odette_river: (father ted; priest thing)
[personal profile] odette_river
Title: bailing yourself out with a straw
Fandom: The Bible (AU)
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,194
Summary: Jesus and the disciples and the women drive around America in a multicolored minibus.
Written for the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] clichedanomaly. Title and cut text from "Deep Water" by Jewel.

In the beginning, even after Mary started traveling with them, they hitchhiked. It wasn’t easy when you had a dozen or so people all trying to get to the same place, but they managed it for a while. Peter finally broke down and bought a minibus in Charlottesville. That was right after he and Andrew had gotten lost in a place called Stuarts Ferry and Jude and Mary had been stuck in Madison and taken an extra two days to get to Charlottesville. Josh had said something about how he’d gotten lost once when he was a kid and his parents hadn’t noticed for two days because it was during a family reunion. Peter had said, “Oh, that’s cute,” and then to Joanna, “We need to buy a bus.”

He used Joanna’s money to buy the bus. They used Joanna’s money for almost everything, mostly because she had more money than the rest of them put together. Her husband worked for the Minister in Washington. He just pushed papers, but it paid well. Anyone who worked for the Minister got paid well, as long as they managed to keep working for him. Why Joanna’s husband let her travel around with them and spend all his money on things like minibuses was still a subject for debate. “She has him whipped,” Jude said. “I’m sure of it.”

The bus sat seventeen people and had bad gas mileage but Peter was insanely proud of the thing. “It’s our own,” he said. “We can go wherever we want. Do whatever we want. It’s freedom.” They put the sleeping bags down in the aisles and tossed their clothes and Andrew’s guitar and the two big, blue coolers behind the front row of seats and everyone was almost comfortable, as long as you didn’t mind Phillip and Andrew arguing constantly and John snoring in the back.

In Memphis, Jude let them buy twelve cans of paint and they re-painted the whole bus from dark blue to multicolored, multicolored because no one had been able to agree on one color that they all liked. The colors clashed and Simon painted a yellow peace sign on the hood, which didn’t help.

Josh smiled anyway and said, “It looks bright.” He said things like that all the time, optimistic things, things that brought people together and kept them together. And given the Minister’s new laws against gathering, that tended to make the authorities nervous.

In Sacramento, they picked up Susannah. Or, rather, Andrew picked up Susannah. Jude said that—maybe just this once—they could go out to eat if they really wanted, and she was their waitress in the diner that John picked. Josh started doing his thing, talking about love and peace and equality and pretty soon he had most of the diner clustered around their tables, wanting to know what he thought of the Republicans, wanting to know who to vote for. There was a ten-year-old kid sitting on his right and a librarian on his left. The manager of the restaurant kept saying, “Everyone eats for free! Everyone eats for free!”

Susannah stayed back by the bar, playing with the straps on her apron and eyeing Andrew. For once, he actually picked up on a girl noticing him and went over to talk to her. John had elbowed Peter and pointed it out, but Peter was too concerned with Josh to bother with whatever mess his brother happened to be making. Peter was always too concerned with Josh to bother with much of anything else. As long as Josh kept saying the right things, or things that sounded like the right things, about freedom and love and strength and peace, then Peter was going to keep listening and keep following.

Jude, on the other hand, followed Mary when she got up to go to the bathroom and said, “Did you see the guy at the bar?”

“No,” she said.

“Cop,” he said. “Just watching.” He tilted his head, as if the movement was supposed to impart all sorts of layers of hidden meaning.

“I’m going in there,” Mary said, pointing.

They stayed four days in Sacramento, because people wanted Josh to speak at different meetings and even though he said the same thing over and over again they still cheered. They went to a Red Cross meeting in a temple and he talked about happiness and the oppressed. “Your happiness comes from inside yourself, not from outside.” At a union meeting in a high school gym and he said, “Are you wealthy in your soul?” which seemed to answer the questions about unemployment until someone asked about the Minister.

“The Minister is just a man,” Josh said. “Does any man control your thoughts?”

“No man controls my thoughts!” Simon shouted, at which point Jude had walked out.

He had sat on the back steps of the school and looked out at the tennis courts. The sun was setting through the links in the fence, casting shadows on the blacktop of the parking lot. He tossed a pebble, aiming for a pothole. He missed and dropped his hand back to his side.

The mayor threatened to arrest Simon the next day for disrupting the peace. Josh said it was time to move on.

“It’s the hemp,” Phillip said. “Way too much hemp. It makes people nervous.”

Susannah went to Josh when they were packing up the bus and asked if she could join them.

Josh said what he always did: “It’s not up to me.”

“I feel like I don’t understand what he’s saying half the time,” Susannah told Mary that night. “But for some reason that doesn’t matter. I like what I hear anyway.”

“Yeah,” Mary said. “That never goes away.”

Just over the Oregon state line, Phillip said, “Let’s go camping.” Twenty miles later, they found a campground and stopped for the night. It was just a dirt road through a length of tall trees, with fire pits scattered around and a man at the entrance who had a shotgun and only accepted cash. That was fine. Except for Joanna’s special credit card, they only carried around cash anyway.

“There are going to be bugs,” John said. “There are going to be bugs everywhere. We are going to get eaten alive.”

“Sleep in the bus,” Mary said.

He walked around and around the campsite collecting firewood, then pulled two rocks out of his pocket, bashed them together over and over, and eventually made a fire. “Light of the world,” he said, nodding. The flames reflected off his glasses. It looked like the fire was inside of his head, shining out into the world.

The people from the next campsite over came to sit with them. They were mostly teenagers, on a youth group trip sponsored by their temple that involved camping, backpacking, and—as their adult leaders put it—moseying. They brought marshmallows and guitars.

“Brilliant,” Andrew said. “This is one thing that I think we should have more of. Marshmallows.”

“Do you know the stuff that they put in marshmallows?” Simon said. He nibbled on a graham cracker instead, his mouth turned down.

“Do you?” Josh asked mildly, and so Simon had to admit that he didn’t really; he’d just heard that they were bad.

Josh was all ready to ask a tricky follow-up question, but John cut in and said, “Sorry. The graham crackers are a bit stale. What was that song you were talking about earlier, Andrew?”

“I don’t understand why he keeps avoiding Chicago,” Jude said.

It was morning, early morning, dew still on the grass and the sun just sneaking around the tree trunks. Mary had volunteered to cook breakfast, so that explained why she was awake but didn’t explain anything about Jude.

“Chicago is where we could make a real difference.” He went to stand beside her, looking at her frying pan full of half-congealed scrambled eggs. “It’s bigger. It actually has political pull.”

“So it’s still about politics for you,” Mary said.

“It’s about politics for everyone,” Jude said. “That’s the only way you get change. And you know Chicago influences the Minister more than any other city except Washington. You know that.”

She stirred at the eggs. She’d have thought that by now she would be better at cooking over an open flame, but clearly not. They looked burnt on the bottom, but the top was still uncooked.

“Maybe I should stop paying for gas until we start actually driving in that direction.”

“Joanna’s the one paying for the gas,” Mary said.

“Some of the gas,” Jude corrected. “Not all of it. Not most of it.”

Mary shrugged and stirred the eggs again. “Look, if you don’t have anything to say that will help my eggs, you should probably go find Andrew and Susannah.”

Jude shook his head and wandered off into the woods, muttering as he went. She assumed he was talking about poll statistics again.

“You handled that well,” Josh said.

She jumped, dropped the spatula in the dirt, and glared at him. She said, “Are you going to clean that up?”

In Washington state, just outside Waterville, Phillip said, “You know, we’ve been at this for nine months. We should celebrate.”

“Celebrate what?” Peter asked.

The four of them—Phillip, Peter, Andrew, and Mary—were in the back seat. Peter and Andrew were playing cards. Peter was losing, like he always did, and like he always did, he was getting annoyed. Mary had tried to help Peter with the cards earlier but he’d said, “I think you should worry about yourself.” She’d felt a bit sick, probably from Josh’s bad driving, and started looking out the window.

“Celebrate the fact that Andrew hasn’t gotten Susannah pregnant yet,” Phillip said.

“We’re not sleeping together!” Andrew said, which prompted a scoff from Phillip and a pained look from Peter like he’d tasted an especially bitter grapefruit.

Mary was pretty sure she believed him, if only because Josh would probably have said something if they were. Probably. Joanna had said the other day that it sometimes seemed like he did exactly the opposite of what people thought he would, just to mess with them.

“Josh said something interesting the other day,” Peter said. “About whether or not we’ll live to see the end of this era.”

In Waterville, Josh talked at the temple for the Sunday service. The temple wasn’t big enough to fit all the cops who showed up along with all the people who wanted to see him, even after John shooed all of his followers outside to try to make more room.

“This is ridiculous,” Jude said. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the red bricks of the temple, squinting up at the sun. “What does he think he’s doing here? Why does he think he’s doing it?”

“What do you think he should be doing?” Peter asked.

“Something that matters,” Jude said. “Something that will matter. Changing the minds of people in Nowhereville, Washington isn’t going to do anything. It’s not going to make this world better.”

He looked down the street. In a better world, he thought, that steel monstrosity two buildings away wouldn’t be a police station; it would be a library. In a better world, there would be no police to arrest Simon or Josh or anyone. In a better world, you could walk down the street and not be afraid that someone in D.C., someone so far away, was controlling everything, telling them where to walk, what to say, how to live. In a better world, you wouldn’t have to worry about why things were happening or if you were about to lose something precious.

“It’s called grassroots,” Simon said. “And it’s the only way to get the change that we’re looking for.” He pointed at one of the police cars parked in front of the temple. “Or we could blow that up.”

“Or not,” John said.

“I was kidding,” Simon said.

Things were better in Helena, either because everyone had calmed down a little bit or because there just weren’t enough people in the city to care. Andrew, just to be petulant, kept telling Peter that it was the latter and kept pointing at abandoned buildings to prove his point. “And there’s another one,” he said. “And another one. Man, I should make a Bingo game out of this. It would be awesome.”

“No,” Peter said. “It really wouldn’t.”

They were supposed to be attending some sort of demonstration about hunger. The organizers had called Joanna and arranged everything, except they hadn’t done it very well. It turned out that the main demonstration strategy was to sit in front of the doors of the supermarket. They were the automatic kind, and kept opening whenever anyone moved. Josh had taken one look at the whole setup and said, “You can find me in the bar when you’re ready to go.”

“Aw, come on,” Simon said.

Jude shook his head, crossed his arms, and sat down.

“This is the way to change,” Peter said.

After an hour of demonstrating, Mary figured that the least she deserved was a stiff drink. She paid her entrance fee to the cop at the door and looked around. Josh was sitting in a booth with two women who were wearing short skirts and too much eyeliner. One of them was writing something on a napkin. Her hair was dark and long and kept falling in her face. The other put her hand on his arm and nodded. Mary felt vertigo creeping in around the edges of her vision, but when she approached the table they both got up to leave.

“We’ll call you,” the one with the hair said.

“Oh,” Josh said, “I don’t have a phone. You can have Joanna’s number, though.”

Mary listened to him rattle it off, watched the women leave, then slid into the booth across from him.

“They were nice,” he said.

“I’m worried about you,” she said. “Is everything okay?”

“Great,” he said. “Just ask Jude. Just ask anyone. Things are going great.”

She pulled a napkin out of the napkin holder, worried the edge a bit with her fingertips. It was brown and soft, one of those recycled kinds. Simon would have been all over it.

“Do you know how to make a crane?” she asked.

They stopped in South Dakota to look at Crazy Horse’s visage carved into the side of a mountain. Everyone piled out of the van and averted their eyes from the cops making sure people weren’t going to try to jump off the mountain or knock off Crazy Horse’s nose or anything.

“Now this man,” Simon said, “This man lived. This man fought.”

“Yeah,” Jude said. “And died.”

“And lived,” Peter said. “He was doing what he believed in, every minute. Every single minute.”

“Let’s look around,” Phillip said.

Mary said, “I’ve already seen it,” and took the van to buy food. Josh went with her, though he didn’t mention whether or not he’d seen Crazy Horse before.

The fluorescent lights of the grocery store were disorienting after so many days spent out under the sun. They made everything feel surreal, like this was just a dream and she was going to wake up soon and forget exactly what had happened and exactly what it meant. It made her itch.

“Corn flakes or raisin bran?” she asked. Andrew hated corn flakes; he said they were too bland. Peter hated raisin bran; he said the raisins were a travesty.

“Cheerios,” Josh said. “Heart-healthy.”

“And disgusting,” she said, but she took a box off the shelf and put it in the cart anyway. “Now,” she said. “Rice or pasta? Do you think one of them’s going to be on sale?”

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.

She stopped walking, but he kept going, pushing the cart around the corner. “What?” she said, rushing to catch up.

“Rice is on sale,” he said. “Let’s get a big bag.”

She lifted it into the cart.

They spent exactly five hours in Chicago. In the first hour, they managed to make it into the city and find a parking spot that Jude thought they could afford. It took so long to find cheap parking, though, that it eventually didn’t matter. They’d already attracted a crowd and a small fight broke out over who would pay for their parking. Josh ended up saying, “I’ll just pay for it,” and then Joanna paid anyway.

In the second hour, they tried to find something to eat.

“We can just hide in the van,” Phillip said. “We have food there.”

“That’s sort of missing the point,” Andrew said.

In the end, they went to the shore of Lake Michigan and had—as John put it—a giant potluck for Josh and all of his followers. Luckily, most people had food, and it only took a few words from Josh about sharing and the collective community for everyone to have enough to eat.

Josh spent the next hour standing on an overturned boat and talking. He said everyone had worth and looked like he meant it. “You can do anything,” he said. “You can make this world better. You, yourself. One person at a time.”

That was when the cops showed up.

“See,” Jude said in an undertone to Mary. “They’ve come to join us. Now it’s going to be a real party.”

The final hour was spent just trying to get out of the city. The cops in no uncertain terms wanted them gone and Josh said yes, of course they’d leave, but the traffic was so bad that they just couldn’t get out. Peter and Simon spent that hour complaining about how they hadn’t even broken any laws.

“It’s not our fault the peace sign is famous,” Simon said.

“And it’s not our fault that people want to hear what Josh has to say,” Peter said.

“And did you see the crowd?” Simon said. “That’s exactly what we want.”

“Minus the cops,” Peter said.

“True,” Simon said. “True.”

“And minus the fighting,” Mary said. “Minus the shooting.”

That quieted everyone down for a few minutes. Susannah looked out the window and fiddled with her bracelet. Andrew glared at Mary. Jude stared at the seat in front of him, the impact of a rubber bullet on his chest replaying itself over and over again. He hadn’t bled, but that didn’t mean anything. Then John nodded off even though he was supposed to be navigating. Mary could feel a scream just sitting there in her chest waiting to break free.

“We should talk about petitions,” Peter said. “We could use this time well.”

“You want to use this time well?” Josh said. “You should all be quiet and think for once.” He was driving, because the police had said that he had to drive so that they could be sure he was leaving. They’d practically shoved him in the driver’s seat themselves.

“What?” Phillip asked.

“He said to be quiet,” Jude said. He was slouched in the backseat, arms crossed, looking grim.

“Washington,” Simon said. “I think we should go to Washington, D.C.”

Date: 2011-06-23 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lilting-grace.livejournal.com
This is the most unexpected amazing thing I've ever read. Now I just want you to write AU Bible stories all day.

Date: 2011-06-30 02:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] odette-river.livejournal.com
Haha, there might be more where this came from. We shall see...

Date: 2011-06-23 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clichedanomaly.livejournal.com
hearts. in. my. eyes.
i didn't know you changed the names. that made it REALLY AU.
and AUGH you know he's going to DC to DIE!

Date: 2011-06-30 02:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] odette-river.livejournal.com
Haha, I just changed Judas's name, I think... And that was only because otherwise it would have been too obvious.


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