Back to Issue Eighteen.

the saint

BY PHILIP JASON

 

            The Saint is lying in bed with a pink bow in his hair. He did not put it there. It was put there by someone else who thought it would look nice. The Saint did not object. As far as anyone knows, the Saint never objects to anything. In fact, he does not talk or move at all. He does not even blink. All he does is look at the world with his incredible eyes.

            Those eyes are what everyone loves most about the Saint.

            Wherever he looks, the world feels beautiful.

###

            All day long, the Saint listens to problems. They are told to him one at a time by people who come from all over to sit with him and express what they feel are dangerously personal things.

            “My neighbor is an asshole.”

            “My wife won’t have sex with me.”

            “I’m too fat.”

            “I feel like no one likes me.”

            “When I pee, it burns.”

            People say these things to him seven days a week. Maybe he hears them, and maybe he doesn't, but the people talk like he does and his eyes do their magic.

###

            The Saint has been a saint for almost a decade. Before that, he was just like everyone else: he looked at the world and liked less than 50% of it. He expressed this in all the usual ways: having opinions, poor performance at work, anger at customer service representatives, watching too much television, failure to RSVP, bad dreams. 

            There’s no explanation for the transformation. One night, he went to bed a schmuck. Then he woke up completely paralyzed and his eyes were full of mystic wow.

###

            The Saint is fed twice a day through tubes that are put down his throat. No one knows what he likes to eat, so they feed him what they like to eat. It is considered a holy act to have the Saint eat what you most enjoy. People compete for the honor.

            The competitions are suffering contests broadcast on television. Potential competitors send in letters detailing their awful life stories. These letters are read by interns who work for the television studio that produces these contests. The interns usually read them while they are high. They usually laugh hysterically at the things that people say. The interns are not bad people. They’re just interns doing shitwork. No one cares about them or treats them with respect. They are numbed by their own suffering, which is rendered ineligible for contest consideration by their affiliation with the company that puts on the show.

            It is the interns who choose the people who get to be in the contest. These chosen few bring all their suffering with them on the day of the filming and do their best to unload it on the entire world. They show surgery scars and photos of alcoholic fathers and crap themselves on television. Audiences watch this for hours and at the end call in and vote through their tears. The person whose suffering is most loved by the audience gets to feed the Saint their favorite meal.  

            The Saint eats a lot of french fries.

###

            Once every two years, the Saint goes on a world tour. A collective of people who have appointed themselves members of his entourage take him from city to city. In each city, parades are organized for the occasion. During the parade, the Saint rides in a car wearing a device around his head that turns it like an oscillating fan. Wherever this device places his gaze, people faint. The Saint does not judge them for their theatrics. He is above that sort of thing. That isn’t a fact. It’s just news.

            After the parades, people go out and get drunk while the Saint is brought to a four star hotel and left in front of the television. He cannot change the channel, but this doesn’t matter. According to reports, the Saint is equally moved by everything he sees on TV. He will stare at programs on child-sex slavery with the same compassionate gaze that falls on late night commercials selling junk to insomniacs who self-medicate through consumerism. This confuses many people who wish the Saint would conform to their ideas of saintliness, but many of these people still faint during the parades. If this makes their opinions difficult to trust, the Saint doesn’t care. He responds to them all like he responds to hardcore pornography or bowls of fruit. 

###

            Today, the Saint is being thrown from an airplane. A year-long drought has been choking the life out of a small town whose residents are true believers in the Saint’s saintly powers.

            The parachute instructor turns to the Saint.

            “Are you ready?” he says.

            The Saint’s eyes twinkle like a galaxy of happy stars.

            “Let’s do this!” the instructor says and flings himself and the Saint from the plane. They fall through the air towards the stubborn clouds that are holding all the water.

            “Woooooooo!” screams the instructor.

            The Earth flies at the Saint, seeking reunion. 

###

            Since the Saint became a saint, the number of wars happening in the world has not increased. People consider this to be a great miracle. They have awarded the Saint a number of significant peace prizes. As such, he attends a lot of peace prize presentation ceremonies. Some of them are big, like the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, but some of them are small, like the ceremony for the Barnacle, Mississippi Peace Prize, which he was awarded for “inspiration to fix potholes.”

###

            The Saint has a bunch of ex-girlfriends who all feel really special. They like to do interviews with television reporters. One time, they got together for a single joint interview and formed a human pyramid. Pictures of this moment were put on t-shirts and sold to millions of people who believed they were buying something that would make them feel good. Every day, some of those people wear the t-shirt, but who knows how they really feel?

###

            Some not so common things the Saint hears:

            “I am afraid of my own feet.”

            “I am ok with the decisions that God has made for me.”

###

            A small boy is visiting the Saint. It is the boy’s birthday in a year that includes the death of his mother. This visit to the Saint is a gift to him from a father that doesn’t know what else to do. It was not a surprise. The boy has known about it for several weeks. In that time, he has spent hours trying to figure out what to say. He has consulted with everything in his tiny world: his father, his older sister, his grandparents, his dog, his imaginary friends, his stuffed animals, the trees, a crude face he drew in the mud, and even his dead mother. None of these things provided him with useful counsel, but everything turned out ok. In the last minutes before departing for the audience with the Saint, the boy was struck with inspiration.

            That inspiration is visible in the way the boy is bouncing. Everyone who sees him knows that he needs to relieve himself of excess water or a big idea. He turns to his father and seeks permission. The father says yes and the boy races at the Saint and throws a tiny hug at him. The Saint receives the hug in perfect stillness. Then, the boy looks up into the Saint’s famous eyes and says:

            “Is there a God?”

            The Saint says nothing, though. He is the only thing in the little boy’s entire world that does not speak. The boy doesn’t understand this. Neither does his father. It has cost the older man one wife, many hours and a giant sum of money to be here with his son. He demands a miracle. He does this with his fists, which break the Saint’s nose before anyone has a chance to stop him.

            The Saint’s nose bleeds and bleeds.

###

            At least once a week, someone is on late night television talking about the Saint. Sometimes it is pundits, but sometimes it is people who have trained their dogs to immobilize and stare at the world like they are looking at God. The audiences like the scholars, but they love the dogs. It is many people’s favorite thing in the world to see a dog posing as the Saint. It is the number one thing that people search for on the internet. It is higher than pornography.

###

            Quite often, people bring the Saint more than their problems. They also bring cheesecake. There is a rumor on the internet that the Saint loves cheesecake. Over one hundred million people have received an e-mail relating this fact. Maybe this is true. Even if it is, the Saint can not find a use for one hundred million perishable cheesecakes. Everyone knows this, but they still bring cheesecake.

            The reason for this is that they all believe that only they are bringing cheesecake.

###

            The Saint is meeting with the Pope!

            This event has been advertised for nearly six months. It has been in the works for twice as long, but it has been desired in the genetics of faith since Moses met God.

            For the past ten minutes, the two men have been four feet from each other and neither of them has said a word. There are cameras everywhere, capturing this historic moment.

            The Pope is aware of this. He has done many televised appearances. He knows the importance of giving his audience what they want, but right now, he doesn’t have much to work with. The man across from him does not move or acknowledge him in any way. Even though the Pope and the audience are separated by distances both literal and technological, he can tell that watching two important men look at each other in silence is starting to make them feel uncomfortable.

            Like a good Pope, he does what he can to ease their pain. He breaks the silence and asks the Saint about the state of God’s world. The Saint stares at him with blank joy. The Pope stares back with all the power of a billion catholic sinners. Nothing happens.

            The Pope wonders if the Saint is a moron, but he does not say another word.

###

            Sometimes, the Saint has to be protected from women who try things. Some of them believe that he can make them pregnant with the Messiah. None of these women thinks about the terrible chore of raising someone destined to save or end the world. They look into the eyes of the Saint and are consumed with righteous purpose. Or else, those eyes make them horny and the shame of that makes them fabricate motivation.

            Maybe it is easier for them to feel righteous than horny and ashamed. It is difficult to tell.

###

            Many scholars have done papers on the Saint. Usually, these papers begin with the supposition that the Saint is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the world. From there, like any decent academic paper, they digress into self-servitude.

            What is amazing is that almost every one of these paper’s makes the same popular assumption that what happened to the Saint was a miraculous transformation. All but one of them speaks of him like he was a frog kissed by God into a paragon of love and joy.

            The one dissenting paper is highly controversial because it poses several interesting questions: What if what happened to the Saint was not miraculous at all? What if he’s still a schmuck, trapped behind an unwanted veil of saintliness? What if he hates every person who comes to him thinking that their problems are unique and important? What if he wants to tell the whole world to shut the fuck up but can’t because he is immobilized and cursed with eyes that are locked into a single broadcast frequency?

            The author of this paper has received thousands of death threats. The worst part though is that he has no friends. 

###

            Something the Saint never hears:

            “How are you doing?”

###

            On Halloween, a little girl requests that the Saint be dressed up like a kitty-cat. This little girl is not sick or dying. Her request is honored because of her cuteness, and also, the secret desire that some people have to test the limits of the Saint’s dignity.

            As usual, the Saint says nothing. If dressing like a kitty-cat causes him to suffer, it happens on a level that is imperceptible.

            Or maybe it’s too boring. Maybe the true power of the Saint is not his eyes after all. Maybe his true power is that his suffering is so boring, it’s invisible. 

            Whatever the case may be, the kitty-catted Saint sits out front of a church while thousands of trick-or-treating children come with their parents and receive little pieces of candy. Each piece is held before his eyes and blessed by his gaze prior to being given to the children. He sits there for hours looking at candy on a very windy day. Tears begin to fall from his eyes. Everyone who sees this thinks the same thing:  he is crying for my pain.

            They think this as the icy wind blows and stings their eyeballs.     

 

 

Philip Jason is a writer and comedian originally from New York. His stories have been published or are forthcoming in magazines such as Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, The Minnesota Review, Washington Square Review, and The Red Rock Review. He also has poetry forthcoming in Canary. For more information, please visit www.philipjason.com.

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