My Lovely and I bobbed in a tepid bath of boredom. Las Cuches was the tumbleweed capital of Colorado. Everybody left. Nobody came. It was not a place on anyone’s lips.
She looked at me through my splayed knees, tipping the cigarette deftly to her lips so it didn’t die in a splash.
“We gotta get out,” she said. “This is nowhere.”
“Everyone has been everywhere,” she said. “Fukuoka, Bali, Darwin for the crocs, rock-hopping the Seychelles, line sits outside the Louvre. I don’t need to go around the world to be bored with a bunch of other boring people taking selfies of themselves being bored in front of tumbling pillars.”
“So … what?”
“Get religion?” she said. “Like Mecca?”
She put the smoke in a peanut butter lid. She shared her theory of religion as the ultimate in travel. People get religion, she said, because there’s nowhere else to go.
“You want to go to Mecca?”
“It’s just a metaphor,” she said. “What if we became somewhere?”
“I have an idea. I remember an accident that turned into an incident that turned into a monument.”
Years earlier, photos appeared in the national news of a middle-aged Latina down in Texas, holding a picture frame. The frame held a bed of cotton, which supported a corn chip with an image fried into it. Jesus Christ had appeared, from beyond, an apparition to the taco faithful. Where once was burnt, a vision congealed.
Word got out about the Shrine of the Holy Tortilla.
The world got in. Parked in dusty lots at the edge of town. Padded on huaraches down the cobbled streets. Queued to approach and peer closely at the halo-lighted taco chip.
Many a tee-shirt was dyed and sold. Postcards featuring faux Jesuses. Adobe sculptures of Jesus eating tacos. Desk ornaments riddled with stigmata for pencils and pens. Selfies and Kwik-Pic videos flew through space to the nettering nabobs.
It was sacrilege, of course, but it sold -- Big Time. For a while, until the novelty wore off. Everyone left. The taco shrine went back to burritos and beans.
“We could fry something mystical,” my Lovely said. “Act innocent and amused. Be all casual. Tip a reporter with nothing more to report.”
“Go social? Twaddle and Fritter and Postaglam?”
“Can’t use our accounts,” she said. “We need uninvited awe.”
We spent a whole afternoon frying tortillas to the brink of inedible. Stirred them. Flopped them. Pressed them together with tongs. Held them below the fat until they pert near drowned.
I lifted one up to the light, looking for an image.
“Christ on a crutch?” I asked, and extended it to Lovely.
She looked. Shook her head. Despite all that creative deconstruction, our artistic efforts failed to produce the accidental visitation in a deep-fried Eucharist. It felt like “the force” was against us.
That night, we lay exhausted in the tub. A bowl of salsa teetered on the rim. The streets outside were quiet, not a sangre de turista in sight.
I slid her a margarita pounder. She licked the salt off the edge, her tongue curling like an Edenic serpent.
Our eyes met, when we heard the CLUNK … CLUNK … CLUNK … coming up the stairs in the hall. Then I heard a loud knock at the door.
“Goddammit, let me in,” the voice cried.
“Who is it?” I yelled.
“Legal. With Trinity Enterprises.”
“Jesus H. Christ!” I yelled. “Wait a sec.”
I looked at Lovely. Lovely looked back. God couldn’t wait.
“I know what you’ve been up to,” he yelled.
“Trying to conjure Me -- on a tortilla chip? C’mon. Haven’t you heard of copyright? When it comes to brand, We’re the brand.”
I knew it was a bad idea to conjure likenesses. Still, they were only … likenesses.
“We didn’t do anything. We fried some tortilla chips. BFD.”
“Fucking with God? The balls on this guy. I can bring down fire and brimstone, motherfucker. Don’t make me drag my cross in there and -- .”
I looked at Lovely and she at me.
“Are you gonna let Him in?” I asked. “Or am I?”
For thirty years, Stuart Watson lined bird cages for a living (he was a newspaper journalist, self-deprecating and sarcastic, in equal measure). He loves the writing, for just one outstanding example, of Joy Williams. Watson’s own work is (or will be) in The Maine Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, Revolution John, Montana Mouthful, Wretched Creations, Flash Boulevard, Bending Genres, Flash Fiction Magazine, Hippocampus (books), Danse Macabre, Red Planet Magazine, Yolk and Wanderlust Journal. He lives in Oregon with his lovely wife and their awesome dog.