"I havent enjoyed a rant this much since Thoreau," Beth said. "We need people stirring up the way we think about things."
My best friend, Beth, was trying to talk me into forming a Larry study group with her. His Web site - www.thegospelaccordingtolarry.com - received hundreds of hits a day, mostly from teens and college students. No one knew Larrys identity, and that conjecture alone was the source of several companion Web sites. Many kids at school were fans, but Beth was rabid.
"Josh, I know neither one of us has ever joined a club in our life," she said. "But thats precisely why we should."
I tried to listen to the details of her story, I really did, but there is something about Beths mouth that gets in the way of paying attention to its contents. She often wore a certain brown lipstick and outlined the edges of her lips with this pencil she carried in her bag. Every time she talked, it was like this pale chocolate snowcone staring up at me, waiting to be eaten. Ive been in love with her since sixth grade, but she didnt have a clue.
"Ill help you with the club," I said. "But just so the two of us can bag all the meetings and laugh at the other people who show up."
She wasnt amused. "This isnt a joke. Someone is finally talking about the things Ive been saying all along, and I think its important to help spread the word. Are you in or are you out?"
"Of course Im in. I cant let you do this on your own. Next thing I know youll be running for prom queen or something."
She punched me in the arm, her usual form of affection. "Hey, why dont you help me at the store this afternoon? Were having a run on shovels."
Beths fathers hardware store had been our work/tree house/summer camp since grammar school. Sorting the nuts and bolts, counting the different lightbulbs, shoveling the woodchips into wheelbarrows had never seemed like a job to either of us. The small store prided itself on carrying everything a homeowner could need, but for a loner like me it was a non-threatening way to be a part of the community without too much social pressure. I told Beth Id meet her there at four.
For a brief moment I pretended we were a couple, not snowbound outside Boston, but romping through the Caribbean surftanned and in love. My fantasy shattered, however, when she waved goodbye and headed across the cafeteria to Todd Terrifica new jock she was obsessed with. Can someone please explain to me how this preoccupation with dopey athletes happens even to headstrong young women who work in hardware stores and score 1350s on their SATs? Beth, what are you doing to me? Life was cruel and unfairwhat did this Larry guy have to say about that?
The rest of school went by like the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray wakes up and every day is the same, down to the last boring details. Even when something new did happenfire drill, substitute teacherit was still just a giant yawn in the storyline. To keep myself amused during study hall, I invented a new alphabet based on the sense of smell.
At home that night, I booted up my laptop and logged on. I checked my e-mail, then the small portfolio of stocks my mother left me when she died. I made one last online stop: to Larry. I wondered if Beth was doing the same thing at the same timean unrequited cyberdate.
The Larry logo filled the screena peace sign with a dove, a floppy disk, a planet, and a plug inside each of its four sections. I scrolled down through several photographs to comments people had written that day: puljohn posted a new link to Adbusters. Toejam ranted about Larrys last sermon, calling it brilliantly flawed. I was in the middle of reading his argument when Peter knocked quickly, then stuck his head in my room.
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