Excerpt from Lazarus Dying by Owen Egerton

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This essay appears in Tiferet Journal Print Issue 7. Click here to purchase the full issue in Kindle format.
 
     “Maybe he will return today,” John says. He is standing by the window, trying to peek at the sky above New York’s buildings. He has not put his tie on yet.
      “It will not be today.”

      “Maybe it will be.” 
John starts cleaning, shuffling around straightening cushions and the one houseplant.

      “Have you seen my pamphlets?” he asks.

     After John’s shift at the copy shop, he hands out tracts around the city. Simple little books describing the pains of hell and the grace of the cross.

      “They were on the counter this morning.”

      “Never saw them,” I say.
They have illustrations so that even the illiterate might be saved.
      “If you see them will you place them on my mat.”

      “Of course.” I burn his tracts in the sink as often as I can.
I try not to watch him scurry around. I’m learning to rot.
     Two thousand years ago, I was a miracle.
     The first thing Jesus said to me when I stumbled from the tomb was, “I wanted to see what four days would do, Lazarus.”
     I nodded and brushed some flakes from my skin. He smiled and rested a hand on my back.
“I think I’ll keep it to three,” he said. Pilgrims started visiting. They’d wait in the shade of a palm tree I had planted as a young man. One by one, for a small fee, they would be led by my sisters behind a curtain to see me and ask questions. Some wanted to ask me about Jesus. Most wanted to ask me about death.
      “It was nothing at the time,” I told them. “In memory it is a little like biting into an under-ripened fruit, only not just your mouth, your whole body.”
     People didn’t like this answer. They would grimace, drop a coin in Martha’s hand and head back home. Sometimes a hundred miles away. A hundred miles to find out the afterlife was not yet ready for picking. So I made up
different answers.
      “There is milk there. There is cheese. It is morning always.” Or “Your mother is there. She complains about you constantly. Already the dead are sick of your name.”
     Once I told a man, “Your brother blames you for his death.” “I had nothing to do with it,” he answered.
      “Perhaps you wished it.” I said. “So you might have his wife.”
“I married her out of custom.”
“He visits your room at night. Your brother watches.”
I don’t know why I said these things. After this man left, Martha brought me a plate of food. Olives and bread. But
     I could not eat it.
“The food is sick, Martha.”
“The food is fine. You are sick,” she said. “You need to rest. To sleep.”
“I cannot sleep.”
“Goodnight, brother.”
I could hear Mary and Martha discuss me.
“He is different. He stares,” Martha said.
“He is alive. Is that not enough for you?”
“We were wrong to ask for this.”
“He is a miracle.”
“He frightens me.”
That night I felt my body rotting. I got up and walked. To get blood going, to make sure the soft spots didn’t mold.
     But no new molds came. And the old mold did not heal. Nothing changes. Until now. Now I’m rotting. I’m learning to die.
 
Owen EgertonOWEN EGERTON is an author, performer, and screenwriter. His works include the short story collection How Best to Avoid Dying, the Zach Scott produced play The Other Side of Sleep and several screenplays. As a screenwriter he has written for Warner Brothers, Fox, Disney and many others. He and his partners’ screenplay Bobbie Sue was ranked on the 2008 Blacklist before selling to Warner Brothers. A new paperback edition of his novel The Book of Harold, the Illegitimate Son of God will be released in 2012 by Soft Skull Press. Egerton has been honored as one of Austin’s top comic performers and voted Austin’s favorite author in 2007, 2008 and 2010 by the readers of the Austin Chronicle.
Bio Source: http://www.owenegerton.com/

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