This piece is taken from her debut collection, Train Shots.
Halloween night I’m about to run out the front door of my house when I realize the Ask Jesus figurine is missing from my cape pocket. From the driveway Erica yells at me to hurry up, as if I have to be reminded that her managers have been preparing this party for weeks. I ignore her and dash inside—without the figurine and its Magic 8 Ball embedded beneath, my costume won’t make sense.
I head straight for the bedroom and tear apart the drawers. The front door slams shut and a moment later, Erica lurks in the doorway of our room.
“Kind of hard to miss a pink Jesus doll,” she says.
“The Ask Jesus is not a doll,” I tell her. “He’s a limited edition figurine made in 1986. And you could take a look around and help me find him.”
“I’ve got all the parts to my costume.” She pets the short black feathers lining the top of her bustier. In a purple-netted skirt, fishnets, and heels, she’s supposedly a reincarnation of Gypsy Rose Lee, the burlesque star. I think she looks more like a ballerina on crack.
“Will you check the living room so we can find him and go?” I ask. I flip the bed covers and kneel, dragging my hand underneath.
Instead she sticks her tits in my face and waggles back and forth. “Don’t I look great in this?”
“Yeah,” I say, “great.”
She groans and struts away. “I knew you picked a stupid costume,” she says. “Look, why don’t you just throw on the Smokey the Bear suit from last year?”
“If I can’t find the Ask Jesus, I’m not going to the party,” I answer. I tilt the trashcan, but no pink Jesus.
“Fine,” she says. Her patent leather heels clop down the hallway and her laughter echoes off the bare walls. My face gets hot and my eyes go watery with tears and I think this is no way to spend our first week living together.
The next morning I stumble into the living room and find Erica passed out, spiked heels and all, on the beanbag chair. On the coffee table is a ripped open package of vanilla cookies, a glass of Glenfiddich, and a Bettie Page calendar opened to next month, November, with some dates circled. I push away the sticky glass and tug the calendar toward me.
She opens her eyes and lunges for it.
“What time did you get home last night?” I ask, glancing at the dates. The numbers have no apparent significance.
“Did you find him?” she asks.
“Oh, God,” she says. She sits up and fake feathers from her boa are stuck on her forehead and neck. “The Jesus. Your stupid pink vinyl toy Jesus!”
“You shouldn’t call him stupid. It’s still Jesus.” I chuck the calendar at her feet and say, “I’m going to look for him outside. Maybe I brought him out when I put up the porch display. He could be stuck behind a mummy or something.”
She kicks and her heel smacks Bettie Page’s head, busts a hole through the paper. I grab her ankles. Her fishnets have runs in both legs. She writhes and almost jabs me in the throat.
“Quit it,” I yell. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
“Leave me alone,” she whines.
I unbuckle the shoe straps to disarm her. “How was the party?”
“Go ahead and ask Jesus when you find him,” she says. “As if you’d care to really know.” Shoes off, she kneads her toes against my stomach, then brings her feet to my chest and shoves me away. I grab one foot and start tickling the bottom. “Help me look
for him. I’ll make you pancakes,” I tell her. “Maybe even eggs benedict.” She hates cooking but it’s my only other passion besides costumes.
“I don’t like your cooking anymore,” she says. “And I’m not hungry.”
I drop her feet, slide away and leave her in a sulking lump to wander in search of the Ask Jesus.
That night I stroll into the bedroom to find Erica reclining with one hand behind her head. The other is massaging her boobs. She’s naked, and alternates her massage from one breast to the other every thirty seconds.
“Do you really have to do that?” I ask.
“If I don’t, the silicon hardens,” she replies. “I don’t want them to get like rocks. You heard the doctor.”
I step into the closet and turn on the light. “My opinion didn’t matter much, if you recall.”
“Well, I like them,” she says. “You have to admit they made my costume a success.”
“I still haven’t found the Ask Jesus,” I say. “Imagine if he’s right here, in front of my face.”
“Why don’t you just give up?” she calls from the bed. “Buy a new one.”
“That’s not the point,” I say. “He was here, and now he’s gone. It’s not like he ascended.” I rummage in the plastic storage bins piled high with Mardi Gras beads, a lunch box, a baton, the Smokey the Bear hat.
“I don’t even understand what your costume was supposed to be,” she says. The sheets rustle and I glance up at her moving towards me, her fake breasts planted like waxen udders. “Who’s the Bible Blazer anyway?”
“He’s the super hero of the Bible Belt,” I explain. “The Ask Jesus is central to the costume and stands for the entire ‘What would Jesus do?’ movement. Without it, the costume fails in purpose.”
“You ought to have an Ask Mary doll in your other pocket,” she says. “To fairly represent women.”
“Ask Mary wouldn’t be the same as Ask Jesus,” I say, shaking my head. “Not at all. Are you just going to stand there naked or help me find him?”
“And what’s this?” She picks up the belt I made for the Bible Blazer costume and holds it far away, as if it’s a poisonous snake. I had fixed a miniature Gideons Bible––the free ones handed out in malls––over the buckle.
“Get out of my way if you’re not going to help,” I tell her.
“You could help me,” she says. Still holding the belt, she reaches down with her other hand and pinches her nipple. “Aren’t breasts a lot more exciting?”
We stare at one another in the doorway of the closet. I peel the belt away from her hand. “What happened at that party? You still haven’t told me.”
“Nothing,” she says. “It wasn’t important after all.” She looks down at her breasts. Then she does something strange. She slaps them, first lightly but then harder. I watch, amazed. Her lip pouts in anger. She keeps slapping as if I’m not even there. I step forward and grab her by the shoulders, but she brushes past me into the master bathroom. Seconds later the shower is running. I sit on the edge of the bed, unsure of what just happened.
From the shower Erica gives a cry and a thump sounds against the bathroom door. I leap up and push the door open a few more inches.
The Ask Jesus rolls into view.
That night Erica takes a sleeping pill and snores soundly within minutes, leaving me to lie awake and wonder: did she hide the Ask Jesus on purpose? I sit up and turn on the lamp.
Even the dim light hurts my eyes. While I wait for them to adjust, I take the Ask Jesus off the bedside table and study him. He’s about the same height and weight of Mrs. Butterworth and an appropriate Easter pink. He wears a pansy-ass Jesus expression paired with long hippy hair that I don’t really find acceptable, but it’s Jesus, just the same. So what am I waiting for? I close my eyes and form my question. Am I right about what’s happened to my wife? Then I flip him upside down and stare into the window beneath his pink robes and sandaled feet for the response to appear. The water sloshes and I have to hold him underneath the lamp in order to read the bobbing message: It is decidedly so.
Barely a week later, I find the Bettie Page calendar in the garage trash, big red Xs over Bettie’s face, tits, and ass, although the page with the marked dates is missing. Erica starts wearing loose button-downs with the sleeves rolled up and makes big breakfasts in the morning, even during the week—waffles, coffee, eggs-any-which-way.
Erica gets up on Sunday and says she’s going to check out a non-denominational church down the road. I stay home and complete an online dating profile with the requirement,
“Ladies with enhancements of any make or model need not apply.” As I complete the series of personal questions, I consult the Ask
Jesus perched atop my dresser, found but not forgotten. His answers seem to match my own. This gives me a good feeling.
I have just finished when Erica returns. She idly picks up the Ask Jesus and strokes his face. “Glad I found him,” she says.
“Did you?” I ask.
“Of course,” she replies. “Under the bathroom sink. The cleaning lady must have thought he was some type of soap dispenser.”
I doubt this is true. I suspect Erica didn’t want me to go to the party because her lover would be there, so she hid Jesus on me. Then they had a falling out which she’s now trying to cover up.
I wave for her to hand over Jesus so that I may ask him myself. Is there any hope to save my marriage? I plead silently.
His response: Pray harder.
“You act as if God is really communicating with you through that doll,” Erica says with a snort. “It’s absurd.”
“Oh, yeah? Maybe you should ask him if my ways are so absurd.” I set Ask Jesus on the table and scoot him forward to face her.
For a moment she remains still, as if squared off in a showdown with the figurine, but then she grabs it. She twists and shakes his body a few times and turns him on end. “Is my husband as foolish as I think he is, Jesus?” she asks in a steady but mocking tone.
“Allow me to predict his answer,” I say. “Don’t count on it. Unless you want to confess. Tell me what’s been going on with you these last few months.”
She stares for a long time at the message but doesn’t show it to me. “No, I don’t,” she says. “What I want is a clean slate. And enough with this Jesus doll.”
“No questions asked,” I say slowly, deliberating. “That’s asking a lot. Especially when I have no idea whether or not you still love me.”
She nods. “What about you?” she asks, her voice small. She looks strikingly penitent. Maybe it’s the shirt, sans cleavage. Her eyes without makeup, searching mine.
I rise and pause just long enough to rest my hand on her head. “What do you think?” I ask. Then I walk out to the porch, banging the screen door, and toss Ask Jesus in the trash can with the other Halloween decorations, soaked and wilted after days of rain.
Photo By: Ray_from_LA