Oppression from Saints

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
The pool of protestors that I have grown up knowing to embody the legs crossed, head bowed, quiet and collected, harmonious congregation has mutilated into a ravenous mob that knows no limitations. It’s funny how much you can learn overnight; how quickly whispered prayers for redemption can morph into shrieks and cries of rebuke, while clasped hands raised to the Almighty become raging fists wreaking havoc on the heavens with every blow. Luckily however, with their polished loafers and clean slacks, or ruffled, pearl white socks, and the freshest, knee-length dresses a tithe’s worth bill could buy, I was able to recognize them.
I’ve developed great wisdom through observation that allows me to interpret such morbid transformations. See, it starts with Bishop, the great army’s General, who arms the disdainful crowd with scripture engraved guns. The kind used so that when you curl your pointer finger, the one that always seems to bury the blame on your impure enemies, and strangle the trigger, out shoots quick, lead and hatred cored bullets that pierce deep into the heart of your targets, spilling their identity everywhere.
If you turn the music’s volume playing in your earbuds high enough, you can cloud out the hateful comments that pour into the car windows. My little brother squirms in his booster seat, unfamiliar to the strange, new lullaby. The sound of my mom’s voice makes my ears hurt and my mind numb, and the quick, involuntary glance that shows me her blonde hair and green eyes that I’ve inherited, makes me feel as though I myself am out there. I bury myself deeper into my stained, oversized sweatshirt, which I have seemed to make a welcoming home out of. Soon the car is flooded with the hateful bellows of heaven and hell, making it harder to breathe, and I plunge deeper into my sweatshirt as the holy voices shout their hymns.
When my mom returns she says, “You didn’t have to be all cooped up in the car the whole time,” with a slightly course voice. I continue to stare at the dashboard, trying my best to wear my apathetic, stoic face. She clears her throat; deliberately load as if to get my attention.
“Danny could’ve stayed home with Dad. You could’ve joined us,” she pauses, waiting for a reply that would never come.
I slide on my hood and close out the world by tightly pulling the drawstrings.

The next morning I stumble down the steps with nothing but a bible in my backpack. I take a deep breath and walk into the lion den.
“Good morning!” my dad says uproariously. The same deep, quaking voice he uses to move the fellowship. He turns away from the morning news that refuels him every morning just like his breakfast, which today hosts two representatives that are screaming above each other. Nothing is understood or gained. Classic and chaotic America, I thought. I shake my head.
“Morning,” I say faintly, and before he could remark I burst out my practiced and performed dialogue, “I’m going over Chris’s a little early this morning, gotta finish up an English project. The Longbourns say that they can drop me off. See you at dinner”. I dash out the door without looking back.
Worry and morning dew drench my boots; causing me to tread through the field regretfully. I look back mournfully for the part of me that is patient and reserverent, the me of indifference and inaction, but she’s not there.
When I arrive Christine’s smile shows who had stolen this morning’s sun.
“I knew you’d come,” she exploded, jumping up and down, rocking the tree house slightly.
“You couldn’t possibly,” I remark with small traces of a smile growing on my lips.
“Oh yes I could,” she exclaimed with great definity, “I read the stars this morning, they were practically spelling out your whole future. Pisces will become frighteningly ambitious this week. Self - revelations are afoot”, her tone revealing the importance of her calling the meeting. With that, she tackles her buoyant untameable hair of dark brown kinks into a ponytail and exclaims, “Let’s get to work!”
Sprawled around the room were the usual gang that I’ve known and loved since simple elementary and middle school days. Malachi and Tammy in the corner, intensely debating the restrictions of gender roles on the identity, both preaching to the choir, pause to give me a welcoming smile. Dimitri, with hands covered in glue meant to paste catchy phrases on posters, gives me a high five that I only later regret, to his pleasure. The rest of the bunch of thirty or so kids are composed of people I only see briefly in the hallways of North Oakland High or people Chris contacted from out of town. Many give me a nod of recognition.
“This isn’t even everyone. We have a much, much bigger group!” Malachi whispers with the purest of joys.
“So...did you find anything?” asks Christine hesitantly, awaiting a reply that, in her eyes, could devastate their whole campaign.
I pull out the bible with its highlighted passages and show her a few pages as a crowd gathers around us.
“Nothing really. To me, well, it’s all up to interpretation.”
“We can work with that.”
“You ready?” Chris asks me eagerly, her face shining with excitement and hope.
“I’m terrified”
I look at the clock. It’s twelve. All at once we stand out of our plastic school chairs, as silent as spirits, and turn to leave out of the classroom; our teachers disgruntled, but not entirely surprised. We’ve been planning for months. An ocean of students holding signs saying, “God loves us all”, “Where is the peace you preach of?”, “No judgment. Just Support” spills out of classrooms, unwavered by the shouts of teachers. We move in waves across the town, causing traffic, reminding everyone that we exist, that we have a voice. And at that moment I no longer felt like I was drowning, as the pressure and hatred and the prejudices and the ignorance of the world kept me under surface level. I felt liberated and alive and no longer willing to force myself to be content with a life of internalizing my voice that resists the teen casualties caused by parents and adults, forcing their children to be something they aren’t and to replicate the essential problem.
So as we interlocked arms, I grabbed the megaphone to the approval of my friends and the dismay of my parents, who I only now noticed out of the corner of my eyes driving to work, and shouted, “Love is love!”