Like I said before, we are a farming people, so we keep a farming Jesus. Accordingly, he shows up different for everyone. I don’t get out much, but I have heard telling of a man called Christ dressed in an Armani suit wearing sheened leather shoes. Animal leather. Alligator. Three piece pastels and torn jeans and wife beater. Overalls. Big and small. I mean fat, I’ve seen a picture of some Christ characters up in Canada, a big big brown faced man with a patch beard and short cropped black curls. The man told us he was clay. He said he was nothing but a branch. The way. A path. He turned into an old man before an empire’s eyes, and died better than anyone ever had. Telling stories. Supposedly, he kept chickens as a kid. Preferred their company over sheep. There is a myth we rarely mention, of him calling Judas down to his side, and whispering something dramatic and revelatory in his ear, as was his way. A kiss on the cheek. Soft, raspy, tumbling speech, bubbling along the crevices of his lips like a creek. No one knows what words, of course, but this whisper was in the record. He demanded they write down everything. And they did. Preacher pulls out the new testament from time to time, but it is rare. In there you find books from all sorts of interesting people. Judas has one. Mary wrote two. Peter, the rock, never got one down, but Joseph, Jesus’s father, wrote a stout tome of lyrical poems.
“Tomatoes. Are you listening? Red womb of orange seed. Loose tower of viney green. Trellised tall. For they would surely fall. From the weight of their own progeny.”
The minister was on about tomatoes again.
“Mr. Parker, has anyone checked out King Jesus Loves His Mustard Greens?”
“Yes Beth, I’m sorry, it’s out.”
“How about Spicy Kale and the Kingdom of God?” Parker shakes his head solemnly. “It was a long shot. Okay, I’ve seen it a hundred times, but, what about Gospel Salad?”
“Yep. That’s a good one.” Parker stands from where he was seated in the bend of a horseshoe shaped set of tables, in the rotund church library. The ceiling was twenty feet up, and the shelves climbed that high, handmade ladders on hammer wrought rails encircling and keeping guard. “When the cucumber-
“Mary the mother of King Jesus.”
“Sings The Ballad of Garlic Oil it makes me laugh every time, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. And that’s a lot.” Parker has selected the thin case that holds the film, specifically designed to resemble the sleeve of a slim old pamphlet style book. The bottom shelf was children’s education and entertainment, right behind his seat, down low, almost hidden.
“That’s a serious song.”
“Really? It’s all about how garlic isn’t really good though, I thought it was ironic. Because garlic is delicious.”
“No it isn’t Parker. Garlic in certain things helps make those things delicious. But no one eats garlic alone. It isn’t good on its own. That’s what the song is about. How God makes decisions to put things that don’t taste good into other things because all in all it makes everything more delicious. But if you ate a handful of garlic all on its own, before you had ever had it in a soup, you might leave it out of every recipe forever on afterward.”
“Well said little Beth. You’ve learned me a thing this morning.”
“Thanks,” she offered casually, the young girl, no older than thirteen, behind a flip of shiny dirty blond hair and gone.
What are we feeding to these kids, Parker thought.