Jones' father slept with another woman." My mom is going on
and on about it. "Can you believe it? Poor Mrs. Jones. We should
go see her after Mass," she exclaims as she tries to load my
two younger brothers and me into the family station wagon. "Whoever
slept with him is going to hell because that's immoral!" Now
we were paying attention. Someone was going to hell. "Now get
in the car. You want to be late for church and sit in the back with
all the poor people?" Well, yes and no. "Oh damn, I forgot
my hat. Andrea run into the house and get Mommy's hat. It's on the
bureau in my room."
want to go back into the house. Not because I am lazy, which I am,
but because my dad is in there and he doesn't feel well. My dad
suffers from a special kind of illness that makes you sick in the
morning -- mostly on the weekends. That's why he can't go to Church.
And that's why I don't want to go in there. When he's not feeling
well he throws things at you and yells, "Git," "Move,"
and other one-syllable words. My dad looks like Clint Eastwood in
Dirty Harry and when you're around him you always have to
ask yourself, "Do I feel lucky?" The answer is usually
I'm going to get in trouble if I don't get out of the car this minute
and get mom's hat! So, I put one white patent leather shoe in front
of the other and head for the house. I try to stay focused on the
lace ruffles on my socks instead of what lies on the other side
of the door. We live in a giant purple house and even at the age
of ten, I know this is wrong. I open the front door slowly, careful
not to make any noise, and tip-toe like a cartoon character into
my parents' bedroom where the hat is supposed to be. The light is
off and it's hard to see, but I don't want to turn the light on.
I decide to stand in the doorway awhile and let my eyes adjust to
a few seconds I see her flowered hat right by the bed and I see
my dad lying there a few feet away. I say a quick prayer to God.
After all we're going to His House and that's why we have to cover
our heads with hats. So He should help me. "Dear God, please
don't let my dad wake up and please don't let him see me."
I take a step. "If you let him sleep I'll be extra good."
I take another step. "I know I haven't been good and broke
the commandments when I told my little brother that he was adopted
and that's why his hair is brown instead of blonde like the rest
of us, but I'll never do that again." I take another step.
My dad moves. "And I'll put an extra quarter in the basket
at Church when it comes around even though I was going to use it
to buy a goldfish," I add hastily to my bribe/prayer. I take
hat is so close that if I lean way over, I can grab it. I do. I
lean as far out as I can and I feel the brim. I have it. I've done
it. "God thank you. You won't be sorry." I lift the hat
up, and I knock over a glass that was underneath it. It makes a
loud noise and I freeze. I don't even blink my eyes.
a second my dad jumps off the bed and darts into the closet. A sense
of relief floods over me. That wasn't Dad -- that was the cat. As
I pick up the glass, which smells like the rubbing alcohol our maid
uses on her shoulder when it acts up, and put it back on the nightstand,
I'm thinking of the promises I just made to God and if they actually
count now when my dad wasn't even there in the first place. I really
wanted to buy that goldfish but now I have to put my quarter in
the basket. And why does God need my money anyway? Isn't He all-powerful?
If He wants something he can just make it for himself. He'd be mad
at me anyway if I gave him an extra quarter for nothing. Wonder
if your house is on fire and you promised to be a nun if God saved
your life, and then you found out there was no fire in your house
and your life didn't need to be saved after all. Do you still have
to become a nun? I turn toward the door.
are you going?" My dad is suddenly in the doorway. He must
have been in the bathroom -- maybe he just took a shower 'cause
he's naked. "I told you not to come in here." He looks
getting Mom's hat." I hold the hat up as evidence. I feel scared
and overdressed. I wish my dad would take the hat from me and use
it to cover himself up. He doesn't. He picks me up by the waist
and throws me onto the bed. I turn onto my stomach and close my
eyes and wait to be spanked but he doesn't do that. He turns me
back over to face him and all I can think is, "It is so big."
It's a California King and I feel lost laying on it. This must be
what Goldilocks felt like when she laid down in the Papa bed. I
like my twin bed so much better, where I sleep with all my stuffed
animals. Stuffed animals are soft and furry and never move or take
off your underwear. He spits on his hand. Is he going to put that
on me? My brother spit on my little brother once and my mom got
really upset with him. She said, "Spitting is rude." If
she was here right now I'm sure she would tell Dad that he was being
up at the ceiling, and wonder if God can see what's happening. Then
I remember it's Sunday and He is busy listening to all the prayers
of the people in Church. In Catechism class, Father McClellan told
us that Purgatory is filled with people that are burning off their
venial sins (the little ones) so that they can get into heaven.
"Whenever you feel pain here on earth you can offer it up to
one of the poor souls in Purgatory," he informed us. Your pain
would count as theirs and they could get out of there faster. Like
a spiritual multi-level marketing plan. So whenever I wanted to
run across the hot pavement in the summer with bare feet, I tried
instead to walk as slowly as I could so that it would be more painful
and I'd offer it up to my Aunt May who I figured was in Purgatory.
Father McClellan said that when you helped get a person out of Purgatory,
when they went to heaven they would pray for you. I didn't like
to think of Aunt May burning in Purgatory, so I offer up the pain
I'm feeling in my privates and my stomach, and hope it does her
some good. My dad is holding his hand over my mouth and it covers
up a little bit of my nose as well, so it is hard to breathe. I
offer that up too. Dad suddenly moans really loud and I can tell
that he is also hurting. Maybe he is offering up his pain, I'm not
later he leaves the room and I find my underpants hugging my right
shoe and pull them up. I grab Mom's hat and run out of the room.
It hurts so much to run I figure if Aunt May is not in heaven by
now, then she had a lot more sins than I thought she had.
I get back into the car my mom is yelling at me. "What took
you so long? We've been waiting for five minutes!" I'm shocked.
Five minutes was all it took? Wow. It seemed like an hour or another
lifetime. I guess all the big sins are quick. You could murder someone
in probably a second, if you had a gun. You could steal something
in a couple minutes, if no one was looking. You could take the Lord's
name in vain in a few seconds. My mom is doing it right now. Sins
are not that time consuming when you think about it.
back out of our long driveway and speed off to Church. My mom scolds
me as she guns the Country Squire down the street. "Andrea,
if we're late and miss Mass it'll be your fault." She looks
in the rear view mirror at me as she continues. "We'll all
have mortal sins on our souls and go to hell." That doesn't
scare me as much as it usually would because I am pretty sure I
am already there.
version for easy reading
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