By Megan Wildhood
Jesus is coming to the football stadium on the cliff above the cold river and I am introducing him because I am the president of the country. I was chosen the way Jesus was—seething mobs and pointing fingers—so I don’t expect it to be too hard to write something up about Him. But it is. It turns out, there’s not much left to say.
My driver pulls up and I slide in the back next to my fourth wife and her daughter. My son and my second-in-command flank, me and our limo sets off for Potters Field. I still don’t have anything prepared for Jesus, but His platform is basically ‘Forgive Everything,’ even those who slaughter you, so I’m probably okay even if I end up having to wing it. Plus, this isn’t the kind of thing you ask for help with, presenting Jesus to the masses. I leave my sackcloth on the fainting couch in my office, where I tossed it upon coming home from the afterparty following my inauguration three years ago. Haven’t really needed it.
The warm rivers fog up so much that we’re delayed at the bridge for almost an hour. Also, traffic is bad. I pray—awkwardly, though I do it every morning—that the cars will part and let us through, reminding Jesus that I have somewhere to be very soon. The cars do not clear even though I ask three times. I just pray that Jesus is delayed, too. All I really need is to get there before Him, though that makes me wonder who will be introducing me.
There are so many people that I begin to hear them from blocks away. The event planners had decided against music or much pre-show entertainment at all, so the sound hits our limo like a weather front. My ears pop.
My driver drops us off and we line up where the Field’s special events crew directs us. The people have no idea what time it is, no idea how late we’re starting. They go on whooping and buying concessions from the high schoolers roving the stands. As we’re given the go signal— my wife, stepdaughter, son, and vice president will stand around me at the makeshift rostrum on the 50-yard line for the duration of my speech and possibly the whole event, as I didn’t have time to be prepped for this—I notice my tie has egg yolk on it from this morning. Possibly a morning last week, whenever the tie was last up in the rotation. I have my on-command switch with me—red looks better on me than blue does, anyway—and just barely get the knot situated at the base of my throat before we’re out in sun brighter than a spotlight and a hushing crowd.
“Thank you all for coming out tonight,” I say when the clapping finally stops. “We’re sure going to make history here with the man who needs no introduction, really.” I pretend to cough, buying me just enough time to actually think of something.
“Rather than me yammering on at you up here, let’s take a few quick questions before we dive in.”
The Field crew has to scramble to get a wireless mic, but they’re pros at improv, I imagine. This stadium is used for all kinds of stuff besides football. The questions are mostly of no note; they’re a breeze to answer.
“Final one,” I say.
A woman far enough away that I can’t see asks if there will be an opportunity to worship today.
“No.” I don’t know what the plan was, but ultimately, I get to make the plans. “That’s what church is for.”
I don’t think to tell the people to rise but, as I say, “The first and the last, from beginning to end, the one and only, Jesus Christ,” everyone stands as if on the same two legs and screams as if with one voice.
The blast from the raising of a million voices as if a singular one is so brief, it’s shorter than its echo. I look from my wife to my VP, trying to figure out why everyone silenced so fast, but they are mesmerized by something moving across their field of vision.
My right-hand man pumps his fist and repeats the name of a basketball star, I think, as his eyes track something moving past him. My stepdaughter mutters a toast to our perfect country and raises an imaginary glass. My son blows kisses at his “big, fat bank account.”
“Long live the dollar menu!” someone shouts. My wife whispers my name but she’s not looking at me, reaches out instead for whatever is passing in front of her.
There is no sound again. The faces in the stands I can see go riven, struck, ashen, transfigured as whatever is happening passes by them. I nudge my VP to ask where Jesus is, what’s going on, but it’s like he’s not in his body. Same with my wife. All heads snap to center stage suddenly, and several, including my stepdaughter, fall prostrate. Tears begin to pour from many eyes, gathering like a mighty flood, like the greatest flood in a thousand years, and people reach and grab and cry and sing as their waters start to rise. The people prepare to be lifted, lean at angle only a tilting ground could cause.
I don’t know what’s going on but the masses don’t need to know that—they think I’m God. I raise my arms. “God blessing us.”
My socks soak with cold; the salt burns in a blister my morning run gave me yesterday. I crane my neck as far as it goes in every direction, scrub my glasses with my shirt, put my eyes where all hands are reaching. I see my face—though with more wrinkles—distorted but gleaming, rushing toward me.