SAN DIEGO, CA - Sunlight sparkled off Mission Bay as two young men — Barry and Dean — sweating under heavy ceremonial headdresses, knocked on another door. A plump, middle-aged woman answered.
"Good morning, Ma'am," said Barry, "have you accepted Quetzalcoatl as your personal savior?"
Dean added, "He is creator god, the feathered serpent. Quetzalcoatl has given us everything. Won't you give him your heart?"
Hands tightening around obsidian daggers, the young men awaited an answer. But the woman seemed puzzled, "Are you with the circus?"
Feathers swaying in a light breeze, Barry and Dean masked disappointment with long-suffering smiles. Dean said, "No Ma'am, we're Aztecs. Real Aztecs."
"Not San Diego State Aztecs," added Barry. "Though we converted through a campus outreach program."
Dean continued, "All of us owe a debt to Quetzalcoatl for life and the sun. Won't you give back by giving your heart?"
With a sharp smack, the door shut in their faces. Barry and Dean walked to the curb and sat down. Dean removed his sandals, massaging sore feet. Barry sipped from a flask of corn water. They were tired, but not discouraged.
"I guess all we want is to worship in our own way," said Barry. "Plus show others what it means to truly offer yourself to something great."
"We get a lot of bigotry and intolerance," added Dean.
Barry gazed into the distance, toward Sea World across the bay. He almost seemed to be searching for acceptance and understanding in a society that offered none. With a sigh, he said, "There's a price to be paid when your faith differs from that of the many."
Dean laughed, "Wearing these sandals should be sacrifice enough."
Barry gently corrected his friend, "There's only one sacrifice that matters, Dean. And that's a willing heart."
"Bro, I know. Lighten up."
Rising to their feet, they crossed to another house, stepping over a bicycle laying across the front walk. An elderly Asian man in a green cardigan sweater answered, standing behind a screen door.
"Good morning, sir, "said Barry. "Have you accepted Quetzalcoatl as your personal savior?"
"He is the feathered serpent. Maize and cotton and all good things come from him," said Dean. "Won't you give your heart in return?"
Staring from Barry to Dean, the old man gazed at their earnest young faces, filled with sincere concern. "I don't know," he said slowly, in halting English.
"We'll help you," said Barry quietly. "That's why we're here."
"Just say 'yes,'"urged Dean.
"'Yes,'" said Barry.
Dean's hand softly gripped the screen door handle. "'Yes,'" he whispered.
Confused, the old man's head bobbed, "Yes. But I don't understand."
Dean yanked the door open as Barry leaped forward, shoving the old man back into the house. Drawing his dagger, obsidian blade gleaming, Dean dashed inside. From the front yard, one could hear furniture crashing, the tinkle of broken glass, a muffled yell of "9-11," followed by a terrible heart-wrenching scream that seemed to linger for a month.
A moment later, Barry and Dean staggered back outside, panting heavily. Dean had lost his headdress. Barry's arms seemed painted red. Together, they raised a still-beating human heart up to the brilliant sun.
"For your light and warmth," cried Barry.
"We love you, Quetzalcoatl," sobbed Dean.
So at last, on a quiet street, two young men found just enough willingness for them to pray in their own way.