Literary Orphans

Martyr Complex
by h. l. nelson

Square (83)

           One night, Jesus asked me for a can of sardines and a glass of water. Of course, he turned the water into wine when I handed it to him, then winked at me as if I hadn’t seen that parlor trick 500 times. Rat bastard. He’s a damned alcoholic. I hear him yelling at Mary, his wife, late at night, screaming about how she’s screwing the trailer park maintenance guy. He has a pot belly that sticks out of his shirt, a mullet, and he drives an El Camino. So I can’t imagine anyone would want to screw him. That Jesus has serious self-esteem issues.

           Jesus is living under my trailer. He’s got the place fixed up with posters of Model T’s, women in bikinis, and one of those Big Mouth Billy Basses. I hear it singing sometimes when Jesus or Mary moves past it to get beer out of their little fridge. Down there it’s just a bunch of dirt and mud from my leaking toilet, plus his things. And his trash. He says he likes it all right. Though, even for the underside of a trailer, it’s a mess. Littered with discarded stuff from his previous job as the son of God. Bibles, candle snuffers, old tins filled with holy water. He’s unemployed now, and bitches about how hard it is to get unemployment when your previous employer is God. And that God won’t even give him a reference. I think he might be depressed. You know, daddy issues.

Once when we were drinking, before he quit the savior gig, Jesus wept, said everyone’s burdens were too much for even him to bear anymore. Said he was tired of being the martyr, that he was gonna put in his two weeks’ notice. Let me tell you, that really messed me up for a while.

Two trailer park office workers came by yesterday and spoke to me about getting Jesus out from under there. Said it was in the rules, and they didn’t give two shits if he was the son of God. That’s not what they said, I’m paraphrasing. They said he needed to stop being a martyr, and be out by next week. I assured them I’d tell him myself, that we have a real close personal relationship. We used to, anyway.

This afternoon, I stuck my head under the trailer and called to him. Jesus hardly ever shows himself when I call, and it’s put a damper on things between us. This time, he made himself known with a grunt. I took that as a sign to come in and hunched past piles of crumpled beer cans, tins of snuff, and National Geographics. I remember the day he realized there’s a lot of nudity in them and ordered himself a subscription. He yelled at me through the trailer floor for days while flipping through those mags: “Fuck, Jeff, this one’s tits are bigger than the last one’s!” and “Holy shit, you gotta come look at the nipples on this one – over an inch long!” I don’t even want to think about the sounds I heard when he’d finally go quiet for a sec. Gives me the hibbity-jibbities every time. He’s like a damn pre-teen.

When I got close to him, I saw he was hovering cross-legged over a puddle of muddy water. I was surprised he hadn’t turned it into dirt-wine. He liked to freak me out with the hovering, but I ignored it. He saw me ignoring it and smiled that goofy smile, then floated himself to the ground a few feet away.

“You’re lookin’ shitty, Jeff.”

He already knew what was in my heart, so I decided to just be out with it, not beat around the bush. I thumped down on my butt.

“The office wants you out, Jesus. They said I can’t sublet to you.” Not that he ever paid his rent. He said people had stopped tithing so he was tapped out. Right.

He scratched his balding head. “Aw, man. Tell ‘em I’ll pay ‘em or something. You know I’ve fallen on hard times lately. Just gotta get back on my feet. Hell, maybe I’ll start washing feet again. I’ll charge this time.”

I cast down my eyes and moved my finger around in the dirt. “I really wish I could, Jesus. They looked pretty serious.” I took a deep breath. “Maybe it’s time for you to move on, find your own place. I’m sorry, but I just can’t have you here anymore.”

He was yanking on the frayed end of his dirty robes. “But I’m not even in your trailer, man. I live in the dirt under your goddamn trailer. You tossed me out. Or have you fucking forgotten?” He was spitting on the “t”s and “f”s as he spoke.

“Look, I didn’t have room for you inside. It’s small, real cramped. And you weren’t even contributing. All you ever did is talk about how you’re ‘Jesus H. Christ, for christ’s sake.’ And those horrible party tricks, crucifying then resurrecting my friends? You’d get drunk, pass out, and they’d be dead sometimes for three days! Oh, and I saw what you did with Lucy when she was dead, on my bed. Real sick, man.”

He smiled at that one. Fuck.

I continued, because I was hot, “You wouldn’t even clean your piss off the toilet seat or the cracker crumbs off the counters. Face it, you’re not a good roommate. Be out by Sunday.” I wiped the dirt off my hands and maneuvered around to go.

“I don’t work on Sundays, and you know it! Whatever. You were so easygoing when you let me move in. What the hell happened? This is fucked up. I always get shit on. I don’t wanna call my dad, but I will.” He cracked open a Coors Light and took a big swig, then swore after he realized he’d cut his hand on the tin. I saw a drop of blood form on his flesh, right in the middle of his hand. He sucked on it and slit his eyes at me.

I turned away from him, shook my head as I exited from the dank, trashed-out underbelly of my trailer, into fresh air. I looked to the darkening sky. It was hard to believe anything existed beyond it, anymore.


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h. l. nelson is Founding Editor/Executive Director of Cease, Cows mag and a former sidewalk mannequin. (Yes, that happened.) Pub credits: PANK, Hobart, Connotation Press, Thrice, Metazen, Drunk Monkeys, Red Fez, Bartleby Snopes, blah blah blah. She is working on an anthology, which includes stories by Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, Lindsay Hunter, and other fierce women writers. h. l.’s MFA is currently kicking her ass. Tell her what you’re wearing:


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–Foreground Art by Peter Lamata
–Background Art by Diana Cretu