March 2005 / Volume VI / Issue II
Willie Smith
Mandatory Monthly Face-to-face for the Homeless

    Jesus was biting his nails. He was anxious. He sensed God was about to forsake him. Again. He glanced at the bottle in his fist. Tilted up a gulp.
    From where he hunched up under the freeway he commanded a perfect view of the traffic below on Dearborn. The sheep were going to work. The sun had just risen this late-December morning – he at the bottom of a pint of Wild Irish Rose. Was it of thorns from this – he sucked the dregs – they would twist the crown? He shuddered. Lidded eyes.
    He could feel in his marrow the whip, the spikes, the javelin. Taste the vinegar. Hear the dice click. Smell the jeering mob. Intuit Pilate offstage washing pickers and stealers. He smiled faintly, glimpsing his own face copied onto the veronica – one last look, one last hook for the faithful.
    He dangled the empty over the edge of the narrow ledge. Let it slide like an unrepentant soul down the steep concrete abutment to where it crashed forty feet below onto the sidewalk – as a Philistine garbed in lycra jogged obliviously past, gasping car fumes, thudding bones over pavement. An example of that peculiar sect of yuppie believing in achievement of immortality through devotion to public exercise.
    Through his anxiety, Jesus sneered. For only through the Father, and, at that, first through himself, could anyone hope to achieve… the sneer brightened to a smirk… in one of the many mansions a condominium.
    He did something Jesus had never before in print done: he giggled.
    Then swung around on all fours. Angled back down the abutment. He was OK now. The flash of irony had steadied his nerve. With a final catlike hop he reached the pavement. Caught breath. Took bearings. Began in muddy sandaled feet the trudge to the golgotha of the downtown Food Stamp Office.
    Yea though this day forsaken, he would now submit unflinchingly to the cross of the examination for continuance of benefits.