It was a rainy spring day in Pennsylvania, in an overgrown alley, beside the state park, where the hills ran in and out of one another; playing a limacious game of tag throughout the country side. The wind was a gentle one; it seemed to caress your cheeks with an otherworldly aether. The forsythia was in bloom, its delicate yellow blossoms not yet overly pungent and providing shelter for the titmice and rabbits. The floor of the dilapidated alley was lush and springy with new growth. Everything seemed to twinkle in the aftermath of the light sprinkle.
"Days like this always seemed to make life a bit more liveable," she thought, "And then on the other hand, it would be a great day to die too." She leapt from the edge of the hill and caught the large oak branch she had been eyeing. Invigorated, she proceeded to climb as high as she could, now overlooking the cliff she had recently departed. "Mmmmmm, I wonder how the poor saps in catechism class are doing right about now?" she mused. "Mrs. Fink is probably still going on about the bloody virtues of the Holy Spirit. Why can't they teach us real theology instead of that slushy ‘Jesus loves you' crap? Do they think we can't handle Jesus being black and that the Virgin Mary was just under sixteen when impregnated, or that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute? I sincerely believe they are trying to turn us into docile slush-heads. I can see it now; Mrs. Rose Fink as Captain Slush–Head, ready to destroy loud music, abortion clinics and homosexuals with a single wave of her holy water decanter and a crunch of her tacky red heels; ‘Into the ground with ye heathens!' And all while wearing her kitsch plaid suit, plastered smile and acres of hair spray."
Snapping back into reality she began to descend from the tree and agilely make her way down the path to the creek. Path was really something of an overstatement. Occasional foothold or large rock down a very steep slope is probably a bit more accurate. Over the years it had only gotten steeper from water run off, and the measly roots of the mountain laurel did little to secure the earth. There were, of course, large graduated gravel paths that would also take her to creek, but she much preferred the thrill of running down the hill as quickly as possible without falling or twisting her ankle on an outstretched root.
She entered the clearing and crossed the stream to the pavilion, a beautiful structure right out of A Mid Summer Night's Dream with huge oak pillars and great fire place made of large stones from the stream. Her intent today was to build a fire and bask in its glow.
A sploshing came from the creek. A small boy wearing rust colored corduroy and black galoshes was approaching the pavilion. He had light brown fluffy hair and was probably in fifth or sixth grade.
"Are you trying to make a fire?" he asked.
"Do you mind if I help? I'm a boy scout."
"I suppose. Go find some kindling while I get the logs."
After drying out the wood, they got the fire blazing comfortably. They made an odd pair; a ninth grade girl trying too hard to be sophisticated and a sixth grade boy trying innocently to make a friend.
"So why are you out here by yourself, wouldn't your parents worry if they knew you were here alone?" she asked.
"Nah, they only care about the summer club and their very important jobs. I sneak down here all the time to get away from them and be by myself. They can be rather stifling."
Feeling a twang of sympathy for the boy and partially surprised by his grown-up demeanor and vocabulary, she replied,"I know the feeling.
"You're here avoiding your parents?"
"Not quite. I'm avoiding my religion class."
"Don't you believe in God?"
"I don't think so, religion has ruined that for me."
"I'm not sure if I understand."
"Well, religion has all these rules and constant contradictions and is so incapable of change, I wonder how realistic it can be."
"But religion isn't God is it? I mean, how could you possibly explain all this," he said as he gestured at the forest surrounding us.
"Well I guess I could cling to all the Big Bang theories and evolution and the principles of chance."
"But doesn't that leave you feeling a little empty?" he ventured, "What about having a soul? How can science explain that?"
"I don't know, and why is it any of your business what I believe anyway?" she snapped at him.
"I'm sorry! I was just trying to be polite."
"Good job you did at that now didn't you?"
"I said I was sorry!" he pleaded.
She glanced at her watch and got up decisively to leave.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"None of your damn business!" she replied as she ran off leaving the boy staring after her in wonder.
She plunged through several thorn bushes and some of the deeper thicket in the woods and sat down to consider what had just happened, her jeans becoming dampened and muddied from the ground. She glanced up at a nearby branch and watched a newly metamorphosed butterfly begin to pump the blood into its wings. She started to run back to the pavilion.
When she entered the pavilion, the fire had been extinguished and the boy was gone. She realized she had never even asked him his name. She scanned the nearby areas, but could find no trace of him. Feeling a deep sense of guilt and regret she took the large graduated gravel path home, jumping at every sound and constantly looking for any sign of the rusty corduroys and black galoshes.
When she arrived home, her mother asked her, "How was catechism today, Chrissy?"
"More enlightening than usual," she answered.
She then hastily retreat to her bedroom, tears beginning to well in her eyes.