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Monday, December 5, 2011

"Get yer fresh hot baby Jesus!"

It was Christmas time in 1978, and Bigler and I were cruising in the Bigler family Carry-All—the 1970’s version of the SUV—a large vehicle, with two huge bench seats and storage space behind. It was the ancestor to the modern-day Ford Explorer, designed to take large families—like the Biglers—on rugged camping trips and safaris and other hunting excursions. We often took the Carry-All out and usually ended up in mischief, after all, driving in such a vehicle designed for adventure.

Our M.O. would be to hop out of the Carry-All in front of a home blessed with front yard lined with citrus trees and fill our tucked-in tee-shirts with oranges or grapefruit until we resembled bloated Oompa-Loompas and we would waddle back to the vehicle and untuck our shirts, dumping our citrus payload onto the floorboards. Then we would cruise the neighborhood streets, taking turns driving, the passenger leaning out the window, hurling stolen fruit at street signs and yard lights, paying no heed to danger or consequence. We simply drove and threw and drove and laughed some more, then went home and went to sleep at our respective parents’ homes, without giving the night’s events a second thought.

Christmas, 1978, Bigler and I found ourselves driving around in the Bigler SUV, studying the terrain, nothing much in mind.

ME: Pull over.
ME: (Gazing at a nativity scene, lit by classic Christmas lights in a front yard) Pull over.

Bigler pulled over and I leaped out of the car and snagged the Baby Jesus from his plastic manger, lined in its plastic straw. I ran back to the car, tossed the Messiah into the back seat and we accelerated into the night, no one the wiser.

This would have been a single, oddly disturbing, sacrilegious moment, had it not been repeated nearly a dozen times over the course of the evening. Instead, to us as it happened, it turned into high comedy. We drove down a side street, near Yavapai elementary school armed to the teeth with Plastic Christ Children and a group of younger kids was gathered on their bicycles on a corner, shooting the December breeze and simply hanging out, was youngsters will do. I leaned out the window of the Carry-All, Son of God firmly in-hand and yelled, “Get yer fresh hot Jesus!” I threw the plastic Messiah with all I had into the gaggle of kids and the Lord rattled amongst the bicycles and the kids and they hit the dirt, fearing further damage. We drove past, laughing heartily and congratulating ourselves on achieving a new level of notoriety.

A half hour later, we happened to drive by the same group of youngsters, the back seat of the Carry-All still fully stocked with identical plastic Christ and again I grabbed a Baby Jesus by the plastic ankles and leaned out the window of the fast-moving vehicle. “Get yer fresh, hot Baby Christ!” I screamed and flung a Jesus wildly at the children. Again, they hit the ground too late and Christ bounced from bike to kid, eliciting shrieks of surprise and pain. Again we laughed and drove and hunted the land in search of more plastic Messiah.

We happened to drive by the same street a bit later and the same stubborn group of kids hung out on the corner, presumably admiring a growing collection of plastic Christ-babies. I glanced at Bigler. “Seriously?” I asked. He shrugged and nodded and I gathered up a Christ and leaned out the window. I had barely begun to yell “Get yer…”, when all the kids hit the ground, covering their heads with their arms—two of them using plastic Jesus as cover. I tossed the Christ onto the pile with little fanfare, more a reward for their tenacity than anything else. Again, no hint of punishment for Bigler or myself—even for this, the most heinous and sacrilegious of deeds.

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