"Pastor, I’m young and healthy. I have a whole summer before college starts. I think it makes sense if I–I think God is leading me to spend the summer pregnant."
"I…see." Pastor Williams suppressed a frown. "Tell me more, Trevor."
"Well, I researched it. The surgery–the whole plastic uterus thing–is pretty low risk."
"Prosthetic uterus. Yes, low risk. But the birth would be by cesarean. You’d carry the scar for life."
"–and I think I have a responsibility–well, I mean, if I really believe what I say I believe about–well, you know."
"I just think that, it’s, you know, life–"
Here it comes, thought Pastor Williams–and then immediately rebuked himself.
"–it’s like they say: ‘life trumps all.’"
"Yes, Trevor. ‘Life trumps all.’" Trevor was what Pastor Williams in his early years would have called a good kid. "But, why you? This is a huge step. Huge. It’s not like God expects every young man–"
"But this is something I can do. Now. I’m young and healthy. I’ve got a whole summer here where I don’t have much–"
"Yes, Trevor, I know. It’s just that I–well, here, let me put it this way: surrogacy is on the rise. You know that?"
"The weird thing is, it’s mostly boys that are becoming surrogate birth parents."
"I’m not a boy."
"Young man. Sorry."
Pastor Williams paused. How could he connect with this counselee? He saw no emotion on Trevor’s face at all. Was this mask concealing something? Of course it was. There was always something to conceal when talking to a pastor.
"My point is, this rush to volunteer seems admirable on the surface. And it is admirable. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to save a life. It’s just that I worry about unhealthy peer pressure. This is a fad right now. It’s not going to last."
"I’m not some dumb kid, pastor. I thought about this really hard–"
"I’m sure–yes, Trevor, I believe you. Look, I visit the social media sites. I’ve seen the boys there, posting pictures–"
And inevitably there rose up in his mind, unbidden, images of dozens of young men, their shirts hiked up to expose their distended abdomens. All those bulging bellies, and on every face the same expression. It was– well, it was elation. Yes, elation was what is was. That crazy look of satisfaction, and those ridiculous messages of congratulation that followed, lewd jokes and pious platitudes jumbled together. These guys, so proud. And the…weird…ways they modified their bodies to commemorate the joyous occasion. The tattoos. The…other stuff.
Pastor Williams sighed. Too deeply, and too loud. None of this was Trevor’s fault. It’s just that the kids these days were so…
Decadent. That was the word.
"Look, Trevor, I’ll be honest with you. This pregnancy fad is nothing but–please let me finish–nothing but a bunch of kids taking pleasure in shocking grown-ups. This kind of thing has happened before. A grand cause comes along and, if it makes the old folks uncomfortable, young people find it irresistible. Tell me: have you talked to your parents about this?"
"No." The answer was barely audible.
"Why not?"
Just a bit louder, Trevor said, "I wanted to check with you first. I had hoped you would take my side."
Regret hit Pastor Williams hard. Back off, he told himself. The kid is barely 18.
"Trevor." The catch in his own voice irritated him. "I am on your side. Believe me. If you get pregnant, the church is ready to support you. We will help deal with the adoptive parents, all the legal hurdles, the practical stuff. And I will personally back you up, even if your parents object.
"But I will tell you honestly: I think it would be a mistake for you to volunteer this summer. Think about it: you could wait a year or two, take time to pray, make sure this is really how God wants you to serve. The needs are vast, really they are. There are other ways…"
Williams interrupted himself with a snap of his fingers. "Speaking of the legal hurdles, did you consider that you have to find a pregnant mother who will give up her child? There aren’t as many as you think. No one can stop an abortion if the mother wants it." That was not completely true. The biological father could prevent an abortion if he agreed to carry the fetus himself, but Williams figured Trevor knew it already. That provision had been debated in the media for months before it was passed into law.
"There’s another thing. Our church supports research to develop gestation tanks. No human parent involved. Again, this is something we used to be against, but the law in this state implies that aborted embryos can be rescued, can be grown in these tank, uh, things, once the process is proven safe and convenient. This is looking very promising. It’s exciting for once to be on the side of cutting-edge technology. I’m personally serving on the board of this project and the reports I’m seeing look…"
Shut up, Williams.
Trevor wasn’t listening. The boy–you couldn’t think of him as a man, not with that stain on his ringer tee and that discrete tattoo on his wrist and that mop of hair covering his eyes and the absurd amount of jewelry like all the boys were wearing these days and those untied sneakers and, well, everything about the way he sat in the chair, or no, not really sat so much as tossed his lanky limbs about the furniture–the boy no longer hid his feelings. His face blazed with fear and disgust.
Pastor Williams was too experienced to panic. The situation was probably hopeless, but one final appeal was worth a try.
"Trevor, have you heard of St. Philip’s Brigade? It’s a really impressive organization that sends young men like yourself to–"
"This isn’t working."
Trevor stood, hitched up his jeans, and walked out.
It took Williams about five seconds to see what had been right in front of his face.
Stupid! Stupid! He ran down the hall.
Out in the parking lot, he saw Trevor walking to his car.
The kid stopped and turned, looking down.
"It’s your girlfriend, isn’t it."
Long pause. Anger gave way to shame.
"She’s not really my–"
Trevor looked up, facing it. "We met at a party. There was drinking…happening. She wants an abortion."
"But the law says–"
"Yeah. I could save it. Just me."
Don’t ask him if he will.
Pastor Williams sat back on Trevor’s rusty car. Trevor joined him, both of them regarding the same crack in the asphalt. The sealant was fresh and the afternoon sun upon it released its volatiles into the air. The fumes were not completely unpleasant.
Time to ease Trevor back.
"You know, in the old days, a boy could deny his kid and the girl couldn’t. DNA testing took that denial away. Surrogacy gave it back, even to girls. You meet a girl who’s pregnant, big as a barn, and you say, ‘Is the kid yours?’ The question has become a joke."
"You want me to carry it, and you want me to be honest about it. To admit it."
"I think–"
Gentle. But straight.
"–yes. That’s what I think you should do."
Trevor said nothing. He was thinking. He was calculating.
When Williams was new to pastoring, he imagined he would have the power to talk sense into people. A little experience taught him he had no such power. Yet more experience taught him the truth: every once in a while, you catch someone on the tipping point, someone cuspy, someone looking for confirmation the good and the true were not impossible or insane. At that moment, the right word–oh, who was he kidding? Any stupid word at all–would provide the needed push.
Williams could see it, plain as day: Williams had given the push and Trevor was tipping.
The signs were subtle–Trevor shrugged, fumbled with the flaky door handle, and got in his car–but his silence was of a type. It was the silence of someone calculating the weight of a burden about to be assumed.
Williams brushed the rust off the seat of his pants and watched Trevor drive away. The car was a clunker, and it and bore the marks of some ancient accident, but it was perfectly adequate for carrying its young owner where he needed to go.

Check out the next piece in this release, Hunker Down by Rose Kopp!
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