I was sitting in the backyard with Legba. It was late and we were enjoying what was probably one of the last remaining nights of the year when everything was still lush and yet the weather wasn't unbearably hot.
A small, squat woman leaned over my gate and waved.
I waved and then turned back to Legba. He was about to tell me the truth about Robert Johnson and I didn't want to ruin the moment.
"Uh, hi! Hello? Can we talk for a minute?"
Legba rolled his eyes, sipped the lemonade I'd made for him and stared off into the distance. I sighed and got up from table.
As I approached the gate, the woman fidgeted and wiggled like a happy, fat scottie.
"Can I help you?" I asked.
"No." she said, using the same tone of voice my dentist's assistant uses just before she's about to do something she knows will hurt like a bitch. "I'm here to help YOU. Let me ask you this. Have you found Jesus?"
Legba dropped his cool act and looked genuinely startled.
"Crap." He said "You mean the Ramirez kid is missing? He's only three. Maybe we should call the police."
The lady cleared her throat loudly.
"My dear sir," she intoned, "I assure you that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not a small Mexican child."
Legba drained his glass and shook his head.
"Sweet Jas," he said as he got up and appraoched the gate, "Given the sudden change in the barometric pressure, the next one is gonna have to be a bit harder."
I took his glass with every intention of filling it with lemonade and a shot of Lynchburg's finest, but I also didn't want to miss a word of the exchange that was sure to follow.
"Now why is it, my dear lady, that you don't think Jesus could be a small Mexican boy? What does Jesus look like? I need something to go on if I'm going to go looking for him."
Legba cocked his head to the side and waited for the squatty woman to respond. She patted her lips with two fingers and cleared her throat.
"Well, I ah, didn't actually mean for you to go looking for Jesus."
"Why not? You asked us if we'd found him. Is he lost or not? And if he is lost, how does a grown man get that way in this day and age unless he's Chet Baker?"
"I think you might have misunderstood..."
"You're about to tell me some little white man named Jesus is lost? In Tennessee? Jas, are you listening to this?"
I smiled reassuringly at the lady. She smiled back at me, hopeful that she had an ally.
"Ma'am?" I said.
"Yes?" She was almost breathless.
"Have you checked in Rhea County?"
"Yeah. It's in East Tennessee, at the foot of the Cumberlands. Pretty country. They had the Scopes Trial there. Now there are a hand full of churches and a Bible college and the home base of some organization that wants people to remember Tennessee's Biblical heritage, which is really kind of funny, because I've read the Bible cover to cover and I've never seen Tennessee mentioned anywhere."
Legba glared at me.
"Girl stop the stupid before you have to see a grown man cry."
"I'm just saying it makes more sense for Jesus to want to be around his people. You see what I'm saying?"
Legba muttered something I didn't quite catch and the lady reached over the fence to touch my arm.
"Are you a Christian?"
Marc Cohen might have sang "Ma'am, I am tonight." but all I could manage was a cheery "No ma'am. I'm Buddhist. I follow the teachings of Buddha. Have you seen him lately?"
"Buddha?" She looked very confused.
"I'll bite," said Legba, "What does Buddha look like?"
There are quite a few fat, cheerful bald guys wandering around. It would be a pity to have their moods ruined by this lady. So I lied.
"What does Buddha look like? Well. He looks like Keanu Reeves."
Legba spluttered and walked back to his lawn chair. The lady looked very distressed and backed away.
"I need to go," she choked out,"But thanks for the chat."
I went in and got Legba a fresh lemonade that would hopefully carry enough kick to loosen up his tongue.
"Keanu Reeves." He snorted. "That little cocksmoker doesn't look a thing like Keanu Reeves. Danny DeVito maybe. Is this strong?" He took a sip. "Oh yes it is. Now where was I?"
"Yeah, yeah. I met Robert Johnson one night when that little fool was trying to hitchhike to Memphis..."
copyright 2006 Jas Faulkner