Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Don't Care If It Rains Or Freezes

Brian was sitting in his car. The keys were in the ignition, but he hadn't turned his wrist to start the car. The problem was with his Plastic Jesus. Normally the cheerful figurine of the savior sat directly above the steering wheel. This morning it seemed Jesus had decided to venture over to the dashboard in front of the passenger seat.

Nothing else in the car was disturbed. The usual garbage in the wheel wells was in it's place. The fast food wrappers and cups all held their positions, like staunch soldiers in trench warfare. Only Jesus had taken it upon himself to move, to go over the trench into No-Man's Land.

The morning sun was warming the automobile. Soon Brian's armpits became damp with sweat. He was still staring over at that Plastic Jesus, who stood on his abalone shell. Finally, with a shrug, Brian turned his wrist and started the car.

His work was only ten miles away, but the drive took an hour. The cause was, of course, the esoteric manner in which the city had laid out the highways and surrounding streets. They had built an overpass directly above Brian's house. It really was a marvel of engineering. The tall elegant pillars that supported the road almost always glistened in the morning and evening sun. When the city builds an overpass directly over your house they never make it easy to get on the highway. They should install convenient on and off-ramps nearby, but they never do. The excuse the city council gave was simple, direct, and utilitarian. They didn't want to move anymore houses than was necessary.

As compensation for the overpass above his roof the city gave Brian ten thousand dollars. That was enough to take a couple of years off mortgage payments, but not enough to move. His house was now the least desirable dwelling in the county. All of his neighbors left. The neighborhood became a dark silent place.

The solitude was why Brian had purchased the Plastic Jesus, to keep him company on the long drive to work. When you pressed the button at Jesus' feet a recording spouted out various parables from the New Testament. After six months of constant pressing Jesus' voice had become demonic. Brian no longer pressed the button.

The drive to work took twice as long as usual, and instead of parking, Brian drove around the block. He only made sharp right turns, hoping that the force of the turn would move Jesus back over to his side of the dashboard. After an hour of turning right Jesus was still anchored to the passenger side. Brian stared across the sea of fast food wrappers and plastic bags. Finally he gave up.

When the police arrived at city hall they cordoned off the block. When news crews started arriving the police erected barricades. It took several hours for the hostage negotiations to come to an end, even though everything moved along at an eerily ordered pace. The council members were the most unusual hostages. Instead of crying and begging for their lives they laid out the reasons for their decisions. Everything came down to sound, logical, reasoning. There was no malice, only the cold apathy of Utilitarian zoning policies. There were no casualties, but Brian was still charged with several felonies. The sentencing was quick. The public defender had several other, more desperate, cases.

In an unfortunate turn of events, the Judge was very understanding of Brian's circumstances. Instead of time in prison Brian was sentenced with several thousands of hours of community service. He was allowed to return home, where everyday a van would pick him up, and make the long commute to the highway.

As he walked up and down the highway, carrying his pointed stick, Brian found thousands of Plastic Jesus figurines. The ditches along the highway were full of them. They were in their wrappers, fresh and new. A smile lit Brian's face as he gathered the figurines into the pockets of his orange jumpsuit. Suddenly the bridge, the dashboard, the wrappers, even the loneliness all made sense. Next to the ditches filled with Plastic Jesus figurines the city council's decisions and stoicism made perfect harmonious sense. In the light of his unknown discovery life became bearable, and the universe unfolded before him. He filled his allotted trash bags and returned to the van for more.

Years later the city decided to demolish the overpass. The city had shifted to the south, and a different more direct route was needed. The most striking aspect of the bridge was that its pillars still sparkled in the morning and evening sun. Truly it was a miracle that the decades of car exhaust hadn't dulled the shimmer of the white concrete. When the zoning inspectors came to vacate the old dilapidated house below the bridge they found the door unlocked. They found the house in perfect order, save the incredible layers of dust that covered every inch of the residence. In the center of the house they found the mummified remains of a man. The body was lying on the floor, arms outstretched. Surrounding the naked corpse were thousands of grimy Plastic Jesus figurines.

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