THE CROSS AND THE POOL • by Jason Michael Martin

I noticed several pink and yellow children staggering around in a nearby yard as adults squatted on their hamstrings and pointed enthusiastically in various directions. In response, the sugary children would charge off toward… nothing. The scene confused me until I heard a crack and then a cry. A small girl in a yellow dress holding shards of pale blue eggshell in her hand. It must be Easter Sunday again.

The scene spurred my most memorable Easter Sunday. I was still young enough to think about Jesus that Sunday, risen, bright white robes gleaming, looking rather refreshed for having been nailed to a cross.

It was right back to life. Flick the switch and remove the rock. For the big, I-TOLD-YOU-SO. THE BIG PAYBACK. Jesus serenely strutting towards the apostles, I TOLD YOU MOTHERFUCKERS! Go ahead! Stick a finger through my hand! Try me, bro!

My Lord, they cried. My Lord! You look… positively reborn!

But why did they kill him? I would wonder. Sure, there were always Roman soldiers lurking around in the bushes but in general it seemed things were going well. Jesus was becoming a hit on the circuit. Making solid progress with the riff-raff at least. Maybe that was the problem. He was getting noticed. What to do?

You do a Judas. Always a Judas. Always a prophecy. And a prophecy needs bright lights, a spectacle in other words. What a spectacle, to see a crucifixion. They say there’s nothing like live theater. Judas wanted a bigger part; wanted the action. I remember wondering why they said Jesus died willingly. He cried all night in the garden, looking for another way.

Why do we die, Dad? I tugged at my father’s sleeve. He was busy being shown his brother-in-law’s new pool. We were all dressed up for Easter.

I don’t know, son, he said. I found this reassuring. He was taking me seriously and his candor uplifted me. I didn’t know why either.

My father winked at his brother-in-law and then grabbed my wrists and tossed me into the pool.

I remember the facial expressions I saw as I soared through the air… my aunt: pure horror… my uncle: bewildered… my father: joyful. I caught my breath and swam to the shallow end of the pool and then trudged up the steps while holding the bent silver pole, my pale blue shirt and burgundy blazer sagging from my body, thick, cold and bleeding colors.

You all right, pal? asked my father.

Sure, dad.

He took me inside to blow dry my head and body and used a funny hairdresser voice the whole time. I loved the attention.

I finally put on a borrowed white shirt and prepared to walk out into my Uncle’s living room to receive looks of pity masked by feigned admiration for my precocious resilience, oblique sentiments of sympathy expressed as reassurances, condemnations of my father’s actions lost in the unspoken collective denial of the event. That he had sacrificed me, his only son, to show that he was willing to do anything he thought might please his people, I couldn’t understand yet. I rehearsed my smile as I stepped into the living room.

Back from the dead! my Uncle said.

Jason Michael Martin’s writing has been featured in the literary journals, The Opitate, Hotel AmeriKa, PaxAmericana Journal, Alt-X Magazine, The Art Bureau, Cherry Bleeds, and others. His novel Chevy Nova Scotia received the Bronx Council on the Arts Chapter One Award.

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