Excerpt from True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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True Believer

by Virginia Euwer Wolff

True Believer
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 272 pages
    Sep 2002, 272 pages

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"Oh, no," she says, and "Oh, no," again,
while she catches her breath and thinks.

Then she calmed down.
She stood on different spots in my room,
at the corner of my desk,
and by the closet door,
and over by the wastebasket.
She climbed on my chair and took a look up close,
and she laid down on my bed to see it from there,
never saying a word, just shifting around and looking.

At the end of this short tour of my room which is not large
her face got patienter
and she said, "LaVaughn, that's nice,
that's so nice. Oh, LaVaughn, that's real, real nice."
And she says in a whisper,
"Your dad would be proud."

It made the lump come in my throat
that came before lots of times
when I'm wondering how it would feel with his arms around me
like before when I was so little.
Sometimes I think I can almost make the feeling.
And then it disappears.

I tell my mom thanks.


Myrtle & Annie sing their club song for me before gym.

"I gave my heart to Jesus,
God's kingdom will endure.
He gives to me my energy,
Jesus keeps me pure."

Then the chorus goes "Cross your legs for Jesus," and it repeats.

They say it sounds better with guitar and drums.
They are obvious about how unsaved I am.
They have new "JESUS LOVES YOU" shoelaces, bright gold.

We do our warm-ups,
then we go through the volleyball formations,
we holler and huff and jump like we are taught,
and it might look like old times
among Myrtle & Annie and me, but it's not.
"You're missing out on the miracle, LaVaughn,"
says Myrtle, in the showers.
I am not innocent enough to ask what miracle she means.
It is the miracle of being saved by God from being a sinner.

I didn't want to argue.
I imagine there is a God out there, or a Something.
Something to get the whole thing spinning along
way back there before there was anything
to even have a shape to it.

Myrtle & Annie and me went all through this subject before.
But now they have new news.
Myrtle & Annie say all Muslims and Jews and Hindus
and other religions will go to Hell
along with criminals and sexual teenagers
and all tribes of foreign lands
that have not come to Jesus and the Bible
which they say God wrote.
They don't explain how God came out of the sky
and wrote down words. "You just don't get it, LaVaughn."

It is the Joyful Universal Church of Jesus
that tells them these things.
They are right: I don't get it.
I personally would like to know how God let my dad die.
And why hasn't God made Myrtle's father
get well from drugs yet?
That would be a miracle.

Me and Myrtle share a bottle of shampoo like always
and I look back and forth at them
as we dry ourselves and put on our clothes.
With their club coming between our friendship
I want to say, "Yes! I'll be in your club!"

But I don't do it,
it doesn't feel right.
I don't think that is the job of Jesus, to keep me pure.
And I don't mean to be mean to Jesus in my thoughts,
that little baby born in a manger.
But I don't get how he hates so many millions of people
and sends them down to Hell.

So as we are getting dressed
and I run Annie's comb
down the back of her hair like always
for her exactly equal braids she wants,
I am wondering is this the last time I will ever have
Annie's comb in my hand, going down her hair.
I keep my eyes on the back of Annie's head,
bisecting her hair precisely.

And my skin goes shivery for a moment.
I want to join with them
to have it be like the old times we had,

Copyright © 2001 by Virginia Euwer Wolff

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