The Night Jesus Died (An Excerpt)

Divit Madhup plucked a mean raga the night the Shaman died. On the porch, as the pie cooled, all four members of the Cosmic Quartet joined in choric harmony over the yogi’s wailing sympathetic strings to honor their fallen brother. Anna, exhausted by the day’s journey, sprawled her lithe body out in the grass at the foot of the porch steps, preserved in an aura of bugspray, and gazed quite pensively through the latticed vents of the forest canopy. Above the vaulting emerald heads of the koa trees, the Sun was preparing for a nighttime soak in the Hawaiian sea, the sky, holding its breath, turning a pallid eggplant shade of purple. As the stars began to open their heavy lids in the lavender broth of evening, she thought of the bees, she thought of Juan Ponce de Leon, she thought of home.

Somewhere in the shrouded distance of the forest, the limbs of the Shaman lay bloody and scattered, soaking in the boggy mush of soil and sedge. Shrapnel left over from the exploded landmine sprinkled, too, across the ground, intermingling with the medicine man’s obliterated intestine and what appeared to be the shattered major arteries of his right leg. The flies had begun to swarm, and from beneath the rain sloshed mud, earthworms were tying their dinner bibs. He’d left his clothes, a loose-fitting rose-colored tunic, ornately patterned harem pants, simple cotton briefs, and of course his seven gold bangles, neatly folded in the windowsill, right beside the cooling cherry pie. That way, he had thought, the Earth will digest my corpse with ease. There was also the obvious delight of walking through the jungle in the nude without concern for the mosquitoes. The gesture seemed to illustrate a deeper point—something about the nakedness of the evening, or the vulnerability inherent in the indulgence of pleasure—pleasures such as warm cherry pie at dusk, pleasures such as playing real-life minesweeper in the bleating, buzzing Hawaiian rainforest.

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