Natasha, Mari, Julia and I are collaborating on writing short stories that point to God, that also reach into those places within us that hurt, that hide in the dark, that are ahamed, or afraid, or lonely, or sad.

The next few stories explore what Jesus might have meant when he gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. What does it mean to love our neighbor, one who is hurting, who feels abandoned, who needs help?

The Samaritan showed love, tenderness, and care to someone of Jewish faith and descent, one of God’s own.
These stories are meant to start the conversation of how we can live that out in our culture today.

Though it’s dark and lonely and it’s hard to understand

That nothing falls to pieces for the lowly

Oh just lift your gaze upon the lights above the hills

So we will sing, on the road less traveled

Danielle Noonan, “The Road Less Traveled”

Walking towards the restaurant, he scanned the few people standing around the entrance, and those sitting in their cars, waiting to pick up their orders. Where was his friend? He remembered the last time he’d seen her, slender and shapely, thick shining hair sweeping past her shoulders, and always in a sundress and espadrilles.

He pushed his glasses back up his nose, pinched his face mask a little more tightly, ran his fingers over his shaggy hair, and straightened his shirt. Maybe she would see him, first.

Sure enough, “Ranger Stranger!” came ringing across the parking lot. He spun around, all at once startled and delighted.

“Danni Druid!”

But the person running towards him had short parted hair, a button-down shirt with the cuffs rolled up, and straight-cut jeans.

Danni laughed at his puzzled expression. “Didn’t recognize me?” her voice was deep and kind, and he could feel his momentary tenseness ease into the warm affection of remembered familiarity. He shook his head with a half-grin. He’d had a not-so-secret crush on Danni for a long time, playing Dungeons and Dragons in college, then skyping those first years out in the world, but long distance had finally done its work, and their interaction of late had been only now and then.

“Man, it’s great to see you,” he said.

Danni smiled, one corner of her mouth cocked a little higher than the other. She pulled a crumpled mask out of her front pocket, rolled the bands over her ears and replied, “Now you see me, now you don’t.” He’d always had trouble reading the subtext, but even he could tell Danni meant more than she was letting on.

Once settled at their table, sipping on their newly delivered glasses of ice water, he asked the question that had been edging all around inside him. “Something’s new with you.” He made it sound like a statement, but the question hung between them. She shrugged one shoulder.

“I always loved this place,” she said. “Best sushi in town. Good pick! You getting your usual California roll, salmon sashimi, extra ginger?”

He nodded, grinned, and rattled off Danni’s favorite, “Eel, octopus, chef’s pick, and the weirdest in-season they’ve got!”

They both laughed, heads thrown back, loud enough that even the social distanced tables of diners looked over, surprised and annoyed. Sheepish but without regret, they both shrugged their apologies, then Danni began in low tones, “But . . . yeah, I’ve got something to tell you.” She was looking down now, picking at a hangnail, and he could feel his chest tighten.

“Hey, don’t be a Debbie Downer, Danni Druid!” he said, in his fake hearty voice. She looked up briefly, eyes crinkling a little.

“I go by ‘Dan,’ now, Ranger.” Her eyes were locked on his, and she looked a little . . . scared?

He blanked.

Seconds ticked by.

She—that couldn’t mean what he thought it meant. What it sounded like. He grabbed at his water, sloshing it a little too hard, and stuck the straw up under his mask, letting the cold water fill his mouth before he gulped it down. “What . . . what are you talking about?”

“I mean, I’m ‘Dan,’ now. I’m trans.”

It felt like every hair on his body was standing straight up, and he was finding it hard to breath. He held onto his water with both hands, feeling a little dizzy. No. Not beautiful Danni. Not the girl he’d always half-believed would change her mind about him.

“Aren’t you, like, a Christian?” It was making no sense. He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes, as though that might help. “I mean, aren’t there rules, or something?”

His sister was a chaplain, she was always praying for him and telling him stuff. So had Danni, when they were in college, stuff from the Bible.

“I am still a Christian.” Dan’s voice was calm, measured. “God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn it, but to save the world through him, that’s John 3:17, the next verse.”

“But what about all that stuff in the Bible? Like, like, not trying to look like the opposite sex?” He was miserable. He felt his secret hope that something might finally be kindled between them being crushed dead inside him.

“I can tell you all about it,” Dan said, then smiled tentatively, “Maybe over some of the ‘weirdest in-season they’ve got?'”

At that moment, the waiter served up their food.

[Glass of ice-water |]

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