More Speaking In Tongues
(from 30 Songs In 30 Stories)
I. Astral Twisters
Yes, my name is Jesús. Jesús Montero. But I’m tired of being called “Jesus.”
Everyday the kids at school harass me for miracles: “hover in the air, walk across the lap pool, turn the dissection frogs into loaves of bread — into fish!”
Today, in Home Room, I tell Mrs. Furflick that I will no longer stand for this “Jesus-ness” thing. She tells me to enjoy the attention: “Life is short. Embrace your ‘Jesus-ness’ while it lasts.” She tells me to perform my first miracle of the day, “get into your seat in time for morning bell.”
But I don’t want to embrace my “Jesus-ness.” Why didn’t they name me Elpidio or Eusebio? Why not Tadeo? Thaddeus is a perfectly good name.
I confront my parents over the dinner table — after the yuca frita. I implore them to rename me. They should do it legally, or “I’ll run away,” I say.
Papi, with his airs of finality, says “No” in a manner that causes the Leonid meteor showers to change course. Mami offers “Judas” as an alternative. My sister says I should be sold to the gypsies. None of this will do.
My brother says, change your name to Velvet Underground. I say, “what about D. Boon? You know, punk rock saved my life.” Silence.
I then offer Fidel as an alternative. A chorus of diabolic “NO’s!” sloughs the popcorn off the ceiling into a hail of antediluvian flakes about the table.
My brother says the Velvet Underground had a cool song called “Jesus.” Then my sister says change your name to Tragic Mulatto, they have the coolest Jesus song, called “900 Foot Jesus.” To which my mother rejoins, “899 feet just won’t do!”
I tell them the Minutemen have a cool song called “Jesus and Tequila.” Silence.
My father puts an end to it, either I keep Jesús or he’ll crucify me in the backyard. “Under the bestial dog star Sirius,” he says.
Here my brother starts to whisper, “crucify him, crucify him.” My sister joins in, “crucify him, crucify him.” Mother: “crucify him, crucify him.” My father counterpoints in basso profundo: “we have no king but Caesar!” The chant deafens. They descend on me. Down the street the houses quake. Windows crack. The heavens convulse.
The moon, untethered, falls into our pool — hissing — the size of a marble.
Planks are ripped from the now gap-toothed fence. I raise my head to the night — the bicycle chain heavy around my forehead — their hasty crown of thorns — cuts the bridge of my nose. Blood. My debauched cross pitches north.
I see the Ursas. There is Polaris.
A whippoorwill spits its urgent call from a denuded oak. The night pulses cold. Orion’s armpit burns out as Betelgeuse flares into supernova.
II. A Case of Writer’s Block
Clodomira spasmed. Unable to concentrate, she could not work on her novel anymore.
Her amygdala, congenitally small, blew a couple of nuclei. That caused a fiber in her subiculum, long frayed, to brown-out. And down the line, in quick succession, the mammillary nuclei, lateral hypothalamus, and entorhinal cortex all shorted — and finally, her prefrontal cortex went dark.
It was then that Clodomira’s pet seahorse spoke to her: “I order you to make biomorphic art. Today and every day going forward. Make me a curtain for my aquarium out of your used tampons. I love that shade of carmine you make.”
Clodomira had only the current tampon in use, her last, but she carefully removed it and placed it on her manuscript. In the kitchen she replaced it with a wad of Bounty — “the quicker picker upper,” she sang.
After a quick trip to Duane Reade she estimated she could have three more used tampons for the biomorphic curtain by tomorrow, but then her period would end. She resigned herself to living with writer’s block for another month until she could make the curtains the seahorse requested of her.
She considered using ketchup to trick the seahorse, but it quickly cut her off and yelled: “No, fuck you! Don’t you know I know everything that goes on with you. Prepare for stasis and inertia until you build me the tampon curtain.”
“What if I call my friends and ask them to help?”
“No,” the seahorse said. “It must be your blood… or the blood of Jesus.”
She searched Google hoping to find an address for Jesus. She found a Jesús Montero that lived in Bergenfield, New Jersey. Clodomira called Jesús Montero and explained her problem. He would help her out if she went out on a date with him. “Swipe right on me, baby,” he said. She hesitated, then acquiesced. They set a meeting for 7 p.m., a couple of blocks over from Bellevue, at the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Seven o’clock came and went and she sat at the rear of the chapel staring at Mary and the infant Jesus cradled at her breast. Abruptly, Mary dropped Jesus. Jesus thunked on the floor and rolled around a bit like a coin.
Jesus stood up and said, “I’m sorry I’m late. Mom needed me to do her a favor. I couldn’t say no.” Clodomira walked up front and sat at the first pew and tapped the bench signaling Jesus to sit beside her.
He sat. She took out a syringe and said, “give me some blood.”
He asked where they were going that evening. She said a couple of slices at Rocky’s Pizzeria and a screening of Eraserhead at the IFC. “Epic!” he said.
Jesus held out his arm, and as he was doing so she took a telescopic truncheon out of her purse and beat him unconscious. She stuck the syringe in his mainline artery and removed 40 milliliters. She injected herself with his blood and nodded out in the blue redeeming light of Jesus.
The seahorse came to Clodomira in the darkness and told her when she arrived home she was to prostrate herself before him in the aquarium. And she was to bleed herself in order to create the tampon curtain sooner. “Do not tarry,” he said.
Upon regaining consciousness Clodomira tried to replace Jesus into Mary’s arms, but he would not stay in place. She tried fitting him into her purse but he was too large and inflexible. She could not fold him as he had turned to wood again. She was stumped on what to do with Jesus. Then she knew.
As Clodomira left the chapel she dunked him in the font by the door. He was momentarily submerged. He floated back up just in time to see her cross herself as she exited the chapel.
“The important thing is not what we write, but how we write, and in my opinion the modern writer must be an adventurer above all, willing to take every risk, and be prepared to founder in his effort if need be. In other words we must write dangerously: everything is inclined to flux and change nowadays and modern literature, to be valid, must express that flux”
— JAMES JOYCE