The light went red. We were live.
“Welcome back,” I said. “Now, tonight’s guest needs no introduction. All of us have heard of him. Some of us even profess to love him. But do any of us truly know him? He says no. His new book, Everything You Think You Know About Me is Garbage, comes out this week, and he’s hoping it’ll set the record straight. Please join me in welcoming, all the way from the Alpha Carinae system, Jesus!”
Massive applause from the studio audience. Jesus made an uncertain approach as canned music blared. I shook his nose and he clapped my back with a cartilaginous tusk. He sat awkwardly, folding his hands under him.
“I’m glad you could join us,” I said.
“I’m glad to be here, Kate.” He had a surprisingly pleasant baritone.
“Now, this book—Everything You Think You Know About Me is Garbage—kind of a provocative title, no?”
“It was important for me to get the point across. Things got way, way out of hand, and I feel like it’s my fault. This sort of cult that’s formed around this character I created. I was very young when I came here the first time around—”
“You mention that in your book,” I said. “You were 1100 years old. You know, we don’t exactly consider that young here.”
Polite laughter from the audience.
“We do live much longer than you, on average. And actually, I touch on this in there, but I think some of that—the longevity, the pain resistance, the psychokinesis—that’s where some of my, what you might call arrogance came from. I thought I was better. So I thought I could— ”
“Have some fun?” I said. “Toy with the primitives? Water into wine, cleansing the leper, all a game to you, right?”
His nose drooped.
“You did it all for kicks. You write in your book that when you were crucified, it, and I quote, ‘tickled a little.'”
“Listen,” Jesus said. “I wouldn’t have come back if I weren’t sorry. The, uh, the Crusades, that was when I realized. I saw what was going on and thought, you know, oops.”
“So I came back right away.”
“Except the crusades were hundreds of years ago. Kind of took you a while to get here.”
“I did my best.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Even Jesus can’t go faster than light.”
The audience was quiet, and all I heard was his breathing: a slow, loud rattle.
“I’m not a believer,” I said. “And because of that, there’s a part of me that sort of loves this. Sort of loves that what I’ve always maintained was a mass delusion was, in fact, exactly that. Even so. I’ve got to say, what you did was horrible. It was sick.”
“I don’t deny it.”
“You’ve got a lot to answer for.”
“It’s true, Kate. What else do you want me to say? It’s true.”
I nodded. “It is.”
Then I looked straight at camera three. “But to show you we don’t have any hard feelings, we here at The Kate MacLean Show, on behalf of the people of Earth, want to offer you—thanks to our friends at Starbucks—a gift card worth five thousand dollars!”
Wild applause. A beaming runner came from offstage and held up the card so the camera could take in the raised, shining logo, the foil edges.
“Oh my god,” said Jesus. “Oh my god!” He had tears in his nose. “Thank you!”
“You’re very welcome,” I said. I turned back to camera three. “We’ll be back after this break.”
Amandeep Jutla is a writer and psychiatrist in Los Angeles.
Lead image: “Starbucks Coffee” (via Flickr user Stuart Caie)