The shark goddess’s words were the last thing that Bernie heard that afternoon as she continued on — with an obscenity-laced discourse on the benefits of public mastication.
By mid-morning, the crappy sky, the murky sea, the filthy crew, and the ugly metal boat had all been cast in the same ill-tempered gray.
T.K. stood a steady watch over the Jesus tarp while Bernie was leaning over the port side of the trawler ‘feeding the fish,’ beginning with his “bachelor’s breakfast” of leftovers from Señor Wence’s So-Right Cafe, including the large sangria. That meal was immediately followed by the previous night’s dinner from Los Gringos Estúpidos, working its way backwards, beginning with the after dinner mint, followed by the flan dessert, the margarita, tacos and lastly—what was firstly—two orders of chips and salsa. Bernie was too sick at the moment to investigate the mysterious Jesus-on-a-tarp in the box, only yards away from the forward deck beneath the scowl of Interpol’s half wooden giant and special agent in charge of Exotica, T.K. Betelnut.
Thirty miles out at sea, the pelagic trawling nets had been spread out in a wide circle. The black clouds rolled in.
The nets were ready to be hauled aboard. Each year’s catch was becoming smaller than the last.
An hour passed as the storm raged on.
As Bernie’s empty stomach began to improve, the native crew appeared more agitated. It seems that his statuesque co-worker, T.K., who never blinked, was beginning to spook the heebie-jeebies out of the savage New Guinea crew. No small accomplishment.
The towering tiki, T.K., wasn’t feeling swell either. He’d come aboard the boat with a nitrogen sickness, after ingesting a near lethal dose of Miracle-Gro, with his sap-sucking sweetie, Marilyn Monstera, the night before. Add to that his ever-present grimace, the result of chronic indigestion of biblical proportions. However he held steadfast, protecting his fellow Interpol agents.
Bernie considered the box holding the infamous tarp and decided that it was time to get the plastic sheet out of the weather and around to the covered stern of the trawler. He dragged the box to the back of the boat while being pelted by wind and rain. The crew watched him struggle. They were primitive, he thought. Their black eyes must have witnessed the dawn of creation — when gas sold for thirty-nine cents a gallon. Bernie pulled the box, trying to ignore their fearsome faces.
Behind their scowls and scars something long forgotten was being slowly winched up through their kuru-infected, spongy, alcohol-saturated brains. An ancient boogeyman was struggling to escape from their primitive brain folds. The New Guinea Hotat crew began to spontaneously beat on the deck with their knife handles and chant the words: “Boom Macelaca-laka, Boom Macelaca-laka!”—the name of their ancient shark god.
“You rang?” Believing himself to be the representative and future son-in-law of the New Guinea shark god, MacHeath, the crew’s leader, magically appeared on deck.
“We’re scared, boss.”
In Viking garb, Edwin MacHeath stepped forward. “Men, are you going to let this tiny tinkle from the old Christian god’s infirm bladder get you down?”
“Depends,” one answered, and the crew shared a pleasant chuckle.
“Be defiant!” ordered the Viking. “Look! I’m giving the Christian God the finger!”
Jesus, within the folded tarp, had heard the remark and began to stir. WTF??? Give WHO the finger? “Quis podex (Asshole),”
“Gedoverhere an gehd twork! Hur-yup! Tie down the boxes!” cried drunken Captain Debas from the other side of the ship. “Pull in the gear, chowder heads!” The deafening wind replaced his “authority” with chaotic howling. He continued roaring unintelligible orders as if he were in charge of the messy situation.
Jesus on a Tarp Only Likes Me as a Friend
Bernie had begun to unfold the tarp at the stern on the boat, not expecting to see anything too unusual. In the wind, he thought he heard the sound of a…choir?
He continued to unwrap, while saying, “Good morning, little baby Jesus! How are we doin’ today? I heard…that uh… Holy fuck!”
The apparition, Jesus-on-a-tarp, was actually Jesus-on-a-tarp-holding-a-.44-Magnum-pistol. God’s kid had been studying up on modern culture by watching TV.
“Helter Skelter,” announced the Savior. “I’m back!”
Certifiably Charlie Manson crazy, thought Bernie. “Now, hold on man,” He tried to say in calm tones against the howling wind. “You really don’t want to do this!”
“Oh, realllly?” 3-D Jesus put the gun to Bernie’s temple. “Get ready to meet your maker. The Big Cheeeeeesus!”
“Wait! Wait!” Bernie tried to calm the savior. “Hey! What’s got your cod piece all in a bunch this morning, huh, buddy?”
The routinely despairing Christ doubled over in rare laughter.“I’m just messin’ with you, Eggs. Is it acceptable if I call you Eggs? Listen, Benedict, today is yoooour lucky day! I have time to answer one, and only one, big question for you, so make it a good one, Bernie. While you’re paining your brain, I have a question for you too.”
“Shoot…No! I mean don’t shoot!”
“In what dark corner of Hell did you find those Bermuda shorts?”
“Hey! My mom bought me them for my birthday, you little…uh…messiah.”
“Name calling? I guess everyone must be calling you Eggs, now, because of me. Sorry about that.”
“Yeah, thanks. Why did you pick my sunny-side eggs to appear on? I didn’t need the nickname or the attention. Can you please put that gun away?”
Jesus twirled the gun. “Eeeeeeeeehah! Okay. Now ask me that big, big question. C’mon. You’re running out of time. I’ve got a full schedule today, like my best buds do, Saint Nick and the Chocolate Easter Bunny.”
“All right, then…a good question…uh…” Bernie couldn’t think under this kind of pressure. The savior was still holding a very large gun, pointed at his nuts.
Bernie was thinking hard. “Okay, sir,” he said, “what…uh, what did Billie Joe McAllister throw off of the Tallahatchie Bridge?”
“Bread, Bernie!” the Savior yelled. “He and his sweetie were feeding ducks. Ducks… Don’t you just love ’em? Bless their waddling butts. Look at a duck, Benedict, and then tell me that my old man doesn’t, at least, have a sense of humor. By the way, Eggs, a word to the wise.” Jesus, with a maniacal laugh, twirled the gun again. “Listen pardner, next time you hear the voices of a heavenly choir, that’s me, telling you it’s time to git the durned fornication out of Dodge.”
Jesus whipped his cellphone out. “Hold on, Bernie. This is important. My agent, Mitzi. Comeback event.” Jesus looked up at Bernie, held his thumb and pinky out around his ear and mouthed, “I’ll call you.”
“Please! Stop this goddamned storm!”
“Watch your tongue, mortal. Do I look like goddamned Penn and Teller? I have no time for parlor tricks. Morning, Cupcake.” He twirled his gun. “Eeeeeeeeehah!”