Page 22 - WTP Vol. XI #3
P. 22

 Mark had liked Spencer Wiley. That was the tricky part. Spencer was young—twenty years younger than Dennis and Lorraine, the married team who ran the ministry—and he was funny and good-looking and he knew about cool music, about movies and Guitar Hero. He played basketball and football, though he had that sly outdoorsy look you sometimes see in youth group leaders, a uniform, almost, that he never failed to wear. Chacos, khaki hiking shorts, those soft, patterned button-downs he bought at Outdoors Inc. Mark had asked him where he got them. That was how he came to know. He had even asked his mom
if she would take him there to shop, to the store on Poplar Avenue, an old converted house that seemed to overflow with camping gear, its walls a crowded gallery of bright, exotic ads: North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Mountain Hardwear. The store was much too small, was spilling over with its goods, but these images of mountainsides, of canyons and gulches and rapids and rainforests, were so beautiful and open that they made the place feel huge, as if it held entire biomes, held the world in all its shades.
Mark had bought a shirt, or his mom had bought it for him. A checkered blue short-sleeve with buttons that snapped. He had wanted to buy more, but the shirt was so expensive that his mom had almost balked and bought him nothing. Every dollar was a hardship. Every cent a little martyrdom.
He wore this shirt to youth group every Sunday, his own uniform.
He was wearing it one morning when his best friend, Amber Whitsitt, climbed beside him in the Praise Room. They were high up in the risers—final row, their normal spot. All the kids were getting settled, and Spencer was onstage, tuning the guitar he always played on Sunday mornings. His shirt was also blue, almost identical to Mark’s.
“Attack of the clones,” Amber said. She pinched Mark’s sleeve, rubbed the fabric like a merchant.
“Nah,” Mark said. “He copied me.”
“Sure he did,” she said. “Everybody’s dying just to get that Unger look.”
“Shut up.”
“It’s cool, it’s cool. Nothing wrong with a man-crush.” “I like the shirt, okay?”
“I know you do,” she said, and the fingers that had pinched his sleeve now squeezed around his arm, the skinny upper part where pretty soon he’d sprout some muscle.
They both looked down at Spencer, at the shoals of other children gathered round him on the benches. He’d closed his eyes, and he was frowning with a stilled and eager seriousness. It was time to start up Worship.
The room was harshly bright, with a ceiling of fluo- rescents and a wall of gawky windows facing out onto the parking lot. Sunlight was reflected from the windshields of the cars, and beyond them, through this headache, lay the greenery of soccer fields, the patched brown of a baseball diamond. Beyond even this stretched the thoroughfare of Poplar, with its res- taurants and its shops, the residential pockets where the richer families lived. It was all very grounded, very far from the divine, and while the mood around them tightened with the coming of the music, he felt the heat of skepticism pricking at his scalp.
He was embarrassed, more than anything—for all these earnest kids, for Spencer Wiley, for himself. Only Amber seemed above it, aloof enough to slip the cringe and shiver of embarrassment. She was, like Mark, fourteen, but her cynicism aged her by a decade. She just came here for distraction, for com-
Every Faith
S.C. FerGuSoN

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