The Lord came to me dressed like a shepherd. He came with a cup that was running over and I had to rush it to the kitchen sink to keep the wine from spilling on the carpet (I rent). I turned back to the Lord.
He was dressed not like a bath-robed Christmas pageant shepherd, but a modern one, with a red flannel shirt and sturdy, straight-legged jeans that kissed the tops of his Timberland boots. What gave him away as a shepherd and not a carpenter or a paper towel mascot was the big candy cane–looking thing he carried with him into the living room.
“It’s a metaphor,” he said and proceeded to the kitchen.
If I’d known the Lord was coming I would have wiped the crumbs from the counter, but the Lord seemed not to notice. He leaned his staff against the wall, then rolled up his sleeves and washed his hands. He took the flour from the cupboard, poured oil in a pan, and was frying chicken in my house. He never asked where anything was—he seemed to know the kitchen better than I did.
The doorbell rang. “Can you get that?” he said as he sprinkled salt on the green beans. “We’re having guests.”
I opened the door to a silver-haired man in a camo jacket and recognized the beat-up blue truck behind him. The bumper stickers on the tailgate (many of them political) had loomed large in my windshield when he’d cut me off that morning.
Behind him was The Poet, my arch-nemesis, whose floaty poems were always getting her into better journals than the ones that took my stories. She was chatting pleasantly with my hempy neighbor, the one with whom I share a thin wall.
Drunk undergrads rotate loudly through his place every weekend, and he keeps a bulldog in violation of the lease. I (saint that I am) had asked the landlord’s permission to keep a dog and had been denied.
Hempy Neighbor held up a six-pack and said, “We heard there was a party,” and the Lord called from the kitchen, “Come and see!”
I went to the kitchen where the Lord was running a small blowtorch over a crème brûlée.
“Lord, what are you doing?”
“This is Psalm 23. I’m preparing a table for you in the presence of your enemies.”
“That’s not a metaphor?”
The presence of my enemies? Images started running through my head: turbans and machetes, nuclear missiles, Donald Trump—but the Lord said, “Oh child, don’t flatter yourself.” He took the overflowing cup from the sink. “Come! It’s dinnertime.”
There was now a long table with a white cloth in my living room, and my enemies were seated around it. More had arrived—my old Sunday school teacher was tsking at the videogames on the shelf behind her, and beside her was a black guy who was here, I knew suddenly, because I’d passed him on the street the night before and had felt nervous. He was talking football with the professor sitting beside him, the one whose group project had sunk my four-o back in college (my god, was I still not over that?).
The Lord ushered me into a chair at the Last Supper center of the table and I nightmare-panicked: There was only one place setting. It was set before me and everyone was looking. The Lord heaped a scoop—the only scoop—of mashed potatoes onto my plate.
I tugged the Lord’s sleeve and whispered in his ear, “I can’t eat a meal like this in front of these people. Lord, we need more food.”
And the Lord said, “You feed them.”
“Me feed them?”
The Lord said, “Pass me your plate.”
I did and he passed it to the right and passed it to the right and passed it to the right, and somehow everyone had plates piled high with fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Bad Driver was passing me a plate and The Poet was raising her glass and spouting nonsense and when she finished the Lord said, “Amen!”
Cover image by Annie Spratt.