ISSUE 104

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 In a parallel universe, you’re Jesus, and you’ve decided to stick around Earth for a while. After a few memoirs, Back On The Cross Again: My Journey To Weight Loss and I Love You Guys… But Sometimes You’re Just Awful, you leave the public life. It all becomes too much—the crowds, the paparazzi, the lights, the glamor, the lepers. And at this point the universe pretty much runs itself, except for the occasional genocide.  
 After a few thousand years of world travel and appearing on people’s toast, you retire to a small Midwest town, somewhere with corn and cows where the nearest entertainment is corn and cows—and sometimes cows eating corn. You thought about starting a super mega-church to seize control of the world with soft, meaningful music and a charismatic pastor and parking lots and a giant sheep mascot named Larry. But that’s not the way, not yet.
 The best part about retiring in the Midwest is the community. The worst part about retiring in the Midwest is also the community. Everyone pronounces your name the Spanish way and asks if you are available to do some landscaping work. You have tried explaining that you are the Messiah of the Bible, the one and only Christ, the Alpha and the Omega. They nod, look somewhere over your shoulder, and then ask if Mexico is very hot this time of year. 
 Many of your interactions become a sick, one-upping competition to prove you’re morally better—because you are better, god damn it. You invite Martha and her husband for dinner. They give you a thoughtful birthday present. You buy them tickets to Hawaii and cover all the costs. They donate the tickets because they’re touring with the Hug The Inebriated To Sobriety movement. You kill their son with leukemia and then resurrect him. Checkmate. 
 You do enjoy being God in the twenty-first century, however—mostly because of the technology... and the ice cream. In fact, Google has taken over many of your “dogmatic deity duties done dogmatically,” or “duties” for short—giving directions, telling everyone they’re doing it wrong, spying on people when they’re alone, exercising near-dictatorial control with subliminal messages on Coca Cola cans… basic stuff really.  
 Now you can do what you’ve always wanted to do: passively surveil ducks. You ponder why they are there. You don’t remember creating them. You don’t remember much of anything these days.
 This memory loss has become a big problem. Though you are immortal, your age is still a factor, leading to frugality, driving despite the cataracts, telling everyone to prepare themselves because hey, you’re two millennia old and could pass away any day. 
 Having not aged for this long, many have asked what moisturizer you use. “Cocoa butter,” you answer and soon find yourself mixing together Holy Christ!, a skin revitalizer for pregnant women and nursing home patients. It’s branded with you holding an adorable lamb and is available at hippie stores that also sell billowy pants, incense, crystals, and herbal supplements that make people think they’re omnipotent giraffes. Sales could be better.  
 So, with Holy Christ! fizzling out, you return to the beginning: woodworking. Unfortunately, you aren’t handy with power saws or 2x4s or measuring or nails. It’s why you assumed your destiny in the first place. Honestly, when most people in Nazareth heard you were the Messiah, they thought, Well, thank God he found something.    
 Not that your parents agreed with your choice. Before you turned water into wine, they were cautious of a career that looked a lot like being homeless.
 “Get a real job, like an accountant or a mule trainer,” Joseph said. “You know your brother James is a mule trainer. Very good at his job. Got a position as Director of Asses. The Director of Asses! Doesn’t get much better than that.”
 But now, you think a little carpentry might fit the space between the nightly news and applying your hemorrhoid cream before bed. And so you start building things in your garage. It’s safe in there. No one cares about how structurally sound the furniture is or how many fingers you’ve lost in the band saw. What matters is you made a table, a table that may or may not be safe to eat dinner on.  
 Overall, you’re pleased with your small-town retirement. No need to do miracles, though you do the occasional small one—opening a jar of olives for Mabel, mowing the lawn with your mind, duplicating the neighbor’s cat. But mostly, you can relax, stare at the corn, and observe the ducks. Yes, a simple life, and you’re happy. 
   
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