Ms. Josephine’s Shop.
4:52 pm . . .
Ricky and I decided to take another look at the book. I wanted to go back over that Book of Sorrows part, which Ricky thinks is the 23rd book of Revelations. So we took each verse, line by line, and looked for any hidden meaning. At the same time, Ms. Josephine was pouring over books that look older than the dinosaurs. The kind of books that cough up dust when you open or close them.
“First three talk about getting dragged over there,” Ricky said as he read. We were both sitting on the edge of the bed, him holding my chicken-scratch translations.
Number four, I point out, that’s about some door. Although, it could be something proverbial. Those religious types, they always want you to interpret things. A cat next to a box is never just a cat next to a box. It has to do with some country falling into ruin after a war. Something completely loose and unreliable.
“Verse five, it’s dark. Verse six, everybody’s sad. Bla, bla, bla. People standing near a gate. There may actually be a gate, somewhere.” He looked over at me, “. . . you might want to ask about that, tonight.”
Seven. Once you’re there, you can’t go to Heaven. That’s kind of scary.
“I don’t know,” he said, “. . . would you want to spend eternity with all of your ex-girlfriends?”
I don’t know any of my ex-girlfriends, I reminded him. He told me I was blessed. I thought I was cursed. This is all getting confusing.
“Eight . . . that’s about those Screamer things. Probably want to stay away from them. Verse nine says you need to really pay attention to the screamers. Two verses. Okay, then . . . screamers are bad.”
“Ten,” I say. “Ten seems to fall in line with what that Thomas guy was saying. It says that he—who I assume is St. John—will walk again. And that he will put the Land of Sorrows to peace. So I’m him. Or, at least, they think I am.”
Ricky continued reading, “. . . for the one that walks of both light and dark, living and death, he will be their savior.” He sat back, glancing around the room. Reverently he echoed, “Savior . . .”
Then he slaps me on the back, “Big shoes to fill, Jackie boy! And I thought med-school at nineteen was rough. You had better nut-up. We don’t need the next savior being a pussy.”
“Ricky!” Ms. Josephine barked from the other room.
“Sorry,” he apologized. To me he whispered, “How does she do that?”
I shrugged, shaking my head.
Basically, we surmised, I am supposed to make it where these souls can go to Heaven. Oh, that should be as easy as beating God at a game of chess.
Ricky laughed, “Jack, you were born for this. Think about it. You lost all of your memory. That means you don’t have anything holding you back. You are a fresh, new soul . . . kind of.”
“Well,” I said, “they kind of think I’m a savior. They will kind of be expecting a great deal from me. I’m kind of out of my league, here.”
Then Ms. Josephine appears, right before I start cursing, again. Right before I try and talk myself out of this whole mess. She’s carrying what looks like a necklace, with a small pouch attached.
She walks around the bed and then tells me to stand up. I still don’t have a shirt on, and you can see bleached outlines from where she had painted me up for my first crossing to Deadside. Those voodoo symbols of protection and stuff, they’re etched into my skin. I will never, ever, get a date. Ever.
“Dat’s just protection for a couple of weeks. Da ingredients, dey leave deir mark on da skin for a while,” she explained. And the entire time she’s telling me this, I have this feeling that spider guts and chicken blood, and whatever else was in that paint, has probably scarred me for life.
Then, giving me that knowing glance that the doctors always give me, she said, “Trust me, child. I’m only tryin’ to keep you safe . . . and livin’.”
“Good,” I say. “Because I like both of those, a lot.” She then places the necklace over my neck. The band was made out of some kind of black, fiber—maybe hair, maybe not. When I looked up at her she said, “Don’t ask.”
Then I felt the weight of the pouch that is hanging down, tugging at my neck, and I touch it with my fingers. There’s something inside the pouch, and I start to ask about the contents.
She shakes her index finger at me, “Now you really don’t want to know what’s in dere. Just remember dis, if you get separated, too far from your body, you open dat bag, and you eat everything dat comes out of it.”
I know this will just be horrible, so I try not to ponder the ingredients.
“How will he have the necklace once he crosses?” Ricky asks.
“’e will ‘ave a necklace exactly like dat one,” she promised. “It will cross over wit’ ’im.”
Ricky then asks her if we could just make a bigger pouch, and pack a pistol in it. That would take care of a bunch of problems.
“Why is it your generation want to shoot everythin’? Nothin’ but kill, kill, kill.”
Ricky laughed, “Turn-key parenting, PlayStation, Ritalin, and lead-based paints.”
That actually got a laugh out of her.
“Anyway, Jack . . . don’t you never take dat off. It gives you Anvizib. Invisibility.”
“When you say never, do you mean—“
“Never, ever, for any reason at all.”
Very well, then. I’m a savior. Wear the necklace. Stay away from the screamers, and set all of the Land of Sorrows free. And to think I was worried that this would be difficult.
“Now, since we only got a couple of ‘ours, why don’t da two of you go and get cleaned-up.” She looked down at me, smudged bug goo all over my body. “You need a bath, child. We’re goin’ to da movies later.”
“You’re coming with us?” Ricky asked, surprised.
“What,” Ms. Josephine said, looking almost offended, “. . . you don’t tink Ms. Josephine like to watch a good film every now and den?”