Long Way Home

Jake had to go. There wasn’t another exit for 22 kilometers and then it was probably several more minutes of twists and turns until he’d come to a restaurant or gas station with a bathroom. It was getting dark and the sky began to spit, so hurrying up in his rickety pickup wasn’t a good idea.

            He pulled off the two-lane highway onto the sloped stony shoulder and rolled up to within ten metres of a small bush, the only bush he could see in immediate area. He bounded out of the traffic side of the truck without looking back, as there were few other vehicles travelling the road this time of day, and felt the hood for heat as he skipped around the front of the old thing. Dust from the truck’s wake overtook him as he hopped down the grassy embankment and over the trickle of a crick in the bottom of the ditch. He was still moving toward the bush when he pulled down his zipper and checked over his shoulder to see that he was facing away from oncoming traffic.

            A booming voice interrupted him. “I wouldn’t do that.”

            “What?” Jake stuffed himself back into his pants and snapped his head around. He saw no one. He looked down the road both ways. He looked across the field of grain and noticed a brassy barn and elevator and a single tall tree highlighted by the setting sun. Then he turned toward the sun, squinted into the shimmering pumpkin sphere hovering just over the featureless horizon. By now he was no longer sure that he heard anything at all. It had been a long day of driving. He pulled back up to the bush and again unzipped his fly.

            “Don’t,” he heard.

            “What?” He didn’t bother with his zipper this time. He stood fast but looked back toward his truck. He didn’t see anyone nearby when he stopped “Who’s there?” he called back. There was no reply. Once again, he prepared to relieve himself.

            “Really. I think you should reconsider,” the bush said.

            He stopped again, did up his pants and bent down as he did a three-sixty around the bush looking for the source of the voice. A car blasted by his parked truck, buffeting it and throwing up a cloud of dust. Satisfied there was nobody there, he faced the bush once more, this time from the opposite side, and he pulled at his zipper as he watched the area around his truck. He had an unobstructed view, though he was facing directly into the setting sun. Only half of the effervescent globe was above the field now.

            “No. Don’t do it.”

            “What the hell!” he blurted out, startled. Up the zipper went again. “I gotta go!”

            “Not here,” the voice again came from the bush.

            “Who are you? Where are you?” Jake asked. He was somewhat calmer now but starting to bounce with urgency. There was no reply. Jake lined up to the bush again, but this time did not reach for his zipper. Instead he stood there, waiting.

            “I am The Lord your God,” said the bush.

            “Fuck off,” Jake replied. It was a knee-jerk reaction that he immediately regretted. “I mean, no way.” Who are you?”

            “I am The Lord your God,” the bush said again.

            “Get out of town,” Jake said.

            “Really. I am,” the bush said.

            “Well, I gotta go.” Jake pulled down his zipper. God or no god, he was getting it done this time.”

            “Think about it,” the bush said. “Do you really want to piss on god? You may or may not believe I am, but is this really a good percentage move?”

            “Jesus. I mean—

            “That’s okay. I’ve heard it all.”

            “This is bullshit,” Jake said, getting fed up with the encounter. He decided that he’d been driving too long and his mind was playing games with him. Like that time that he and two buddies from high school tried to stay up all night watching Leave it to Beaver reruns. He started to pee.

            When his urine hit the bush the small leaves burst into flames- not continuous flames but just flashes of fire where the liquid contacted the otherwise dry leaves. When the flash subsided, each leaf was dry.

            “Holy shit!” Jake jumped back, tucking himself in again.

            “Yes,” the bush said. “Nobody likes to be pissed on.”

            Jake sat back on the grass with his knees up. He looked at the bush, his truck, the bush, the highway in each direction, the light sky where the setting sun had been, and back to the bush. He realized that he hadn’t considered all of the options and stood, back to the bush, urinating on the dry grass. The barn and silo were now grey against the darkening sky. He didn’t notice the tree this time.

            “Ahhh, that was good,” Jake said. He tidied up and turned back to the bush. “So you’re god.”

            “Yes.”

            “Here by the side of Number 3 Road.”

            “Yes.”

            “Burning bush. I get that. Wasn’t very impressive, actually. More like a couple of sparks. I’m not even sure I saw that. It might have been the sunset glinting off the leaves. It is starting to rain a bit.

            “I am The Lord your God.”

            “I expected more. You know, the burning bush thing.”

            The bush suddenly burst into a violent flash of fire. Flames shot up ten feet. Jake fell back partly from shock and partly from the blast of hot air. There was a rush of sound from the bush like a jet blast. And then it was gone. The sound, the light, the heat. Jake wiped his eyes, felt the heat on his face, his singed eyebrows. He stood. “Holy shit.”

            “Yes.”

            “Okay,” Jake said. “So if you’re god, why are you here?”

            “Why not?”

            “It’s the middle of nowhere.”

            “Not for me.”

            “It’s not very… I don’t know, its not, I mean, of all the places to be. Outside? Here? By the highway? A bush?

            “Why not?”

            “Can’t be much fun,” Jake said.

            “Fun’s not really my priority.”

            “What do you want?” Jake asked, figuring that he might as well get on with it.

            “Nothing.”

            “Nothing?”

            “What did you have in mind?” the bush asked.

            “Well, I figure if you’re god and you’re talking to me, you must want something. I’ve been chosen for something, right?”

            “No.”

            “Well, why are we having this conversation?”

            “You were going to piss on me.”

            “And that’s why you spoke to me?”

            “Seemed reasonable at the time.”

            “So I’m driving home and god speaks to me but it’s for no high level stuff, but just so I don’t piss on him.”

            “Yes.”

            “I don’t think my buddies are going to buy this.”

            “I wouldn’t think so. Best to keep it to yourself.”

            “ I guess,” Jake said. Then he stood still for more than a couple of minutes trying to get his mind around the situation. He looked at the dark sky, at his truck. He could still make out the barn and maybe the silo, but it was fading fast. The sky to the west was lighter than to the east, but not by much. A tractor-trailer rowed through its gears as it slowed in the distance. He turned his attention back to the bush. “Can you do the fire thing one more time?”

            “Why?”

            “Just so I know it really happened.”

            “It happened.”

            “I thought you’d say that. So no souvenirs or autographs or anything?”

            “No.”

            “Yeah, I sorta figured that too.” He put his hands in his pockets. “So I’m free to go?”

            “Of course.”

            “And you’re just going to stay here?” he asked the bush.

            “For now.”

            “And if I come back? You won’t be here.”

            “Right.”

            “Will the bush still be here, but it will be, you know, just a bush? Or will the whole bush be gone? Stupid question, right?”

            “Right.”

            “Okay, so I’m going to go then.”

            “Yes.

            “So, see you. I mean, thanks. I mean—”

            “Good bye, Jake,” the bush said.

            Jake made his way back to his truck, looking over his shoulder every couple of steps. He put his hand on the hood as he walked around the truck. It was cold. He tried to make out the dark form of the bush as he got into his truck, started it up, and drove off the shoulder and into the lane. Several seconds later, he turned on his headlights and looked into his rear-view mirror. He saw nothing unusual.

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