The realization hit Damon so hard he totally lost track of the story his mother was reading him.
“He’s a sorcerer, huh?” Damon asked, sitting upright in the bed.
“A what? Oh no, nothing at all like–.”
“You just said it. He levitated on water.”
“He walked on water.” His mother’s tone shifted downward, her patience thinning.
Damon knew better than to get into an argument during Bible time. He nodded and assured her that he understood and topped it off with a good hug. The storm cloud cleared from his mother’s eyes and she went on to read the rest of the verse, which contained even more magic, which he heroically resisted pointing out.
They said a short prayer and his mother finished tucking him in. The lights went out, the door shut, but Damon’s eyes remained wide open, locked on the ceiling. This was huge. Why hadn’t he been able to connect the dots before? Magic was actually real. Hoo boy, if he could learn to levitate he’d probably be the most popular kid at school.
That night Damon Jones decided that he would become a wizard, just like Jesus.
The next morning Damon grabbed his mother’s wide mouthed planter bucket from the garage and hauled it into the back yard. The pipes rattled when he turned on the hose. No movement at his parents’ window, the coast was still clear.
Now for the hard part. Damon rolled his pant legs up and placed one foot on top of the water, just enough to get his sole wet. He put on his best concentration face and leaned in. His foot sunk, splashing water all over his jeans and making it look like he’d peed himself.
What would Jesus do?
He’d try again, that’s what he’d do.
Damon stepped out of the bucket, topped it up, and this time he put a very small bit of his weight on the foot. He sunk again, but only a little, maybe an eighth of an inch before he started to feel some resistance.
“Damon, what the heck are you doing down there?” His mother was staring down from her bedroom window.
Damon’s concentration broke and his foot sank down in the tub, splashing water everywhere. His mother shook her head and turned, saying something to his dad.
“You better clean that mess out of the driveway before breakfast,” she said, then shut the window.
Fine by him, that meant he had at least another hour of practice. He went to it.
The water levitation turned out to be pretty easy once he got the hang of it. He learned other tricks too, like the time his parents took him to Sorrento’s and he kept breaking up the breadsticks but they never ran out. When his parents didn’t notice he considered calling attention to his new skills but remembered his mother’s reaction to the sorcerer comment and decided to keep his mouth shut.
In fact, he hadn’t told anybody yet. He wanted to at first but water levitation and bread multiplication, neat as they were, just didn’t have much pizazz. He needed a good trick, something with a bang. Something that would put Jesus to shame.
Finally, one Sunday when summer was almost at an end the Jones family pulled into the church parking lot. Damon strained against his seatbelt in anticipation. It was finally time. He had been working on his magic all summer. Man, his parents were gonna be blown away.
The pastor was greeting parishioners one by one at the church door. “Mr. and Mrs. Jones, oh and Damon.” He leaned down. “How are you this fine Sunday?”
“Pastor? Can I show you something?”
“Damon, the pastor is busy. Whatever it is can wait until after the service,” his mother said, putting her hand on his shoulder.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Jones. What is it you’d like to show me Damon?”
Damon took a deep breath.
“Step back, everybody.”
The adults smiled at each other and made a show of spreading out so that he had room to move.
Damon closed his eyes and concentrated. The air filled with the hum of electricity. Adult whispers hissed all around him. Damon scrunched his face up as hard as he could, mustering all his will—until his feet left the ground.
The whispers turned to shouts and gasps.
Damon wasn’t done. He spread his hands, pulling electricity from the air all around him, sending it back and forth in wide arcs around his floating body. The crowd below had gone silent, staring up at him in awe. Then, gently, he let go of the electricity and floated back down to the ground.
“Pretty cool, huh?”
The pastor ran up to him with wide, terrified eyes.
“You must go! It’s not at all safe for you here. Mrs. Jones, how could you let him–?”
“We didn’t know.” His mother’s voice trembled in a way that made Damon’s heart sink. Why was everybody so upset?
“Oh, no,” the pastor said, barely moving his lips. His eyes were locked on the church steeple. “It’s too late.”
The air crackled with electricity again, but this time Damon had nothing to do with it. A flash of light erupted at the peak of the church spire and when it cleared a robed man floated in the air, arms down, palms outward. He drifted toward where Damon stood, touching down on the pavement a few yards away.
“Who challenges Jesus?” The man’s voice boomed, “Ready yourself.”
Damon wriggled his fingers, causing sparks to dance across his knuckles. He spent the whole darned summer learning this stuff, he wasn’t gonna be bullied now.
“Ready as I’ll ever be, Jesus.”
The little church was left in splintered ruin. The parking lot’s remaining cars were now a frozen tidal wave of melted and cooled scrap, trickling toxic electric-fire fumes into the air.
The duel had lasted five days.
At its end, man and boy stood facing one another in quiet stalemate, clothes long since burnt away, the ground scorched black all around them.
Jesus extended a scarred palm to Damon, who took it grudgingly.
“A draw then?”
“Sure, Jesus. We can call it a draw.”
That year Damon was the most popular kid in school. Jesus’s reputation, however, never fully recovered.