Can I Get a Witness?
By Alexander Hayden James Smith
The young man came to the door at around quarter-past three. All smiles. Gleaming teeth.
‘Hullo’, he said. ‘Hullo. I was wondering if you’d heard of Jesus Christ?’
I had to admit that yes, I had heard of him. Now this was not technically a lie. I had attended a Christian primary school. I remembered going to churches as a child. We used to sing hymns and other songs. The name Jesus Christ had cropped up on more than one occasion.
So I told the man this. He smiled again. Teeth. He reached into the small attaché case he had slung over his shoulder and rummaged around a bit.
That was all he said. ‘That’s great’. This threw me a little bit. I could probably do better. He finally extracted a magazine from his case. The cover was shiny and its edges crisp. That new magazine smell rose up to meet me. I started to salivate.
He watched me eye his literature with hunger in my eyes, but manners prevented him from mentioning it. Instead, he continued to speak:
‘So you know who Jesus Christ is. But have you understood his message?’
I glanced behind me, back into the house, wondering if there might be some escape. Some rescue. The man must have sensed my fear somehow because he placed a reassuring hand on my left elbow and said ‘Don’t worry. This isn’t a test’.
I was visibly relieved. Exhaling hard, I confessed that no, I didn’t think I really had understood his message. I knew it had something to do with camels and needles and nails and crosses.
Once, when we were about ten, my best friend Steven nailed a toad to a cross. I was the one who had to hold it in place while he put the nails in. Rather than use a hammer Steven had decided to use one of those automatic jobbies because he thought it would be more humane.
Steven then carried the cross to the park and placed it in the children’s’ sandpit. He spent the day watching and laughing as small children and their parents discovered the gruesome trophy. Then, at the end of the day, he went and pulled all the nails out and let the toad go free near the pond.
Amazingly, the toad just waddled off like nothing had happened. It slipped into the reeds and vanished.
I told all this to the man at my door. He placed another hand on my other elbow and bowed his head, though whether in shame or sorrow I could not tell.
‘I really think I should come in’, he said. ‘Someone’s done a real number on you. Come on. I’ll come in and you can make us a cuppa and we can talk. Ok?’
I felt a powerful urge to cry. Instead I sniffed and led him inside.
The place was a mess of course. There were toys and bottles everywhere. Jill had brought the kids round at the weekend, then she had promptly drunk three bottles of Pinot Grigio and vomited on my floor. I still hadn’t cleaned it up.
I made space for the gentleman on the sofa and hurried to the kitchen to put the kettle on. I couldn’t stop myself from mumbling apologies, even in the kitchen. I didn’t know what had come over me. I needed to get a grip.
I reached into the medicine cabinet. There, on the shelf before me, were Jill’s pills. Jill’s Pills, we used to call them, before she left.
I popped three in my mouth and stirred the tea with a smile on my face. I returned to the living room to find the young man chopping up a line of what looked like cocaine on my coffee table.
‘What’s all this?’ I said, being careful to place the cups on coasters, just like I had been taught.
‘It’s cocaine’, he said. ‘Pure as the driven snow.’ He flashed me those gleaming white teeth once more and produced a fifty pound note from his pocket. He rolled it into a tight straw and sucked one of the lines right up his nose.
His face seemed to bend and fold. His smile stretched his cheeks all the way up past his ears and his eyes became tiny, sharp slits on his face. His nose seemed to grow until the tip of it was hanging on the table. He offered the rolled up fifty to me.
‘Is this what Jesus would have done?’ I asked. The man turned his elongated face and drooping nose towards me and I fancied I saw a hint of fire in the slits of his eyes.
‘No’, he said. ‘No, no, no. Let me tell you about Jesus…’ And with that he reached for the magazine by his side and tossed it over to me.
I must confess I was, for a second, distracted. I ran my finger-tips over that smooth, glossy surface and pricked my thumbs on those razor-edged corners. Unable to resist I brought the magazine up to my face and inhaled deeply, taking the smell into my lungs and enjoying the feel of the gloss on my cheeks and lips.
Regaining my composure I placed the magazine on my lap and looked at the cover. There was no title. No words. No table of contents. Just an image of a young woman, no more than twenty-five, completely stark naked and with an aubergine up her bum.
I held the magazine up to the light, trying to discern some hidden message, but there was none. I looked over at the gentleman, who was busy pouring more cocaine on the table, and he gestured for me to look inside.
‘I thought you said this was about Jesus’ I said, and he nodded. ‘It is’ he said, running his massive nose across the table, scooping up the cocaine, the cups of tea and a few old copies of Top Gear magazine. ‘It’s the good Jesus stuff’.
I remained unconvinced but flipped the magazine open regardless. The first page was blank. And the next. And the next. And the next. All the pages were blank. I looked over at the man again but he was busy trying to shove the TV remote up his nose.
Eventually I reached the centre pages. There, spread across two pages, was a picture of horse dipping its cock into a bucket full of Matey bubble bath. I could tell it was Matey because one of their signature bottles was placed by the bucket. There was a short piece of text which I think was supposed to be a poem. It went something like:
Dirty, dirty horse,
You look like Inspector Morse.
He was played by John Thaw
And my arsehole is sore,
Because you went in there by force.
It was signed ‘Toby Young’.
I admit, I was confused, so I threw the magazine down. I thought I knew about Jesus and all that stuff. I didn’t know who Toby Young was, though, and nor did I know what horses had to do with the whole thing. I looked over at my guest for some sort of guidance but he wasn’t looking at me any more.
In fact, he was barely human any more. He was just a lump of flesh now, a collection of tumours and exposed muscle. There was the hint of a face somewhere amongst all the folds of skin and two stumps that could have once been hands. One of the stumps held the rolled up fifty pound note. Seeing no other option, I took it and plunged it up my nose. Leaning over the coffee table I took as much cocaine into my body as I could stand.
My vision became blurry. It was like in Star Trek when they go to warp speed. Everything began rushing past me; the living room, the telly, the coffee table, everything. I looked to my right and there was the mound of flesh that had once been a man. All around us were streaks of light, thin pin-pricks stretched to infinity as the universe spun around us.
‘What happens now?’ I asked, to no one in particular. A voice that seemed to come from all around me boomed back:
‘Now, my son,’ it said, ‘Now you will know true power and true glory’. There was an immense, shining light and in my heart I knew true happiness. True pleasure. True peace. I closed my eyes.
Then I open them, right, and I’m here. All my money’s gone. Stolen. Laptops, cameras, all gone. Whole house has been cleaned out. They even took the fucking fridge.
I mean, the fucking fridge. Who steals a fridge?
I tell you, that’s the last time I open the door to a Jehova’s Witness.