When I am bored, and want something new in my head, I often head over to here and generate some stuff. Most go nowhere. But in 2008, I got, “The theme of this story: wacky action. The main characters: pious heroine and boring philosopher. The major event of the story: longing.”

I decided I’d just do the characters. I liked how it turned out, even if wacky was sort of not explored very deeply.


Every weekday at 3:30pm, Britta Lindstrom dashed out of the St. Martha’s Catholic School for Girls with the lumbering speed of a rhino fleeing a fire. By the time she had hit the concrete steps, she already had her backpack half open and pulled her skateboard out. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she dropped the skateboard with a dulled clatter and tossed her backpack upon it. She stepped off her loafers and propped them in front of the wheels to keep them from rolling down the sidewalk. In one rehearsed move, she ripped off her blazer, un-tucked her dress shirt, and stuffed the bundled mass into her backpack with her small fists. She pulled out a rubber band and put it in her teeth.

“Seeya Brit!” said her friend Margaret as she ran past. Britta nodded back a greeting as she pulled off her hairband and swept her mousy blond hair back. She took the rubber band and wrapped up a quick ponytail. As she noticed the crowd of schoolgirls starting to reach critical mass down the steps, she pulled of her white socks, balled them up with her hairband, and stuffed them in the backpack. The trickle of girls going past her became a steady stream. Quickly, she arranged her dress shirt into a self twisted tuck, exposing the familiar shape of a young girl rimmed with the plaid waistband of a size 8 school uniform.

Britta put her shoes in the backpack, zipped it up, and stood on her skateboard. When she found an opening between the clots of passing students, she pushed off and drifted lazily among the thinning crowd of classmates, tightening her backpack across her shoulders.

Margaret waved again as Britta sped past her into open sidewalk.

“Our father, who art in heaven,” Britta whispered to herself as she leaned into a corner and entered the sidewalk near the main road. The incline flattened and she responded by more pushes. Her bare feet gripped the board as her knees pushed into the thrusts, gaining a steady pace. Her gold cross fell loose from her plunging neckline; dangling and glinting in the afternoon sun.

“Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come,” she continued a little louder over the roar of her worn wheels on the pavement. Clack clack clack. Like a clock speeding up. A few beads of sweat formed on her temples. She looked ahead and realized that the stoplight was about to turn. She could make this, though.

“Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven!” she said again, pulling into a turn that nearly tipped her over, but she took a wide turn into the intersection mere seconds before the light turned green. The sidewalk was too damaged on this side road, so she stayed on the asphalt. As the hill dipped, she compared the roar of her wheels to be like the Lions of Jerusalem.

“Give us this day our daily bread!” she screamed as she tore through another intersection, nearly hitting a bike messenger on his way downtown.

“What the? HEY! Fucker! What the hell???” screamed the messenger, who would later claim he said something far wittier.

Britta stood straight, and clasped her hands in prayer. “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” she said with a smirk because the timing was too perfect to leave this moment unmarked. She turned her head and watched the messenger steady himself on his bike. But the moment fled, and she turned leaned into the hill. Faster and faster. She dipped low to reduce her wind drag and keep her skirt from flapping around.

But soon she felt the familiar wobble of a skateboard going faster than it was designed. She stood up and eased back her foot, her leg muscles bulging from the strain. It was a balance, she knew, between fast enough and too fast, which changed as her wheels wore down from use. Her toes curled down and she closed her eyes for just a moment to get the purity of the moment. A Zen-like peace of speed over the smooth street and the relaxing of her calf muscles with a warm spring breeze ruffled through her clothing.

“And lead us not into temptation,” she whispered. She opened her eyes as she continued to slow. “but deliver us from evil!”

On the word “evil,” she buckled down and gripped one side of the board, turning into a difficult S-curve. But someone had left a plastic bag exactly the wrong place for Britta’s directional turn, and she could not swerve to avoid it. As time slowed down, she wondered if she rode over it fast enough, would it matter, or would it tangle– yep, it’s going to tangle– she thought as the bag quickly wrapped itself around the axles on the wheels.

Britta made a split decision to jump free of the board before it was yanked out from under her, but she found she was still going too fast to make a graceful hop. It was all she could do to not break her toes under the weight of her unprotected feet on the hot pavement as they stumbled awkwardly to try and gain a balance during such a rapid speed change. Her arms flailing wildly, she ended up scraping the balls of her feet against the sandpaper like surface of the sidewalk, and barely managed to throw her hands up before she collided with a phone pole.

The impact was so hard, she bounced backwards and landed on her back. She turned to the side, and was immediately hit in the face with the skateboard.

“Amen…” she moaned, covering her face with her hands.

Klaus looked up from his book. It was French, titled, “Boire du Café en Noir,” by Madame Déprimé, and could be upside down for all he cared. He couldn’t understand a word of French, but made a good attempt at pronouncing it to fool the local Catholic girls into thinking he was “L’original de Bohême,” if he even knew what that was.

He wore black. He wore nothing but black, which forced him to carry a lint roller wherever he went because he also seemed to know a lot of people with cats. Today was no exception, because the book store and cafe he was in front of while he sipped his espresso had the usual resident cat: a fat Maine Coon named “Dade,” after the character in the 1995 movie, “Hackers.”

“Meow?” asked the cat.

“Go away,” said Klaus.

But to Dade, any attention warranted a good body rub, whether the human wanted it or not. Klaus curled away from Dade like a wilting fern leaf, but Dade’s cloud of hair that surrounded him sniffed the static electricity coating Klaus’s skin-tight jeans and swarmed upon his legs like spitwads on a bathroom mirror.

“Ugh!” gasped Klaus, unwrapping another layer of sticky fly paper on his lint roller and scuffing each errant wavy cat hair from his pristine black denim.

“Meow?” asked Dade.

“Come get your cat!” Klaus called out to the employee inside. But the employee did not hear him, because she was currently dancing to REO Speedwagon hold music from her credit card company over the phone.

“Ugh…” sighed Klaus again. But as he moved his chair in a futile effort to get away for the large walking hairball, he spotted a lone figure slowly weaving her way down the uneven sidewalk towards the cafe. He looked at his watch and noticed it was 3:45.

“How many ‘Our Fathers’ did it take to get here tod–”

“Cram it, Klaus,” said Britta as she rolled to a stop in front of his table.

“My God, Britta, what on earth happened to your eye?”

“Road rash.”

“Seriously?” Klaus wrinkled his nose in laughter.

Britta threw herself into a metal chair, and flipped her skateboard on its back. She pulled up her skirt, and looked at a weeping scrape down her leg. “I wiped out on Broad Street and 14th. Right before I finished my first Our Father. It took me three Hail Marys to get here after that.”

“Why can’t you just use a watch like anyone else?”

“Because I must be faithful.” she said.

“Reciting Biblical verse is no way to keep time. I mean, anyone can… speed it up or something.”

Britta looked up with her bruised eye. “You’re a boring and depressing atheist, you know that?”

“Yet you insist on meeting me here because you are also a lovesick fool.”

“May God have mercy on your soul, Klaus.”

“There is no God, Britta. It’s all an opiate to quell the masses.”

“You don’t even know what that means,” Britta said, yanking her skirt down in defiance to Klaus’s wandering eyes. She slipped off her backpack and re-buttoned her shirt to the collar.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Britta,” said Klaus with a smile that faded into the coy shade of a raised coffee cup.

“I am pure and virtuous, Klaus. But I know the roving eye of a man twice my age upon my holy flesh.”

“Have you come here to convert me again, or shall we bicker as we normally do?” Klaus put down his coffee cup. “Where were we? Oh yes, you were avoiding the previous day’s question. Where did Jesus tell his disciples to go after his resurrection?”

Britta tucked her shirt back in the waistband of her skirt. It was hard to see Klaus because the swelling around her eye was distracting. “He told them to go to Galilee, of course. That’s both in the books of Matthew and Mark.”

Klaus smiled. “Yet in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4, it is stated that they should go to Jerusalem.”

Britta pulled her well-worn Bible from her backpack and flipped to Acts. It was bookmarked from their previous conversation with a receipt from Best Buy. “No, in Luke 24:49, it states, ‘ye be endued with power from on high,’ which was after their travels after Galilee. Acts was right after Luke.”

“The Book of Acts can’t be trusted. It also states that there were about an hundred and twenty believers, but in Corinthians says that Jesus appeared to more than 500 believers before his ascension. The book you use is full of holes. I could go on like this.”

“I know you can,” said Britta. “But ye of little faith–” and Klaus groaned at this cliche, “– knows little about the nature of God.”

“You still trying to convert the brat?” asked Grace, the employee from the cafe.

“She has been brainwashed by the Catholic church–”

“I was talking to her,” said Grace, scooping up Dade in a waft of fluff that drifted in the sunlight towards Klaus. She winked at Britta who returned a subtle smile of thanks.

“Don’t encourage the girl,” Klaus said while trying to sip his coffee again, but he had been out of coffee a few sips ago.

“You two always here, arguing the Bible. She’s using faith, and you’re trying to destroy it with nitpicking. Honestly, Klaus. Why do you continue to do this and annoy my cat?”

Klaus’s chest tightened and his heart raced a little when he spotted Britta’s slightly coy look from behind her Bible. A hint of light flicked gold on her chin from her cross. He noticed for the tenth time just how perfectly small her ears were. Delicate and unbroken with various piercings of the usual girls these days. They tilted ever so slightly when she smiled, exposing the roots of her blond hair pulled thick and tight into the dense multicolored fabric of blond highlights into her ponytail. Her smooth neck gently sloped into her white collar with a slight glint of sweat.

“Because she’s an arrogant religious twit,” said Klaus, looking away.

“That’s a funny way to pronounce pedophile,” said Grace.

Klaus grimaced. “Have you seen me touch so much as a hair on this girl?”

“With your hands, no. Your eyes, however, should be arrested for public frottage.”

Britta giggled. Klaus sweated a little more, averting his eyes to the holy angel of tender young flash sitting across from him.

“I can handle his type,” Britta said sweetly. “The Lord protects me, not him.”

Grace sighed. “Okay honey, you keep telling yourself that. But if your Lord is worth anything, he’d keep you from this wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“I think the wolf is evident on his own,” Britta said with a smirk. “So tell me, Klaus. Is it true? Do we have these conversations ONLY because a child of the Lord’s flock has succulent apple blossoms from the Garden of Eden? Or does he seek retribution for his soul?”

“Don’t flatter your illusion of being a temptress,” Klaus lied. “I am trying to talk some sense into you.”

“And again, I shall remark on the coincidence. What is so wrong about accepting the love of God?”

“God does not love,” Klaus said. “God does not exist.”

Britta had heard this phrase dozens of times, but she still had trouble not taking that as a personal insult. But she didn’t show this weakness except as a momentary pause disguised as a moment to think about how to phrase the next sentence. “How do you explain his majesty around you?”

“Science. Nature. Simple atoms and random mutations allowing for natural selection.”

“But does not every watch have a watch maker?”

Klaus rolled his eyes. Months of conversation, and no progress? “No, this world is not a perfectly designed watch. Take for example, your monthly bleeding.”

Britta laughed and shook her head. “Why must we always go back to my menstruation?”

“How is that a design, Britta? Why would a loving God give you cramps?”

“Why would an uncaring God give you life, Klaus?”

“That’s not answering the question.”

“I have answered it before, it is the curse of leaving Eden.”

“Is Klaus obsessed with your puberty still?” Grace said, coming out with Britta’s usual tea. “Honey, he’s bad news. That’s just gross.”

“Do you MIND?” Klaus shouted.

“Yes, I do. For months, when I serve you two, it’s usually about masturbation, menstruation, fetishes, bondage, and marijuana. And the Bible. I am BORED. Just fuck her and get arrested, or leave her alone, Klaus.”

“We are NOT having this conversation for YOUR BENEFIT!” Klaus shouted.

“It is for mine, miss,” Britta said. “The Lord has given me this lost soul for tending.”

“Sugar, it may be none of my business, but I feel the same way about you. I see this guy sit at this table every time the sun is out, staring at women over that same book which he just reads random pages from. I don’t even think he’s reading them. He’s a phony. An intellectual phony. Thirty and single for a damn good reason.”

Klaus stood up, “Grace? I want to speak to the owner of this cafe!”

Grace laughed. “So do I, but I don’t go on about it. That lady owes me three weeks back pay!”

Klaus tossed his napkin on the table and stormed off.

“Well… so much for my day,” Britta said. “I guess I’ll drink this tea with the companionship of the holy word,” she said, holding up her Bible.

“Aw… I’ll sit with you.”

“You’re sweet, Grace. I would like that very much.”

Grace sat down and sighed. “I used to be like you, once. Young and innocent.”

“I am not exactly as arrogant and niave to label myself innocent. I am mortal, and subject to mortal trappings, like anyone else.”

“I’m sorry. I just… I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I can handle Klaus. I realize that the temptations he wrestles with keep him punctual to our talks. Don’t worry, just because he has the eyes of a wolf does not mean I have the vulnerability of a passive sheep.”

“Thats good,” Grace said with no hint of believing her.

“Let me ask you, were you baptized?”

Grace smiled. “Yes I was.”

“You accept Jesus into your heart?”

Grace smiled. “No, I do not. I gave up on the Catholic church the moment it let me down.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” Britta said, and touched Grace’s pudgy arm. “What happened?”

“Oh, my supposedly pious daddy slept around and left with another woman from the same congregation. Never paid child support. Church didn’t help, either, claiming my mother was not welcome because she was divorced.”

“I see,” Britta replied in thought. “But how does that have to do with your relationship with God?”

“God wasn’t there for me. Mom was. And later, the Goddess found me,” Grace said, tapping her sternum.

“The goddess?”

“I’m Wiccan, Britta. Didn’t you know? Klaus makes fun of that, too.”

“I… do not know what that means,” Britta confessed.

“Well, Wiccans believe that the God and the Goddess lead to a balance in nature. Our religion is not dogmatic, and we don’t have any one book or leader we follow. A lot of us are former Catholic, however.”

Britta puckered her brow in thought. “I do not believe that I understand why you think there is a god-ess. Like a female version of God?”

“The female counterpart. Like the Virgin Mary.”

“So your goddess gave birth to… your God?”

“Again, we don’t dwell on the dogmatic details. We simply have faith that the God and the Goddess give us balance as long as we stick true to the Mother Earth.”

“Mother Earth?”

“This is a bit much, I am sure. The Earth gave birth to us and our entire world.”

“Your Eden?”

“Yes. Like we live in Eden now. And we must take care of it. Most do not, and pollute it.”

“So you do not believe the Earth was born in seven days?”

Grace laughed. “No. I believe 4.5 billion years to get where we are now.”

“So you’re secular?”

“Depends on what you mean by that. I don’t believe the Bible is a literal text, but an archetype written by desert people two thousand years ago, then translated and edited by monks into different languages.”

“Klaus says those things,” Britta observed.

“Yes, and there is some truth in what Klaus says, although his motivation is not really to educate, in my opinion. But I also believe in evolution, natural selection and all those things. Part of the process.”

Britta sat silently and she stirred her tea.

“I seem to have silenced you where Klaus was unable to do so,” Grace observed. “I hope I have not upset you.”

Britta shook her head. “No. But it’s difficult to deal with so many lost sheep. Baptized by God, and just because your father succumbed to the devil, you turn your back on your church. I don’t know what to say. But I appreciate your honesty.”

Grace laughed. “Well, to be fair, the church turned it back on me. And when I started to question it, the whole thing fell apart, like some kind of cult. The problem with the Catholic church is that they never celebrate religion so much as use it as a tool to force people to their will. Like they did for a thousand years. Claiming to be pious, but sending wave after wave of soldiers to their death during the Crusades. All for property. Meanwhile, they were ravaged by disease, subjugated their women, and set progress and health back for centuries.”

“I think I see your problem,” Britta said. “You confused the actions of mortal men using the church to their own gain as the reason to turn your back on your Lord and Savior.”

“That’s why I left the church. I asked God to prove to me he existed. And he did. And brought the Goddess with him, and for the first time in my life, I felt I understood. I understood where the church had failed. They say God loves you, but then make you fear him. The ultimate abusive relationship cycle. God makes you reach for the promised bouquet of flowers in one hand while beating you with the other. Guilt, oppression, subjugation, and rampant repressed emotions driving their flock to insanity. But the God and Goddess showed me that love, acceptance, and optimism in a social setting, while difficult, is the ultimate strive to happiness.”

“On this mortal plane, perhaps. But when the time comes, not accepting the true God as your Lord and savior will send you to hell.”

“That’s the dogmatic trappings of a mortal concept right there,” Grace said. “Threatening you with the unknown like you’re some kind of animal. I find the arrogance of the Catholic church disheartening. Like somehow they know of God’s plan and think somehow other people are too stupid to live it without being told how to act every day. If God is so great, how come he needs the church’s guidance? Why can;’t the church say, ‘God knows what He is doing, let him do it?'”

“Because the devil is trying to–”

“The devil. What a medieval concept. I have seen the devil. The devil is in the hearts of everybody. But as mortals we have the choice to avoid these bad urges. The devil is no more than a deeper sense of ID and ego conflicting with the super-ego.”

“Super… ego?”

“From Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche; the human mind. We have our primal urges, the Id. Then we have the emotional level, like the ego. Then we have the rational brain, the super-ego. The devil is the Id, and the Super-ego is the spiritual connection with the Creator. The ego is the balance between the two. While we must realize the devil exists, we must not let it run our lives.”

Britta shook her head. “I am not sure I follow your dizzying logic. The devil is real, he’s–”

“A what? Red man with horns and a pitchfork?”

“That’s… one of his manifestations. But he does exist in mortal hearts as the force that defies God and tries to take over his Kingdom.”

“So God can’t really fight the devil? The struggled between Satan and God is territorial over huamn souls?”

Britta nodded. “Something like that. The devil uses trickery and false beliefs to steer man away from God. In the Book of Job, for instance–”

“Ah, there’s a book for you. God uses Satan to test Job’s resolve. Kills his family, his kids, takes away all his property. But Job doesn’t ‘foolishly’ blame God. Since God was responsible, why would it be foolish to blame God? I asked myself that when daddy left. Because of God’s cruel wager with Satan, Job curses the day he was born. My faith in God didn’t fix it, my faith in reality and myself did.”

“So where were your God and goddess?”

“I didn’t know them at the time. I found them while asking God for guidance, actually, after a failed relationship and a miscarriage with no health insurance. So I joined a local coven. And again, I was beset with church politics. That’s when they came to me and said that there is no organized religion. There is no right or wrong faith, it’s having faith in the supreme love of the universe that matters.”

Britta finished her tea. “You’re going to be a lot of work.”

“This is where I differ from Klaus. I don’t have any work. I have no desire to convert you. I am like you in the fact that adversity against my faith makes my faith stronger like any muscle, but if you stay a pious little Catholic girl until you die of old age, it won’t bother me. As long as you are happy with your faith. As long as your love of God gives you daily support. That’s why there’s religion, Britta.”

Britta stood up and straightened her clothes. “I have to go home, now. I have some homework to do, and some heavy prayer for you.”

“I appreciate the prayer. I hope that your connection with God gives you peace and happy dreams as you slumber. I shall cast a spell for your continued happiness, of your own free will.”

“My free will is God’s will,” Britta said, curtly.

“Then you have a different understanding of free will than I do. I shall see you tomorrow.”

Britta stood on her skateboard, and brushed dust off her wounds. “You shall.”

“Better get those scrapes looked at,” Grace said, cleaning up the table. “God might want you to wash it out and put some ointment on it.”

Britta smiled. “God be with you,” she said as she kicked off towards home.

“Blessed be,” Grace said, watching her speed away. “Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!”

“Meow,” said Dade.

“You said it, Dade. I wish she was a lesbian, too… rraow!”

————–
This short fiction is copyright 2010 Grig Larson. No reproduction is allowed without the author’s written consent.

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