My name is Jesus. And I’m back.

I always wanted to say that. “I’m back.” Like the Austrian Oak, what’s his name, the governor of California. Schwarzenegger, Arnold—if you’re into alphabetization. Which I am. Okay, that sounds kind of like I just said I’m Arnold Schwarzenegger. I am not him, and I didn’t say that. What I did say was I’m into alphabetization.

I loved those Terminator movies he made. Except for the third one, of course. I don’t think anyone liked that one. Corny. My favorite was the second one, where he rides the Harley, toting his shotgun. And when he … well, you saw it, I’m sure.

Anyway, I always wanted to say, “I’m back.” Of course, I didn’t say it, did I? I wrote it. Not quite the same, but almost.

I almost started this off with “Call me Jesus.” You know, like Melville did in Moby Dick. “Call me Ishmael.” And Vonnegut started Cat’s Cradle with “Call me Jonah.”

It sounds so cool. So mui macho. That’s another thing I always wanted. For people to think of me as macho. Imagine a wistful sigh here.

But right now I guess it’s not to be.

By right now, I mean right now. Maybe later at the so-called Second Advent. You know, where I make my big entrance: descending from heaven with armies of angels. And then Armageddon, the grand, final battle to end all battles. Where I kick everybody’s ass and then everybody bows down and says, “King of Kings, Lord of Lords.”

I can hardly wait for that. At last, I’ll be thought of as macho. No more of this turn the other cheek crap. Forgive and forget. Sharing is caring. You know, all that bilge.

Like I said, maybe later. Because this is not the Second Advent. This is just a short vacation. Every once in a while, every five hundred to a thousand years, I get sick and tired of sitting on my Great White Throne, doing nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. I mean I am holding the Universe together. But that’s easy. No, really. It’s a piece of cake.

Let me tell you, the way I hold the Universe together is simply this: I don’t think about blowing it all apart. If I thought about blowing it all apart, and then gave that little head-thrust thing that transfers my thoughts into actual reality … well, then it would be Bye Bye, Baby, Bye Bye. To everything. Except me, of course.

But don’t worry about a thang, sweet cheeks, because I’m not gonna’ do it. Not now, anyway. I do get to do it later, though. Way later. After Armageddon and the Millennium. You know, where I rule for a thousand years. And there’s no wars and no death and no divorce and no adultery and no drinking and no drugs and no sin and everything is pretty wonderful.

Sounds boring as hell, doesn’t it?

Anyway, after all that. Then I get to do the little head thrust thing that annihilates the Universe. But not to worry, because then I make a new one. And we start all over again. If it was Hollywood, it would be a sequel—bigger and better the second time.

Like I was saying, I’m just on a vacation from doing nothing, which gets pretty darn boring. As you can imagine, I’m sure.

lt’s been about six hundred and … let’s see … carry the one. Oops. Not quite six hundred years. More like 577 years. Since my last vacation.

Last time was 1431. That’s when it ended, anyway. Not a very good year. I’m sure you remember. I came as Joan of Arc. Kind of a disguise, don’t you know? When I come, I like to come as someone no one will notice. That way I can do things I wouldn’t normally get to do.

The Joan thing didn’t work out too well.

As a disguise, she was great. The problem began when no one knew who I was. I mean no one. Which was the way I wanted it. So I could do fun things, you know? The glitch was this: no one knew it was me—the Son of God—in this chick’s body—the chick named Joan. Hell, nobody in heaven even knew I was gone. Wait. I take that back. I’m sure Dad knew. You know, the heavenly Father. But he doesn’t like to interfere in my little masquerades, so he wouldn’t have said anything. Besides he’s kinda’ out there, if you know what I mean?

Anyway, since they didn’t know, they couldn’t plan around it—her, I mean—and so they just followed the Divine Plan. Which is free will and all that stuff. Anyway, to make a really long story less tedious, they didn’t know it was me dressed in drag, slumming.

And so Joan—who was me—started to hear voices. Which isn’t bad, really. In fact, it’s kind of fun. But the fun faded and a horrific nightmare took its place.

Let me tell you:

It started in the fall of 1428. I/Joan was 16. And I heard voices. Real voices. They whispered to me through the wind and even through the bells on the church I went to in my village.

“Go,” said the voices. “Seek out Charles, the Dauphin. He will give you an army and with the army you will drive the English invaders out of France.”

These voices belonged to St. Margaret of Antioch, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Michael the Archangel. I know that because they told me so. Yep. The voices identified themselves.

Neither of us, me nor Joan, knew St. Margaret or St. Catherine. I mean come on! There are bevies of these so-called saints. You need a guidebook just to keep ’em all straight. Most of ’em saw visions of my mom, walked round in dazes, starved themselves, went in for self-flagellation (don’t get me going on that subject), and died young and virtuous. Which meant they died with their virginity intact.

Big fucking deal! I mean, Jesus! Give me a break.

After they died, everybody who was anybody got together and talked about how great the dearly departed was. How kind, how sweet, how dedicated to God.

Have you ever noticed how most of ’em were women? I mean what’s up with that?

Anyway, instead of a statue or a plaque—both of which cost money—they (everybody who was anybody) decided to sanctify them. It was free and sounded real good. Saint so-and-so.

Most saints were paranoid schizophrenics when alive. Badly in need of psychotherapy and a couple of courses of drug therapy. And after they died and were elevated to SAINThood, they became trouble makers. I mean, how are you supposed to remember all these people? And people pray to ’em and wear medallions with their faces stamped on ’em.


Anyway, the third voice I heard was that of St. Michael the Archangel. Him I know. He’s the most famous angel ever. Everybody, and I mean everybody, lists him number one in the power rankings. Jews, Christians, and Islamics.

His titles read like the Yellow Pages: chief of the order of virtues, chief of archangels, prince of the presence, angel of repentance and righteousness and mercy and sanctification. He is also ruler of the Fourth Heaven, tutelary sar of Israel. Sar means angelic prince for those of you who aren’t up on your titles.

Another of his titles is guardian of Jacob. And he is called the conqueror of Satan. Keep in mind, however, that Satan is still very much around and unvanquished. So why he has the title, I don’t know. And neither does anyone else, except for Dad, of course. And he’s not saying.

At a guess, I’d say it’s some kind of honorific or something, based on what’s supposed to happen in the future. Kinda’ like that movie, you know, Back to the Future, with what’s-his-name—the guy the guy who played Teen Wolf.

There’s a gaggle of other titles too, but I can’t remember them all. You try being half-god and half-man. It gets a little confusing sometimes.

I do remember that his mystery name is Sabbathiel. Now, this is where it gets tricky. Because a mystery name represents an assumed truth that cannot be comprehended by the human mind but must be accepted on faith. I told you it was tricky.

The trick is this: you, if you’re human, cannot understand it. That’s why it’s a mystery. Get it?

Now, just so you won’t feel left out, I can tell you this: his mystery name means Saturn. Yeah, like the planet. And when you have one of these planetary names it means that you stand continually in the presence of The Big Guy (God). While standing there, you receive the divine light of the Holy Spirit and communicate it to those who dwell in your kingdom. Which means you’re a glorified conduit.

I guess.

I don’t understand it either. It’s very confusing. And I suspect that’s the way it was designed. Complication for the sake of confusion.

Anyway, now you know. Not that you care.

To continue:

Supposedly, Michael wrote the 85th Psalm. Don’t believe it, though. Everybody knows Dave wrote the Psalms. That and playing lead guitar were about the only things Dave did really well. I mean he sucked as a king—all those wars and all. And what about those Philistines?! Those guys just didn’t know when they were beat, did they? And he was a lousy father. Just look at how Absalom turned out. Hanging from a tree branch by his own hair. Then while he’s dangling like a flounder on a hook, his own uncle—whose name was Abner—comes along and kills him. Of course, what can you expect from a guy whose name is Abner? Talk about name trauma! I can’t think of anything much worse—maybe Bruce or Stu (short for Stuart).

I mean a name like that pretty much guarantees—or your money back—a cocked and locked severely neurotic murderer.

All those women? Well, I have to admit ol’ Dave was pretty much the ur-Don Juan. But the only one that stuck around was Bathsheba. And although she was a looker of supergoddess proportions, she wasn’t what I’d call brainy. If you know what I mean? Which goes a long way to explaining why she hung around.

St. Michael got to do some pretty cool stuff, too. He got to take out 186,000 soldiers, the so-called hosts of Sennacharib. He told me about that. All he did was snap his fingers, and bingo! They all dropped dead.

That’s impressive. I don’t care who you are.

Michael also got to tell Abraham, “Don’t even think about it.” You know, when Abe was going to kill his son Isaac, who was tied to the altar. And he got to be the burning in the burning bush that Moses saw. Talk about flicking your Bic. I mean how cool is that? Talking fire!

He played tug-of-war with Satan, using the body of Moses as the rope. Yuck! Michael won and then buried the body someplace that only he and The Big Guy know about. I don’t know why, and I don’t want to know why. Probably symbolic. Dad is big on symbolism.

Because of his celebrity, he gets credit for lots of stuff he never did. Like telling my mom that she was pregnant with me. Wrong. I was there. So I know it was Gabriel. And some say he was the angel in the fiery furnace with Daniel and his homeboys. No way. That was me. You can ask my Dad.

Then there’s the rumor that his tears turn into precious stones. What a hoax.

But some people believe anything. Just look at Pope Pius XII, for example. He fell for all this image management publicity that surrounded Michael. In 1950, Pius declared Michael to be the patron saint of policemen. Now there’s all these policemen praying to him, calling on him, petitioning him, etc., ad infinitum.

Anyway, that’s what happens when you get too famous and the paparazzi follow you around. You get accused of all sorts of things—good, bad and ugly.

Back to my story:

So I heard these voices. And leading an army and kicking ass and saving all of France sounded like fun, especially when I/Joan was sixteen. Besides I was living in dire poverty in that village and that’s no fun at all. Being poor sucks. Especially when there’s no television, no internet, no movies, no Blackberries, no iPods, and no alternative-rock radio stations. The only thing there is to do is sit around and realize how poor you really are. Which is akin to pounding large nails into your head with a Husquvarna tempered-steel hammer. Which is real suffering.

So off I went. I/Joan was tall and had a good figure, which was accentuated by this little red dress I wore. Talk about haute couture. I mean I was styling.

And it worked out well for a while. I talked the local commandant into taking me to the Dauphin, because you just don’t show up and get invited to the party. Not with some guy who goes by the title of Dauphin. When you hear he’s called Dauphin, you can pretty much figure he’s a little uptight.

I/Joan had this long black hair. If I was a high-literary kind of author, I’d use the word ‘raven.’ But since I’m just a hack, I’ll stick with black. I hacked the black off. Short hair was making a comeback, plus it gave me a definite taking-care-of-business look. Which doesn’t hurt when you’re planning on kicking a bunch of illegal immigrants out of your country. Talk about your homeland security!

When I got to the palace, they led me into the court where the Dauphin and his old lady hung out, basically doing nothing but lording it over everyone all day. I told Charles—who was the Dauphin—about hearing the voices. He was impressed. Of course, being a good Catholic and all it was expected.

When I told him I was a virgin to boot, he got really excited. So did his old lady, the Queen Mother, who was not very good looking, if you know what I mean. Skinny and tough looking like a chicken with no feathers. Later on I learned that in her day, she supposedly was quite the femme fatale, a real super-goddess. Like Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum homogenized into Super-duper Chick. I actually heard someone say about her that she had been “delightful and superb, if somewhat irascible.” In her younger days, which was aeons ago.

I’m sorry, I just didn’t see it. Clearly, she had failed to nurture her advantages.

Anyway, Charles the Dauphin had me watched night and day for two weeks. You know, to see if I was telling the truth. I guess. Then he had a bunch of stuffy old theologians come in and play 20 Questions with me. Which was kinda’ fun, like playing Double Jeopardy. After that the Queen Mother sent some old ladies in and they examined me. The examination was kind of embarrassing, to say the least. Suffice to say it was the medieval version of a modern strip search followed by the probing of body cavities. One cavity in particular, in my case. They wanted ‘‘to ascertain that you are indeed a virgin.”

Somehow the formality in our relationship seemed to be breaking down. Or maybe I’m just hypersensitive about these things.

It seems it was a big deal. My being a virgin or not. Because when Charles the Dauphin was told that I was, he became even more excited. To calm him down, I/Joan told him that my virginity was not luck. Rather it was deliberate. I/Joan had pledged chastity to St. Margaret and S1. Catherine “for as long as it may please God.”

It was here that I made a note to myself to check with Dad on this. I mean does chastity really please him? I have my doubts, but everybody else seems to think so.

In the end, it was pretty much the purity thing that convinced Charles that I was the real deal—that I was on a divine mission for God and France.

So he put me in charge. He gave me some troops and told me to go get ’em. By that he meant I should end the siege the English had at Orleans. Which would then allow him to travel to Reims where he could be crowned King.

And that’s what I/Joan did.

Charles the Dauphin was crowned King Charles VII at Reims Cathedral.

Everybody was pretty impressed, I can tell you. They all thought it was some kind of miracle or something, that a cross-dressing chick of 16 could plan battles and lead men into mortal combat. Come to think of it, it would make a great video game. Which would put Halo and Grand Theft Auto into the also-ran category in a nanosecond. We could call it Down and Dirty, or Sick! Or Bad Bitch and the Homeboys. You get the idea.

Back to how dazzled everybody was:

No big deal, really. I mean I am Jesus, the Son of God. Of course, no one knew that, so I can understand how from their viewpoint the whole thing was marvelous to behold.

Then it all came crashing down. This group of people called the Burgundians, who came from the province of Burgundy (imagine that), and who were French but were fighting for the English for a lot of silly religious and political reasons, captured me/Joan and sold me to the English. For some serious cash, I might add. Simple supply and demand economics.

As you can see, there was a lot of selfish self-interest going on at the time. Just like always. The profit motive always prevails, I have noticed.

The English, of course, tossed me into jail and insisted that I/Joan wear proper women’s clothing. Cross-dressing really bothered them for some reason. Probably threatened their manhood and all that.

Then—wouldn’t you know it—the gossip began. People can be so mean sometimes. They called me a whore. Basically, they said I fucked my way to the top like some Hollywood movie starlet.

Well, I didn’t care. Sticks and stones, right? But the Joan part of I/Joan was really upset by the nasty chatter. What a scandal! So just like some modem day politician, I/Joan proclaimed our innocence. I/Joan demanded, then begged for official examination.

They did. And I/Joan was still a virgin. End of scandal.

But the problems were just beginning.

The English transferred me to Rouen, which isn’t a bad place, unless you’re in jail. They called in more than one hundred old white guys, who called themselves an Inquisition. I/Joan was tried for heresy and sorcery. Basically, what it came down to was this: I was accused of worshipping false gods—the three saints of my visions. The technical word for it was idolatry. It’s been around forever—since before the Flood and Noah.

Same old, same old.

I/Joan was also charged with more idolatry—making myself into a masculine idol—by wearing men’s clothes. The old white guys called it “a false lie.” Like there’s any other kind?

In other words, what I/Joan was really on trial for was not being like everybody else and for cross-dressing. Cross-dressing?! What a joke!

But it wasn’t. Not to the old white guys anyway. They pretty much figured I/Joan was a transvestite, ala Lou Reed, and thus a menace to society and good clean living.

I/Joan defended myself by invoking the name of God. I was doing His will. I said, “It pleases God that I wear it. I do it on the command of our Lord and in His service. When I have done what I was sent to do by God, I will take on women’s clothes.”

Of course, that kind of statement only made them think I was a total nutcase. I had the same problem with the Jews and the Romans back in the year 32. If you run around claiming you hear the voice of God and that you’re doing God’s work and that God is your Father and all that kind of thing … well, people tend to get a little annoyed. Then they get nervous. And the next thing you know, you’re on trial.

My advice is this: if at all possible, stay out of court. And if you have to go to court for a trial, get yourself the best possible lawyer you can afford. Because although it’s sad, it’s also very true that in court money talks. Or as my aunt used to say, “Money doesn’t just talk. It shouts.”

Wanting to avoid another crucifixion scenario—nasty things—I made a deal. In today’s world it would be called a plea bargain. I confessed to “adoring and calling up evil spirits, breaking the divine law, Holy Scriptures, and the canon laws.” All of which was considered less vulgar than cross-dressing. Go figure.

Then they shaved my head so I looked like Telly Savalas and told me that instead of killing me they were sentencing me to life in prison.

Boy was I pissed! I was expecting them to come through for me. I mean I had confessed and signed their little paper. What happened to probation and maybe some community service? You know, I could have gone around and told kids the evil of cross-dressing, or picked up trash.

So I did what anyone would have done. I cross-dressed—again. And they put me back on trial. And found me guilty. Why was I not surprised?

Then they took me out into the churchyard of St. Quen, tied me to a stake. Bundles of kindling wood and dried weeds were piled around the stake. They lit it on fire.

I/Joan burned alive. End of story.

If I had to choose between being burnt at the stake and being crucified, I’d choose to go shopping at the Mall of America: all three are nuisances, which ultimately need to be annulled.

After all that, I’d kinda’ had my fill of vacations for a while. But after 477 years it was time for another. Doing nothing, even in heaven, can get boring.

So here I am. I’m back. I’m Jesus. And I’m nationwide.

This time I came back as a long-haul trucker. My name is Henry Lucas. I’m 38 years old, single, and call Des Moines, Iowa home. I drive an 18-wheel Peterbilt for SWIFT. SWIFT is one of the BIG trucking companies. They have thousands of tractors and thousands of trailers.

Tractors, for those of you who have been living under a rock in North Dakota or in a cave in Idaho with three wives, are what they call the truck thingy, the part up front with the engine and the steering wheel and all that stuff. Why they call it a tractor, I’m not exactly sure. I mean it doesn’t look like my idea of a tractor. You know, little front wheels and great big back wheels with V-shaped treads to grab the dirt, driving around a corn field in Nebraska, kicking up all sorts of dust. Almost makes you want to move to California. Almost. But not quite.

Mostly, I guess they call it a tractor because it pulls things. In this case, either a flatbed trailer, a box trailer, or what they call a ‘reefer.’ No, it’s not a marijuana cigarette, which is what I thought, too. Actually, in trucker-talk a reefer is a refrigerated box trailer. Kind of like a 53-foot-long Maytag refrigerator, if you need a metaphor to help you visualize it.

Anyway, that’s what I do while I’m on my long overdue vacation. I drive a truck. Truck drivers, for the most part, are good ol’ boys. Some people call ’em rednecks. Other people call ’em peckerwoods. I’ve even heard them called ‘ignorant riff-raff.’

Of course, if you’re keeping up with contemporary psychological theories—via Psychology Today magazine—then you know that people who call other people names are not only childish but guilty of what is called ‘projection.’ Which means they—the childish name callers—accuse others of that which they most despise about themselves. For example, if I call you an alcoholic sex addict, it’s because I’m a lush and really like sex. I’m projecting my flaws upon you.

All that to say this: most people—middle class types, upper-middle class types, lower-upper class types, upper class types, and the super-elites—think truck drivers spread around an opium den atmosphere. You know, drug addled perverts in 18-wheeled mobile sin factories.

They (snooty, goodie-goodie types) think this because they don’t understand. Rather than try to explain why they don’t understand, and what they don’t understand, I’ll do it this way. The Completion Backward Principle: what they do understand is SUVs, suburbia, reality TV, American Idol, fast food, and Perez Hilton.

Which pretty much clears up why and what they don’t understand.

A friend of mine, whose name is Norman Hobday, calls ’em supersubmorons. All one word, I think. Although it might be super-sub-morons—lots of hyphens. Or even super sub-morons—utilizing the mono-hyphenation form.

However, I must point out that Norman has … how shall I put it? Ah, I know >>> small command of the social graces.

The problem—as I see it—is this: there is no true consensus about anything in humanity. Which is a nice way of saying no one understands anyone else. Or, as Woody Allen so aptly put it: nothing works and nobody cares.

Anyway, truck drivers are regular people, which is to say pretty regular guys and gals. Yes, there are women truck drivers.

Don’t go all sexist on me.


Right now, I’m hauling a load of garlic. Picked it up just outside San Jose, California. A little town called Gilroy, which advertises itself as “The Garlic Capital of the World.” And by golly, it is. They even have this Garlic Festival once a year. You know, a street fair kind of thing. Garlic, of course, is the theme. They serve garlic beer, garlic fries, even garlic flavored ice cream.

Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

I’m hauling the garlic up to Butte, Montana, which is the “Cowboy Capital of the World.”

Outside Shasta in Northern California—which is probably the fifth prettiest lake in the world—I’m barreling up I-5—which is probably the fifth most boring highway in the world—when I see a hitchhiker standing out in the middle of nowhere. Her thumb is up.

How do I know she is a her? I’m sorry you asked that question, because this is where it gets tricky. Kind of metaphysical, if you know what I mean? I know she is a her because I feel it. A responsive energy flows out of her and I sense it.

Responsive energy is nice, warm, and feels like yellow or blue sometimes.

It’s complicated to explain. So I’ll just put it this way: I’m Jesus and I feel things. And that’s the way it is. Okay? Trust me on this.

Did I mention I also have 20/15 eyesight and that she had a skirt on?

Now not only is hitchhiking frowned upon in the sovereign state of California, but SWIFT trucking company has strict rules against picking up hitchhikers. The rule goes something like this: pick up a hitchhiker and you will be fired. IF they find out, I might add. And I add it because maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Usually they won’t.

I’ve discovered it’s the add-ons that can make you or break you.

Plus, if you’ve read my dossier—quaintly referred to by some as The Bible—then you know that occasionally I have been known to participate in scandals, improprieties, defiances, and outrageous pronouncements.

I decide to pull over and offer her a ride.

Hazy sunlight plays on the metal skin of my Peterbilt, and heat waves shimmer up from the tarmac as she opens the passenger’s door.

She looks to be about 12 years old, that’s how small and trim she is. But I sense she’s 17 or 18 years old. She stares at me with big eyes. She’s framed in the door opening like an old Vermeer painting. Dark versus light like in a Blade movie.

“Going my way?” I say.

She doesn’t say anything, but her eyebrows quiver. I take that to mean what way might that be?

“Hauling garlic to Butte, Montana,” I say.

She nods without a change of expression and climbs in.

She wears a short black skirt and a brown shirt. Her hair is dark and rumpled, whether from wind or neglect, I don’t know. In today’s world, it could be a fashion statement. In fact, ‘could’ is probably the wrong word. For could implies the subjunctive mood, and everybody and his mother knows what that means. It means a verb expressing condition, hypothesis, contingency, or possibility. (No extra charge for these tidbits of grammar and syntax).

Odds are she spent three hundred dollars on it at some salon. Which means it’s a style. Which means it is a fashion statement.

On her feet are Reeboks, the ones with the straps. I’ve seen them advertised on TV. They’re not quite what the hip-hop kids call “custom joints,” but they’re still cool.

Like I said, she’s a tiny thing. Reminds me of that movie star chick what’s-her-hoozy? You know, the one in the first three Star Wars movies. Which, in reality, were the last three, because they made the prequels after the sequels.

Natalie Portman. That’s her name. Not my hitcher. The chick in the Star Wars flicks. Her name is Natalie Portman.

I liked Natalie in those movies. However, I did not like the movies. The only reason I watched the movies was to watch Natalie. She gives great performances—“projecting an innocent vulnerability” was the way one reviewer put it. And I agree.

My hitcher has the same innocent vulnerability. Like she’s lost her place while reading a book and can’t find where she was.

Easing the Peterbilt back onto the highway, I see her with my peripheral vision. Out of the comers of my eyes, to put it more poetically. She stares straight ahead.

“It’s neat, huh?” I say.

She turns her head and gives me a questioning look.

“Being this high,” I say, waving my hand at the dashboard. “In a truck you can see everything.” I point out the front window.

“The road, the tops of the other cars. You can even look right down into the cars, see what they’re doing, if you want to.”

She nods. “Kinda’ loud, though,” she says.

“A little bit,” I say. “But you get used to it and don’t notice it after a while.”

“Yeah,” she says slowly. “I guess so.” She pauses. Then adds, “Like living.”

I glance over at her. It occurs to me this could get interesting. That I’d like for it to. So I prompt her.

“Whatcha’ mean, like living?”

“You know, everybody has a life. And they live it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a good life or a bad life. After a while, they get used to it. Once they get used to it, they don’t notice it much anymore. They just live.”

She holds one hand in the other as she speaks. Her hands rest in her lap.

I think about what she said. “Yeah. You’re right,” I say. “I never thought of it that way before.”

Turning my head, I grin at her. “How come you’re so smart?”

She tosses her head a little, shrugs. “I’m not,” she says. “I just don’t want to end up that way—not noticing my life. I don’t want to take my life or anybody’s life for granted. Because if I do that, then the only time I notice it will be when something out of the ordinary happens.”

“Like what?”

“Like someone dies. Or I have a terrible car accident and almost die. I read somewhere that’s the second most traumatic thing that can happen to a person,” she says.

“What’s the first?”

“The book said the loss of a loved one is the worst, like when a family member dies. Or your wife. A husband, maybe. A child.”

I nod. “Yeah, I think your book was right.”

A big, fat bug splats against my windshield. There’s a bug guard on the hood of the Peterbilt that’s supposed to prevent that. Sometimes, though, the bugs ride the airflow right over the guard and meet their maker—literally—face to face.

I flip the wiper stalk, and window cleaner sprays out of little jets at the bottom of the windshield. Then the rubber blades of the windshield wipers kick in, smearing the bug goo all over the place. A big yellow crescent of bug innards paints across the glass.

So I douse it with more spray. It takes three times for it to vanish. Even then there’s a yellow crease where the wiper blade stops.

“Okay,” I say. “Those are bad things that get your attention and make you notice your life. What about some good things?”

“Different things for different people,” she says, frowning a little. “For some people it could be getting married. For some it could be a baby, bringing new life into the world. For others it could be winning the lottery or a Nobel Prize.”

She pauses. Then says, “In most cases, the good things that make you notice your life are things that make you feel like you’re worth something. Like you matter.”

“So until it happens, they don’t feel like they’re worth anything? They feel worthless?”

“Feel may be the wrong word,” she says. “If you asked them, they wouldn’t say they ‘felt’ worthless. But they do. It’s always there, in the back of heir heads … a sense of shame for not being more than they are. For living an ordinary and boring life.”

“Hmm,” I say. “I never thought of it that way, but I think you’re right.”

She looks out the windshield and I wonder what she sees. The road? Or some private vision?

I drive on, seeing the road, thinking about my life, which is eternal. Which means it’s easy to not notice your life. Because eternal life is a long time, and it’s easy to get used to it.

Her name is Heather. That’s what she tells me later at lunch. Either she doesn’t have a last name or she’s not giving it up for some reason. Maybe it just doesn’t matter. I don’t know.

Flying J truck stop. That’s where we stop for lunch. They’re a national chain of truck stops. Flying J has it all. Fuel, food, showers, snacks, newspapers, internet hookups, and televisions. Truckers can even pick up mail and cash advances at Flying J.

Actually, they call them Flying J Travel Plazas. They’re not truck stops anymore. This jugglery of nomenclature is supposed to make you believe you are not stopping for gas and food. Rather you are arriving at a destination. A place where one goes to cultivate style, a classy boutique where they just happen to sell petroleum products and junk food for sugar junkies.

Packaging is everything.

I park the Peterbilt. Luckily, there’s a spot I can pull forward into. Knock wood, rub your rabbit’s foot, kiss your crucifix, or say a prayer. Whatever your religion, keep doing it, because there is nothing as annoying as having to back an eighteen wheeler into a slender chute of space between two other trucks. Talk about tricky.

Needless to say, I am not very good at it. Less than proficient is another way of describing my ability to go backwards.

Indeed, some people have defined my level of attainment in the art of backing up by saying, “It sucks.” Which leaves little doubt as to my competence in this particular endeavor. However, I would point out that there exists a certain type of person whose dominant trait is a passion to excel—at all things—even backing up a truck, which they rank among the pinnacle of social skills. These people are obnoxious and the world would be a better place without them.

To that end, in my official capacity as the Son of God and Ruler of the Universe, I plan on taking another look at these people, with an eye toward changing things. It’s on my list is what I’m saying.

It’s about number 21, if memory serves me. Written in a green notebook, one of those cheap spiral notebooks that say SPELL-WRITE STENO-BOOK on the forest green cardboard cover. According to the other information on the cover, it is greentint paper, 80 sheets, Gregg ruled, 6 x 9 in., or 15.2 x 22.8 cm. The latter number is for those atheists who refuse to think in God’s feet and inches.

I mean think about it. If you ask someone what size is your neat little notebook, would you rather have them say, “6 by 9,” or “15.2 by 22.8 centimeters?” The first answer—the one in God’s feet and inches—lets you know it’s the same size (or close thereto) as most trade paperbacks. Whereas in response to the second answer, most people think to themselves “Jesus! What the hell does that mean?” Which is not only an embarrassing mixing of expletives—Jesus and hell—but to some people constitutes a very specific sin: taking the Lord’s name in vain.

It’s not. Not really. Which is another of those interpretational mistakes that everyone finds themselves bogged down in—like trying to swim across an ocean of molasses.

Anyway, you know what I mean, right? Not about interpretation or swimming across an ocean of molasses, but about the metric answer. It’s mumbo jumbo. No one has any idea how big the notebook is. But rather than say, “What the hell does that mean?”—which makes them sound stoooopid, which no one wants to sound—they say, “Hmmm,” and nod knowingly. Like they know what the hell you’re talking about. Which they don’t. Which means they’re now guilty of lying. Which means—depending on a lot of variables which I don’t want to get into right now—they could end up spending a very long and uncomfortable period of time in hell. Also called the Lake of Fire.

And I can pretty much guarantee you that if and when they find themselves in the Lake of Fire, they are going to say what they should have said a long time ago: “What the hell?”

All because of the metric system.

I’m just saying.

Anyway, sorry about the digression there. But don’t you think it’s those little side trips that add flavor to life?

Back to my list. As I was saying, I have this list. I call it Things For The Lord Almighty To Do (when he has time and is so inclined). Number 21 on the list is ‘look into dominant overachievers, who are obnoxious, and need to be taken down a notch or two because they’re getting too big for their britches.’

Number One on the list—in case you’re wondering—is to ‘make a special compartment in hell for self-righteous bully boys, the ones who like to crucify people and bum women at the stake.’