Paper Jesus and the Badass

Friday a perfect day of teaching. Then Monday and all plans gang a’gley. I want to quit. I can’t quit. Why can’t I quit? I’ll quit. Then a beef with two students’ essays. Then an email exchange with the VPA whom I’ve known for 25 years. Who won’t address me by my first name in an email.

I write, Tom--

He writes back, Dear Dr. Ardelle.

I drag all this behind me like a tarp and I go to class angry, where I and the only other angry person in the room find each other. We argue over his refusal to write a question for an upcoming Zoom interview.

First, it’s massively irritating, he starts.


He shuts up because I’ve shut him up.

Class hasn’t started, and at Malaiseville University faculty are required to start class with prayer.

“I-don’t-wanna-pray-but-let’s-pray,” I mutter.  

And then I take my anger into the prayer and I swing like Billy Sunday on a street corner. A vain performance. But I impress myself. I think while I pray: the anger’s making me eloquent.


The next day. Raining and raining and raining. Winter in Malaiseville: three cows standing in black mud.

In my 8:30 Adv. Writing Workshop, he and I sit next to each other at a small, round table. We had talked it out after class the previous day. Before I could apologize to him, he’d strode over to me, stood too close to where I was sitting, and said I’m sorry to the wall behind me.

“I was disrespectful,” he said. We shook hands self-consciously and went our ways.

Now a new day and a pat on his shoulder as I take my seat. Before opening in prayer, I tell the others that I’m remembering him and me to Jesus because of the Christian things I didn’t do and the Christian thing he did do after we’d yelled at each other.

He interrupts.

“Just to be clear?” he says. “You don’t have to talk about everything?” He is looking middle distance when he says it, his transitions lenses still dark.  

I love him. But Jesus.

“Let’s-pray,” Paper Jesus says.

Bird Report

The theme is pairs. A female cardinal and her red date swoop in front of my car. They land like ballroom dancers on the top rail of a split-rail fence.

Later: two robins and some kind of trampoline sex act at the side of a road.