“…and never let the liberal media tell you otherwise,” barks the radio. George nods in agreement. Damn straight.
Red light. I hate these fucking things. As soon as you build up enough speed to really-
A boy jumps on the hood of his car. Standing akimbo with the glare of the early morning sun silhouetting his baggy clothing and wiry frame, the boy makes a hand gesture at him. It’s the kind of gesture George translates as, “I need to be taught a lesson.”
George puts the car in park and opens the car door. He does not see the man walk up behind him with a baseball bat. George manages to say “I bet you think you’re pretty-” before all two-hundred and forty pounds of him slump to the pavement.
When he comes to, he slowly tries to sit up, but fails. He succeeds in laying himself out in the snow-angel position. He turns his head to the left. His watch is gone. He turns his head to the right. He sees blood splattered on the concrete. He rolls onto his side and curls into the fetal position. He’s naked.
This isn’t happening.
He hears giggling. He cranes his neck back and sees five black children, three boys and two girls, looking at him. He can’t tell how far away they are, but they are hunched over to get a closer look. “Man, you got fucked up,” says one of the boys. He looks about the same age as George’s eight year old son. After some growls and coughs, they scream in mock terror which fades into laughter as they scatter.
He slowly climbs to one knee, then his bare feet. One hand cups his genitals, the other steadies himself on a telephone poll.
Where am I?
It’s not the best neighborhood. He is at least a fifteen minute drive away from his home. He doesn’t have a stitch of clothing, and his car is gone.
Panicked, George runs in front of the first vehicle that passes: a black Cadillac with a cross hanging from the rearview mirror. The ashen haired man behind the wheel stops just in time. It’s the priest from his local parish. Using both hands to shield his privates, George walks to the passenger side of the vehicle. The window cracks slightly, barely an inch.
“Sir, you got to help me. I was carjacked and they stole my clothes. I gotta get out of here.”
The priest scans him sidelong, mouth slightly agape. After an uncomfortable few seconds of silence, the priest replies: “I really would, but I’m already late for services and, well, frankly, the car is brand new and I… um… couldn’t help but notice that you soiled yourself.”
George hadn’t even realized the thick, brown feces caked between his thighs.
“I’ll pray for you, son. Maybe you should lay off the booze.”
The priest doesn’t even wait for George to step away before accelerating down the road.
Going the other way, he sees a silver SUV. He recognizes the man as someone from his church. He saw him at the fish fry last week, and he plays softball in the same league. The SUV doesn’t even slow down.
Not long after, a red pick-up truck playing Lynyrd Skynyrd approaches and stops. The driver has aviator sunglasses and sports a wicked mullet.
“What in the hell do we have here?” he shouts out the passenger window.
“Some kids, they took my car-”
“Huh?” replies George, shocked.
“I said: niggers take your car?”
“Um, I didn’t really get a good look at them. The kid who jumped on my car was black, but the person who hit me from behind-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” says the driver in the truck. “I ain’t talkin’ to no faggot with no clothes on, covered in shit, who gets hit from behind for the viewing pleasure of nigglets.”
“Wait, what? No, see, I never saw the guy’s face-”
“Look queer, I just pulled over to find out what gay-ass, butt-fucker quarrel you got into to be in this situation. I heard you pillow biters were into playing with shit, but goddamn! You don’t believe it ‘til you see it.”
The truck peels out, leaving black skids on the pavement. The truck has two bumper stickers: “Abortion stops a beating heart” and “Bush/Cheney ’04.”
Standing alone in the street, George is torn between screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs and bursting out into tears. Before he has to decide, a white Prius drives up. It stops, and the driver gets out of the car. He has several ear piercings and tattoos scattered along his arms. His Pearl Jam t-shirt is torn and stained.
“Hey man, you need some help?” the driver calls out.
George licks his lips and seems to genuinely ponder the question, “Yeah, my car and clothes were stolen.”
“Do you want to go to the police? Or home, to get dressed or something?”
“Home,” says George. “I want to go home.”
“Okay.” The driver looks the man up and down, squinting. He walks to his trunk, opens it, and pulls out some towels. “Here,” he says. “You can cover up and maybe wipe yourself off a bit.”
George takes them and promptly wraps one around his waist, and drapes the other over his shoulders like a shawl. The driver gets back into his car and motions George to the passenger seat.
“Yeah,” the driver says as he buckles up. “I keep those towels back there just in case. Shit happens when you party hard.”
“I wasn’t partying, I was carjacked,” George says. The driver pushes a button and the car turns on.
“Yeah, you mentioned that. That’s a bummer, dude.”
Great, he’s a fucking moron…
They sit in silence for a minute before the driver turns to George and says, “So, where’s home?”
“Oh right,” George says. “It’s just twelve blocks up this street, then a couple turns and you’re there.”
“Cool,” says the driver, putting the car into drive with a little joystick near the power button. “Just tell me when to turns.”
They drive in silence until another light.
“So, what’s your name?” asks the driver.
“George,” he replies.
“My name’s Sam,” says the driver after a pregnant pause.
George chuckles. “Sam… Sam the good Samaritan.”
“I guess you could say that,” Same replies with a smile on his face. “Did you have trouble getting help?”
“A little,” George says.
“Then I guess this is like the parable of the good Samaritan,” Sam says.
George turns to Sam and really looks at him for the first time. “You read the Bible?”
“Sure I have. I’ve read it from Genesis to the Revelation a couple times. Every thou, every beget, every vengeful word. That’s why I know better than to believe it.”
“Then, why pick me up?” says George. “Why be a good Samaritan if you don’t believe it? In fact, aren’t you proving my belief is right?”
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” Sam replies. “Just because the Bible correctly suggests a few admirable moral lessons doesn’t mean every word is valuable. The Bible models the world as flat and the sky as a solid dome that holds back the water that falls down as rain. It says everything was made in seven days.”
“Maybe your world. But the world I live in isn’t even done yet. Besides, if God makes everything, why did God stop creating cool animals like the platypus and giraffe, but he still has time to make stuff like AIDS, SARS, and a new cold virus every year?”
“AIDS is God’s way of punishing homosexuals and heroin addicts.”
“And haemophiliacs?” Sam asks.
“The weak should be culled from the flock.”
Sam laughs. “So… you believe in survival of the fittest, but not evolution?”
“I suppose I do,” says George.
“What about women raped by men infected with AIDS? What about innocent children born with it? Does your God punish children for the sins of their parents?”
“That’s just collateral damage,” says George.
Sam sighs. “I didn’t realize we were at war with the divine.”
They sit quietly for a while.
Sam decides to break the silence. “You know what the lesson of the Good Samaritan parable is about?”
“Be ever watchful for naked people who need a ride home?”
Sam laughs. “Maybe. But consider the context. Samaritans were a group that the Judeans were hostile with for centuries. Jesus was, as you may know, from Judea. He expected that using a Samaritan as the example of a good acting neighbor would shock those who heard the story. It loses some of its meaning with a modern audience. If you wanted to modernize it, it would be someone like, say, a Muslim or Buddhist or maybe even atheist who helps the man.”
“I can you tell without a doubt that Jesus didn’t mean that an atheist who did good works would get into heaven.”
The tires screech.
Sam stares daggers at George. “Get out of the fucking car.”
“I said get out of the fucking car. Leave the towels.”
“Please, you can’t just leave me out here naked.”
“I let you into my car and offered to drive you home. Then, you told me in so many words to go to hell. You know why your faith believes in forgiveness? Because people like you would have nothing in this world if it weren’t for all the second chances you get. My mother is dying of a disease that relies on stem-cell research for advances. I bet you voted for Bush, you Christ kissing douchebag. Get out of my fucking car.”
“But… you can’t leave me here naked,” George says, clutching the towels.
“I can,” Sam says. “There’s nothing stopping me. But you know what? I was raised to believe that even a wretch deserves mercy. Keep the towels.” Sam shifts some coins in a cup holder between the seats. “Here’s two quarters to make a pay phone call. Get the fuck out of my car.”
George takes the quarters and slowly gets out of the car, hoping Sam will change his mind. He stands outside with the door open for a few seconds. Sam sits silently staring forward. George closes the door. The white Prius hums as it drives away.