An excerpt from Sire Lines of America by Adam Peterson

 

Photo by Rob Dutcher
Photo by Dutcher Photography

 

 

God

 

George Washington sired God after being put out to stud in what was then Boise, Idaho. George Washington told Martha that he already had children, children he hated, children who stole bread from his pantry when he wasn’t looking. They were Georgians, and they never bothered to invent a way to call him on his birthday. Of course, the Georgians thought that George Washington never bothered to invent baseball so that they might go outside on a sunny day and have a catch. Tired and alone, George Washington left for Idaho where he became pregnant. Eight years later God was born. George Washington asked God if He’d like to have a catch—He did—and so God invented baseball. God asked George Washington if he had a birthday coming up—he did—and so God invented the telephone to make sure it went well when He checked in on the special day (or maybe the day after if He was busy). When God called, George Washington said he had never been so happy. A good son, God killed George Washington that instant. He did it so His father would be happy forever. He did it because God thought sons should kill their fathers, a belief that led to heartbreak when his own Son refused to kill him. With erosion and time and tears, God made Mt. Rushmore where He looked out at America from the tip of the old man’s nose. Had His father loved him? Would He see his father again when He died? When He did die—in 1815—God created Heaven. With hymns and prayers and harps, they’d already made a mountain with His face on it. God hid His disappointment that the nose was falling off, that his father wasn’t there. He created Hell and looked through the clouds to see His father chasing the devil with the fire from his mouth. They smiled at each other. God called him every birthday until He had a child of his own and forgot.

 

 

Jesus

 

God adopted Jesus in 1820 at the World’s Fair in Honolulu. They found the Boy underneath the Tilt-A-Whirl where His family of German carnival workers had abandoned Him. They’d returned to guessing the weight of tourists in Frankfurt and left their Son behind because he made daisies grow in his porridge and turned the china hutch into a beagle. God made Jesus an American when He had our young Lord murder a foreigner. This, God said, is how Americans are made. Well, either this or by swallowing a mouthful of Arizona dirt every night for a year. Jesus did that, too, just to be safe. That’s how He met Deborah, His wife. When things were good, Jesus took her to see His Father, but Deborah blamed God for her Crohn’s disease and could never forgive Him. When things were bad, Jesus turned Deborah into a beagle. It was only for a day, but when Jesus turned her back into a woman He didn’t recognize her. She said her name was Sally. She did not have Crohn’s disease but did have diabetes. Jesus left Arizona. When it came time for Him to kill His Father, no one, least of all God, knew where to find Him. God died of old age. Jesus died among someone else’s friends.

 

 

Thomas Jefferson

 

Thomas Jefferson is older than his father, Jesus, yet younger than his own half-black sons. This is a peculiar result of Americans being both gods and cads. They believe so much in love that they practice it in cotton fields and slave houses and mangers. Thomas Jefferson was born in a manger himself. An angel whispered in his ear, Thomas, Thomas, your father hasn’t been born yet but already he’s disappointed in you. So Thomas became an architect and a lawyer and a patriot and a jerkoff. At age 8, he designed the Blue Ridge Mountains. At age 11, he became a Deist and ceased to believe in his own Father until the day of his death. It was the Fourth of July when the angel brought his Father to see him. He was just a Boy with a slide whistle He kept in His pocket so the holes in His hands couldn’t bloody it. Thomas Jefferson put his cracked lips right to Jesus’s blushing cheek. He said, Father, what else could I have done to make you proud? His Father asked Thomas if he had any candy then blew the whistle that ended His own son’s life. He got blood all over and the angel took Him into the women’s bathroom to clean up. But it wasn’t the sort of blood that ever washed off.

 

 

Half-Black Boys

 

Thomas Jefferson sired hundreds of Half-Black Boys. They were given no individual names but collectively their father called them Who. Who was born in the dark. Who has father’s old shoes without knowing the scent of hickory and vinegar was his scent. Who aged so fast that when they saw father in knickers they still called him sir. Who married in secret. Who held their first son too tight because no one taught them how. Who had a tombstone made of wood. Who has forgotten the stories they’ve heard. Who has stories that never get told.

 

 

 

 

Adam Peterson is the co-editor of The Cupboard, and the author of The FlasherMy Untimely Death, and, with Laura Eve Engel, [SPOILER ALERT]. His fiction can be found in The Normal SchoolThe Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. He grew up in North Platte, Nebraska.

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