It started 20 years ago -- and we're STILL HERE, dammit! So because Christmas is a TIME OF TRADITION, and to honor Pigdog.org's glorious resurrection, we announced the return of our most hallowed tradition: the Christmas Essay contest.
And now we're announcing the BIG 2017 WINNER!
Remember that commemorating our grand 20th anniversary, the theme was
Seeing Old Friends
- or - "Life in the Resistance"
Our panel of expert judges has now and once again chosen a GRAND-PRIZE winner essay for the Pigdog Journal Christmas Essay Contest! So come away with us to a magical land where ornery geeks from the 1990s live long enough to bad people from the future. There's a WARM AND FUZZY message in there somewhere for this special time of the year -- that if you want to share, there will always be someone to share with. We are the ghosts of Christmas past -- and the GHOST OF CHRISTMAS yet to come.
And this year the winning essay made me cry.
I'm not kidding. I misted up at the end. I LAUGHED AND I CRIED. It was very Pigdog, but it was also very beautiful. I was moved. I considered it a piece of fucking literature.
And then I told Lenny -- yes, Lenny won again this year -- that his essay was TOO GOOD for us. That he should sell his essay to some big New York City literary magazine, and make a lot of money. That it should be gathered up into one those literary anthologies that college kids get to read. In short, I was humbled, and I had just one question for Lenny. What are you doing hanging around with a bunch of bums like us?
And then the answer rang down, like a Christmas miracle. "Well..." I imagine him saying warmly, with a twinkle in his eye.
"You did say that the theme was Old Friends."
Last Temptation by Lenny Tuberose
I don't care what you think about me. This isn't about me, it's about Him. I think you need to know the way it really went down though. It's important.
We were in the garden at Gethsemane just the two of us when He asked me to do it. I knew something was up. He had been acting funny for days distant...preoccupied. He hadn't smiled in two days, and that just wasn't like him. I was always telling him to get serious he was always joking around. He had one of those laughs that was just contagious, you know? He would start and then he would get me going until there were tears running down our cheeks. He liked to pull pranks and he told the funniest jokes. Filthy jokes. Him and Mary Magdalene. They would get going trying to outdo each other until I begged them to stop because I was afraid I was going to piss myself. When He stopped smiling, I started worrying. That night in the garden, I was plenty worried.
He said, "Listen Hudie..." that was what He called me. Most people called me "Yehuda" because I had a temper I didn't mind showing off and being disrespectful to my face was widely considered to show a regrettable lack of the survival instinct . You would probably call me "Judas" I guess. Nobody got away with calling me "Hudie" except Him and my mother. One or two tried nobody tried twice. He said, "Listen Hudie, I need you to do something for me." I was listening. I was His go-to guy, you know? We had been together since we were kids. I was sort of a bad kid. I know, you're shocked. The other kids made fun of my red hair. It made me mad, so I beat the shit out of them. Eventually it didn't take long either that became who I was. I was big and I was mean and the other kids learned to be afraid of me. Except for little Yesua. He was sort of a scrawny little kid. He didn't try to fuck with me, but He wasn't afraid of me either. He was nice to me. At first I bullied Him a little that's who I was. He didn't get scared and He didn't get mad and He didn't stop being nice, so I stopped. Also, He was smart and He was funny! Man He was funny. He did these impressions of our fathers that were incredible. Eventually we had this sort of act we would do for the other kids (the Hudie and Suie show we called it) where I would be His straight man and He would do His impressions. The other kids loved it it was the first time they weren't either mean to me or running scared of me. Bullies are lonely people you didn't know? It's true. Yesua made it better made everything better. That's just who He was. After that we went everywhere together. I thought of Him as my little brother. I would have done anything for Him, and he knew it.
He said, "Listen Hudie, I need you to do something for me."
"Sure," I said, "who do you need me to kill?" I was only half kidding. I killed a lot of people in my time. I was active in the Resistance Movement. Fucking Romans. That was one thing Yesua couldn't make better. I formed a group the sicarii. We killed a lot of people. Not Romans, usually, but Roman sympathizers and collaborators. Yesua knew about it He seemed to know everything about everything but He didn't approve. We didn't talk about it.
He smiled, but his eyes were sad. "Jerusalem has gotten pretty hot," He said. He wasn't talking about the weather either. After the shit-storm He had caused at the Temple (I think that was the maddest I have ever seen Him!), Bar Kayafa and the Sanhedrin were apoplectic. They had gone to the Romans with hysterical tales of a general insurrection in the making. It was a frame job, of course Yesua would never have supported armed insurrection but they pointed to the activity of my sicurii as proof that Roman authority was the target and Yesua was ringleader. It was bullshit and everybody who had ever heard Yesua speak knew it. He never blamed me for that either it wasn't His style. I blamed myself though, and it made me angry.
"Time we slipped out of town I guess," I said. "We can cross the river and head east...let things cool down. I know this place..."
"I want you to bring Bar Kayafa here," He said.
"Suie....you can't do this..."
"I have to..."
"They will KILL you! Look, I know you won't fight and I won't even ask you to, but we have run before. You can't joke your way out of this one, man. What do you think is going to happen when they get their hands on you?"
And so He told me. In detail. He said He owed me that much. He told me about the humiliation, the torture, and the execution. It didn't sound like the best plan I had ever heard, and I said so.
"Please Hudie. Don't make this harder. This is the way it needs to be."
I wasn't going to argue with Him He knew everything about everything. But, "I can't do this! Please don't ask me to do this!" I fell to my knees. Me! I fell to my knees and I wept like a baby. "Please, man...PLEASE! Please don't do this..."
He took my head in his hands and pressed his forehead to mine. "Don't cry Hudie," He said. He was crying too. "It has to be this way. It will all be over soon and then I will see you on the other side."
I believed Him about that He knew everything about everything and I had seen him do things incredible things. If He said there was another side then there was. If he said we would be together there then we would. But, "I can't do this! Ask someone else!"
Yesua actually smiled then. "Who? You are the best of them, Hudie. You are the strongest and the hardest and the smartest and you love me more than the rest of them put together. Who can do it if you can't? Who should I ask? Simon Cephas?" Now we were both laughing. Simon was a blockhead. We called him Simon 'the Rock' because he had a head like Roman cement. We used to joke that we could use him head-first as a battering ram.
He handed me a rag to wipe my nose I don't know where He got it from He may have actually pulled it out of thin air. He really could do shit like that.
"Ah here comes trouble..." He was looking over my shoulder. I turned to see what he was talking about and saw Mary Magdalene coming up the path with a tall warrior in bright burnished armor. I went for my dagger. That was pretty much my first response to all of life's little problems.
"Who is it?" I knew He would know, because He knew everything about everything.
"That's the Devil."
"What is he doing with Mary?!"
"No," He said, "that's not Mary, that's the Devil too."
"Really? There are two Devils?"
"There are two of us," He said. "We each have our own. You know that temple in Tiberias with the column that has the big crack in it from the earthquake...?"
"Every person has a crack like that, and that crack is their Devil. Are you ready for this Hudie? This could get ugly."
They walked right up to us and the warrior turned to me and said, "Are you going to do it? It's a stupid fucking plan you know. What's it going to accomplish?"
I shrugged. I had no answer for him. I didn't understand why Yesua wanted it to be this way I didn't understand what he was hoping to accomplish. He hadn't tried to explain and I guess maybe he knew that I wouldn't understand. I didn't need to. He needed this and that was enough for me. It would always be enough for me.
"I have a better plan," he said. It goes like this..." he made a gesture with his hand and a vision unfolded before my eyes. "Vesuvius and Aetna both will bring forth their fire in concert and Rome will reel. The Nile will fail to flood and the rains will fail in the west and the north Rome will fill with refugees even as her granaries fail to fill and the hordes of the barbarous north and west cut into the empire like daggers. Storms will sink the Roman fleets, one after the other. I will break them all this I can do. The Jews will rise and break their chains Judea will be yours once more and not a living Roman within her borders save those bound in slave chains! Even to Egypt the land will be yours and Solomon himself would envy the power and majesty of the new kingdom of the Jews!"
That was the crack in my column alright. Hatred of the Romans and love of my country. I had wanted this all my life. I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I would die for it I had killed for it so many times. I looked at Yesua. I wanted Him to tell me the Devil was lying that he couldn't deliver on his promise...or wouldn't. But He didn't. Instead He just...smiled at me.
Yesua believed in me. That was why he had brought me to the garden that night in the first place. As much as I wanted my boot on Rome's neck oh how I wanted it I just couldn't let Yesua down. It would have broken his heart. Do you understand now? I loved the guy. I didn't trust myself to speak, I just shook my head.
Then the Devil-Mary went after Yesua. It spread its arms and a vision appeared of Yesua being scourged and tormented and finally hanging from a crucifix in His death agony. She wailed, inconsolable and driven half-mad by her pain and grief grief and anger poured out of her, enough to drown the world a thousand times over. How could He ask her to suffer this? She demanded. She wept and she pleaded and she railed in anger. The worst part was that it was all true. That was exactly what Mary was going to go through if Yesua carried through with his mad plan. The Devil so very, very clever the Devil used the plain unvarnished truth as a weapon that day. Understand this Yesua loved Mary and she loved Him. I won't say any more about it because it's none of your fucking business, but I knew the thought of what she was going to suffer because of His choice was like a knife in His heart. He would do this to her if He didn't turn from his mad plan. The grief in His eyes mirrored her own. And the Devil wasn't done. The vision changed to show Yesua's mother Mary cradling his dead and broken body in her arms. He looked so small and frail in death and he was covered in weals and bruises and hideous wounds. The look on her face...she was...stricken. Broken. Yesua began to weep then wept as I had not seen Him weep since we were children. It was true, again. The unendurable would break that kind and gentle woman. He couldn't shield her from it He would be the one bringing it down upon her. The tears ran down His face and a great sob was torn from His throat. It broke my heart to see him like that and I did the only thing I could think of I took him in my arms and held him as he cried like I had done when we were children. That was the crack in His column He couldn't bear to hurt anyone and what He was planning to do was going to bring immeasurable pain upon all the people He loved most in this world. And that's when I knew I would do what He asked. It meant that much to him, and He meant that much to me. Do you understand now?
When we stopped crying we looked up and the Devil was gone. Yesua sighed. We were both pretty much cried out. "You should go now Hudie." He knew I would. He knew everything about everything. "Bring them here, to the garden. And when they have taken me, promise me you will get out of the city. You promise?"
I nodded. He knew I would do what He asked. He knew what I was going to do afterward too. He knew everything about everything.
So I guess you know the rest of the story and you know what I'm going to do next. It's not because of guilt I only did what He asked me to do and I only did it because I love the man. It's not because everybody thinks I betrayed Him either. I don't care what you think about me. You don't matter to me at all. The truth is that I miss Him. I'm lonely and I miss Him.