BOZ CHAPTER 9: The Date (Mary)
For that half hour before Boz was due to arrive, I’d been a nervous wreck. I’d paced the floor, bit my nails and looked myself over in the bathroom mirror at least ten times. The way I was acting, you’d think I’d never been on a date before. That was because I hadn’t. I was almost 18 and had never been out on anything close to a date.
Looking myself over in the mirror again, I found it hard to believe, but I had been asked — several times. And I’m still not sure why I’d turned them all down.
Those guys must have been desperate! I gave myself another look, making an even dozen. What did they ever see in me? I’d forgotten that I hadn’t always been afraid of the world; it had only been since that terrible summer that I’d let myself go and, crawled into a shell.
The prospect of a date with Boz had peeled that shell open and I didn’t like the bright light now shining on me. Since we’d become such good friends my confidence had grown, but I was still a long way from being what anyone would call outgoing. Being with Boz would cause heads to turn, so I’d tried to get ready.
I’d done what I could with my hair. Most girls wore theirs straight and parted in the middle, but mine didn’t lend itself well to that. It was a thick mess. It needed to be thinned and trimmed, but there was no time for that, so I’d used vinegar and worked to get the tangles out. I noticed some shine and softness as I pulled it back in a ponytail.
I did the best I could with what was in my closet, but it had been so long since I’d even cared how I looked, I was out of practice. The bellbottoms and peasant blouses of the day were foreign to me. I thought of pulling out my Wranglers and Tony Lamas, but settled for Levi’s and tennis shoes and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
I thought of borrowing some of Mom’s makeup but had never worn any before and didn’t know how to put it on. Besides, I’d been told that my eyes were pretty enough without it. But it really didn’t matter, Boz would never be able to even see my eyes through my scratched up lenses.
I turned those ugly glasses over several times in my hands. Maybe I’ll just leave them home. I put them on and pulled them back off. Then, seeing what the world looked like without them, I put them back on again.
I was a little pleased with the thirteenth look in the mirror. I looked better. Maybe I won’t embarrass him. I just hoped I didn’t look too good. No, let me explain.
You see, it was impossible to go to Empire, especially if you hung out with Underdogs, and not hear the stories. Apparently, Boz had dated half the female population and, well, you know, had had his way with them.
Before that moment, none of that worried me. I was just his little study partner. Oh, I’d fantasized that it could be something more, but with all the beautiful girls at Empire, I knew Boz would never give me a second glance. And although I knew this was just a charity date, that girl looking back at me from the mirror was kind of cute. She shook me up.
There’s no way he’ll find me attractive. Besides, I’m a good girl and won’t let anything happen.
“Oh, it’s no use,” I groaned to the girl in the mirror, “I’m a girl and he’s Boz Burton. What am I going to do if he tries something?” I started to panic. I was thinking about getting sick, tearing off my clothes and jumping into bed, when I heard the doorbell ring. I froze – head racing – as I heard Mom greeting him. I thawed pretty quickly when I heard him respond. I reached for the doorknob thinking I would lock myself in the bathroom.
“Mary, Boz is here.”
I dropped my hand and turned slowly to the girl in the mirror. At first, she returned a blank stare, but then gave a determined look. I really want to go with him. I’ll just deal with it.
Before I could change my mind, I threw the door open and headed down the hall. It was the bravest thing I’d done in a long time. I paused at the end of the hall, took a deep breath and mustered my courage; then bounded into the living room. “Sorry I took so long!”
He called all the Underdog girls that, but this time it sounded different. I couldn’t decide if it was because he liked what he saw or because I was hearing it in front of my mother. In either case, I felt myself blush.
“You do look nice sweetheart.” Mom’s compliment made me blush even more.
“Thanks, Mom.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“Mrs. Olson, we’re going bowling and then going to have something to eat. When do you want Mary home?” He’d obviously done this before.
I think Mom was blown away. “Midnight would be fine. Please take care of her.”
“You bet I will,” Boz reassured her as he promptly began to demonstrate.
“This yours?” he asked as he took my jacket from the arm of the easy chair. I nodded and he held it for me to put on. As I slid my arms into the sleeves, he slid his arm around my shoulder and gently turned me around. He held the door for me and thanked Mom as she slowly closed the door behind us.
As we walked toward the stairwell, I realized how poised Boz was. In moments both my mother and I had been hypnotized by his charm and we trusted him completely. I slid my arm though his as naturally as if we had been dating for years. He could have, I froze in the middle of my though, anything he wanted.
Boy is he good!
“Wrong? Oh, nothing only…” I couldn’t tell him what I was really thinking, “…it’s just that you didn’t have to do all that.”
“All that perfect gentleman stuff. ‘We’re going bowling, what time do you want her home.” I mimicked his voice and manner. “We’re from Idaho, ya’ know. The boys there usually just honk the tractor horn at the curb.”
“Would you have come if I’d sat at the curb and honked?”
“I suppose,” I answered without much thought.
“I’ll remember that next time.” Boz was gently chiding me and I knew it. “My dad taught me that I’m supposed to be a perfect gentleman when it comes to girls – especially girls I’m dating. I’m sorry if you find it corny, but that’s the way I was raised.”
I didn’t know what to say. I hoped I hadn’t hurt his feelings. There was an awkward silence as we stood at the top of the stairwell and I wondered if I’d ruined everything.
“Besides, horn’s broke on the tractor. ‘Been meanin’ to get that fixed.” He smiled and everything was right again.
Boy is he good!
Boz was a perfect gentleman all night. I caught myself wondering if “felt like a princess” would sound ridiculous in a diary entry that night, but that’s how I felt. I knew I would write “fun” because we had a blast.
We went bowling, which I had only done once before. Seeing that I was terrible, Boz tried trick shots and clowned around. He soon had me laughing so hard, I cried. And I wasn’t sure how the scoring worked, but was sure Boz had cheated when he said I’d won.
“What would you like to eat? You don’t care?” He hadn’t really given me time to answer, so I knew he’d already decided. “Well then, we’ll go to a really romantic place I know.” I hoped he wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on me, but she soon discovered there was no need for worry. The “romantic” spot he’d chosen was Wally’s Drive-in, the place where all the kids from Empire hung out on the weekends. Wally’s was anything but romantic.
Wally’s was not a throwback to the 50’s, it had never come out of the 50’s. The carhops on roller skates, the Coney dogs and double thick malts had drawn kids to that corner for over twenty years. The music in the jukebox had changed, as had the hair and clothing on the customers, but everything else – including Naugahyde upholstery on the booths – had endured.
The place was full – full of music, full of talking, full of laughter and mostly full of people. Boz thrived on it and wanted me to be a part. And as I’d expected, we commanded quite a bit of attention – especially from Scott Seager who couldn’t quit staring at us.
I knew we would run into some Underdogs and worried that as soon as that happened, Boz would forget about me. That theory got tested pretty early as a trio approached our table. I was sure that Boz would spend the rest of the night talking Underdog stuff with them and end our wonderful evening.
Boz greeted them with a loud laugh and they slid into our booth. They were all guys I’d met, but didn’t really know. They all greeted me, but it was obvious they were there to be with Boz. The conversation was pretty general for a minute and then it began to take that bad turn I’d dreaded.
“So, guys,” I’d never heard Boz use that tone before, “Mary and I are on…um…” he turned to me and put his palm to his head, “…what do you call it, a date?” His comment dripped with sarcasm – just the type of humor these Underdogs would understand. “I think the idea is that Mary and I are supposed to be with each other, enjoying each other! So, like, it’s been nice!”.
“Oh, man, we’re sorry. Catch you later Boz.”
The three immediately slid out of the booth showing absolutely no evidence that they were upset. Boz jumped up, gave them each a high five and they were off.
The tall one came back. “Oh, yeah, that reminds me, we’re going to play some basketball Sunday morning at my place. Ya’ wanna come?”
“Sorry guy, but I’m going to Church on Sunday. We’ll do it another time.”
“Church? You crack me up Boz.”
Boz slid back into the booth and sat silently as if he were at a loss for words. It was awkward and I started to glance around the room at nothing particular.
“Would you rather be with your friends?”
Boz reached over and took my clenched fist. He opened it, placed his palm against mine and interlocked our fingers. My palms were all sweaty, but he didn’t seem to mind. He drew my hand up to his face and my eyes followed. His eyes were soft and pleading.
“I really just want to be alone with you tonight,” Boz’s quiet voice was difficult to hear over the noise and I found myself half listening and half lip reading. As I watched his lips, I realized that he was blushing and I was surprised that he could. “I’m sorry if you think I was rude to them, but they need hints once in a while.”
At that moment, I felt the whole world revolved around me. I wanted that night to last forever. I wanted to plant a big kiss on his lips. I loved that boy and wanted him to love me.
Boy is he good at this! The thought was becoming an echo in my head.
I stopped listening and started dreaming. Boz was a cowboy riding on a bay stallion. I was an Indian princess he’d found wading in a mountain stream. He didn’t need to speak my language; the look of desire said it all. He reached down, took me by the hand and pulled me up….
Wait, he wasn’t pulling me up, he was shaking my hand. Why was he…? “Earth to Mary, Earth to Mary, your cheeseburger’s here.”
A cheeseburger was an unromantic way to come out of my fantasy but, realizing that it was still my little secret, I was relieved – and hungry. We both were. We enjoyed the food, the music and the crowd, but most of all we enjoyed each other. I felt myself coming alive.
After we finished, and without saying a word, Boz took my hand and we were off. When we got into the car, Boz turned and patted the spot right next to him. “You don’t have to sit way over there by the door.” I slid part way over. He took my hand and pulled me closer. “There, that’s cozier.” I punched him in the thigh and grunted, but I didn’t move.
“We still have about an hour before you’re supposed to be home,” his voice had dropped to a Barry White octive, “Can I take you up and show you something really beautiful?”
“What is it?”
“Remember I promised you a tour of the city? I know a place where we can go and see the whole city at once. It’s quiet there and we can talk.”
Here it is! I always wondered how guys did it and especially how this guy would do it. This was a good line. He looked innocent and sounded innocent. He had been so good to me. I’d been a princess for a night and didn’t want to turn back into a pumpkin again, not yet, but I had to turn him down. I summoned all my courage and turned to end the most wonderful night of my life.
I was surprised and a little shocked at myself, but I had looked into those sweet, earnest eyes. And, with that, we were off. I came close to changing my mind several times over the next ten minutes, once when I saw the strange smile on his face; closer when he slid a Bread tape into the 8-track; and closest when he turned off the main road onto one that led up into the foothills.
The road was narrow and wound upward into dense woods. It was rutty, full of rocks and didn’t look very well traveled. If we hadn’t been in Bertha, I might have worried about damage, but I was not worried about the car. I was worried about this boy’s intentions. My mind raced faster the further up we went.
I was just about ready to demand that Boz turn around and take me home when we emerged from the woods at the top of the world. We were stopped at the edge of a clearing that overlooked all of Morgana. It seemed to go on forever. As city views went, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I let out a gasp.
“I knew you’d like it.” He was enjoying this as much as I was. We sat there in rapt silence. I was enjoying the view and Boz was enjoying my awe.
Absorbed by the beauty, I forgot my fears. I was afloat in the splendor of the scene as the last strains of a song floated from Bertha’s speakers. As the notes hung in the air, I heard Boz’s voice. It was quiet and low.
“Mary, I don’t bring many people up here, but you…”
I cut him off in mid-sentence. In a split second, I went from dreaming, to frightened, to offended, to angry. I appreciated all he had done for me that night, but now he was going to take advantage of me. He was going to say some sweet thing that was supposed to make me dizzy. Then his arm would slide around me and he’d pull me close. Then he’d kiss me. I turned to face him and, with a look I’m sure he’d not seen since that first day in front of the school, gave him a one-sentence tongue-lashing.
“Here I am you masher, plant one on me!”
BOZ CHAPTER 10: That’s a Shocker
The best night of Mary’s life was about to become the worst night of her life!
She’d been treated so well and had so much fun. She couldn’t have imagined a more perfect date. Boz had been so attentive. He’d made her feel like a princess. He’d been a perfect gentleman until just now!
She didn’t want to end it, but felt like she had no choice. She wasn’t going to have people say those things about her. Thinking about it made her both scared and angry. She didn’t have time to be clever so she just blurted out.
“Here I am you masher, plant one on me!” And with that she pursed her lips into a grotesque pucker.
There was a moment of dead silence before Mary heard the low rumbling of a chuckle, which evolved into a hoot and finally erupted into a thundering laugh. Boz found something funny – way beyond funny – and he was immediately inebriated by the hilarity. He hit the steering wheel and rocked back and forth as he roared. Tears came to his eyes, as he pulled weakly on the door handle. He finally got his door open and promptly fell right out of the car.
Bertha’s creaking door made him laugh harder. Hitting the ground made him laugh even harder. He picked himself up and tried to walk around the front of the car, but when he saw Mary’s shocked face illuminated by the dome light, he collapsed across the hood and rolled off the front of the car.
Mary sat stunned trying to figure out what was happening. Boz’s laughter was so contagious that she would have laughed too, had she not been so embarrassed – but embarrassed she was. Apparently Boz found the idea of kissing her hilarious.
Tears welled up in her eyes and she felt her face blush deep red. No kind words or smile from Boz would make her feel better. She had to get out of there before he tried. She took her turn fumbling for the door handle as she choked back a scream of frustration.
She could hear him roaring as he banged his fist on the bumper of the car and for a brief moment, she wondered what it would be like to start the car and run over him. But she didn’t want to run over him, she didn’t want to have anything to do with him; she just wanted to go home. When she finally got her door open, all she wanted to do was run away. She tumbled from the car and stomped blindly down the dark road.
Boz heard the door creak and dragged himself to his feet expecting to see Mary coming around her side of the car, but when he saw her headed down the dark road, he knew she was upset. He started to follow her. “Mary,” he called still laughing. He just couldn’t seem to quit. “Mary, wait up.”
Boz stumbled down the road feeble from laughter. He overtook her and grabbed her arm, but his grip was weak. She broke away and started to run. Boz caught up with her again and got a stronger hold. He pulled her around, drew her close and wrapped his arms around her. She struggled to get away, but he held her tight. She finally decided it was no use and gave up.
When Boz felt her relax, he reached up and tried to lift her chin, but she resisted. Boz didn’t want to hurt her, so he let her have her way. It was then that he felt her begin to quiver and he realized that she was sobbing. His heart melted.
“Mary, don’t cry. I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just that it’s so funny that you thought I was going to…” he couldn’t finish because he was starting to chuckle again. Mary started to tense up so he forced himself to stop.
“Please don’t tell me you believe all that stuff that goes around about me?”
The question brought her tears to an immediate end. “What stuff?” Mary lied through a sniffle
“You know. All that stuff the Underdogs say. All the stuff everybody says.”
“Well, I have heard…” how embarrassing was this going to be to say?
Boz saved her the embarrassment, “…that I’ve dated every girl at Empire.”
“Only half of them.”
“Oh, only half of them?” “So, the other half hasn’t been up here to make out with me?” He felt Mary shiver at the use of the phrase. “Oh, it gets worse,” he was now on a roll. “Tom calls me the hickey king.”
“That’s disgusting,” Mary shifted uncomfortably in his arms and he let her go.
“Oh, I am too much of a gentleman to repeat the disgusting things they say,” he paused for emphasis, “and you believed all that?”
Mary was silent! What could she say? It dawned on her that she had believed; she’d judged this boy unjustly. All she could think to say was, “Yes, and I’m sorry.” She waited for one of his humorous retorts to break the tension, but it didn’t come. This was as serious as she’d ever seen him.
“Mary, I’ve dated a lot of girls, but I’ve never done anything like that. I’ve never even tried anything like that. I guess I should have denied it all when it started, but I always thought it was funny. You know, like a perpetual practical joke.”
“Do you think it’s funny to the girls that have had to listen to people drag their names through the mud?”
Boz realized he’d never thought about what they felt and he suddenly felt terrible. “You are so right. I am sorry for being such a jerk. All I thought about was how embarrassed I was. It is not funny and I will never let that happen again. I promise.”
He stood there holding her for several minutes before a slight smile appeared on his face and he spoke with in an ironic tone. “I’m sorry, but do you want to know something that is funny
“What?” Mary was relieved to hear the lilt in his voice.
“I have never even kissed a girl before.”
The revelation shocked Mary. She truly couldn’t believe it. They stood again in silence, looking over each other shoulders into the darkness – each wondering how the other was feeling.
Then, just as the silence began to be uncomfortable, the laughter volcano began to rumble again. “What the heck is a masher…” was all he got out before the eruption.
This time, however, the mood was different. Mary playfully pushed him as she headed for the car. He caught up with her and found her laughing. He took her hand and held it tightly.
Mary was relieved in a dozen different ways, but most of all she was relieved that the most wonderful night of her young life hadn’t ended sadly. Boz kept hold of her hand as they walked back to the car, where Bertha’s hood provided just enough warmth against the chilly fall night. They sat for a long time and talked and enjoyed the view.
All too soon, Boz was looking at his watch and reminding Mary of her curfew. He helped her into the car, turned the beast around and headed down the bumpy road. Mary was pleased to notice that Boz drove home slowly.
Arriving at the apartment, just a minute before midnight, they found Mary’s mother waiting. She put down the book she’d been reading and invited Boz in to say goodnight. Boz and Mary reported on the date and Mary’s mother thanked Boz for having her home on time.
“I’m going to bed now,” Mrs. Olson hinted, “and you need your sleep too young lady.” With that, she left the two to say goodnight.
Mary took Boz’s hand and, as if it were a matter of unfinished business, asked, “What were you going to say to me before I freaked out up there tonight?”
Boz hesitated. What had seemed so easy to say up there on the hill would now be difficult with her mother in the next room. He took Mary’s other hand and pulled her close so he could whisper. “I know you’ll think this is a line, but I think you are a very special girl. I want you to know that despite what you think of Mary Olson, I think she is wonderful.’
Mary didn’t know what to say. All she knew was that even though she’d loved this boy all along, she really loved him now. She really wanted to be more than his friend. She imagined that he was taking her face in his hands and tipping it back gently. She closed her eyes and imagined that he was about to kiss a girl for the first time. Then she realized that she wasn’t imagining anything.
She felt a soft tingle as their lips brushed and then a strange thrill as they pressed together. She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. She closed her eyes more tightly and let it happen. Then suddenly it was over – his warm lips were gone and his hands no longer caressed her cheeks.
Mary opened her eyes to find Boz smiling in a shy and surprised way. She smiled back and wondered what her Prince Charming would do next?
“Goodnight,” he said in a masculine whisper as he backed toward the door. Then the handsome, gallant and always poised Boz Burton turned and fell right over the footstool where Mary’s mother had left her book.
Boz knelt up and looked around as if in a daze. He wasn’t embarrassed. He wasn’t laughing. He was just dizzy. He picked up the book he’d knocked to the floor and looked at the cover. He smiled, but didn’t know why. He helped himself up with the hassock, replacing the book at the same time.
Looking over his shoulder, he saw Mary smiling and pressing her hand to her lips. He moved toward the door, wondering what she was thinking. He was a little embarrassed now and just wanted to get away.
Half-giddy over what he had done, it took a while for the surprise to register. As a matter of fact, he was halfway home before he realized what had so surprised him. It wasn’t the kiss. It wasn’t the footstool. It was the title of the book Mary’s mother had been reading. It was The Book of Mormon.
BOZ CHAPTER 11: Sunshine in My Soul
The Burton family didn’t do Sunday mornings. They put a lot of effort into life the rest of the week, but really took the “day of rest thing” to heart. So, when his alarm went off this particular Sunday morning, Boz was not a happy camper. He pulled himself to the edge of the bed and peered over. It looked like a mile to the floor. He kicked at the covers until he freed one leg, but it was cold out there so he pulled it back in.
A seductive voiced whispered to him, reminding him that he’d spent all Saturday on school work; that he’d even fought the temptation to call Mary; that he deserved another hour at least.
He had all but given in when another voice roared a firm “No!”
He’d promised himself that if he ever had the opportunity to go back to the Mormon Church, nothing would stop him. His parents had been reluctant to let him go – really more worried about Liz, who worshiped Boz and would want to try everything he tried. But after he promised not to tell her anything about it, they agreed to let him go; and this was the first Sunday since.
He wrestled himself from the grasp of the warm bed and headed upstairs for the bathroom. He splashed warm water on his face and reached for his shaving cream and razor. Shaving while half-awake was dangerous at best, but with the first pull of the razor Boz knew something was wrong. The stroke left a burning scrape that would certainly cause a rash.
His safety razor shouldn’t have done this, not with the new blade he’d put in a couple of days earlier. He opened it and found a clog of hairs far too long and bristly to have come from his face. He immediately knew that they were leg hairs and whose leg hairs they were.
Apparently, talking sensibly to Liz about this matter hadn’t worked, so stronger “language” was in order. He filled the bathroom glass with cold water and headed to her room.
Finding the door slightly ajar, he approached on tiptoes, ready for a “hit and run”. He pushed the door open and found Liz lying atop her bedspread, still dressed in the clothes she’d gone out in the night before.
This is going to be good.
He tried to move quietly, but the floor creaked. Liz started and he knew he’d have to strike fast, but the girl that turned to face him was not at all what he expected. Instead of the sleepy imp he’d come to torture, he saw a sad little creature with a tear stained face. She knew exactly what Boz intended to do, but all she could manage was a pathetic, “please don’t.” Boz’s heart melted. He put the glass down on her night stand and sat next to her on the bed.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” she mumbled as her head fell back to the pillow.
“Liz, what is it?”
She said nothing.
“You’ve got so much mascara running down your face you look like a bad roadmap.”
She just buried her face in her pillow.
Boz sat in silence for a moment, then decided it would be best to just leave her alone for now. He picked up the glass and walked quietly out of the room.
Besides, he reminded himself as he headed back to the bathroom, he didn’t want to be late for Church. He changed the blade, did a quick job on his peach fuzz and a rush job on his teeth. The one thing he would not rush, however, was his shower.
With his hair cut, Boz’s long, hot showers were the last real bone of contention he shared with his father. Even if his dad had been there, giving his “gas bill” speech, it wouldn’t have mattered. Boz needed this shower! He let the hot water caress his still-waking body – the back, the front and the back again. He massaged his head and neck as he rinsed the shampoo from his hair. His skin grew lobster red as he kept turning the hot water up.
He turned his back to the flow and closed his eyes to think. He thought about Mary and chastised himself for not calling her. His thought about Liz and wondered what had her so upset. He thought about school, about going to church and what Linda was doing that morning. He only came back to the present when the water turned cold.
Yes, he’d emptied the hot water tank again.
Stepping from the shower, Boz found himself in a cloud of steam and filled his lungs with the moist warm air. As he dried, he began to hum a happy tune. As he wiped the fog from the mirror, he tried to remember the words. It was a church song. He was still humming when he emerged from the bathroom, into the chilly air of the hallway. He would have sung, he was so happy, but he just couldn’t remember the words.
He stopped humming just long enough to peer into Liz’s room. She had crawled under the covers and appeared to be sleeping.
I have all afternoon to talk to her. I do not want to be late.
Luckily for Boz, traffic was light on Sunday mornings or he would have been late. It took him a while to find the meeting house address in the yellow pages, because it wasn’t under “Mormon Church”. He finally let his finger do the walking until he came across “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.
He laughed as he heard Linda’s voice telling him it was the official name of the Church, remembering the way she’d emphasized “official.” As he wrote the address, he was struck with the irony. The Church he’d gone all the way to Arizona to find was only a few miles from his house. He’d driven by it hundreds of times, but never put the label “Mormon” on it before. Boz was there in ten minutes and slipped into the chapel just as Sunday school opening exercises started.
Boz was immediately struck by the differences between the little church in the mountains and this church in the city. This chapel was huge; the whole Rim Crest building would have fit in it. And it was fancier. Instead of a small upright, these Mormons had a grand piano and an organ. And the pews were padded too.
Boz wondered if the feeling would be different. Wasn’t that the whole reason I came? He tried to recall the feeling from that little white church and the wonderful people that had shared it with him. He was just about to get homesick when he spotted something very familiar.
In the rack in front of him was the same blue hymnal that they’d used in Rim Crest. The tune that had been stuck in his head all morning was in that book. He snatched it from the rack and feverishly thumbed through its pages. There it is.
The rest of the congregation began singing another song as Boz found comfort in the words he’d come to love on a hot summer day, in a little mountain church.
There is sunshine in my soul today, More glorious and bright, Than glows in any earthly sky For Jesus is my light.
Things were right again. He turned to the hymn the congregation was on and sang along.
He listened carefully to the opening prayer. One of the things he had hated about going to church as a child were the long, sermon-like prayers the minister would offer. The Mormon prayers he’d heard in Arizona were simple, sincere and brief. This prayer was no exception.
Boz left his eyes closed after the prayer, but continued to listen intently and would have been content to sit like that through the rest of the meeting had he not heard something that made his eyes pop wide open. It was the name Mike Reese.
Boz was sure it had to be another Mike Reese that would be giving the first two-and-a-half-minute talk, but sure enough, it was Empire’s former student body president. He’d gone to school with Mike for two years, but had no idea he was a Mormon. Boz searched his memory for any clue Mike may have given. When Mike finished, the man conducting announced that Mike had just sent in his mission papers. Boz had no idea what that meant, but a murmur of approval rippled through the chapel.
As Boz glanced around the chapel at the faces of the pleased members, he realized that he recognized others of them. They were kids from school and suddenly Boz wondered if being there was a very good idea. At church in Arizona, no one knew anything about me. To these guys I’m the class clown and they’ll think this is a joke. I need to get out of here.
His once-calm mind began to race. He didn’t want to get up in the middle of the meeting, but he couldn’t stay there. He felt uncomfortably warm and knew that his face was red. It would be even more embarrassing to leave now, but then it would all be over. He was just about to make his escape when he remembered that after the opening exercises, everyone went to classes. It would just be a few more minutes and he could get up, walk out with the crowd and be on his way home.
When the congregation was excused, Boz made his way out of the chapel and hustled toward the nearest exit; but he stopped short when he heard a familiar voice.
“Boz? Boz Burton?” Her voice made his heart jump. He turned to see Amy Wilson standing with her hands on her hips and a pretended look of disgust on her face. “You aren’t cutting out on Sunday School are you?”
Amy was a total ray of sunshine and one of the few Preps that wasn’t a total snob. She was always enthusiastic and positive, smiled at everyone as she moved through the halls; and talked to anyone in class. Boz had always excused her for being a Prep because there was just nothing else she could be.
She was the smartest girl he knew – even smarter than Mary. She’d aced all the Honors and A.P. classes and taken college courses in the summer. The few times Boz had shared a class with her, she’d amazed him.
She was gorgeous – the most beautiful girl he knew. She had long dark curls that cascaded down the sides of her face, framing it perfectly. Her emerald green eyes sparkled with life. Boz had often caught himself gawking at her, thinking how her olive complexion served as a perfect backdrop for those eyes and her brilliant smile. He sometimes felt guilty watching her so closely as she cheered and danced with the squad, but he didn’t feel lecherous. He just appreciated her for what she was — a girl that was just that, all girl.
And in his way of thinking she was a perfect girl – smart, beautiful and nice.
As a matter of fact, she was so perfect that she was, for Boz Burton, the one girl that was unapproachable. Boz felt like Mortimer Snerd whenever he was around her. After they’d talk, he could never quite remember what it was he’d said, but was sure it wasn’t his usual clever banter.
And now, here was this perfect girl standing in the foyer of the Mormon Church asking him if he was cutting out on Sunday School. That is exactly what he wanted to do, what he needed to do, but her eyes were so brilliantly green and her lashes so long. She winked and smiled and his resolve to escape began to weaken. She came close, touched his arm and his will to leave left.
“I didn’t know you were LDS,” she said, really asking if he was.
“I’m not and I really don’t know…”
“Well, it’s so cool that you’ve come to visit. Would you like to come to class with me?”
There was no need for an answer. She had already taken his hand and he would have followed her anywhere. She led him to a classroom and dropped his hand to open the door.
Boz took a deep breath; reminiscent of the one Mary Olson had taken that first day of class outside of Garcia’s classroom. I’ll be brave, just like Mary.
Amy swung the door open and pulled Boz in by the arm. The class fell silent as everyone in the room turned to look at them. Boz recognized a few of the faces and wondered what they were thinking. If they thought his appearance there was a prank, they were hiding it well. They were all genuinely smiling at him. Boz felt really welcome.
“Brother James, I’ve brought a visitor with me today,” Amy introduced him to the teacher. “His name is Boz Burton.”
The short, rotund, balding man smiled as he shook Boz’s hand. “I think we have room for one more.” One of the students moved so that Boz and Amy could sit together.
“What should we know about you Boz?” The man asked jovially. Boz hesitated a little, not knowing exactly what to say.
“He goes to school with me at Empire,” Amy answered for him, “he drives a bright yellow station wagon,” Boz was a little surprised that she knew that, “and he has some very interesting friends.”
Boz stole a quick glance at Amy and found a teasing smile. He was a little surprised to have Amy tease him about the Underdogs and even more surprised that he liked it.
Boz smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “That’s about it.” He decided there had been enough revealed about him for one day.
“Great,” Brother James replied. “Welcome again.” He then continued the conversation that Boz and Amy had interrupted – students’ weekly reports on their activities.
Boz learned a lot about these Mormon kids in those few minutes. They all went to M.I.A. – whatever that was – and they were going again this week. He learned that one of the guys was a Boy Scout and would be getting his eagle badge the next Saturday. He also learned, after Brother James had finished pursuing the roll, that a couple of the class members were missing – although he didn’t mention their names.
But the biggest thing Boz learned from those few minutes was that these youth were not divided by their differences; they were, instead, united by their membership in this Church. They all had different interests and hobbies; they lived in far-flung parts of the city; and those who were Emperors almost all belonged to different cliques at school; but today that was all unimportant. Today they were all just Mormons.
Brother James announced that the class would begin a study of the Fourth Article of Faith. He placed a chart with thirteen articles of faith on the chalk tray and had the students read the fourth in unison.
“So, what is faith?” Brother James asked the suddenly quiet classroom. There was an awkward silence and Boz wondered if his presence had made these young people timid about their doctrine.
“It’s believing in something,” one of the class members finally volunteered.
“Good…” Brother James obviously wanted more.
Boz began to remember something that he had read just a couple of nights before from his Book of Mormon. Alma had been teaching about faith. He’d talked about planting a seed. Boz had skimmed over that discourse without much thought because he really wanted to get to the story of Captain Moroni again, but now he wished he’d read more carefully.
He’d been in such a hurry that morning that he’d forgotten to grab his Book of Mormon. He looked around the room and noticed, for the first time, that none of these young people had scriptures either. Then he recognized a copy on the small table behind Brother James.
Boz caught Brother James’ eye as he was scanning the class for anyone who would help him with the definition. Boz nodded toward the blue cover, Brother James handed it to him and Boz flipped it open. Because Boz was so intent in his search for Alma’s discourse, he didn’t notice that the class was now focused on him.
What they saw was a non-member boy suddenly interested in their book of scripture – something that was still much of a mystery to many of them. They were pleased, but a little surprised. Their surprise, however, turned to shock as Boz’s finger went to a spot on a page and his head came up. “Alma says it right here,” Boz couldn’t have been more clueless about the looks he was getting, “he defines faith right here. Do you want me to read it?”
“Yes, please.” Brother James replied wonderingly.
“And now as I said concerning faith – faith in not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore, if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true,” Boz read emphasizing words that he thought helped define faith.
“Thank you Boz, that’s exactly what I was after.” Brother James sounded a little emotional.
“Class, what did you learn from what Boz just read?” This time there was no hesitation on the part of the class. The example of this young man inspired them.
“Faith is more than belief then; it’s belief in something you can’t see,” Amy was the first to respond, “and to be real faith the thing we can’t see must be real.”
“Like what,” Brother James wanted them to think more deeply.
“God,” another girl responded.
“Like priesthood power,” a young man followed up.
Boz wanted to ask what priesthood power was, but thought it might not be the right time.
Brother James went on. “If I believe that the sun will come up in the morning or that a seed that I’ve planted will grow, I have faith in those things? Is that what Alma said?”
The class nodded, but Amy answered out loud. “You’d be believing in things that you can’t see, but are true.”
“And what would be the result of having faith in the sun coming up or a seed sprouting?”
Eight brows furrowed and for a moment there was thoughtful silence. Then Boz raised his hand and Brother James nodded. “If I have faith that the sun will come up in the morning, I’ll plan for and be ready for a new day.”
Amy’s hand was up now. “And if I have faith to plant a seed, I’ll reap what grows.”
“And what’s the difference between having faith in one seed and having faith in a hundred seeds?” Brother James didn’t worry when there was no verbal response to his question; he could see the answer in their eyes. Then he knew it was time to teach them something really important.
“The Prophet Joseph taught that faith is a principle of both action and power. If we have faith we will act – plan for tomorrow, plant the seed – and we will have power – have the advantage of the day or reap the grain. Can you understand that?”
All of the students had heard and understood every word of his mini-lecture. They were feeling the power of faith, coming from a man of faith, as he quoted men of greater faith. No one in the room felt the power more strongly than Boz Burton as he nodded in answer to Brother James’ question. He knew inside himself that all he’d learned that day was true. But he was about to be sent home with a greater truth.
“Now, if there is that kind of power in having faith in seeds or in the sun, what kind of power is there in having faith in the Savior or in the power of the priesthood?” Brother James finished his question just as a bell rang, but no one moved. They were all thinking deeply about his question. Finally, Brother James asked someone to pray and the class dismissed.
Boz thanked Brother James for the lesson and Brother James thanked Boz for coming to his class, neither of them really understanding what the last ten minutes had meant to the other. Boz found Amy waiting in the doorway of the classroom. He felt a little less bashful now, but not much.
“Are you coming back for sacrament meeting tonight,” Amy asked hopefully as they walked down the hall together.
He wanted so badly to say yes, but he’d promised his parents that he would be home by noon and spend the rest of Sunday with the family. “I’ve got some things to do this week, but maybe I can come next time.”
“That would be so cool!” She was obviously pleased that there would be a next time. “Will you wait here for just a minute?” He agreed and she hustled over to a man Boz had heard others call “Bishop.” As she whispered in his ear, he looked in Boz’s direction and smiled. She took the bishop’s arm and led him to meet Boz.
“Amy says you are a friend of hers from school,” he said extending his hand to shake, “I am Bishop Wilson, Amy’s dad.” Bishop Wilson gave a firm handshake, but Boz was sure what he returned must have felt something like cooked pasta. Meeting Amy’s dad and finding out he was her minister at the same time about blew Boz away.
“I, I, I’m very gla..happy to meet you,” Boz stammered, wondering if her father had any clue how Boz felt about his daughter.
“Amy has asked if you could come to dinner with us next Sunday and come back to sacrament meeting afterwards. We would very much like to have you come if you could.”
Boz was sure that he would slobber all over himself if he had to eat at the same table with Amy, but he was thrilled at the prospect of spending an afternoon with her. He accepted – leaving himself to hope it was all right with his parents. Bishop Wilson shook Boz’s hand again, kissed his daughter and headed down the hall.
Amy smiled and shook Boz’s hand just as her father had. She said she had to go, but that she hoped to see him in school the next day. Then she turned and walked down the hall. Boz watched her until she turned the corner; then floated in the general direction of his car.
Just outside the back doors of the church, he saw Mike Reese standing with two older guys. Mike smiled as he saw Boz coming and put out his hand. “Boz Burton, isn’t it?” Boz nodded and Mike introduced him to the two other guys.
“This is Elder Lee and Elder Whitehead,” Mike said and they also shook Boz’s hand. Boz looked them over, noticing their nametags. He hadn’t noticed anyone else wearing nametags, so he asked about them.
“We wear these so people will know we are missionaries,” Elder Lee said enthusiastically.
Missionaries? Boz didn’t understand. He thought churches only sent missionaries to heathen countries like Africa. What were these two doing here?
Elder Whitehead read Boz’s expression and explained. “We send missionaries out all over the world to teach people about the Church and the Book of Mormon. Have you heard of the Book of Mormon?”
“I’ve read the Book of Mormon!” Boz sounded prideful.
“Really?” Elder Lee responded skeptically.
“Yea and I love it.” Boz’s answer was a little defensive. “As a matter of fact, I’ve read it through twice and I read it every night. I’m in Alma 37.”
“Have you ever had the discussions?” Elder Lee was no longer skeptical. Boz didn’t even know what discussions were so he didn’t know how to respond.
Again, Elder Whitehead read his face and explained. “The discussions are a set of lessons we give to help people know more about the Church and to answer their questions. Would you like to know more about the Church?”
Boz was excited about the prospect of learning more. He had so many questions and had waited so long to get them answered. “You bet I would. That would be great.”
“Maybe we could come to your home and meet your parents,” Elder Lee jumped back into the conversation, “we could teach you there.”
“Oh, wait, I, uh…” Elder Lee’s comment had brought him back to reality. He knew his parents, who weren’t even excited about him coming to services at the Mormon Church, would never allow the missionaries to come to the house. “I’d better…uh…get back to you on that. And I really have to go now.”
Mike and the two missionaries stood confused. They couldn’t understand why the young man who had been so excited a few moments earlier had suddenly balked.
A jumble of thoughts raced through Boz’s head as he headed for home. He turned on the radio to wash them out. When that didn’t work, he turned up the volume. When that didn’t work, he pulled the car over to the side of the road, turned off the radio and just let the thoughts bounce around.
After he’d had a few minutes to calm down, he found himself asking all kinds of questions about the Mormons. Why did he feel so good when he was around them? Why did their teachings make so much more sense than anything he’d ever heard? Why were his parents so dead set against them? Why did they shake hands so much? Maybe those two missionaries could help him figure it all out. But for right now, he had too many other things to worry about and, besides, he had to keep his parents happy.
He arrived home to a tomb-like silence. Both cars were there, but there was no one stirring. He found his parents sitting next to each other on the living room couch. His mom looked like she’d been crying and his dad didn’t look much happier.
“Mom? What’s the matter?”
Mary Ann Burton started to cry again and hid her face in a couch pillow. Mr. Burton gave Boz a heartbreaking look and patted the couch – signaling his son to sit down. Boz complied and his father put his arm around him.
“Your sister didn’t come home until three this morning and when she came in she smelled like marijuana. We didn’t say anything to her last night, but when we tried to talk to her this morning, she flew into a rage and stormed out of the house.”
“You want to know what’s wrong son? We feel like we’re losing our children – our daughter to who knows what and our son to the Mormons.”
His voice had a wry twist to it, but he was serious, as serious as Boz had ever heard him.