25. Jesse the trickster


Ten minutes later, with much less suavity than he normally showed, he was at it again.  Jesse kept fending him off and George kept trying to understand just what it was that could have happened to him to make Jesse so different. Jesse switched tactics, and threw himself across the front seat onto George. He did so in the expectation of three things.

1. George wouldn’t grunt or make any noise.

2. Whatever George did with his body would not match what Jesse saw with his eyes.

3. Jesse, no matter how hard he threw himself at George, would emerge unhurt.

George, who could sense Jesse was winding up for something but did not know what, fell back, said, “Oof!” and prevented Jesse’s head from hitting the inside of the passenger window with his hand.

“What are you doing?” George said in irritation.

“Sorry,” Jesse said automatically, and shoved himself back behind the steering wheel again. Jesse was surprised, and not surprised.  George sounded like a man who’d gotten the wind knocked out of him, so scratch that. He couldn’t say that what he saw, heard and felt was mismatched, although it seemed that George got a little blurry.

“You can predict what I’m going to do next, right?”

George didn’t answer right away.

Then he said, “You are one of the hardest people to read I ever met, even though your body language says you are an honest, open person.”

“You didn’t answer the question,” Jesse said.

“My people are not fond of the inquisition as a social form.”

“My people are not fond of evasive clownbags,” Jesse said.

“If I promise not to mock you, or laugh, or bring it up again, or tell anyone else, will you tell me what happened?”

“If you tell me why you want to know, when you generally don’t give two shits about my personal life, will I promise to consider it? I doubt it,” Jesse said. 

“Why is it so important?” George shrugged. “Idle curiosity.”

“Nope,” Jesse said.

“Nope,” George repeated blankly. “I’m telling you to your face it’s idle curiosity!”

“And I’m telling you to your face you’re lying, though I know I can’t prove it,” Jesse said, triumphant.

George looked at Jesse, frowned, and said, “Fine. Why do you think I’m asking?”

“Because you want to predict my behaviour,” Jesse said. “And did you just admit you were lying?”

“No,” said George.  Jesse smiled his three-cornered toddler smile and looked away.

“It’s okay, George,” Jesse said. “I know you can read minds.”

“No,” George said, with suppressed fury, “I can’t.”

“You can read something. C’mon, George! — you can smell human blood at 30 paces behind two doors! — what other tricks have you got up that fancy sleeve of yours?”

George threw open the passenger door so hard it nearly came off the hinges, slammed it so the truck reverberated and swiftly walked out of sight.

After about ten minutes he returned, got in and sat down. He stared directly ahead and didn’t speak. Jesse counted to thirty.

“Never saw you lose your temper before, George,” Jesse said.

“I don’t like being called a liar,” George said.

“Even if it’s true?” Jesse asked softly.

There was a short pause.

“Especially if it’s true,” George said.

“You’re obviously not like other people, what with your upbringing and your funny clothes and all,” Jesse said. “Do you know how strange you are?”

“Compared to what?” George asked. He almost sounded despairing.

“Just about everyone,” Jesse said. “But I like you, so it doesn’t much matter to me.”

There was another pause. Then, as if he really couldn’t help himself, George said, “What happened to you?”

Jesse said, “You’re not going to like it.”

“I know that already, from how resistant you’ve been.”

“Er, no. You sure have a high opinion of yourself. It’s because you’re an atheist.”

“How would that make a — oh, you’re kidding,” George, for once, looked nonplussed.

“Yup. Met a god. But that’s not the best part,” Jesse said.

“You did not meet a god,” George said, voice dropping into incredulity.

“Just one way of putting it.  The technical term is theophany.”

“If you think Lark turned into a god in front of you, you’re crazy.”

“Oh, it’s far worse than that,” Jesse said. “I was the god.”

“Humans have the most incredible capacity for self-delusion,” George said. “Every time I think I’ve plumbed it, the bottom drops out yet again.”

“While he was passing through,” Jesse said, as if he hadn’t heard this, “He told me to keep a very close eye on you. He specifically told me that you don’t belong here.”

George appeared to lose the power of speech. He looked at Jesse, his brown eyes stricken, and then got out of the truck again. He didn’t come back for half an hour, said nothing, and hardly spoke during the move.

They helped a woman after her roommate’s brother had drunkenly assaulted her in her sleep. The roommate was convinced it was the client’s fault, and the client was heartened that she didn’t have to listen to the same crap from the guys loading the truck.

Normally George came back with Jesse to drop off the truck. When they’d offloaded into the client’s parents’ place in Abbotsford, George said, “I’ll find my own way home,” and got out of the truck.

“Are you sure?” Jesse said, appalled.  “It’ll be a hundred bucks at least for a cab!”

“It’ll be worth it,” said George. As he walked away from the truck, Jesse watched him in the rear view mirror, and saw him vanish into thin air.