"Hey you!" she called, peering up from her armory of blankets.
"Hi!" the stranger exclaimed, needlessly loud.
"Who're you?" the Brit inquired, cocking an eyebrow and leaning forward to inspect him, clearly having a spot of fun with the nervous wreck.
"Parker," the boy replied quickly. "A-Are you the troupe?" he asked almost apologetically, his oak-colored eyes darting from Mali, to Gordon, to Joe and back again in rapid succession.
"Relax, Parker," Joe offered. "You're at the right place. You are here for the trip, I take it?"
"That's right," Parker affirmed. "I saw your flyer in the commons."
"What's he so nervous about?" Gordon asked Mali and Joe as if Parker was long gone from earshot. Mali shrugged.
"I'm not supposed to be here, so when are we leaving?" Parker urged. "Can we leave now?"
"It's still early," Joe said, shaking his head. He silently wondered to himself what he had gotten himself into, now in the clear and present company of these loonies.
"Why don't you tell us a story, mate?" Gordon insisted, producing the die from his pocket.
"I don't want to go first!" Parker exclaimed with horror, raising his hands in front of him as though to ward off an invisible assailant.
"No worries on such things, because you're not," Gordon said with a snake's grin, pitching the die to the pavement. It tumbled end over end until finally settling, its ruby-colored surface reflecting in the light of the mid-afternoon sun. Three white potchmarks stared up at them.
"Okay, Parker," Joe said plainly. "It's your soapbox. A three means you can rant about anything you want - so, you know, go ahead."
"Well, I don't know what to talk about. I don't know a lot about a lot of things," Parker said, wiping at the faint wisps of sweat tickling the back of his neck. "I do love Jesus, I know a lot about that."
"Yeah, that's the right stuff, man," Gordon encouraged. "Church and all that, right? Do you guys pitch the whole barbeque show on the Fourth, mate? Streamers and fireworks and the whole deal?"
Mali rolled her eyes. "Gordon, shut up." She shook a jingling fist in his direction. "This is Parker's story."
"Right, yeah, okay - go on, Parker, great story," Gordon nodded, exuding amusement - no, wonderment - at the very thought of a lecture by one of the real Red-Blooded Americans.
Okay, well, it's like I said - I love Jesus. I mean, who wouldn't? He's the Son of God and he died for my sins, and your sins, and everyone's sins. Except the abortionists. And the Muslims. And the gays. But that's not important, I'm sure God has some plan to deal with the Devil in them. He always does.
Anyway, well, I, you see, my whole family's really filled with faith. As long as I could remember, Church was more than just a Sunday morning deal for us. My mom sings in the Church choir and my dad sometimes dresses like a clown for the birthday parties they hold for members. A lot of kids did Little League or went to camp for the summer, but not me. Well, I did go to camp, once, but it wasn't like swimming and canoeing, but - you know that really awesome Christian rock band He Has Forgiven Me? - yeah, they played a concert for us on the last day. It was super cool.
But yeah, a lot of people these days don't believe in God. I think that's stupid. For one thing, they're going to go to Hell for it, all because they thought they were so smart and knew better. But what really gets me is how often they talk down their noses at us, like we're children or something. I wish we could have them all thrown in jail.
So what if I believe in God? It just so happens that I'm right!
And really, what's the point in not believing in God? Does it make you happier to think there's no one watching out for you? That when you die, there's nothing else, no reward for living a good Christian life? I mean, there has to be something to everything, right?
... Right? You guys, please say I'm right...