It was in Dublin that I met this woman who said she was Jesus. I was working the fish market then, and my job was to haul these crates of cod from the docks to the market, and then the restaurants bought them, the cooks approaching me early in the morning when I got there. I got so used to the smell that I started to like it.
I got to know the cooks and their respective restaurants quite well. I remember one cook from the kind of pub where radicals and revolutionaries met to plan risings always met me at the same corner, and he kept me informed about which radicals were planning which risings and when I should be prepared, and in exchange I sold him his cod a little cheaper.
Until one day that cook wasn’t there. Instead, there was a woman standing in his corner preaching about being Jesus. It wasn’t the strangest thing I’ve seen in the fish market, but it was well among the strangest. Someone asked her if she was the second coming of Christ, and she said this wasn’t the second coming, she was here on a temporary mission, just a quick fix of a small problem. She said there was a twelfth commandment she had to tell us about.
She stood on a milk crate on the street corner. I think she was a fisher who went mad. Or a butcher, maybe. She wore boots and a black apron and there was fish blood smeared on her arms and the top of her head, like she’d wiped sweat off her brow while gutting cod with bare hands, which is how most of us did it back in those days before big ideas like health and gloves.
She stood exactly at the corner where the radicals used to meet. She must have scared them off. A lot of cooks were turning away while she stood there yelling about a twelfth commandment. None of us being priests and the like, one the fishers walked up to her, leaving a crate of cod behind him, and asked what the eleventh commandment was supposed to have been, and the woman who said she was Jesus said it was to love thy neighbor as thyself, which she told the apostles at the last supper. The fisher frowned and then looked like he recalled something like that from last year’s Easter sermon but couldn’t be sure, so he walked back to his cod.
The woman named Jesus said the twelfth commandment was an emergency preparation for things to come. Another fisher asked her to get on with it and tell us what it was, but some others were grumbling for her to be quiet. I think most of us were entertained by the whole ordeal.
She said the newest commandment, which was more like an afterthought on God’s part, was that all good things must come to an end. Someone pointed out to her that this wasn’t really a commandment so much as a proverb or a general state of things, but she pointed a long fish-caked finger at him and said in this loud, crunchy voice that it was a direct order from God. That good things must come to an end, that all of them, wherever they are, must be put to an end. We should love our neighbors and put good things to an end. The fish guts had dried on her hand by then, and on her boots and apron and her hair.
I remember that voice most of all, not angry or bitter or anything, just trying to be loud enough to be heard and cracking at the edges. I didn’t understand it myself, but some of the other fishers seemed content with it. She preached the rest of the morning, and by then we were out of cod for the day, and she hadn’t drawn too many customers away. We left her where she was, not wanting to talk to each other about asylums or anything like that. The next day, she wasn’t there. The cook from the radicals’ pub was back where he always was, and he bought five dozen cod from me for our usual special price. I asked him when the rising was going to start and he said soon, lad, sooner than you can imagine.