“The End of Jesus” by Lucy Jane Bledsoe, published in Saints & Sinners 2010: New Fiction from the Festival (Queer Mojo).
I loved this story because I deeply identified with the protagonist, Robin, who yearns for something beyond the four walls of her church’s recreation hall. I was that middle class kid in the Midwest who felt suffocated much of the time, and at others like an alien dropped down from outer space.
For Robin, life changes when she meets Mac, a tough, intelligent, mystery of a girl in “boyish” clothes who challenges the teachings of the church where they meet – and everything else in Robin’s world – merely by turning her back and walking out the door of the recreation hall during a rare moment when the assistant pastor is distracted. Intrigued, Robin follows, just in time to see Mac heading off into the woods. Though she’s afraid, Robin is also primed for an adventure, and dives into the trees after the mystery girl. She catches up to her in the city dump beyond the woods, and there they form a bond as outsiders, a bond which is later shattered by the introduction of a third girl, Sylvia, and the revelation of the extent to which Mac is different from the rest of Robin’s sphere.
The story is told from the perspective of grown-up Robin, drawn back to her hometown by the death of her mother. She’s turning over the events of a summer thirty years in her past, still trying to reconcile her actions and come to terms with the effect that she believes those actions had on others.
There was a Mac in my life. She, too, was a tough, intelligent, mystery of a girl in “boyish” clothes. I followed her into the woods until our paths diverged, when traits I could not reconcile with the rest of the person I respected and admired drove us apart. It’s been almost thirty years since I’ve seen or talked to her; I’d like to believe our story can still end the way Robin and Mac’s does. Only time will tell.