“I can’t believe he’s dead!” John cried to the skies. “How could you do this to him?”
The centurion he addressed the question to ignored him and said it was time for him to be getting home.
James waved John and Peter over to him and whispered something to them in a huddle. They withdrew from the foot of the cross and sat down in the sand as the sun went down, bleeding orange, then crimson, light all over the sprawling desert as the air started to grow cold and the wind began to wail.
Later, the weather grew calm. After the crazy crowd had dispersed and drunkenly retreated to their humble homes, John, James, and Peter approached their crucified leader once again. They stood under the cross, craning their necks at the vision of their hero, whose head drooped with the indifferent frown of the dead despite the brilliant patchwork of jet black sky and dazzling stars above him.
“We have to get him down from there,” said John. “The only question is how.”
“I left my camel at an oasis not far from here,” said Peter. “It must be midnight by now. If one of us mounts her and sits alongside Jesus, we should be able to detach him from the cross.”
“Thou speakst sagely,” said James.
“Why are you talking like that?” said John.
“I don’t know. I just thought it would sound cool.”
“It doesn’t,” said John. “It makes you sound like a freak.”
Peter said, “Hey, hey, come on now, gentlemen, peace.”
John apologized and said, “How far is that oasis from here?”
Peter replied, “About five thousand cubits, according to my calculations.”
John rolled his eyes and said, “Okay, whatever you say, Noah.”
They walked for about an hour until they reached the oasis. Peter mounted the camel while the other men trudged next to him, trying to keep up and stay awake.
“Do you guys know any good songs?” asked Peter, who was still chipper. “Say, I’ve got a good one: ‘Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you? What have you sacrificed?’ I think when I get home I’ll write a Broadway musical.”
When they got back to the scene of the crime, they moaned all over again at the sight of their executed savior. It was hard to fathom how people could be so cruel as to put an innocent man to death, even though it happened all the time.
James collapsed in a heap in the sand and fell asleep. John propped himself up on the camel’s haunch, yawning. Only Peter remained wide awake, seemingly in blissful denial of his having denied Jesus three times earlier to three different people who’d accused Peter of knowing him.
“Don’t worry, J. C.,” said Pete, “We’ll get you down from there and give you a proper burial.” Peter’s jaw dropped as he witnessed a fly that was standing on Christ’s cheek suddenly turn into a firefly. The insect promptly flew away, as if to say, “My work here is done.”
As Peter leaned forward, much to the camel’s consternation, he touched the nail driven through Jesus’ left hand and tried pulling it out with his fingers.
Suddenly, the nail popped out of its own accord and flew across the sky like a comet.
“Wow! That was amazing!” said Peter.
Before you could say “Jack Robinson” or light a cigarette, the other two nails flew out and Jesus Christ tumbled stiffly to the ground, face-down in the sand.
Peter clambered off the camel and knelt down next to Jesus. He decided to pray.
“Dear Lord, If you can hear me, please bring Jesus Christ back to life. He said he was your son. You must show us that this is true by performing a miracle. I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything–please don’t hurt us–but it would be really nice if you could revive him so we could have another big wine party next weekend.”
Peter, receiving no answer, kicked the ribs of his good friend James, waking him up, and shook John, who was teetering, unsupported anymore by the drifting camel, on the verge of collapse.
“Guys, we have to try something. I have an idea.”
“Can’t it wait?” said James, rubbing his side. “Why’d you have to kick me? I was having the most awesome dream. I was with Mary.”
“Magdalene? She was Jesus’ woman.”
“No, I mean Christ’s mother.”
“‘And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know,'” sang John with a yawn.
Peter glared at both of them and said, “That’s blasphemous!”
John shoved him and said, “Aw, lighten up, for Christ’s sake.”
Peter ran up to his camel and untied the rope he used as a halter. It was a long rope looped and draped over the animal’s back. He barked at his friends to prop Jesus up, then tied one end of the rope around the savior’s thorax. He then wound the rest around his late friend counterclockwise.
“Shoot,” he said. “We forgot to dig a hole.”
“Why are we tying him up if we’re just going to bury him?” asked James.
“Not a deep hole–just a shallow one,” said Peter.
Without further ado, he squatted down and dug a little hole, then asked his friends to help plant Jesus’ feet, whose toes were bent down, in the hole, before pushing the sand up in a mound that held him up. They did a decent job, considering.
“Okay, my fellow disciples. Grab some rope. Now, on the count of three, I want you to pull as hard as you can.”
“Why?” asked John. “Can’t we just go home? I’m tired.”
“Just do it, man. You’ll see.”
John sighed and James groaned.
Peter, sounding flustered, said, “Come on, you guys! You’re acting like a couple of babies. Please–trust me–take this rope and pull as hard as you can. Ready? Okay. One, two, three!”
With that, like one team engaged in a tug of war against an invisible opponent, they pulled on the rope. Jesus spun like a top. Without warning, he took off from the ground, the little pile of sand that had been holding him up dissolving around his spinning feet. The crown of thorns he wore glowed like a halo.
“There he goes!” shouted Peter as Jesus bore off into the sky, growing progressively smaller until he was nothing but a tiny dot, then not even that, as if the sky were an old TV set being turned off by a bored child.
“He went straight up!” shouted James.
“Yeah, we’d better get the hell out of here before he falls back down,” yelled John.
“What are you talking about?” asked Peter. “He’s not going to come down. He’s gone to heaven.”
A few hours later, God awoke from a nap to see a spinning figure approaching.
“What are you doing here?” he asked the rotating figure of Christ as it gradually spun to a halt. “I thought I had you murdered.”
When the corpse didn’t respond, God sighed and said, “Oh well, I guess it’s a miracle. I’ll give you to my wife. Maybe she can use you for knitting, or to help support one of her marionettes.”
Jesus’ eyes remained closed as he hung stiff from rigor mortis, still in the shape of the cross, in God’s big, rough, stupid palm.
Meanwhile, down below, the disciples started coordinating their stories so they could record their myth for the history books.