I began making up stories when I was five or six, stories about all kinds of things, marriage, kids, my relatives…and they were harmless, child make-believe. Today, my made-up stories, are called fiction. So finally, I have a collection of stories, beginning with Plastic Jesus, the germ of which began when I first heard the song on the radio in 1962. The other stories in the collection were written at various times, some quite recently. After enjoying a long business life, I have now come home, where I am spending my time writing, writing, and writing.
PLASTIC JESUS, PART 1
I am bought by a lady. I feel her soft hands pick me up and soon I am looking directly into her pale blue eyes. Her skin is fair and wrinkled and her gray hair is pulled back from her face. We stare at each other and then she says,
“Sweet Jesus, my name is Violet, and you’re coming home with me.”
Inside the gray sedan, I hear her peel the cellophane from the stick-um at the base of my stand and watch as she fastens it firmly in place in the center of the dashboard. Putting me back on my stand, she says softly,
“This is your new home, little Jesus.” She gestures toward the windshield and beyond, and says, “From here, you’ll be able to see the world.”
When I was living on a glass shelf with rows of my replicas, a price sticker pasted on my back, I had no idea what my life was going to be like; now I feel blessed.
I feel the warmth of the sun coming through the windshield as we drive out of the parking lot and onto the street. I see sidewalks and buildings and people. It’s all so interesting; I can’t wait to see the rest of the world.
As it turns out, the world I usually see is on Tuesday and Friday mornings when Violet and I go shopping. On these twice-weekly excursions, I hear the car door open, I hear Violet climb in, and I feel her soft hands pick me up and turn me to face her. I look directly into her pale blue eyes and each time I see a great sadness in them. For some reason, it gives me a strong tingly feeling; somehow, and in some way, I want to make her feel better.
Violet is a small woman and her figure is slender and compact. She dresses nicely, in long-sleeved shifts, or sometimes in a black sweater and slim skirt, with a coat and a small, dark-colored hat perched a bit sideways on her head. She never fails
to greet me.
“Hello, Sweet Jesus, it makes me so happy just to see you,” she often says, then places me back on my stand before starting the car and backing it out of the garage. Once on the road, she talks to me non-stop as we travel the familiar streets to the grocery store.
“Sweet Jesus,” she’ll say, “my dear friend Nellie called me this morning to tell me her nephew is visiting, and invited me to join them for dinner,” or…
“Oh, how I wish my Bobby was well enough to come for dinner,” or…
“Sweet Jesus, I’ve never told anyone this but I feel so regretful for never having married,” or…
“Mother always told me I was too good for any of the men I liked and then time went so fast,” or…
“Sweet Jesus, it shames me to confess that I used to pretend the children in my classes were my own, and imagined taking them home with me,” and so on, talking about her life until we pull into a parking lot filled with cars.
Then she gets out of the car and leaves me alone to gaze at all the people coming and going with bags of groceries, kids playing and running alongside their parents. Seeing all this makes me want to talk and walk along with them, and I get that same tingly feeling in my plastic body as when I look into Violet’s sad eyes. Surely, I have something to give to Violet and to all these others.
In addition to our Tuesday and Friday shopping trips, on Sundays we drive out to the country and park on a little knoll overlooking large gardens and a big rambling brick building that has iron bars on the second and third-floor windows. There is a sign painted in black letters over the double front doors: Pinewood Sanitarium. Violet lifts me off my base and looks into my eyes as she makes the sign of a cross, moving her other hand up and down and across her breast, and murmurs,
“Sweet Lord Jesus, twenty-four years ago I asked you for a
child, and you gave me Bobby. I have not asked for anything sincse. Now, I ask only that you make him well.”
Then, seemingly exhausted, she sits quietly, her head bowed. Clutching me in her hand, she stares at me, as if expecting me to say something. But what would I say? What could I say? Again, I feel that tingly sensation.
After a time, Violet puts me back on my base, gets out of the car, and disappears into the sanitarium.
While I wait for her, I watch the activity outside: people sitting on benches and walking along the gravel paths that loop through flower gardens in bloom. Sometimes Violet returns alone and other times with an unhappy-looking young man of about twenty-five with pale hair and eyes. His name is Bobby.
On those days, the three of us go to a drive-thru restaurant. Bobby always orders the same thing: a double burger with French fries and a chocolate milkshake. Sometimes he asks to go to the zoo, and I like that because I enjoy seeing children getting in and out of cars while I wait in the parking lot.
It is not as interesting when we go to the movies because then we park in a dark garage and there are no people for me to watch. People are fascinating to me because they are all so different: blonde hair, black hair, tall, short, thin, fat, and all of them makes me feel that perhaps I have something for them, though I have no idea what. As for Bobby, he is sullen and quiet most of the time. He calls Violet "Auntie."
“Auntie Violet,” he says, “when are you going to let me come home?”
“When you are well,” she says, “then we can do all the things you like to do.” He doesn’t reply.
One day when the three of us are out driving, Violet parks the car in front of a group of shops and disappears inside one of them. Suddenly, I feel Bobby’s cold hand encircle my body. He lifts me up and brings me close to his face. His large, pale blue eyes stare at me for a moment.
“Isn’t there anything you can do to get rid of Violet?” he asks
me. “If she wasn’t around, they couldn’t keep me in that nut house. Come on, you’re supposed to help people.”
He holds me so long and so tight that my body vibrates and I feel like I might explode. I am relieved when Violet returns to the car and he places me back on my stand. Bobby frightens me, and I am not used to angry feelings. Besides, I wonder why he feels that way since Violet is always so nice.
Then, one Tuesday, Violet does not come. I wait. I wait and wait and wait. Days later, the garage doors swing open, and two strange men appear in front of me, and I see the day is very bright and sunny.
“See if she will start,” one of the men says. “I don’t think she’s been driven since the old lady croaked. If you can’t get her started, we’ll tow her to the yard.”
END PART 1