Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1465
About noon the next day, a person in a long black raincoat with his collar turned up and a hat pulled low moves quickly along the back streets of town, close to the walls of the buildings. In his arms is a baby-shaped bundle wrapped in newspapers, and his umbrella keeps slipping down and getting tangled in his feet. Soon it begins to rain and the man takes shelter between two store windows. Enoch Emery is on his way to see Motes. The bundle is the object he showed Motes at the museum; Emery stole it the day before.
He had dressed all in black, even covering his face and hands with brown shoe polish so if anyone saw him they would think he was a black man. When the guard was asleep, Emery smashed the glass with a wrench. He thrust the shriveled man into a paper sack and walked out past the still-sleeping guard. Back in his room, he placed the new jesus in the gilt cupboard, but barely looked at it. He waited for about twenty minutes to listen for his next instructions, but he realized he must take some action first.
After tiptoeing across to the cabinet, he opened the door a tiny crack and peeked through it. Soon he opened the door a bit wider and stuck his head in “the tabernacle.” There was absolute silence until he heard “a loud liquid noise” erupt from the cabinet and the thump of a bone cracking against a piece of wood. Emery staggered backward, shocked. At first he thought the shriveled man had sneezed, but then he understands it was he who sneezed and “a deep, unpleasant knowledge was breaking on him slowly.”
He got up at ten the next morning, his day off, and began to look for Motes. He remembered the address the blind man’s daughter had given him. He is disgruntled at having to spend his day off in such a way and in such bad weather, but he has to get rid of the new jesus so that the police, should they come looking, will blame Motes and not him. Emery does not understand why he had let himself risk his life for a dead, part-black dwarf who had never done anything with his life but get embalmed and then lie moldering in a museum. In his mind now, one Jesus “was as bad as another.”
Now, Emery continues his journey. It is Saturday and many children are milling in front of the movie theater. Though he does not really like children, they seem to like looking at him, and today he is quite a sight. The children laugh as he battles the ancient umbrella, and Emery glares at them. As he turns to leave, he finds himself staring at a huge picture of a gorilla; over the beast's head is an announcement that Gonga the gorilla will be here in person today at noon. The first ten people who are brave enough to walk up and shake his hand will get free movie tickets.
He should have been more aware of the potential danger, as he has had many such experiences in his life, but now he sees the chance to “insult a successful ape” as a gift from Providence. The new jesus becomes sacred once again and Emery knows he is going to be rewarded for his actions in a “supreme moment” which he has been expecting.
Gonga is ten minutes late, and when he arrives he does not want to get out of the truck because of the rain. Finally, the...
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figure in the ape costume emerges wearing a raincoat and an iron chain around his neck. He completely ignores the children as he walks to the small platform near the side entrance of the theater. He steps up, turns around, and then begins to growl at the children. The growls are not particularly loud but they seem poisonous, as if they emanate from a black heart. None of the children move toward the creature.
Finally a little girl approaches the gorilla and shakes his hand, and other children follow. The gorilla is bored and does not even look at them as he shakes their hands. Emery is no longer afraid and now tries frantically to think of a suitable obscene remark with which to insult the creature. Soon there is no one between him and the gorilla and he shakes the ape’s hand. It is the first hand anyone has extended to him since he arrived in the city, and it is soft and warm. Emery is moved and begins to tell the story of how he arrived in the city when he is interrupted by the voice in the costume who tells him to “go to Hell.”
Emery is mortified and runs away as fast as he can until he reaches Sabbath’s house. He is soaked and so is the bundle in his hands. The landlady tells him where Motes lives and he walks in since the door is ajar. He sees Motes lying on his cot and Sabbath sitting at the table. She tells Emery “her man” is sick and he should leave them alone; he says one of his friends gave him this bundle (he does not know what it is, he tells her) to give to Motes. Emery has the sudden overwhelming urge to insult somebody, and Sabbath is his target.
After he leaves, Sabbath takes the bundle to the bathroom where the light is better and she opens it. The figure has undergone some damage. One side of his face is partly mashed in and on the other side, his eyebrow is cut and a pale dust is coming out of it. She looks at it with a blank stare for several minutes. She decides she has never known anyone who looks like this man, yet there is something terribly familiar about him, as if some part of every person she has even known has been “rolled into one person and killed and shrunk and dried.”
After this realization, Sabbath begins to rock the figure as if it were a baby and thinks he is “right cute.” In the other room, Motes has gotten up and has another idea on which he is compelled to act. He is going to move to another city and preach the Church Without Christ to people who have not heard about it. He will find a new home and a new woman and start his life anew. He is “charged with energy” as he prepares to pack his few belongings and go. The Essex gives him energy, for he knows that he can move quickly and in privacy to wherever he wants to go. That morning he woke with a consuming cough, but now he feels invigorated and has the energy to carry out his plan immediately.
Motes grabs his duffel and adds the few personal items he owns which are not already in the bag, assiduously avoiding the Bible that has been “sitting like a rock” at the bottom of this bag for several years. What he does touch is his mother’s glasses; he puts them on and suddenly the room begins to look different. Soon the door opens and he sees two faces floating in his line of vision. One of them says, “Call me Momma now.” She tells the other face to ask his daddy where he is going when he is so sick and will he take the two of them with him.
As if it were floating, Motes’ hand moves forward and plucks at the second face but gets nothing but air; then he lunges at the face and snatches the shriveled body. When he throws it against the wall, the head pops and little clouds of dust spray out of it. Sabbath yells at him for breaking it. Motes opens the back door and throws the little man out where there used to be a fire escape.
Sabbath rampages against Motes, telling him she knew he was the kind of man who smashed babies’ heads against walls, let other people have anything, and will not let anyone else have fun just because he does not want anything but Jesus. Motes is still standing at the doorway with the rain splattering him and his glasses, screaming at her that all he wants is the truth—and everything she has seen is the truth. He tells her his plans to leave but is stopped by a cough that sounds like a “little yell for help at the bottom of a canyon.” Suddenly his expression goes blank and he says he is not leaving until he gets some sleep. He throws the glasses out the door.