It’s the 21st century, December 25th.
Today is my birthday, and I’m craving a celebratory drink.
The Star of Bethlehem guides me past the busy streets of Malibu and through the doors of a Trader Joe’s. I venture forth to the wine aisle, where bottles are set neatly across a retail shelf. One particular brand grabs my attention: Charles Shaw, aka Two-Buck Chuck. In all my years of turning water into wine, I could never replicate its delicious taste.
Before I can seize a bottle, divine fate interrupts.
“JESUS CHRIST!” a voice screams.
A cold wave of sweat crashes over me. I turn slowly to see an elderly woman, her mouth agape, eyes in a daze. She reaches down her shirt and reveals a crucifix necklace.
Shit. I knew I should’ve worn a hat.
I glance down at my feet.
Sandals were also a poor choice.
The elderly woman points a crooked finger in my direction. Her eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets.
“The Second Coming,” she says, her voice trembling. “IT’S HAPPENING!”
Curious shoppers gravitate towards us like house flies swarming a porch light. My heart sinks into the pit of my stomach as these suspicious spectators scrutinize my getup.
Forget the sandals – I really shouldn’t have worn this robe!
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m trying to get caught. Malibu is home to many self-professed ‘surfer dudes’ who dress like it’s still Anno Domini. Thanks to this laid-back culture, I blend in reasonably well. But every once in a blue moon, divine fate intervenes, threatening to expose me.
“He’s here for the rapture!” the elderly woman shouts as more shoppers continue to gather.
Stay cool, Jesus. Stay cool.
“Ma’am,” I say, gulping down fear. “You’ve got it all wrong.”
I gesture towards the retail shelf.
“I’m just here for the Two-Buck Chuck.”
The elderly woman’s expression of awe now shifts to a look of bewilderment. Following her lead, the surrounding shoppers begin to voice their confusion.
“Why would Jesus wanna buy wine?” asks a burly man decked out in Carhartt. “Can’t he just make the shit?”
My eyes light up as I snap my fingers in the direction of the burly man.
“Yes!” I exclaim. “This guy gets it!”
“Charles Shaw is straight-up gasoline,” another shopper pipes in. “The Messiah wouldn’t drink that crap.”
I quickly turn to face the retail shelf containing Two-Buck Chuck. My hands caress the bottles with love.
“Forgive them,” I whisper gently. “They know not what they say.”
Scoffs of disbelief sound off as the crowd of shoppers scatter. Only the elderly woman stays behind, scratching her scalp with uncertainty.
“I don’t understand it,” she says. “The robe, the hair, the sandals…”
I shrug my shoulders nonchalantly.
“I’m just a free-spirited Californian, Ma’am.”
I throw up a shaka sign for good measure.
Clutching her crucifix necklace, the elderly woman sighs in defeat.
“Oh well… I suppose he’ll never come.”
Rolling my eyes into the back of my skull, I emit a slight groan of pent-up frustration. Despite my desire to avoid responsibility, I can’t let this woman go on feeling so sad.
“Don’t give up hope, Ma’am,” I say half-heartedly, outstretching my arms and raising my palms to the sky. “He might not be here physically, but he’s with you always, even till the end of time.”
Without missing a beat, the elderly woman spits in my face.
“You filthy bum!” she shouts. “How dare you impersonate the Messiah! When he does return, you’ll be the first one to perish!”
And just like that, she was gone.
As I wipe the elderly woman’s saliva from my brow, her departing words echo in my mind.
“When he does return, you’ll be the first one to perish!”
I howl with laughter.
If only she knew.
While exiting Trader Joe’s, I look up to the night sky. The Star of Bethlehem sparkles with delight. I crack open a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck and raise it high.
“A toast,” I say to the twinkling star. “Fuck divine fate. Here’s to living my life my way.”
I take a large swig and bid Trader Joe’s farewell.