Kristin Hooker

I, Pubescent
I trip on a crack in the sidewalk on my way up to the house to save people from going to hell. I read that people my age trip a lot because our feet grow faster than the rest of our body and we’re not used to it yet. I think I read it in Brio.Stupid shirt. I ran out of black t-shirts to wear because my Mom forgot to do laundry. My shirt is tight and pink, but because of my sweat problem, the pits are magenta. I normally wear black and keep my arms down tight so the pit stains don’t show. The reason I especially have a sweat problem is ‘cause I wear a back brace for 23 hours a day so that makes me even hotter, but my Mom says it’s hormones.

I should have worn shorts too. My jeans feel drenched, but the stickiness is keeping my jeans from riding down and showing my butt crack, so that’s good.

I wipe the sweat from my forehead, which you can see a lot of because my friend said she knew how to cut bangs and she cut mine way too short. She paired off with someone else to share Jesus because she was avoiding me because she knows she made my bangs look stumpy and my face looks like the moon. Everyone else went off in pairs to knock on doors, but there was an odd number. I thought it made sense to go in a group of three, but everyone said we’d cover more houses if I went by myself. Save more people from hell. They told me to get out of my comfort zone.

Someone will probably kidnap me because even though I’m 13 and going to high school in the fall people think I’m younger, always. It’s because I’m short and my chest is still pretty flat. I have round cheeks too. And here I am alone. My church is going to feel so bad if I get kidnapped. They’ll hold a prayer-athon like they did when Mr. Zandstra had his prostate out.

I trip again on the porch steps, push my glasses back up because my sweaty nose let them slide down, and knock lightly because I hope no one answers. The paper of my tract is getting wavy from all the sweat on my hands.

The door opens and I hope there will be a whoosh of cold air like when you walk into a grocery store. Instead, I think the heat is just going in.

“’Sup?” he says.

He looks like he’s probably in high school, but older high school. He’s wearing basketball shorts and no shirt and he has muscles showing. I always hope for an older person because they’re polite and happy to have a visitor. Old people are lonely. Anyone younger has lots of junk to do and don’t really want to talk to us. This guy looks like he’s probably popular and could be smoking weed and frenching in someone’s basement with no parents home. My face turns red.

“Hi,” I say, and search my mind for our script, “Do you feel confident that if you died today you’d go to heaven?”

“I don’t really believe in heaven,” he says.

I open the tract to show the illustration of the canyon.

“If a bunch of people tried to jump across the Grand Canyon, and like, heaven is on the other side, some people might get further than others, but no one is going to make it. No one is good enough.”

I turn the page. A big cross bridges the gap across the canyon. It says JESUS on the cross.

“That’s why we all need Jesus. No one is pure enough to be in God’s presence, but Jesus washes our sins away. He is the only way to heaven.”

“So then you walk across the cross to get from one side of the Grand Canyon to heaven? Is heaven in Arizona?”

“Close the door! You’re letting the air out,” a woman calls from inside the house.

“Why don’t you step inside? Too hot,” he says, and because I’m desperate for cool air and I know a woman, probably his mom, is there, I do it. I’m not supposed to be alone with boys.

I smell body odor and don’t know if it’s him or me. I mean, I’m the one sweating a lot, but he’s the one not wearing a shirt so his actual pits are showing. I almost sniff my pits, but stop myself because that would be so stupid.

“Let me get you some water,” he says.

He disappears. The house looks like everything is new, but there’s some cobwebs in the ceiling corners. The mantle has some basketball trophies. Somewhere in the house, a radio is playing the same radio show that my mom listens to on Saturday mornings. It’s a quiz show on NPR where everyone is always laughing about nothing. Like, literally, everything anyone says is a little joke that only people over 40 understand.

He returns with a plastic bottle of water for me.

“Thanks,” I say, and take a drink. The opening makes an audible clack against my braces.

“So, the cross is a bridge, but when you’re walking across it, what about the middle part of the cross that sticks up. How do you get up and over that part? Is there like a grappling hook that represents good deeds?”

I want to leave because I feel like he’s teasing me. I feel dumb and I don’t know how to end this conversation, but I’m still so thankful for the water and the air conditioner.

“Kidding,” he says, “Have you ever converted someone by knocking on their door.”

“No,” I say. In fact, no one in my youth group has converted someone by knocking on a door, but they said that being persecuted means you’re doing something right.

“Most people in the US know what Christianity is. If I was interested, I’d join a church. I’m just trying to keep you from wasting your time. I mean, your plan probably isn’t going to work.”

“It’s not my plan,” I say.

“Whose plan is it?”

“Pastor Brandon.”

“And he’s making you do this?” he asks.

“Well, not making. But I’m supposed to do it.”

“You going to Franklin this fall?”

“Yeah, I’ll be a freshman.”

“It’s my senior year. What’s your name?”

“Hannah.”

“I’ll say hi to you in the hall, Hannah.”

“Ok,” I say, “Do you want to keep the tract?”

I hold it out and immediately regret it since it’s so wet from my sweaty hand. He takes it. He was probably prom king or something and now he’s holding my sweaty Jesus pamphlet and he knows my name. He’s probably had sex! And I think it’s probably me that smells.

He reaches past me for the front door. He smells like body spray.

“We’re going to play paintball later this month. It’s 10 bucks. You can go if you want.”

“Cool, thanks,” he says.

“Thanks for the water,” I say.

“No problem. See you around.”

I linger on the porch in the shade and take another sip of water. Across the street, I see two of my friends being confronted by a man who is pointing to his “No Soliciting” sign.

“We’re not selling anything,” I think I hear them say.

I don’t know what to do because I don’t want to do this anymore and I don’t want to disappoint my pastor or my parents. So I’m just going to stand here and wait it out. I’ll tell them my back hurt and that I stopped to pray over this house.

Anyway, I can’t think about Jesus right now. All I can think about is that guy with no shirt on who smells like body spray. He’d look cute with a paintball gun.

***

Kristin Hooker resides in Portland, Oregon. She is currently writing a collection of short humorous fiction.

A Poetry Journal

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