This is a little story I wrote about a year ago for a story challenge. I’m also submitting it to Jason Duke’s ‘Red Hot’ writing contest. So I cleaned a couple bits.
Hope you enjoy.
by Ron Earl Phillips
“Are you a religious man?”
Hearing the question read back, I felt a chill. A bit of panic. The bed was uncomfortable and my body ached every way possible. I tried to find a position that hurt just a little less.
“Yeah, that’s what the guys asked. We were going cross-town and he wanted to jaw a bit. Kill time I suppose. I don’t mind it on the long fares. I figure he was asking on account of the dancing Jesus on my dash.”
The cop’s brow rose, jotting in his notebook. “A ‘dancing Jesus’?”
“It’s one of them bobbly wobbly things. You set it on your dash and it kind of does a hula while you drive. Wiggles back and forth. Normally I don’t go for that stuff. Against regs, you know? A safety hazard I suppose. Plus it being religious and all. I’m not. Usually. Religious, you know?
“I had my fill of religion back in school and didn’t have no reason once I left the Sisters to find it again. They were hard on me, the Sisters. I think it was because my dad spent most of his time in a bottle. I had what you call original sin. It didn’t help none when me and Gordy stole the rectory wine. You should have seen the Sisters’ faces when they found out. From that day on they tried to beat the sin out of us.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be a doctor or anything like that. So when I could, I cut out of there and never looked back. My cousin, Gordy, he’s another thing. He stuck with it. I guess he saw something in what the Sisters were trying to teach. He took to the Lord like he did to cars. Brought Him into his heart. What room he had left for love he gave it to his wife, Gina. She was in love with the All Might too.
“Alone Gordy’d probably accept me and all my sins. Gina’s the one who wanted to convert me. Bring me back into the fold, as they say. That’s why I had the dancing Jesus. Gordy gave it to me when I picked him up this evening. He’s a mechanic down at the garage. Runs the pit.
“I ride him in when I start shift. I owe him my job you know? I wasn’t going anywhere fast, and it was Gordy’s idea I try to be a hack. He pulled some string and now I am where I am. So I owe him. Need to show him my appreciation.”
The officer shifted on his feet. I could tell he was getting a little tired of me going on. I was getting there. I need to put the words to it in my way, so I continued.
“Well you see the dancing Jesus was a gift from Gina. A little reminder of the Lord All Mighty. I guess to let me know that He and his kid were watching out for me. Even for a guy like me. So when Gordy plopped it down on my dash, I left it there. At least for the night. If someone objected or one of the bosses got on me for it, I’d talk my way out. I was good at talking. Sure it was against regs, and I could get written, but for Gordy and Gina it was going to be all right. So I left the little Christ cruising on my dash.”
The officer cleared his throat. Not letting me roll into another sentence. “So the assailant inquired about your ‘dancing Jesus?’ Did that irritate him? Make him upset? Is that what provoked the man?”
I thought about the questions. Thought back to the man. Thought of his cool demeanor. “I don’t think so. I mean, no.”
I tried to shift myself again. My back started to twinge. I tried not to show it.
“No, I figured it was just an icebreaker, talking about the Jesus. So I told him pretty much like I did you. That I wasn’t particularly religious. Not that I was devoid of the notion, but I wasn’t going to Sunday Mass anytime soon. That the bobbly Son of God was a gift from my cousin’s wife Gina. That she’d found it at a rummage sale over the weekend and thought of me. He seemed pretty satisfied with that till he asked me if I felt any comfort having Him ride with me?
“I couldn’t much say it did, I said I found it a little funny the way it bounced back and forth. You know the idea of that Jesus was doing me a little Jig. I don’t think he thought it was funny, but he let it go and we just talked small talk the rest of the ride.”
“What kind of small talk?” the officer questioned, pencil scribbling away.
“Well, honestly, as long as you been standing here, the guy was kind of quiet and just listened like you. I did most of the talking and if anything incited him it was my gift of the gab. Get me started and I just keep going. Sometimes I don’t know when to shut up, but no ones ever pulled a gun on me because of my mouth. He was quiet about that too.”
“When he pulled the gun. He didn’t yank it out. Wave it around like loon or shove it in my face. Just as calmly as could be he asked me to pull over. Too calmly if you ask me. Just as cool as when he asked ‘Are you a religious man?’ The man was cold. He wasn’t shaking or nervous. He just held the gun and I could tell he knew how to use it. He wasn’t going to have any qualms about using it.”
He flipped through his notebook, “So this is when you entered into the crossing traffic? Why didn’t you do what the man asked?”
“Right then and there I hoped Jesus was my co-pilot, cause hand on my heart that man was going to kill me. I was in need of some divine intervention. I don’t know what possessed me, but it was a gut feeling. I just jammed the gas and flew into the intersection. If I was going to meet my maker, at least it was going to be on my terms and not some psycho fare.”
My back was killing me, my neck was stiffening. I tried the shift again. The Percocets weren’t doing a damn thing anymore. I knew I had to face what was next, put words to it.
“My heart was pounding, trying to bust out. I could feel my blood race like I’d just jacked up. I was terrified. Him though, I saw his face in the mirror. His long face and wide grin. He wasn’t scared. He’d never been scared a day in his life. Me, I’m sweating buckets and he doesn’t even so much as have a drop dripping from his thick black hair. When the truck t-boned us from the passenger side I lost his face. I think the cab flipped over then. The only thing I remember was thinking, ‘God, this is it.’”
I reflected for a moment, “And you know what?”
The officer shook his head.
“I think I believe in God. You don’t just walk around after something like that.” The words almost made me laugh, lying there in the bed knowing I wasn’t going to be walking around anytime soon. “Well not yet, but someone was watching out for me.”
He softly set a hand on my shoulder, “Someone sure was.” The officers walked away to the curtain and spoke to the man in a jacket and tie. A doctor I supposed. He turned towards me a couple times and then finally walked back. “You said the man asked about the ‘Dancing Jesus’?”
“Yeah, that’s how we started the whole conversation.” A thought came to my mind. All the while I was lying talking to the cop, I hadn’t even thought about it. “So did the guy do alright in the crash? I bet he’s banged up but good?”
The officer’s face went flush. “Well sir.” He hesitated.
“He didn’t die, did he? The poor shmuck didn’t make it? That just tears it. I hope you guys aren’t going to hold it against me. I mean he had the gun and I figure a guy that puts a gun in his hand is already taking a chance. If you know what I mean? I didn’t think that I’d kill him. I mean I wasn’t even thinking. I just knew if I stopped I was dead. I swear to God on that fact.”
“Sir, it’s alright.” I could see he was trying to comfort me, but the words just didn’t make sense. “With accidents like yours. Head trauma. It’s not uncommon to remember things that weren’t there. Our records show that you were held up eighteen months ago, and possibly what you remember from last night stemmed from that incident.”
“What are you saying? I didn’t get held up in my cab last night? I didn’t kill no one? What happened to the man?”
“Sir. There was no sign of a passenger at the accident. The truck driver is fine. Just minor contusions. No one died. Lucky for you no other cars were involved in the accident. You’re right there must have been someone watching over you.”
No passenger? “What do you mean? I had a fare. I told him the same story I told you about the Sisters, my cousin Gordy. About the dancing Jesus. None of that had anything to do with the jacking I had last year. There was a man in my back seat.”
Pain rippled up my spin, the muscles tenses. I wanted to jump up, shake sense into the officer. There was a passenger.
With a soothing voice the officer asserted, “No. No one was in the vehicle. No witnesses saw any such man. There was no blood or evidence that there was a man in your cab at the time of the accident. You just need to calm down and relax. We can sort out the rest later.”
A nurse came up beside me and injected fluid into my IV. I wanted to protest, but the drugs took effect quickly. Before I was lost, I heard the officer say to the nurse.
“We didn’t even find a ‘dancing Jesus’.”
Ellen shuffled through the narrow walkways between the tables. Always a bargain hunter, she never missed a Saturday rummage sale at the church. She eyed a funny little toy sitting next to a pair of purple bookends and a few old eight tracks. ‘Captain and Tennille’ was setting on top. It caught her eye when she accidentally bumped the table.
She picked it up. It was a little toy figure of Jesus. One of the arms was glued together. The way it had wobbled, it reminded her of her father’s bobble head collection. He had everything from baseball players to politicians. The sticker was only a $1.50.
“An interesting toy, isn’t it?”
Ellen looked up to see a wide smile spread across a long face. “Yes, but it’s broken.”
The man nodded, “So it is. I suppose will have to put that one in the bin?”
“That’s a shame mister. I think my dad would have liked it. He likes these kind of toys that wiggle and wobble.”
The man slicked back his thick black hair and smiled even wider.
“I guess that’s it. Our little friend has found a home. Take it home to your father. My gift.”
She lit up, feeling almost like a little girl again, “Wow, mister, thanks. I know it’s not much, but my father will love it.”
The man watched after as she trotted off with her prize. “Yes Ellen, I think you’re father will.”