Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Gossip/Rumors (either or both) (10/28/10)
TITLE: The Last Square Left in the Casserole Pan
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I'm a quiet-natured female.
I don't get much attention.
Logic comes in handy when making assessments about life, love, and God, and this assessment doesn't upset me. There's freedom in not showing up on anyone's radar screen—the unobserved observer.
But when Noah, aka Guitar Boy, asked if I'd accompany him during the end-of-month worship service, I caught Amanda scrutinizing me. She turned away—presumably to look at who was coming through the door, but then paused at Gina's ear. There Amanda's lips moved like one of those paper fortune-tellers we used to make as kids—open-long, open-wide, open-long open-wide. I'd landed on Amanda's radar.
She thinks I've become involved with Noah.
We spend time with those we like.
I've been spending time with Noah.
I like Noah.
But I don't. In this case, logic is working against me.
Noah can't be older than twenty-four or five—I'm twenty-eight. With heels, I’m taller than he is. His hair is almost as long as mine. Or maybe it's longer—he keeps it pulled back, a cable of entwined rope. A mat of sideburns starts at his temples.
I wouldn't be surprised if I found a tattoo. It would be something artsy on the side of his arm so that when he wore a t-shirt, the bottom third of the design would extend past his sleeve. There'd be plenty of green ink—like turbulent ocean swirls that matched his—never mind. The point is that Noah is not a good match for me.
"Hi Joss." The greeting startles me—there's no preamble, no swoosh of the sanctuary door over the carpet to announce his arrival.
"Hey there, Noah," I say. "We'd better get started. Amanda said they'd be here at six-fifteen to rehearse the rest of the program."
"No problem." He waves his free hand, his guitar case swaying from the other. Guitar-boy can saunter. He's wearing the exact same outfit he's worn to every practice—tight jeans, concert t-shirt, with a light blue Chambray shirt over—no buttons buttoned.
I don't care if he wears the same thing every week, but his outer shirt has spatter marks on it—like oil stains. It makes me wonder if his clothes ever get washed. They must, though. I haven't noticed him smelling foul—in fact, he wears some kind of sandalwood something that's reminiscent of the o—never mind.
"Give me a sec to plug in and tune up," says Noah, lifting the electric guitar from its case. It's a beautiful instrument; the burled wood of the body is eye-catching even under layer after layer of acrylic sealer. I wish Amanda hadn't caught me running my hand over its glossiness last week while Guitar Boy was refilling his water bottle. As if she needs fuel.
Noah's fingers begin traveling the metal strings along the neck. He makes adjustments on the receiver. Twenty-year-old Amanda in her rocker boots would make a great match for him. Even Gina, by virtue of age, would suffice. I'm more like the last square of casserole left in the pan at a pot-luck supper—the one that's ragged at the edges and gets replaced with a fresh tray.
"I'm ready," he says.
"Me too." The lyrics to "From the Inside Out" are propped on the music stand; the microphone is set. But then Amanda and Gina push through the double doors—a half-hour early. Noah taps his foot, finds the notes, the chords, and I know there's no way I'm coming in on cue.
This music, this praising of the Father undoes me—leaves me exposed, wanting layers of acrylic sealer protecting me. I don't need Amanda misinterpreting my vulnerability.
"What's wrong?" asks Noah after two unanswered intros.
"I'm not cut out for this."
"But you bring something uniquely beautiful to this song."
Pa-poom, pa-poom, pa-poom—drums my chest. Amanda and Gina are watching from the third row.
"That's great—truly, but wouldn't you prefer the first square of casserole to the last?"
Noah gives me the confused look my question deserves. "Actually, Joss," he says shaking his head, "I love the last one—I get to scoop up the cheese left behind by all those amateur casserole eaters."
Amanda whispers from the side of her mouth. It's like a reflex. Maybe she can't help it.
What does it really matter anyway?
Guitar Boy loves the last square.
I'm the last square.
The resulting logic is enough to do me in.
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