My brother was the one who found it. He’s the one who’d gotten the idea that the armadillo was the second coming of Jesus Christ. He’s the one who the armadillo followed around like a little brother, snuffling at his sneakers. And if you picked up Armadillo Jesus and tried to carry him away, say, to roll him down a slide at the playground, Armadillo Jesus would squeal like a pig until he was in my brother’s arms again. So we were all a little disappointed when somebody’s dog got a hold of it and more or less tore it to shreds. It seemed like if it really was Jesus Christ, crucifixion was bad enough the first time around, much less getting chewed to death by a golden retriever.
We’d taken to feeding it, dressing it up. It liked Cheetos; oatmeal crème pies not so much. We made it a pope hat out of a napkin and some tin foil. We pushed it around in somebody’s old yellow baby stroller and told the little kids that if they gave us money, Armadillo Jesus would send them straight to Heaven. We racked up a pretty good profit from that and splurged on Blue Raspberry Icees from the Seven Eleven, but then somebody started to feel bad, so we shared with the little kids too, letting their mouths turns blue, listening to them shriek about brain freeze.
But then: golden retriever. Dead armadillo.
When we first found Armadillo Jesus, gutshot and leaking innards, I thought that was that. Party’s over. The other kids, they sort of wandered off, talking about how maybe they’d go throw rocks at the mail truck now to entertain themselves. But my brother—he scooped up Armadillo Jesus, held him like a baby, stained his gray sweatshirt with blood even though our mom pitches a fit when we get blood on our clothes because it’s the hardest to wash out.
We built Armadillo Jesus a tomb in the woods. Well, really it was just a cardboard box. But we put Armadillo Jesus inside, and my brother closed the flaps and sealed it with tape and said, “Three days,” and wouldn’t come home with me for dinner and when my mom asked, “Where’s your brother?” I said “Waiting.”
Originally published on December 21, 2020.