Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard the antichrist is coming.
1 John 2:18
Well, not exactly coming. He'd been working there for some time--not as a manager or store owner, the way you'd expect. No, our boy was plugging away at his 25 hours a week as a bagger and cartboy. What, had you expected the Antichrist to work full-time? And still be successful in high school? Are you kidding? Still, you had to smile. Who'd have thought?
Anthony had soft brown hair and brilliant blue eyes, the kind so deep you'd swear you could dive into them, if only you could stand such cold water. His teeth had just enough imperfection to be charming, his form just husky enough to put you at ease. Co-captain of the soccer team, the student council president, the lead in all the school plays--Anthony had style. And more than style, he was a born leader. You had to smile. Between his witty remarks in class and his mathematical skills bordering on eerily precise, his teachers often did just that.
When he was 10 years old, he'd learned an early lesson from his mother, Rosemary. "God isn't in the Church, Tony. God is outside you, and all around you. God is in you, too, Tony." He never went again and quietly absorbed the title agnostic. A small lie, really, when you think of all the others.
Occasionally the store manager would ask Tony to stock shelves. This was his favorite job, because it involved the UPC codes. As his strong arms would lift box after box, or bottle after bottle, or bag after bag, he would look at the bar codes posted anonymously on the packaging and laugh. They actually thought... no, it's too funny. He had to smile. They were so stupid sometimes. No one ever asked him why he was laughing; they didn't seem to mind at all.
On some level, he knew who he was. But even as a teenager, it was hard to distinguish between what was Antichrist behavior and what was just teen angst. That was an unfair joke. In all seriousness, Tony was a perfectly happy young man. And why shouldn't he be? His father had promised him the World. He had to smile.
His father had a country medical service that he ran from his home. In short, Guy made housecalls. It was amazing what you got to know about people when you were treating them in their own homes. Guy was a fine doctor, able to help many people through all sorts of illnesses. He'd delivered most of the town's babies and helped most of the elderly ease into their graves without much pain or suffering. Someday, Tony thought. He had to smile. Healing people was what he'd always wanted to do.
When Mrs. Castavet came into the store that day, she'd been looking for lamb. It was impossible to get a nice rack of lamb these days, and it was one of the only recipes she could really pull off well. Her daughter and son-in-law were coming for dinner--the first time in years. It had to be special. It had to be lamb. This was the fifth store she'd gone to. Even the butcher's shop had been unable to help her. Tony smiled and hooked his thumbs in the straps of his apron. "May I help you?"
An elderly woman, Mrs. Castavet was not in the habit of trusting young men to do anything but vandalize her garden. Her skin hung at her face like loose cloth. Her soft brown eyes, sunken in just enough to make her look sad, immediately brightened. He was gorgeous and his eyes--something about his eyes made her feel so young. She found herself flirting, if only slightly. "Are you any good at miracles?" He had to smile. It turns out he was.
As they loaded her groceries into the car, he gingerly placed the sack of eggs on top, tucking them under the bend of the trunk. "Wouldn't want these to break before you get home," he said. Even when he mumbled, his voice seemed to radiate a warmth. She blushed a thank-you and he opened her car door for her before shuffling back into the store, hands in his pockets."What a nice boy," she said to herself as she eased into her car. "Truly one of a kind." You had to smile. One of a kind, alright. She had no idea just how right she was.
A challenge, from Cletus the Foetus.