Some Kind of Inside Joke
Went to the river to sit for a while. Traced an old logging road
back through the woods and found a quiet spot by a tumbled-down
bridge. Settled under a sweetgum tree, looking to clear my head.
The river was amniotic, blood brown, pulsing toward the Gulf.
First thing you know, Buddha — right in the middle of the river,
looking oh so serene, as you might expect, seeing everything at
once and nothing in particular, his knees just a-pumping on a yellow
unicycle, the wheel whirling whirling, throwing out minnows and
frogs and turtles in all directions. A gator sidled up and tried
to take a nip out of his knobby tire, but Buddha just peddled on
by, leaving little waffled tracks in the surface. Well, this was
very perplexing, but I forced myself to settle down. Breathe, contemplate,
breathe some more. Things grew quiet again. Fish snatched waterbugs.
Next thing you know, here come Jesus, shorter than I expected,
and not nearly as gloomy as I'd been led to believe. He was jumping
on the river like it was a trampoline. Every time he landed, little
jets of water squirted up through the holes in his feet. He grinned
as he bounced by, looked my way, and said, "Every window misses
more light than it catches."
I wondered if that was some sort of insult, but decided to let it
go and kept sitting there, hands just so, prayerful and reverent,
contemplating the river's flow.
Then I heard a growl and a gurgle and a grind, and they both come
rumbling up in a rusty truck with jumbo tires; Jesus in the driver's
seat, Buddha riding shotgun. Their wheels bogged down in the surface
tension, spraying big gobs of water in wet rooster tails. They cut
a donut right in front of me, left me drenched from head to toe.
As they rolled back upstream, Buddha hollered "Every gift's
a curse.'' Well, Jesus just hooted at this, and gave me a wink.
"No! No! Every curse is a gift."
They both haw-hawed and high-fived, and punched each other
in the shoulder, and I figured it must be some kind of inside joke.
By now I'd had about enough. I stood up and started to leave. But
they were gone. And it was quiet. And I still had that craving,
you know, for that old time sense of oblivion, where you kind of
disappear and your hands feel like dried sycamore leaves, and you
forget all about it, whatever it is.
So I sat back down. Got settled just right. Tried one more time.
Well, sure enough, no sooner had I closed my eyes in solemn devotion
than they showed up again, Buddha toting some raggedy backpack,
Jesus dragging a tent.
They built a fire in the middle of the river. Sunk a few tent pegs
and spread out sleeping bags. All hope of solitude was gone. I gave
up and started hiking back to the car. Behind me I could hear the
two of them laughing, splashing, Jesus chasing Buddha, Buddha chasing
Jesus, up and down the river.
"Ha! You're it!''