Anthony Woodlief

The year is 1958, his last in college. He has experienced both the elements they say are important, the internal call and the external confirmation. The call is the sweet love of God welling up within him in choir and during his walks through the college arboretum. The confirmation is Sarah.

"I don't always believe in God," she confessed in a whisper on the other side of their strawberry shake. Strawberry cream balanced on her quivering lip.

"That's normal." He put his hand on hers, glad to have an excuse, this their first date. Her hand was hot and he slid his thumb underneath it and into her palm.

"Do you know when I believe in him most?"


"When I hear you sing."

In the fall he marries her and goes to seminary. In ten years he will crouch on some smoking plain near Danang and help a boy hold his guts in. He will lean over the boy's face so they can hear, and give last rites even though he is not Catholic, because there will be no other chaplains in that dying field but him, sent by God and Sarah. He will listen while the boy cries out and then he will answer. He will think at that moment that his words are theopneustos—God-breathed—to some people, whether they are drinking pink milkshake or watching trails of scarlet run over their hands and down their arms to gum up the dirt.

First published: May, 2003