“That row of houses? Crazy town.”
God, he even loved the way Morgan rolled her eyes. He could listen to her talk forever.
“Have you ever seen the little skinny kid with the bug eyes who lives in…THAT one?” She pointed to Eric’s house.
“Always staring. He gives me the creeps. And do you know what they BELIEVE?”
He did, actually. His dad was the local Episcopal priest, and when he and his brother were little, made sure that they had a weekly “Religious Literacy” moment as part of their bedtime routine. By the time he was 8, he could tell you about Odin, Kali, Krishna, Buddha, the Sufis, Zoroastrians, the hajj, Martin Luther, Zwingli, Oscar Romero, Gandhi, and yes, Joseph Smith.
“They think Jesus brought all of the Native Americans across the Red Sea to the new world or some shit. I mean, they don’t even believe in Christopher Columbus.”
He didn’t care how wrong she was. She was beautiful.
They were both new this year. His dad had moved churches again and her folks had divorced, and her mom got a job as an English teacher at the high school. When she asked him why his dad moved churches so often, he gave her his dad’s well-rehearsed explanation, that he “just wasn’t very orthodox.”
Morgan had looked at him like he was speaking Chinese. He wondered, for a second, how the daughter of an English teacher could not know that word. But he didn’t ask. He knew he was a total nerd for knowing a bunch of big words, he knew that, and if he still prayed, he would thank God that he also had enough self-awareness to avoid letting her know just how many big words he knew. He knew that it was a weird, beautiful twist of fate that the two of them had moved to this tiny town where people didn’t talk to the new kids until you had been there about ten years, and he was not about to mess that up. The other girls hated her because she was pretty, wore more clothes bought at the mall than they did, and sounded like she was from Ohio, not Kentucky. The guys ignored her because they, just like their dads, knew how to fall in line so not to piss the hometown women off. As for him, if you get caught reading for fun, you get written off pretty quickly.
And that made them friends. Or more, he hoped. Soon.
She was still talking about Eric. He was a weird little kid. He did stare. He didn’t talk much, and he always held his Cheetos bag up to his ear in the cafeteria.
“Can you hear the ocean?” Bobby Orway yelled at him last week from three tables away.
“Of course,” Eric had said,”Among other things.”
Everybody who heard it laughed. That was some weird stuff. Beyond Mormon weird, even. Maybe Morgan was right.
“Is anything new playing at the movie theater this weekend?”
“I dunno. Maybe. You wanna go?”
This was as close as he could get to asking her out. Suggesting, then saying yes when she actually asked. Was that a good thing? Ugh. He didn’t know. He’d better figure it out soon, though. She was going to find something better soon. Some dude would step up soon enough. There was probably just a statute of limitations of new kid weirdness for cute girls.
At her suggestion, they pulled into the High-Pass food mart (named so because it was at the corner of Highway 5 and the bypass) to grab a couple of pops.
“Oh MY GOD, ” she half-squeeled. “There’s the little weirdo now.”
Eric was in the middle of the parking lot, facing east, looking straight up. He seemed to be listening, really hard, for something.
Just some more building on this long-abandoned story. Integrating and exaggerating details from small town life. I can’t tell how serious or how satirical I want this story to be, so I’m playing with the tone.