He didn’t walk with the others, he trailed behind. They’re friends, but too many voices make him nervous. The line between contrasting palettes and clashing colors can be fine, and he’s no conversational artiste.
The running ink of his hair shields his soul from the penetration of judging eyes. The curtains of his clothes, too large for his angles and vertices, run interference for his frame and his frame of mind. The round walls of his simple sunglasses hide the shifting stress in his eyes. Sudden memories or stray, traitorous thoughts bring unwanted tears for the briefest betrayal. Anger chases them off, burning his cheeks. The breathing exercises the therapists trained into him kicked in with sputters and stutters, but calmed him before his distress was noticed.
He carries on, long limbs swinging him forward, drafting easily in the wake of the group.
“Hey, Substitute Jesus!” He hadn’t worn his earbuds, feeling it might be rude to his friends, and his ears weren’t protected against the drunken verbal pugilists holding court from rusted riverside benches.
Substitute Jesus? He’d been called Jesus many times, an always-clever reference to his long, dark bastion of hair. Substitute Jesus, well, that was new. He bowed his head, smiled, and laughed. He approved of the drunken master, a John the Baptist anointing his disciples with spittle and vodka and the dirty water of a river that ran through towns. His arm shot up, stretching towards the heavens, a crowning ‘thumbs up’ given in offering.
Substitute Jesus’ holy smile smote the demons.
He caught up to his friends.
Earnest Williams grew up in the swamps of Louisiana, but now makes his home amongst the cottages and hills of Gloucestershire, England. Earnest enjoys writing short character studies, speculative fiction, and essays on the political implications of demographic changes. He loves his wife, dogs, and enchiladas.