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of course he loved the story of Joshua in the Bible the best. He had been named for him, after all. And there was a magic about it: the idea that the voices of the people could cause the walls to crumble.
He didn’t say any of this at Bible study, though. Something had changed in him this summer. He no longer wanted to reveal his understanding of the Bible to the others. Now he was like the others: bored, complacent. He would not, however, slump in his folding metal chair like some of them. Regina didn’t deserve rudeness. Since she was the leader of the youth group she was supposed to be called Miss Regina, but she had recently told them to please not do that anymore unless they were in front of the preacher. “It makes me seem like a kindergarten teacher,” she had said, quietly, as if [End Page 15] speaking loudly would put too fine a point on this small defiance. She was the only relatively cool adult at their church. Unlike her husband, the music leader for the youth group, she didn’t try to be cool. Lonnie was always strutting around or posed somewhere strumming his guitar and trying to get everyone to do singalongs of “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” with him. The kids liked Regina because she wasn’t openly judgmental, like the others, and found small ways to show this.
She could have been really pretty, Joshua thought. At twenty-one she was barely five years his senior. Regina was very slender, with a long, elegant neck. Her hands floated in front of her like birds as she tried to draw comments out of the teenagers gathered around her. But she was so intentionally plain, the way the women at the Cumberland Valley River of Life Church were expected to be. No makeup, no jewelry, their dresses ill-fitting and styled for old women. Even her pantyhose were awful: white. Joshua couldn’t understand why anyone would wear pantyhose to make their legs appear more white, especially in summertime.
She wore her long sleeves throughout the summer, too, and he knew why. Once her sleeve had slid away from her wrist and Joshua had caught sight of three round bruises the size of fingertips on her forearm. She had jerked the cuff of the blouse back down to her wrist and crossed her arms as if freezing.
“What do you think, William?” Regina asked the new preacher’s son, who was gorgeous but Joshua couldn’t let himself think about that. His big mop of curly brown hair was made more wonderfully disheveled each time he thoughtlessly ran his long fingers through it. His right hand possessed a constellation of freckles arranged on that meaty V below his thumb. Joshua wanted to kiss those freckles and William’s full lips, the color of red grapes.
William was saying how the story of the Battle of Jericho was about obedience. “Joshua always does what God tells him, even when it seems crazy, like marching around the city seven times and then shouting.” Joshua looked at Regina to avoid staring at William and found that her eyes were firmly locked on William’s beautiful hands.
“I think Joshua should talk about it since he’s named Joshua,” William said, in conclusion, a little laugh at the edges of his words.
Joshua snapped his chin up, suddenly alert, like someone who has been dozing in class. All eyes of the group were on him now. William had been thinking of him. William actually knew his name. This was only the new boy’s second visit to Bible study. His father had started as the new pastor at Cumberland Valley just a couple weeks ago. They had never spoken to one another.
“Well?” Regina said. “Joshua?”
“I don’t know,” he said, stammering. “It’s a pretty good story, I guess.”
“Why?” Regina asked. [End Page 16]
“I like that they bring the walls down without violence,” he said. “Instead they do it with prayer. With their trumpets and voices.” He...