[FICTION] The Savior
“Gimme yo keys ‘fore I waste yo ass.”
Deacon Gupton looked terrified. His assailant pressed the gun to his ear, seeming more than willing to blow his old brains out. They had no idea I was watching—hidden in a rhombus-shaped shadow, over in the grass.
It was funny how I wound up living right across the street from the church since I never liked going. Bad Sunday school memories, I guess. Mostly bad memories of Deacon Gupton—always scowling at me—always frowning down at me with that fat, pink lower lip of his. Yellow eyes like he had jaundice or something. Always telling me to act like a man and put bass in my voice. My first memories of Christianity were ugly ones, and he was the ugliest of all. Black as a damn raisin, always chasing after the high-yellow women—even when they had husbands.
Twenty years ago, the church held these promotions for the Sunday school kids—a type of graduation ceremony. If you could memorize enough Bible verses, you got to go to a new class the next year with everyone your age. Our moms dressed us up in our little church suits and lined us up in the basement. We had to march in and let them make a spectacle of all their little angels.
But I was the sissy angel—the nine-year-old boy who didn’t like sports—and liked to play with the girls because their games were more fun and less competitive. You know the type—the kinda kid that grows up to design wedding dresses or bake pastries. Actually, I turned out to be a mechanic—but anyway, you know the type of boy. And boys like that don’t fare well in Sunday school.
“What you gonna do, sissy?” Lansing Hampton loomed over me—he had pushed me down to the floor. And the other boys gathered around. Lansing was jealous that I got to lead the line. I remembered more Bible verses than everyone else, so I got to lead the boys’ lineup into the sanctuary. “Ain’t no sissy gonna walk in front of me. I dare you to get up.”
Of course, I tried to get up. But Lansing just punched me in the face, and I fell back down—blood dribbling out my little nose. Granny would kill me if she saw any little red dots on my church shirt.
But all the boys laughed. The Romans laughed too when the J-man hung from the cross all skinny and weak. But this wasn’t an execution. This was church. This was a place where everyone was supposed to feel welcome. Where we protected each other and loved each other and lived by the golden rule, right?
“Little sissy! You wanna be RuPaul when you grow up!” Lansing was another of my bad church memories. I think he’s in jail now for selling heroin to a minor or something. But when we were kids, he treated me like dried up shit. I knew I’d grow up to be what I am, and Lansing knew it, too. I think he thought he could beat it out of me before it was too late.
Jesus, help me. I prayed as I lay there on the dirty linoleum, staring up at the crucifix on the wall. Jesus must have heard me because he sent Deacon Gupton over right away to intervene. Here he was, leaning over me with that raisin-black skin and that pink lip. I needed a savior. I didn’t care who it was.
“Get up, sissy!” Gupton yelled at me.
“Get up and punch him! Get up and fight like a man!”
Imagine that—you get the wind knocked out of you by your childhood bully, and then the adults start in on you, too. I was lying there in pieces—all the king’s horses and all the king’s men on top of me—and nobody bothered to help. “You gon grow up to be a sissy if we don’t fix you now, boy,” Gupton hissed. “Hit him again, Lansing!”
And Lansing Hampton always respected his elders. So he hit me—and kicked me—and hit me again. The pain was so bad that everything went white. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men—they all just disappeared into the infinite white glare as my head fell against the linoleum. But I dared not cry. I dared not let them see a single tear because I knew that would bring the crucifixion. Imagine that—a white glare. All around you. Nothing else. Except.
Except that crucifix up on the wall. It stood out now, black against this blinding haze of white pain. Jesus was there watching me get my ass kicked. And he wasn’t helping. And he wasn’t stopping it. And his inaction was their validation. My persecution seemed ordained. So what could I do? Fight with God about being a sissy? What chance did I have of winning that one? A nine-year-old kid versus the All Mighty: round one. I think not. So I lay there getting the living shit kicked out me, just waiting for Lansing to tire out.
“Fight back, faggot!”
“Get up, boy! God made you a man!”
“I dare you to hit me back!”
“Hit him again, Lansing!” Gupton laughed, “In case he feels like getting up!”
It just kept going. So I played dead. And eventually, they gave up on making me a man. Gupton went off chasing some high-yellow church lady, and Lansing sat and nursed his swollen, purple fist. And all the other boys went with him, laughing—of course. And I stayed there with Jesus.
But that was a long time ago. I grew up and left the church and found a place for myself in the rhombus-shaped shadows, where I could lean against the bricks and smoke a cig after work. I was still close enough to church to hear the choir singing on Wednesday nights, but far enough away that Jesus couldn’t find me.
Now, I felt bad for old Gupton. He hadn’t aged well. He had the gout and could barely walk—certainly couldn’t chase tail anymore. His shoulders hung closer to the ground now, and so did that lip. What a putrid, pathetic soul. Eighty years old and all alone. And slow as hell. He couldn’t get the key out of his pocket fast enough, and the gunman was getting antsy.
“You got three more seconds ‘fore I pop a cap off in yo face!”
Gupton’s wrinkled, raisin fingers jittered over the slit of his pocket. He couldn’t get to the keys. Suddenly, his knees bent and his legs were rubber bands as he fell to the pavement crying. “Don’t kill me! I’m an old man. Please! I got arthritis! I can’t get my hand in my pocket! Jesus, help me! Jesus, come down off high and help me! Don’t kill an old man, son.”
But his assailant had no respect for his elders. He swung the pistol up through the air, bringing it down to right in between Gupton’s eyes. “Say hello to Jesus for me!” the gunman laughed.
Then, I heard a click.
And the gunman collapsed.
I smashed him across the back of the head with a brick. What? You think I was going to watch him shoot the old guy? What kind of a man would I be? He lay there bloody and incoherent, clutching his skull, drooling like an invalid all over the gravel. What a piece!
Then, Gupton looked to me—just as I had looked to Jesus all those years ago. Wonder if he saw a halo around my head. I threw the brick hard into the gunman’s face—you know, in case he felt like getting up.
And Gupton just cried and cried. He remembered me, of course. I had been a good Bible student way back when. Not sure if he remembered that day I got my ass kicked, though. Didn’t matter. I walked away puffing on my cig, blowing smoke crucifixes into the air.
Bet he never thought his savior would be a sissy.
Wezley Calvin has been writing since he was a teenager but finally started finishing pieces that he’s proud of. He also recently finished his first novel, which will be published in 2017.