THE NEW GUY - CAMERON ASHLEY
Jesus left town six months ago.
Pretty unceremonious departure. One certainly unbecoming our Lord and saviour. He left us, in pieces, wrapped in black garbage bags, in the back of a ute.
The new guy, he looked down at us. I mean not just from an angle, like the old Jesus did, hanging there above us. This new guy, he literally looked down on us. His face was all, how do you describe it? Kind of not a face. Like something from a Jap horror movie, all stringy hair and empty eyes and he had distended, stretched-out limbs. He was grotesque. He looked pissed off and ugly and he made me feel weird about all the shit I had going on, all the shit I’d done.
He’d been in town three months. The congregation warmed to him. I didn’t understand. I wanted to shout: he is not our Jesus! I wanted him gone, exiled Old Testament style. I wanted to start a petition, a fuckin’, a fuckin’ protest, something. I needed to do something.
New Jesus didn’t even fit in with the decor. I mean, mate, the church went back 100 years. It was mud brick and dirty and it only seated fifty-five. Outside, there was nothing but dust, weeds, horizon and abos, and we needed a Saviour who looked like a saviour not a serial killer. The place was ugly enough.
Under the watch of this new guy, I feared for our future. People started looking over their shoulders all suspicious. Lights stayed on at night. Old Max sat on his porch with his shotty loaded, shooting at lizards and sinking tinnies ’til the sun came up. Trust was gone. Civility was going. And nobody seemed to notice but me. We were going to the dogs. The new guy was bringing us down. The new guy’s ugliness reminded us of all the shit we’d done. Past sins, once forgotten, were dredged up and unforgiven. Who fucked who, who fought who, who fleeced who, it all came back like bad dreams remembered. Christ-like niceness undone, bang, just like that.
When the real Jesus fell off his cross and broke into little Jesusy bits, I got out of my seat and ran to Him and tried to put the Jesusy bits back together again. The pastor, he taps me on the shoulder and he says, “It’s okay, mate, we’ll get another Jesus.”
How the fuck do you get a new Jesus, I thought. Too shocked to speak, I cried and kept trying to fix Him up.
Pastor leans down, clasps me shoulder, whispers into me ear, “He’s not an action figure, mate...you can’t pop the bloody joints back in again. Go sit, you’re making everybody nervous.”
He turned to the congregation, all of them sitting there shocked quieter than when the town lost power during the Funniest Home Videos grand final, and told them what he told me: don’t worry, we’ll just get a new Jesus.
Like fuck, I thought, and stashed the broke off right hand of God into the pocket of me shorts.
I sat and held His hand the day they carted rest of Him away in Ron’s ute. Pastor saw me with the hand, looked like he was gunna say something, changed his mind, walked away muttering to himself.
When things got real bad and I went, right, time to fix this shit WWJD-style, I thought I could just piss off with the new guy, rock up one night, fuckin’ kidnap the cunt. Problem was he was too big, too heavy. Problem also was I didn’t wanna get near that freak.
So I decided.
Like I said, the church was one hundred years old. It was held together more by luck and prayer and the odd bit of timber here and there Phil brought in for patch up.
I stole Ron's ute. I put Jesus’ hand on the gear stick. I put my hand on Jesus’. We put her in first, said a quick prayer, and we booted it up the hill, quick as.
After the initial booming noise, the sound was oddly tinkling, brinks clinking against each other on the way down. The new guy got fucked up real good under a messy pile of chipped and smashed bits of old church.
I got out of hospital yesterday.
I thought there’d be trouble, like animosity. Nah.
People thanked me. They actually thanked me. They told me they understood, that they knew about my “troubles.” Then they told me:
They start building the new church today.