Jesus of Suburbia

They ran. Erica on the left side of the road, Carmen somewhere behind her on the right. Erica knew she would get there first. Carmen was short and unfit, she outpaced herself and she did not take to the summer heat. Erica had not liked becoming gangly and sinewy over the last two winters, but it gave her the advantage of being able to jog for a long time without tiring. She was at the prophet in no time.

He was small and pale, with simian arms. Red hair drooped over one of his sparkling eyes. For all the mystery he passed as wisdom, this Geordie kid-soothsayer was remarkably ugly. No wonder none of the adults saw anything in him. They don’t bother with anyone or anything weird. “People over twenty are superficial.” Erica thought to herself. “Perhaps that’s why they have so many quick answers. Most thirteen year-olds are much more perceptive.”

Erica thought this boy was a fraud, but she had to earn his trust and prove it, not dismiss him out of hand.

“I got here first.” Erica said. “I’m your disciple.”

The red haired boy raised a finger to quiet her.

“What does that mean?” She said.

He said nothing. He looked over Erica’s shoulder. Carmen was panting up the road a long way behind her. She was red in the face. She had red hair too like the boy. Her sweat was off-putting. “She’s weird. He’s weird. I must look weird being with them. This is embarrassing.” When Carmen jogged it just looked wrong.

Erica realized she had taken her phone with her. She took it out of her pocket and turned it on. She probably didn’t have any interesting messages but she looked at it just in case. Plus it meant she didn’t have to look at Carmen or the boy. Nothing. She waited a bit and then spoke. “What’s your name anyway?”

The prophet silently raised his hand again.

“You know being aloof is a lot like being rude.” She said.

He looked at her.

“Sorry.” She said.

She was right though.

Maybe he was embarrassed because his voice hadn’t broken. Or if he spoke it would do that horrible up-down thing when it’s in the middle of breaking. Maybe he was pretending not to be Geordie. Carmen finally reached them.

“Sorry I’m late.” She said. “I ran as fast as I could.”

“Well done.” Said the Jesus kid. “You have proven yourself well Carmen.” His voice was in the middle of breaking.

“Hang on.” Erica said. “You told us whoever found you first would be your disciple. I got here first.”

She looked at Carmen and the prophet. Carmen was panting. The boy was smiling like a smug peach. He spoke.

“You have proven your dedication Carmen.” He said. “You can be my disciple.”

“But that’s not fair!”

The boy put on sunglasses. Erica continued.

“I did what you told me to. I should be your disciple. I won. You said you’d do things fairly.”

“Did I?” Said the boy.

The blood rushed to Erica’s head. She thought about going home. She sighed the loudest sigh she ever had. The boy spoke again.

“I said whoever found me first could be my disciple. Carmen found me as soon as I told her. You still have not found me Erica.”

“What?”

Carmen spoke. “It’s about how you feel, not how fast you run.”

“Oh come on!” snapped Erica. She spoke to the prophet. “You don’t know how I feel.”

“Don’t I?”

“I- What?” She felt like she was falling in fog. He spoke again.

“You must find me with your heart Erica, not with your-”

“NO.” She found her footing again. “You don’t get to be smart just by asking stupid questions. And you have made me feel like this because you’re being weird and arbitrary.”

“Erica.” The boy spoke slowly and softly. “If you don’t want to follow me you don’t have to. I offer myself as I am. I will do my best to reach you, just as Carmen here has done her best to reach me. If you do your best, you can be my disciple.”

“But what’s my best?” said Erica.

“That…” said the boy “is for another day.”

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