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by Merkin

?What?d I miss in Sunday School, Artie??

?You were out back playing your GameBoy, weren?t you? You rat.?

?They expect us older kids to do stuff like that.?

?Right. Listen Jesse, Pastor Bob wants us to be angels in the pageant.?

?Artie, we?re teenagers. We don?t do angels.?

?But it?s an Easter Pageant, Jesse.?

?No way. With wings? Forget it.?

?Pastor Bob said just long white robes for us.?

?Bathrobes I?ll bet. Man, they?ll be looking up our skirts!? Jesse shook his head.

?At what??

?Good point. But still, whose idea was this? We never had kids in an Easter Pageant before.?

?Well, we never had a ?youth minister? before. Pastor Bob wants to try it out, and Reverend Chiswell said go ahead. We?re going to do Jesus Risen in the Tomb. Pastor Bob is going to be the dead Jesus carried in by soldiers, then they?ll roll a big rock in front of it, and then when they roll it back after the choir sings a lot it?ll be Easter morning and the congregation will see a bunch of cherubs and no Jesus. That?s the little kids.? Artie finally took a breath.

?Little kids??

?Yeah, Pastor Bob wants Tommy and Carl and Billy to wear cloth togas and little wings.?

?That?s creepy.?

?It?s Biblical. Then we appear and tell the girls who come to the tomb what happened.?

?We have to say stuff??

?Don?t worry. I got stuck with that. That?s what this sheet of instructions is for. C?mon, Jesse, you have to help me with this!?

?Let?s give this some thought. It seems pretty creepy to me.?

* * *

?0.K. kids, listen up. I?ve asked your parents to let you stay today after Sunday School. This will be our only dress rehearsal, so I want each group to go to your classroom and change into your costumes. Girls downstairs with Mrs. Eliot, boys up here with me.? Bob, the new youth minister, was a part-time security guard at the mall during the week and he liked to give orders. The boys milled around nervously.

?You two,? he motioned to Arthur and Jesse, ?go in the next room and get your robes on. Remember to take your outer clothes off so the robes will drape properly. I?ll be in to check on you in a few minutes. You boys that are playing townspeople, this rack is full of the shepherd costumes from the Christmas Pageant. Pick out one that fits and put it on. Mr. Sams will stay here with you and help with that.?

?Yeah, right,? muttered Jesse, ?Artie, did you bring it with you??

?It?s right here, Jesse. Be careful, my dad will kill me if you break it. But I still think you?re making a fuss over nothing.?

?You two stop horsing around and go get those robes on!? Bob was pointing at them. ?Billy, Carl, Tommy, come with me. I?m going to pin you up.?

?Bingo,? said Jesse. He and Artie went into the room next door and Jesse stood by the door, listening.

?What are you doing?? asked Artie.

?Just follow me, and be very quiet,? said Jesse.

They crept down the hall toward the primary grade room. The door was shut but they could hear Bob talking loudly. ?O.K., you boys. I said everybody strip down! Everything off right down to your underpants, so do it! Come over here one at a time and I?ll pin these togas on you and fix your wings. Billy, you first. Move it!?

?Give it to me, Artie,? hissed Jesse. He hefted the tiny digital camera and made sure the controls were set, then he carefully eased the door slightly open. He and Artie peered through the crack. They saw Billy first, wearing only briefs, his hands covering his genitals. The six year-old was shaking. Carl and Tommy, also in their undies, stood behind him. They appeared just as frightened. Pastor Bob was on his knees beside Billy. He pushed Billy?s hands away as he groped at the boy?s penis. Tears began streaming down Billy?s face.

Jesse swung the door open and stepped inside, the camera flashing as he framed the scene before him. ?Artie, go get Mr. Sams and the guys! Quick!? The next harsh flash from the camera starkly illuminated the desperate faces of the boys, the startled stare from Bob.

?What the fuck! Get out of here, you little shit!? roared the youth minister. He lurched to his feet as Artie turned and ran. Bob lunged toward Jesse but the boy jinked to the side and Bob slammed into the edge of the open door. Dazed, the man swayed uncertainly as footsteps came pounding down the hallway.

Later that afternoon Jesse and Artie were shooting baskets in Artie?s driveway. ?Did you see all the police cars!? Artie was recounting the experience for maybe the fiftieth time. Jesse just grinned, swerved, and dunked the ball past Artie?s guard. ?It?s going to be in the newspaper! Dad said he was going to give you the camera!?

?I told you we don?t do angels,? said Jesse.


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Thank you. When I wrote this I wanted to depict a setting all too often found within our institutions where many of our young people are exposed to exploitation by those in authority in ways that are sanctioned or ignored. Within this dynamic I wanted to show a young man, still at the beginning of his journey toward maturity, who is instinctively sensitive to the wellbeing of those who are younger, weaker, more innocent. What can a relatively powerless boy do to combat evil, without becoming a victim himself?


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