Chapter Fifty-Six: Jonah

Editor’s Note: this happened one night at Jim’s, I was there. Jonah told me to put it in the book “whenever you get to near the end.” I double-checked with him in the morning, when he had a more sober mind, and he said “put it in the damn book.” I asked Christine one last time if she wanted a chapter in what she was derisively calling “[my] little Bible project.” All she said was Jeannie Wallace said her piece better than she cared to. Anyway, here’s what Jonah told me: 

The Prophet set down his empty pint glass and signaled the Bartender for another. In the far corner the guitarist strummed lonesomeness. The windows were open to trade indoor smoke for outdoor mugginess and the hum of the crickets. 

“And why would these people deserve to hear good things?” the Prophet said, not realizing he was speaking aloud. “They wander through life in a daze, casually consuming casually thieving casually whoring casually destroying casually killing. They have no memories, no understanding of the world, no object permanence. What can I possibly offer them? Will these people be sitted at the right hand of God? God who has forsaken me allowing me to be born in this town.”

“What are you, some kinda shrink?” the Bartender asked, half-trying to play his part.

“In this town, that’s you,” The Prophet said.

A loud metallic smash echoed into the empty night. Glass skittered across asphalt. The doorman leaned in and said a deer got hit. The man who had been nodding off in the corner cleared his thoughts and called for another beer. 

The Prophet picked at his hands. His eczema had been getting worse. Nickel-sized scales peeling off both wrists and behind his ears. He couldn’t remember his last haircut and now couldn’t scratch his head without the air looking like a stepped-on dandelion.

“If God was merciful, he’d kill me,” The Prophet said. 

“Or this whole town,” a man on the barstool said.

“Careful what you wish for, living in Vine.”

The Prophet on the barstool said, “If I’m being honest—and maybe this means I should not order another shot and not order another beer—I don’t believe in God. Not as the man preaches. I believe we’re all out here. Doing our thing. Day. To. Day. And then one day death calls upon our door and we are forced to follow and we are forgotten. Don’t go telling that around town though.”

“Y’all shut up about Vine,” a girl carrying a dishwashing rack said. “We have a home. We are damn lucky we were born with a home. Some folks spend their entire life looking for a home.”

“What’s your name?” the Prophet asked. 

“Kaylie,” said the girl.

“Well Kaylie,” the Prophet said. “You’re right about one thing: we do have a home. We do have a home.”

“We were born with a home,” Kaylie said. 

The Prophet brushed his dried skin flakes off the edge of the bar. A fresh beer arrived and he downed half in a gulp. He waited for some new catastrophe: let a gunshot ring into the night, let a swarm of locusts descend, let it rain blood from the sky for all he cared. Now that he was thinking about it he wished he’d appreciated that deer being hit more. No, not the deer. No. No, he wished the car had been totaled. Smashed to unfixable bits and scattered across the fields to be swallowed by the dirt. What happened to the driver obviously didn’t matter. 

“Well, I can tell you one thing, buddy,” the Prophet said. “I can sure tell you one thing.”

“What’s that.”

“God exists.” 

“See now. In my heart of hearts, do I believe you?”

“As sure as you’re sitting here, God exists. Before you get into it again, yes I know. It’s not like the man preaches. Every flood, every war, every disappeared child, God personally approved of. That’s my word as a Prophet. And I am a Prophet of God. I am one who has spoken to God. I am one who knows God. And God does not care about the people of Vine. He only wants their adulation. He only wants their praise. He only wants their love. But there is never, ever going to be reciprocation.”

The bar was silent. Even the guitarist had stopped. They were already bleaching their brains, pressure-washing the terror of the faceless indifferent storm rolling toward them. The Prophet looked through the bottom of his whiskey glass at the people of Vine rationalizing and stamping down the notion that their God whom they lived so humbly for hated them. 

“But God gave us Vine as a home,” Kaylie said. “A special home.”

“People forcibly took Vine and claimed it as their own. Then they blamed God for their actions and God was all too happy to accept the gift. One day God’s going to really take it from us, too.”

“Buddy, I think you’ve had enough,” the Bartender said. 

“Buddy, let me tell you: death is coming.”

Silence persisted until someone sneezed. “Bless you,” everyone said in unison. Someone else killed a mosquito, leaving a red dab on his thumb. Someone else asked for another beer. Jonah emptied his wallet on the bar. 

Outside was raining. The deer had stopped its wailing and its blood was drying under buzzing flies. The grass lay down like coiffed hair in muddy gravel.

“What are you waiting for?” The Prophet asked God. “These people won’t redeem themselves. Are you admiring these mountains and rivers a little bit more? Your little corner of creation? Destroy Vine and be done with it.”

“Just you wait, buddy,” God said. “Just you wait.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *