Caleb: the upbeat Christian.

My grandma has always, as long as I can remember, been a very religious woman, and very active in her church. It has been her primary social network, and through this network she met a family who lived just down the street from her place. They had a kid named Caleb, and one weekend day while visiting my grandma, she wanted my brother and I to go play with him.

I was in 7th grade at the time. Caleb was a year or two younger than I was, and my brother several years younger than he was. My brother had met Caleb previously while visiting my grandma.

Being a grunge-obsessed junior high cretin, I kept asking Caleb if he liked any of my favorite bands. He didn't like any of them, and would always answer by telling me about his musical preference.

"Do you like The Smashing Pumpkins?" I'd ask.

"No, not really," he'd answer. "I'm pretty much just into upbeat Christian music."

"You don't even like Nirvana? Kurt Cobain is the coolest!"

"No, I pretty much only listen to upbeat Christian music."

He took my brother and I into his room and popped a tape into his cassette player, so we'd be able to experience upbeat Christian music. He told us it was the tape was of his favorite singer. Before anybody even started singing, I knew it sucked. It lacked the distortion and roughness that I required in my listening. It was offensively soft to my ears. When the singing started, it just got worse.

"It sure beats Hell. It sure beats Hell. Anyway you look at it, you're doing pretty well. It sure beats Hell. It sure beats Hell. Anyway you look at it, you're doing pretty well."

After the song finished, somebody on the tape started taking.

"See? He's a comedian, too!" Caleb told us. He kept chuckling as the guy spoke, but none of it was funny. It was all fire and brimstone. He'd bring up a bad scenario, and then say "It sure beats Hell!" and Caleb would laugh as if it were a joke.

"You might think you've had a rough day, you stubbed your toe and your dog died. But lemme tell you something: It sure beats Hell!"

Caleb had a Super Nintendo, and we kept asking if we could play with it. We didn't have video games at our house, so it was always an extra treat to play when we could. Caleb didn't want to, though. He was bent on playing soccer. He kept asking us if we wanted to play, and we'd say no, and ask again if we could play video games. Eventually, instead of playing video games, he put on some shin guards, even though we had never agreed to play soccer.

We never played soccer, though. We went back to my grandma's house shortly after he put the shin guards on.

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