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Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 22

“What do you do for fun?” I asked Jesus, as we were eating bangers and mashed, and drinking pints of stout, at a pub in Oxford called the Eagle and Child.

C.S. Lewis had recommended the “Bird and Baby” to us as a nice homey place where we wouldn’t be bothered but he said he wasn’t joining us because he already had dinner plans of his own with Ayn Rand. Personally I think Jack Lewis would have ditched Ayn in a heartbeat to join Jesus for dinner but he picked up that Jesus wasn’t looking for a party.

“Is this for the campaign, or off the record?” Jesus asked me.

“Well, I’m just asking because I’m interested, if that’s what you mean. But if you’re asking me to keep what you say in confidence, of course I will.” I smiled. “I won’t even quote you as ‘a usually reliable source.’”

That got me a smile. “You’re going to have a hard time reconciling this with my public image,” said Jesus.

“Look at the last few months I’ve had,” I said, “Whatever you tell me, it’s not going to be more of a shock than what I’ve been through already.”

“I do stand-up comedy,” said Jesus.

“Except for that,” I said. “Is this something you’re known for in Heaven?”

He shook his head. “I use a stage name and a wear a body mask.”

“Have you played earth?”

“Not stand-up. This is only my third time back on earth since my execution,” Jesus said.

“I can understand that,” I said. “Some planet nails me up on a cross, I wouldn’t want to spend my vacation time there, either.”

He grinned widely. “You should do stand-up; you’d be good at it.”

I shook my head. “I like what I do now. What are you into? Political humor? Observational comedy? Improv? Or something really bizarre, like Andy Kaufman?”

“I’m more in the vein of George Carlin or Steven Wright,” Jesus said. “You know, a little highbrow but with some verbal pratfalls. Philosophical stuff. Seeing if I can tell a story that starts out very mundane and just let it get more outrageous, more irreverent, and more surprising until people are laughing so hard they’re turning colors.”

“Wow. I’d love to catch your act sometime. Where do you appear?”

Jesus looked secretly amused. “Well, there was a little club called Divine Comedy in the SoHo district of Heaven where I’d been a regular on Saturday nights for a few years now. It got burned out in the attack on the palace and it looks like I’m going to have to find a new venue.”

“Anything else?”

“My act? Sometimes I’m a piano man.”

“I thought you didn’t sing in public.”

“Not singing, just keys. It’s in a classical vein, with a lot of influence from the late romantics—Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff … with maybe a little PDQ Bach- or Victor Borge-type gags thrown in occasionally.”

That’s when I realized I’d already seen Jesus perform his comedy act. I decided against letting him know that I knew.

“You stick pretty much to earth-human activities?” I asked. “You’re not into galactic golf, playing dice with the universe?”

“My father’s top god in our house,” Jesus said. “And he’s a pretty hard act to follow. Oh, I’ve played around with some of my dad’s universe-building software — did you know that Jack and Tollers invited me to collaborate with each of them in their universes based on Narnia and Middle Earth? — and one of these days I’m sure I’ll get an idea of my own that I think is worth building a universe around. You know, Duj, I worship my father as much as anyone else, when it comes right down to it … and it’s intimidating. I look at his creations and my tongue hits the floor. I think, ‘How am I ever going to come up with something as good as that?’”

“You’re sounding like the classic son of an overachieving father,” I said. “You see this sort of thing with the kids of movie stars all the time.”

“Which makes me, I guess, into the classic underachiever. But compared to my father I’m still pretty young and I have all of eternity ahead of me. I just don’t feel motivated to make the big move and build my own universe yet. I’m sure I’ll get over myself and try it some day, though.”

“What about your social life?” I asked. You seeing anyone special?”

“I have some close female friends, but that’s all it is,” he said. “I’m actually pretty shy about women. In a lot of ways I’m pretty much a loner, when it comes down to it.”

I didn’t think he was telling me the full story but I didn’t press him on it.

He looked at his watch.

“Listen, Duj, would you feel offended if I popped out on my own? I just realized I have a promise I made to someone that I’m going to be late for if I don’t leave soon.”

“So you do have other plans for the evening,” I said, smiling.

“I don’t date earth women any more,” he said, grinning. “No, actually, I promised the Pope I’d take him deep-sea fishing in the Philippine basin at the crack of dawn and the sun will be coming up soon.”

He stood up and started to reach for his wallet, but I grabbed the check before he could. “You saved me. Your money’s no good with me.”

“I’ll let you get away with that this time,” he said. “But next time it’s mine. No arguments.”

We shook hands. Jesus said, “I’m going to head into the men’s room and translocate from there so I don’t make a scene.”

“I’ve really enjoyed getting a chance to know you better, Jesus,” I said. “There’s so much about you that we earthborn just don’t know about you.”

“That’s because most people don’t want to know,” he said.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXIII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

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