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Pointed in the Right Direction

Marc walked the dirt path towards the campground entrance, carrying a box full of streamers and letters for a banner. A young woman approached him with a clear, plastic container with staple guns, string, twine and tape. He remembered her as being one of the people who followed Reverend Fred into New Bergen Baptist. “Marc, right?” the girl said.

Her skin, Marc thought, was the color of the sweetest caramel. “Yeah, that’s me. I don’t recall ever hearing your name.”

“Layla.”

“Layla? Like the—“

“Yes. Yes. My father was a huge Eric Clapton fan,” she said, as if she’d said it a thousand times before. “Where are we supposed to hang this banner?”

“Right across the entrance, I think,” Marc replied as he set his box down beside the wooden post that held up one half of the entrance sign. “If I may ask a question, why did you start following Fred? It’s not a cult-thing, is it?”

“No. It’s not a cult-thing,” she scoffed, setting down her own box. “It’s a truth-thing. I went to regular church for awhile. You know, my parents’ church. I didn’t feel comfortable there, though. My dad’s black and my mom’s white and… the people at that church were like, ‘It’s okay. We accept you, anyway.’ And my parents were alright with it but once I got old enough, I started thinking, ’Anyway? What did they mean ‘anyway’? It just kind of turned me off to church altogether. Then, I came across Fred preaching in the park. He didn’t care where I’d come from. Couldn’t see the color of my skin. All he was concerned about was I was there and I wanted to hear the Word of God. You know his story, right?”

“No. What story?”

“You haven’t heard the Legend of Ten Dollar Fred?”

“The legend? No, I haven’t heard the legend.”

“Well… he used to be a heroine addict. Real bad. Supposedly, one day, someone told him they would give him ten dollars for his soul. They had a contract made up and everything. Fred was hard up, so he signed it. Now, the person who offered the deal was not the Devil or a demon, but just a normal person. Mean-spirited, but normal. That didn’t change the fact that Fred was willing to give up his soul for ten-dollars. The deal-maker told everyone he could that he had a contract for Fred’s soul. Everybody laughed at Fred every time they saw him. They started calling him Ten Dollar Fred. Any time he would try to buy some drugs with money he got from collecting cans, he would get nothing but ridicule and laughter. He got so desperate he went into a church—New Bergen Baptist—and asked the pastor for help. Pastor Clement took him to a clinic. Fred checked himself in and he eventually got clean. Years on drugs had made him a little bit crazy… but now… he’s crazy for the Lord. He’s been street preaching now for five years. There are several people who show up every time he preaches and would do anything for him.”

“Wow. That is quite a story.”

“All true. The deal-maker showed up one day and was so moved by Fred’s turn-around, he gave his life to Christ. He’s one of those who shows up every time.”

Marc didn’t know what else to say and attempted to make the silence slightly less uncomfortable by tying string to one of the entrance poles.

“How long have you and Stew known each other?” Layla asked.

“Heh. All our lives, practically. Grew up together.” Marc took the other end of the string and tied it to the other pole. “Went to college together. I’m surprised we don’t work together. Well… I guess we kind of do now.” Finished tying the string, Marc stared down the road that led to the campground.

“You miss him.”

“Yeah,” Marc said, still staring.

“I can tell.”

Just as Marc looked back at her, a ray of sunshine pierced through the trees and bathed her in gold, making her skin the color of glistening honey. “I hope you don’t mind me telling you this, Layla, but you are extremely and remarkably beautiful. I don’t know what in the world made me say that, but I just couldn’t help it. It’s true.”

“You are… gay, right? I mean, I had heard that.”

“Yeah. Well, I can still see the beauty in the opposite sex.”

“You know, it’s not natural. God created man and woman to be together. To bear children.”

“Hate the sin, not the sinner.”

“Oh, I don’t hate the sinner. The question is, do you hate the sin? If you don’t, you have to look at your relationship with Christ and re-evaluate.”

“I’ve never really had a relationship with Christ.”

“Can I ask why not?”

“No one’s ever pointed me in that direction. My parents have never been church-goers. I just...”

“Well, consider yourself pointed.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Marc chuckled to himself as he reached into the box with the banner.

“What?”

“I was just thinking… this whole time… I mean, it’s not that I was attracted to guys, really. Well, Stew and I have always had a connection and sometimes I… playfully take it too far. We’re really just like family. But even when I was a teenager, there wasn’t a single girl who… did it for me at all. Not even remotely attracted to girls. I just assumed… you know… if not this than that. But now… I see you and I… I’m just not sure what to say.” He rifled through the banner letters and chuckled again. “These spell out ‘Happy Birthday’.”

“I know. It’s all Fred could find. He thought it would be funny. Now, wait. You haven’t been attracted to guys, either?”

“No. Not really.”

“So, have you ever… been… with anybody?”

“Physically? No.”

“You’re still a virgin?”

“Yes. I can see that surprises you.”

“Well, yeah. Ten minutes ago, I thought you were gay. Now, I find out you’re a virgin and, until now, you hadn’t found anyone attractive. And when you do, it’s me. It’s very flattering. And possibly… the weirdest, yet most romantic thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Even weirder and more romantic than two lovers, lost across twelve-hundred years, finding each other again, oblivious of their past together, and their love becoming immortal?”

“I did say ‘possibly’.”

“You did. I heard you say that. So, not that I could take you out to a restaurant or a movie or anything like that but would you be interested in a walk around the lake?”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

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