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Good News

He hit the traffic already pretty pissed off, having gotten lost because he was afraid of this terrible storm with this middle-of-the-night lightning. He had been thinking about his wife of course, and his family, and that whole situation. And it was so stupid, what they argued about, just incredibly stupid, and the fight was, what, four weeks ago now? It was four weeks ago and he was still thinking about it, ever since he had pulled out of that driveway just not even looking at her. Plus, it didn’t even matter, what they were arguing about. Except, not really. Really, it mattered a lot. And it wasn’t normal to be arguing over this particular thing at their particular stage in life. Usually it happened like this.

It is a beautiful starry Friday night, the kind when the blackness of the sky illuminates the stars, and the black is so deep it turns to blue, which phenomenon brings out her eyes so that she seems like the beautiful center of a revolving painting, and they are on the perfect date that he has been planning for three months with the help of every website he can think of. He shows up at her door, even though it’s his door, too, for, gosh, a year now, with flowers and a carriage, like with actual horses, waiting to parade their love around the city for anyone to see. There’s dinner at l’Espalier, where a violinist he hired comes over to serenade her while she sips her wine, which he had picked in a very decisive, virile manner, and she basks in his love and in the stinging, thorny stares of every other woman in the entire place. Then they dance, a waltz as no one does anymore, so as to show off the fruits of the ballroom lessons they had been taking since Valentine’s Day, and laugh and laugh as they step and twirl while the night and the earth melts away around them.

After the dancing she wants to be spontaneous so they sneak into the Public Garden in the dark to lie on their backs with their limbs spread out and all alone on the clearest day of the year and she doesn’t even care that she is among the naked, dewy grass in her satin gown which he frets over, but she quiets him with a quick tittering kiss. She becomes sincere then, saying that this, this right here, this must be what Heaven is like, and he says with a smile, do you really believe in heaven? And she says, darling a night like tonight is how I know God is in everything and she leans in to kiss him passionately but he pulls away just the tiniest bit and gently grasps the wrist to stop the hand that was about to run through his hair. He says, I didn’t realize you felt that strongly about it, and her serenity is suddenly mixed with the first flecks of doubt as she says, God is the most important thing in my life and what led me to you.

Reality creeps through the grass and up his arms and onto the back of his neck as he asks her, will you always feel this way and will, well, this is hard to say, but, will you want our kids, just, if potentially in the future we had them, will you want them to be the same way because you know how I feel about that? So then she sighs and she knows and he knows that the thing they didn’t want to think about, the thing they hoped would never come back to them is here now between them, and the sky loses its blue and turns to pitch and the diamond in his pocket is pressed hard against his leg until he puts it into the dresser of his new apartment and then gives it some time later to another girl.

But this isn’t how it happened with him and his wife. They hadn’t had this night or this talk and now here they were with one daughter, one son, and another on the way, and this so persistent battle about what to do with this newcomer, and also there was this damn traffic. They did have a pretty romantic life together a while back, which he was always saying they would lose if they got married, but finally under a lot of pressure from both her and his mother he had proposed while vacationing in the Berkshires. It was right after they had gotten out of the Norman Rockwell Museum, which was just so fitting, he thought, like how could he have not known that that place was her god saying this is you, you know, this is you from here on out, hosting Christmas dinner and leading everyone in a prayer and who knows maybe someone eventually gets the idea that you should be the one dressing up as Santa this year. He had even gotten married in a church, and thought, this might be enough for her.

But so what? He thought, people have much worse stuff to deal with than this argument that had been hanging around for how many years now? Jesus absolutely had it worse. And all those saints, if you can believe half those stories, which he was pretty sure he didn’t. Even he had worse to deal with. He was in this line of cars with this unnatural, dry lightning all around him and he didn’t even want to get where he was going to, which was to his parents-in-law’s house in Ohio because his wife had up and decided she needed to reconnect with her roots. Cold, rational Boston just was not fostering her or her kids’ moral centers and she didn’t want another to be born under that gray, godless sky. So he had been coming out to them every month for a while now, and drove because he couldn’t stand the thought of not being able to jump in his car to escape when it all started to poke him and prod at him and kill him.

Usually it was fine, the drive. He had made good time the last few visits. The storm had been awful, though, truly frightful, so he didn’t even see the exit at all, and he was so much more—more frantic? Agitated? Or just even despairing than he had ever been on one of these trips. Probably because he hadn’t spoken to his wife in a long time, not since they had quarreled last time in whispers in her parents’ den while everyone else slept, so that they all found out at breakfast that he was already gone. And because of a rumbling, not-so-fleeting thought of doubt of whether it was peace or freedom he really wanted had come over him just as he had pulled out of his parking garage. And this in front of him, this was the worst of it, what was probably a shepherd and his flock crossing the road or a wagon with a broken wheel and some spilled bales of hay. He strained his neck to see over the sedans in front of him and thought he might see some smoke. What, a barn fire? After a while he could see the flames, the first flickering fingertips of it. And then he could see the actual fingertips. And then the head, and the torso. Five, six stories tall. No. Way. This was that thing. There was this thing—this foam and fiberglass statue of a Jesus sitting in front of an amphitheatre connected to a church. He had been driving with his family once and his daughter had seen it and wanted pictures of all of them in front of this monster which was rising out of a pond, the chest, and the visage, with the arms reaching straight up to the sky, with a giant cross near the base.

And now it was burning. Pieces of it melted and fell off like meteorites to the ground. It made very little sound. He took his foot off the gas without realizing and just stared and mouthed his confusion. A lightning bolt smacked the ground behind him and the thunder came a second or two after as if to say that, yes, I lit this Jesus up. And what is this place that you can have one huge thing like lightning without the other part of the storm which is always the downpour? There was just nothing there to put the mess out and he thought, there isn’t going to be anything left. Cars crawled by him, the drivers also gawking but not so enraptured. They were scared and wanted to move away and please, please, he said, just go around me already. He could not believe it. He didn’t know what to do for the longest time and the light just flickered on his face and his car and lit up the church and the water in front of it and the giant, sprawling fields behind it and the truck rental chain on the other side.

Then, he started to get the giggles. Just a grunt at first. Then some hiccups. Then he got giddy. He wasn’t happy, and he was definitely not distressed, but an extreme emotion woke up inside of him and sounded out as a long, absurd guffaw.

He thought, this is too funny. This is too fucking hilarious. A Jesus. Going up in flames right in the middle of nowhere. This was hysterical. He had to tell his wife. He had to call her right now and tell her about this. She would have to find this funny, even she. Wouldn’t she? It was like Zeus’ mighty arrival right in America’s heartland, right where he could do the most damage. Or maybe it was even his wife’s angry god displaying his infinite wrath for false idols. Wasn’t this just what they were arguing about? Hadn’t she cursed the Boston sky for being so lifeless? Well maybe it was, but at least it wasn’t destroying religious landmarks by lighting them on fire. This was really going to get her goat. She was going to hear about this and she was going to realize her mistake and come right back to Boston and he would say don’t even mention it my precious Karen! Everything is forgiven. Just have this baby in the home that you and I made for it. We will deal with the religious education of all of our children and each and every problem you have and those which I know I have when we are snugly in our beautiful brownstone, a short ride away from the majestic Atlantic Ocean and the best schools in the entire world.

But, gee. Maybe she didn’t actually technically need to see the humor. That was not necessarily the required outcome of his calling her. Maybe this was one of those situations that started with “Jonathan, please. Some respect?” and ended with her crying and his son’s snickering and his daughter’s asking him if he and mommy were fighting.

Someone was approaching his idling car from the back now. Who? A cop! Cops were gruff, right? And sarcastic? Like in the movies. Not cops in Boston, they were just bastards, but here, certainly, where they don’t have to deal with all the murders, just protecting areas where fiberglass Jesuses and the world’s biggest rubber stamp get vandalized by kids or bolts of lightning. He would tell this cop how absolutely ridiculous the whole idea of a foam and fiberglass Jesus’ burning down on Ohio’s front lawn was because he would have to understand. Wow, he could not stop giggling.

“Massachusetts, huh?” said the cop’s face, which was now staring at him through the empty air of his rolled-down window. Uh oh. He stopped laughing. Mostly. Man, this guy looked just like a cop. Big guy, older, maybe in his fifties, maybe been sitting at his desk too long, maybe couldn’t keep up with some of the more in-shape criminal element of the modern era, and grouchy for it, graying enough so that his hat couldn’t hide it. He himself was thirty five and honestly nursed quite a lot of distrust of authority figures since he had gone to Brown and his roommate had handed him a joint that night. He frequently denied to himself both that he was midway through his life and that, with twelve people reporting directly to him, he was something of an authority figure himself.

“No sir, officer. I—I was just wondering if there was anything I could do to help.” This was the problem with these farm-belt types. They all got up at four a.m., which is way too early to cultivate any sense of humor. You should get some sleep, he said to the cop, almost. But he just handed him his papers and sunk down in his seat while trying to catch another glimpse of the blaze behind the big blue blob in front of him, who looked like he was actually trying to block his view of this burning son of man, whose hands were thrown up, he thought, in agony. The oncoming wrench of sympathy for the people who would have to clean up the messy ash and the skeletal steel was replaced by another fit of chuckles and a huge annoyance at this guy, this regular guy in blue clothes, that’s all he was, scribbling with his fat fingers on his little pad of paper.

“Yeah I bet. My savior. Here you go.” The cop ripped the ticket off and handed it to him.

“Hey, what’s this? What’d I do wrong?”

“No stopping on the highway without an emergency.”

“No!” he blurted out.


“No. That’s not it.” Oh Christ. Just shut up.

“Then what is it, sir?”

Don’t. Don’t. “You don’t like me because—because I’m not Christian. This is persecution! My wife’s very religious, you know. She’d be very upset over this, this—shindig.” He gestured through the cop’s belly at the inferno and shook his phone in his other hand. “I was just about to call her.”

The cop peered down at him and squinted in the fire and the brightness and the darkness and the night. “You were going to call your wife to upset her?”

He paused. “Jeez, don’t you people practice forgiveness? Can’t you, just, you know, turn the other cheek the other way and pretend you didn’t see me?”

“Consider this your penance, sir,” the cop said as he dropped the ticket through the open window onto his lap. He scowled once he figured he was beyond mercy and watched this guy’s radio and his GPS and his gun and all his gadgets jiggle with his fat as he shifted around.

“Can I go now?”

“Get going right this second.”

“See you in church,” he said as he sped off down the now-clear highway. That was a pretty good one, at least, he thought. See you in church. Yeah. Not bad at all.

He looked at the Jesus in the rearview mirror for a moment before the reflection started to blind him and he thought, you are a lucky son of a bitch, buddy. You go out in a blaze of glory and everyone misses you forever and talks about how great you were and everyone that loves you foots your bills and builds more statues of you. And you knew. You knew there was gonna be an end to everything. You knew you were gonna get to live the good life after putting up with all hell for just a few days. You didn’t have to burp your kids and pay for their college and stay up all night every night with your wife and these new strangers in your house. You ended where I am just beginning. The head melted and fell off before he was out of sight of it.

Despite the ticket he was in a better mood now that the storm had stopped and he was on his way to seeing his family. He didn’t usually come this way but the scenery was starting to get familiar and after all what’s a little thing like god to come between people who truly love each other? Because he had a good feeling now ever since he left the fire that it was possible that there was still a lot of love there, and then he was overwhelmed by their love for him, though he had been unsure before. Of course little Emily and not-as-little Robert loved him and probably missed their daddy as he also felt strange without their noises in his house and without Karen’s weight on that side of the bed and her long, meaningful, toneless kisses to his forehead before they both fell asleep. How much had she been remembering him, or was it all about the baby as the time grew closer?

When he got out of the car it was one in the morning which was late for them, and probably this entire state, so he was quiet when he opened the door and quiet when he took off his shoes and quiet when he crept along the shag carpeting and quiet when he made his way through the living room to the kitchen to get something to drink finally, so quiet he was able to hear that his wife and her parents were whispering on the couch and one of them was crying, or maybe all of them were. He walked in and they hardly looked up but even so he swelled with something for the sight of her, maybe it really was love, and came to her quickly to kneel before her to tell her that she didn’t need to cry because he was here now and about how much he had missed her and about the perfect date he had thought up for them for after the baby came and they were back home, and it was only when in the small light of the sad, shabby room he put his hand to her belly which felt so much smaller than it had a month before that he realized anything was wrong.


Dan Forward graduated from Boston College in 2009 with a degree in English literature. He currently attends Suffolk Law School in Boston. His fiction has previously been published in Fogged Clarity, and he has a regularly-appearing humor column on


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