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Simple Things

Simple Things, where stories are anything but simple

Simple Things

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Release Date : December 3, 2019

ISBN Number : 978-1-61138-858-9


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Jesus and his adopted son live in a small house in Higbee, Missouri and play cards with Satan.

A sarcastic elephant and her boy search post-apocalyptic Tennessee for a home.

A retired clerk smokes off-brand cigarettes and is transformed into an opera star.

Simple Things: stories where nothing is simple.


Steven Popkes lives in Massachusetts on two acres of land where he and his wife garden, grow bananas and breed turtles. His day job consists of writing support software for space and ballistic systems. He insists he is not a rocket scientist. He is a rocket engineer.

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From 10 Things I Know About Jesus

#1: Jesus doesn’t have a lot of parties.

We don’t have a lot of friends over. Every now and then I bring home someone from school. Jesus is always very nice and makes cookies. Jesus makes tremendous cookies. Nothing beats them. Except maybe his cakes. But he doesn’t like crowds of people.

Even so, every few weeks there is poker night. Then, Satan, Lazarus and Albert come over. They play poker in the den. Jesus normally doesn’t allow smoking in the house but Satan smokes like a chimney. Jesus insists that Satan confine the smoke to the den, which he does reluctantly. It gives the room a weird effect to stand just outside and see the wall of smoke stop in the doorway.

On poker night I serve the food and the beer. I can stay in and listen—Jesus doesn’t mind. I think it makes Lazarus uncomfortable. But he’s so quiet you can never tell. Albert ignores me. Albert’s all about the cards. Usually, I bring the food or the beer to the den door and hand it through the smoke. The next morning you can’t even smell it.

Satan plays to win. A good night for Satan is when he manages to take home the pot. Then, he laughs at the rest of them. Sometimes he smiles wickedly at me. “We’ll play for you next, boy. You’re going in the pot!” And Jesus will chuckle a certain way so I know he would never allow it.

Most nights, though, Satan doesn’t win that much. As soon as he starts getting enough ahead that Jesus disapproves the cards change on him and he’ll lose back to just barely over the others. Satan’s accused Jesus of cheating more than once. But I’ve seen Satan try all sorts of ways to cheat. They never work. He’ll win for a while and then, out of the blue, Lazarus will hit a streak. Or Albert. Sometimes Jesus wins a few hands but never in a streak.

They play until very late—I’m usually asleep on the sofa when they file clumsily past, trying not to wake me. Satan always leaves first, peels rubber and is off down the street. Lazarus and Albert follow. Jesus stays and cleans up.

I often pretend to be asleep so I can catch him in a miracle. I never do.

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