you wouldn’t even let me pick the time and the place even once.”

Well, that did the trick, so here I am.  Maybe I should have been more specific.  I should have known.  Oh, I’m white all right, and male, and I live in America.  But a lot of good that does me when my mother is a paranoid schizophrenic.  Well, that’s what the authorities said after she put me in a pot of boiling water when I was four.  She kept trying to tell them that the voice of God told her to do it, but nobody believed her.  Me, I didn’t doubt it for a minute.  They hauled her off to a mental hospital for about a year, which was okay with me because my alcoholic father had to get a nurse to take care of me while she was gone.  That was a lucky break, and probably the only reason I survived long enough to go to school, if you could call going to school in this neighborhood a lucky break, that is.  

When my mother came back from the hospital, she was taking so many pills that I didn’t have to worry about her hurting me.  Heck, she could barely stay awake long enough to feed herself.   When she was awake, she’d just read all day, which was another lucky break for me, having a lot of books around so I’d have enough words to do the job when the time came.

She got up every morning for a while just to make sure I went to school after I quit going on my own because the authorities told her that if she didn’t, they’d take me away.  I almost told them to go right ahead and do that, because this trailer sure wasn’t my idea of paradise on earth.  Never knowing if I was going to get smacked around when my father came home drunk didn’t do anything to contribute to the ambiance, either.

But I figured that if old you-know-who had anything to do with it, I’d probably end up someplace even worse.  Even if I couldn’t imagine anything much worse, I knew that he sure could.  His imagination is what earned him the title of God, after all.  So I kept my mouth shut and went beck to school until I turned sixteen, which was a couple of months ago.  I didn’t even waste my time trying to convert anybody there.  It was a full-time job just trying to stay alive, what with people dumping me out of my wheelchair for laughs and smacking me on the top of the head with books.

Believe it or not, though, I figure I’ve still got a pretty good shot at winning, which is one reason I’m writing this.  Even if nobody will publish it, I figure if I can just get emancipated and move into my own place, I can eat a little less and save up enough money from my disability checks to get myself an eight hundred number.  Once I do that, it probably won’t take more than a couple of months to convince five thousand people.

The way I figure it, the time is ripe.  I mean, when you’ve got thousands of people paying five bucks a minute to have some phony psychic convince them they’ve got something to live for, how hard could it be to convince some of them that I’m really Jesus?  These days, what with the moneylenders in charge of everything, people are so scared and lonely they’ll believe just about anything.  They’ll even pay you to tell them what to believe.            

I’ll bet that within a year, dear old dad’s going to being laughing out the other side of his face.  Of course, mom will probably never speak to me again, but it’ll be worth it.  In the meantime, I’m laying low.  Anybody that tries to come down here and survive without breaking any of the ten commandments can’t be too careful.    

In fact, I haven’t been outside this trailer in over three months, and I usually wait until mom and dad are passed out before I leave my room to go and get something to eat.  I admit that once in a while, I’ve been tempted to just go ahead and steal something when there isn’t any food in the place, or kill somebody to protect myself.  But I know if I did, I could never go back home.  This would be the big it, all there is.       

The best shot at immortality I could hope for would be to get enough money to pay people to write lies about how great or terrible I was in some history books so people would remember me for a few centuries.  To do that, I’d probably have to kill a lot of people, or pay somebody to kill them for me.  And even after going to all that trouble, after a few centuries and new improved history books, nobody would remember me anymore anyhow.  Then I’d be nowhere.  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

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