My stepson, Jesus Christ, doesn’t like me. He knows I’m not his father. He tells me all the time. The other day, when I asked him to sweep the sawdust from the carpentry shop, he threw the broom to the floor and shouted, “You’re not my real dad. I’m the Son of God!”
He calls me, “Big J”, “Joey”, sometimes just “Joe”. I haven’t decided which of these nicknames I can live with, but the intent behind them is the same: to demean, humiliate, condescend, strip me of all that I have on the wonder kid: age. When I remind him of this, he’s quick to point out that he’s been here since the beginning, he’s the light and the dark, and has witnessed the creation of all things, even me.
I don’t like to think about that part too much.
Yeah, well who wiped your ass when you were just a babe in a manger? Who cradled your head by the neck before you had the strength to perform miracles? Who helped you put on your sandals when you couldn’t ride a donkey? It was me, Jesus, me!
“Get a life,” he says.
Mary admonishes him often enough. “I don’t care if you’re omnipotent, that’s no way to speak to your dad.”
But he’s always got a response ripped right from the scripture.
“But he isn’t my dad. He had nothing to do with my immaculate conception! I mean it’s nice you’re kicking around to show mom support and all, Big J, but you know you’re really just a fill-in, right? My real dad has some real shit to do, like smite the wicked. I mean, don’t you want to do something with your time on this earth? I plan on absolving mankind of sin. What are you going to just sit there and whittle?”
“Jesus!” Mary shouts.
“I’m sorry, Big J, forgive me. I don’t know what got a hold of me, but it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. I just need to blow off some steam. Can I take the donkey into town?”
My stepson Jesus Christ shows me up in every single way. He’s not just a prodigy; the kid has charm. I thought I’d get a laugh out of Mary on our trip to the beach by cannonballing into the Sea of Galilee. And I did. Mary laughed. Then Jesus went ahead and walked across it, and Mary guffawed so hard she wet her robe.
When my wife sets bread on the table, he says, “You know that’s my body right?”
When I catch him drinking underage he says, “But it’s my blood, Joe.”
Last year I lifted a hefty vase for Mary in the stable and in the process caused my intestine to slip through my abdominal wall. I asked Mary to take me to the town surgeon, but my stepson wanted to give healing a try. “Hang on Joey, I think I got this,” he said, rubbing his hands together. He blew on them, and without my consent administered the holy cough test. And like that, an unreported miracle: Jesus healed my hernia.
One time, I hosted a barbecue for Mary’s girlfriends and their plus ones. My lady works hard and deserves to be acknowledged. She is, after all, raising the messiah. I wanted to do something special for her. And I did. It was nice. Mary’s friends thanked me and complimented my choice of mead and waited expectantly for the main course from the fire. But it was my stepson Jesus Christ who stole the show; when I ran out of lamb burger buns he multiplied them by the thousands. He did the same with the tzatziki too. And we all had as much as we wanted. And our breath smelled of hell for days.
Sometimes I wish he’d give up on the miracles already and just play the fucking shofar.
The custody arrangement with Jesus is beyond confused. He treats our home like a hotel. He’s taking advantage of getting to choose between homes, now that he’s turned twelve. He regularly runs away, and Mary gets worked up every time, as any mother would. We search endlessly, for fear he’s getting mugged at a camel stop, or being kidnapped for King Herod. When we find him in the temple after many days, he appears unsurprised and asks, “What, you didn’t know I’d be at dad’s?”
That’s all he has to say.
Once in a while, I’ll find him crying with the sheep. He’s sorry, he’ll say. He treats me like trash, he knows. He doesn’t want to. He can’t help it. It’s just a lot of pressure knowing that he’s going to have to die for all mankind, and he’s scared of how it’s going to go down. It’s hard to keep up the benevolent image under such stress, and life is just easier if he can have someone to unleash his meanness upon, like me.
I thought that was a sweet moment, until I noticed he was wearing a bracelet that read: What Would I Do?
I do not sleep with Mary. Jesus does not fear the devil, but he is scared of the dark. He makes it clear that in his father’s stead, he alone may share a cot with his mom. Jesus says his father wants her to remain a perpetual virgin. I point out that’s actually what he wants. Jesus asks for clarification. I say, “Well, if you and your father are one and the same.” Mary says it’s cute. I say that Jesus is a brat with an Oedipus complex that keeps me from getting laid.
I often sleep in the stable, because of my stepson, Jesus Christ.
It’s ok, I tell myself. Our donkey is a generous big spoon.
They’ll write books about this kid someday, and you won’t even know how I died.