[Non-Fiction] Only Human
I tagged along to the 4-H meeting, wanting to join. “It’s a great club,” my friend says. “It’s so diverse.” All ages—kids, even younger than her little sister, all the way to old people, even her grandparents. Country and city people. Poor and rich people, etcetera, etcetera. But when I get there, a blond girl standing by the door takes one look at me and asks, “Are you Christian?”
“Um, yeah,” I say. My mom was raised Presbyterian, I think it was Presbyterian, so that makes me half Christian, right?
My mom told me once why we didn’t go to church. When she was very young, there were these big steps in front of her school. At the last bell before summer vacation, all the kids came pouring out the front door and running down the steps. “Slow down! You’re running like a bunch of heathens,” a teacher yelled. My mom asked her mom what “heathen” meant. Why, she then wondered, would a heathen run differently from anyone else?
She also told me about a time there was a huge snowstorm and not many people showed up to church. Her family lived close enough to walk, but it was impossible to drive. Still, the pastor went on and on about how the absent people were weak, how being “only human” was not an excuse, how they were all going to hell. For missing church, once, in a snowstorm.
There was also the time a boy was crying in Sunday School because his cat had died. Someone said it was OK because of heaven. “No,” the teacher snapped. “Heaven is for people. Of course cats don’t go to heaven, they’re just dead.” My mom thought this was cruel.
These stories were why she agreed with my father and we didn’t go to a Christian church. I later learned from books that God and nature were really the same. Zeus threw lightning, turned into a bull, an eagle, a swan. The Buddha experienced life as an elephant, a monkey, a goose. And this is considered enlightened.
At the 4-H meeting, the blond girl grills me about what denomination I am, where I attend services, etcetera, etcetera. When I don’t have the right answers to these questions, she literally turns her back, without a word to me, as if I were nothing but a heathen, only human, a dead cat. She then goes on talking to the other girls about Sunday School, church camp, Bible Study, missionary trips, and other secret clubs of which I’d never be a part.
a house wren chattering—
God only knows
Jennifer Met lives in a small town in North Idaho with her husband and children. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for Nimrod‘s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and winner of the Jovanovich Award. Recent work is published or forthcoming in Gravel, Gulf Stream, Harpur Palate, Juked, Kestrel, Moon City Review, Nimrod, Sleet Magazine, Tinderbox, and Zone 3, among other journals. She is the author of the chapbook Gallery Withheld (Glass Poetry Press, 2017).