And, after some careful research, I found it wasn't really Jesus.
Anyhow, I was chopping out a section of the yard near the deck for a garden. As I was dragging up some sod, I came across what seemed a little plastic statuette.
I dusted some soil off the figure. He had a loaf of bread in one arm and a jug of wine in the other. He looked an awful lot like Jesus.
I felt kind of like the protagonist in one of Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories, where these Hindus moved into a house and came across a bunch of Christian artifacts and kept them in a shrine type place.
So, I brought Jesus inside. Scrubbed him clean in the sink. And placed him with some Confucius and Buddha figurines, so the three could commiserate.
Later, my Mother told me over the phone that I should put Jesus back.
"If you found him buried, he was probably there for a reason."
I just scoffed and said Jesus was better off in the house with Confucius and Buddha than in the ground somewhere.
The next day, I was outside, grading the garden with a rake, when I snagged something. I tugged a little bit. It was a black plastic garbage bag.
And then I noticed the scent. It wasn't bad. Wasn't like decaying body. It was the must and soil scent bones make after there's nothing left. It's familiar - A scent I know from my time working as a grave digger at the New Bedford Jewish Cemetery.
I knew there was something skeletal in the bag. I had to open it and make sure there wasn't a dead kid in there or something. You never know. You know?
So I opened the bag, and discovered what I was expecting - some small, thin, rust-colored bones (bones don't look bleach white after spending time in the earth). I thought my worst fears had been realized.
Then, I found the jaw bone. It was about three inches long and had sharp teeth. Maybe a cat's jaw. Or a dog's. But definitely not a human's.
Satisfied, I threw the jaw back into the bag. Went inside and found the statuette.
"It's Joseph." A friend said. "People bury him in their backyards when they want to sell their houses."
I placed Joseph back with the cat or dog or whatever it was, and covered him over with soil and stones.
And though I was tempted to plant a tomato on top of the grave (probably good, fertile soil), I did not.