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Jesus Boy

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A majestic novel that will launch Allen into the ranks of Junot Díaz and Toni Morrison.

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Excerpt from Jesus Boy

V. Testament of Exile
Book of Ezekiel 4:13
And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.

The Freshman

Jedediah Witherspoon, Reverend Jed as he was called, held court every day at noon in the Plaza of the Americas, a tree-lined public forum and major thoroughfare on the campus of the University of Florida, and as the students passed through he accosted them like a twentieth-century Samuel. To a couple holding hands: Your parents sent you here to make grades, not babies!

To a long-haired man drinking beer from a paper bag: God has a new weapon for dealing with the slothfulits called Ronald Ray-gun. Zap! Zap!

To the Krishnas serving vegetarian meals in the plaza and their potential recruits: Heed not the false prophet! God is no cow!

The reverends doggedness, which reminded Elwyn of himself before he had sinned, never failed to attract a sizeable crowd. Unfortunately, many of the other students came only to make sport of his ministry. Some of them called him Big Black Jed.

One young man went so far as to wear blackface makeup and a suit similar to the reverends, then, positioning himself a few feet to the left of the fiery evangelist, proceeded to shadow him throughout the sermon.

When Reverend Jed raised his Bible to heaven, the young man raised his.

When Reverend Jed fell to his knees to cry Hosanna! the young man knelt also, like a mime in training.

When Reverend Jed pointed at two men holding handsGod has a new weapon for dealing with the sodomite!the crowd exploded with laughter, for his blackface twin had beaten him to the punch line.

Ronald Ray-gun. Zap! Zap! said the young man, aiming his forefinger.

Reverend Jed, set on edge from hours of fruitless evangelizing among the cackling throng, dropped his Bible and his pacifist stance and approached the boy.

Sensing the danger, Reverend Jeds daughter ran and thrust herself between the scrawny student and her father, a man of great height and girth, whose other nickname was The Goliath of God.

A somber-faced young woman in white tennis shoes and a shapeless black dress, Sister Donna restrained Reverend Jed with a hand on his shoulder. Daddy, she reminded, other sheep need tending.

The Bible in his hand again, the angry black preacher barked after the boy: The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion!and he and his daughter went back to evangelizing and soliciting donations from the jeering, foolish throng.

But now, lamented Elwyn, I am numbered among the foolish.

Six weeks into his freshman year and already he had gone back twice to be with Sister Morrisohn. It seemed they couldnt spend enough time together.

Last trip, after he kissed his family goodbye and got into his car laden with clean laundry and Tupperware containers of his mothers fried chicken and homemade cookies, he drove north on the turnpike forty miles before suddenly crossing the median and making a U-turn.

When he got back to Sister Morrisohn, she fell into his arms crying, Elwyn. Elwyn, my darling.

Peeling off her clothes.

And his.

Up before the morning sun, he stumbled into the bathroom, braced himself against the sink, peered into the mirror at his shameless sinners face, his shameless erection.

He got back to Gainesville at 1:35 p.m., five minutes late to his calculus class, and as the professor lectured he slept facedown in his textbook and dreamt dreams of a sexual nature.

 

In Gainesville, Elwyn took care to avoid those who knew him as a Christian from back home. Upon their approach, he pedaled down many a wrong street and ducked into stores he had no intention of entering, looking, always looking, the other way. He was indeed a backslider. But, he reasoned, a backslider is less evil than a hypocrite.

Scripture says the hypocrite is a foul smell in the nostrils of God, but Christ is married to the backslider.

The word of God is the word of God.



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