Barstool By Lisa Montagne

So Jesus Christ walks into a bar. Not just any bar; my bar.

With the cool confidence of the Son of God he parks himself on a barstool and throws down a C note that he peeled from a wad of cash. He stuffs the wad back in his overcoat pocket, and tosses his fedora on the bar.

“Bar keep,” he says, “scotch whiskey, neat. And none of that cheap hootch you try to peddle. Make it a double malt.”

A man with taste in a dive like this, I think. I gotta admire that. He glances my way. He’s got big, intelligent eyes like he knows things.

“What you drinking, doll?” Jesus asks.

“Gin Rickey,” I answer.

He motions to the bartender to pour me another. I like a man who takes charge.

“Thanks,” I say. “What brings you to this dump? Shouldn’t you be out blessing the poor or something?”

“A sweet dame like yourself wouldn’t be interested in my troubles,” he replies.

“Try me,” I say.

He walks a few paces to sit on the barstool next to mine. As he moves, I can see he is packing heat—a .357 Magnum revolver. He’s not messing around.  I feel real sorry for the next loser who crosses him.

We clink glasses. “Here’s mud in your eye,” he says and knocks back that expensive whiskey like he just then converted it from water. He settles in with another glass and looks at me slantways.

He says, “I don’t go blabbing my business around town. The devil’s always on my back, you know, but you look like a good enough egg.”

“Who would I tell? I ain’t nobody,” I say.

“You never know,” Jesus says with a shrug. “There’s trouble makers every damn where. For all I know, you could be the devil himself disguised as a dame.”

I ignore that comment. A moment passes as we both stare down at our glasses. Then I ask, “You taking a break, or running? Everybody is either going to or coming from someplace.”

“You could say I’m sort of taking a break,” says Jesus.

“What, no sinners hitting you up for forgiveness and the like today?” I ask.

“Nah, it’s not like that. There’s plenty of them about,” he replies. “Besides, that’s what we got the Pope for.”

“So, what then?” I ask.

“My old man is giving me a hard time,” he answers, finally ready to spill the beans. “That Holy Spirit keeps giving him a bum steer every time I turn around.”

“Oh, yeah? ‘Bout what?” I say. “Seems to me being the Son of God would be a pretty good gig. I haven’t laid my peepers on my old man in years.”

Jesus looks at me square in the eyes, and says, “He thinks I screwed up on my last meeting with Mohammad, and now we got this whole ISIS thing. Like it’s my fault. And after that whole Bin Laden debacle, too. Boy, that one was a doozy. He acts like I haven’t been preventin’ Putin from pressing that red button all these years. And don’t even get me started on North Korea and that Donald Trump guy running off the rails.  Boy, ever since that Hitler sap and his bunk, I can’t get a moment’s peace. So many bad guys to chase down. It’s certainly not the Middle Ages anymore. .”

“I feel ya,” I reply.  “My mother used to blame me that dad ran out on us. She’d turn all red faced and mean. It’s all kinda rotten. So, feeling sorry for yourself then?”

“A bit, I suppose,” he says. “I’ll be all right after a few more of these little beauties,” he adds, saluting his whiskey glass. He knocked that one back, too.

“Honestly, I never much believed in you,” I confess.

“A skeptic, I see,” he says, looking straight ahead. The bar wall is lined with liquor bottles of every shape and size. “Well, I don’t blame you, really,” he says, turning back my direction. “What with all the wars, starving children, and genocides and the like. And now with the global warming, I can see why you’d have a beef or two.”

“Yeah, those things,” I say. “I do think about all that stuff. The world all seems pretty lousy to me. And, I can’t say you ever answered any prayers that I know of. But…”

“What is it then?” asks Jesus, like he really wanted to know.

“Well, for one thing, I don’t think it matters much if there is life after death. I’ve had a pretty good run here.  I mean, why would anybody want to live forever? It all seems like a bit much to me.”

“Right!” Jesus agrees. “It is a pretty absurd idea; that whole heaven thing. But so is us sitting here in a bar on La Cienaga.”

It was absurd, indeed. In the whole wide universe, here I was on a barstool talking to Jesus Christ.

“Hey,” I say, putting my hand on his shoulder. “We good?”

“Sure, Doll. We good,” he confirms. Cocking his hat on his head, he saunters out as coolly as he came in.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” I say to myself and drain my glass again. They sure do make great cocktails here, I think, and I order another one.

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