“The Impersonator”

Ray lopes through the sunlit street, the heavy wooden cross burying splinters all over his back. The crown, which took him two days to make, digs itself into his head. Genuine streaks of sweat and blood on his forehead and neck—an authentic Mediterranean sunburn. He winces with the burden of all these goddamned souls, just like the real thing. He really is the best this city has ever seen.

“I am the light!” he yells in the marketplace. Children on a Baskin Robbins bench lick neon green ice cream and ask mommy who? mommy who? Their little red mouths open, eyes squinting, they look something like a memory to Ray. “The light,” he repeats, and wishes his voice were just a little bit deeper.

He receives the usual scowls and the disdainful chuckle here and there. The old women shudder and whisper Holy Hubert. The university crowd tries to reason with him. They’ll burn, oh yes, but probably so will he. A few hours in the morning, uptown among the pinstripes and the clean fingernails, then lunch and the 9 bus down to the market. When he travels between sites, he carries the cross in his arms, like lumber.
By the afternoon the cross hasn’t gotten any lighter, and the workday seems never-ending. Ray finds himself humming a song he overheard from the radio of a passing Volkswagen: You’ve got the right stuff, baby. Baskin Robbins, eternal flame. He remembers: that day on the beach with his mom, another life, when she said to stop stuffing his pockets with sand. He asked her how come all the water stays in the ocean, how come it doesn’t spill out all over the world, and she said: Raymond, please. Your pockets.

About Doug Cornett

Doug Cornett is a writer and teacher living in Portland, Oregon. He enjoys books, ping pong, and watching the Cleveland Cavaliers. His work has appeared in Vestal Review, Superstition Review, Propeller Magazine, and elsewhere.