This is the last practice for
the year. Choir Director says, All your mothers brought treats
for snack time. Our final performance is Sunday, so we must let
our voices be the very best. After practice, weíll have treats
in the church basement.
I want to ask her what kinds
of treats, but she starts swinging her arms. The organist begins
playing. The organistís hair is white like our robes. White
as the divinity my mother whips up when sheís up to here with
Jimmy breaks in on the wrong
measure. Susanís off key. Choir Director mouths the words for
the kids who canít read music and squirm the most.
Spit collects in the corners
of her mouth. Choir Director never asks what we want to sing.
She thinks her songs are the best, which is prideful and so
God better be paying attention. At least we can wear our robes
today. They are satiny smooth. Everyone in church says weíre
Godís little angels. This is a bit wrong because girls canít
be angels, but I donít say anything because itís not nice to
tell adults theyíre ignorant, even if they are.
Sometimes after practices, I
sit on Organistís lap and pretend my feet are hers as they
prance the pedals. When Iím tall enough, Iíll take lessons.
Iíll make the pipes flap open and closed and the whole congregation
will wish there wasnít a sermon and that Iíd play all morning.
Iíll jazz it up. Theyíll clap and yell amen and stand even
if theyíre not able like in my friendís church. The only downside
about her church is that the devil is always tricking them,
and if they stay tricked then theyíll burn in a thousand fires
for longer than humans live. Luckily, Iím Methodist so all
we worry about is how much money goes into the offering plate
so we can pay off the extra parking lot and the parsonage gardeners.
But I canít sit on Organistís
lap today because Iím gonna be first to the snacks. I have
to get there before Choir Director so when she metronome-taps
my shoulder and says, No seconds, Miss Mary, I will say, I
havenít had any yet, Miss Director. And she will say, God does
not like greedy children. And I will say, God does not like
the songs you choose.
After the one billionth time
singing the song, Choir Director finally says practice is over.
I crouch, ready to run to the basement, hang up my robe, and
eat my firsts. But now sheís saying to line up in the choir
room after Sunday school with our robes on. We always do, so
whyís she wasting our time? Be careful, she says, of your angel
voices. Please refrain from yelling and shouting at your school
picnics. That reminds me that summer is almost here which means
swimming at the pool every day and eating peppermint patties
at the concession stand and maybe this year Iíll jump off the
high dive instead of crying like a ninny and being led back
down the ladder by the lifeguard. She says, Walk like ladies
and gentlemen to the basement. Dad is always telling me to
act like a lady, and I am sick of it. Iíd like to know who
this lady is Iím impersonating because then Iíd kick dirt on
Organist plays the Charlie Brown
song. We laugh because church isnít the place for cartoons.
Iíve got my robe over my head before we reach the bottom of
the stairs. My head gets stuck in the neck hole. Someone pushes
When I get into the robe room,
everybodyís already there. We pull and yell and grab the hangers
with our names on them. Organist is still playing upstairs.
I say, Iím gonna get firsts! Jimmy calls me Mary Magdalene.
I call him Heathen, which is what Mom calls Dad when he wonít
hurry up on Sundays. Jimmy head butts me in the chest. I fall
into Susan. Susan falls backwards. I grab at her robe, but
the satin slips through my fingers. The fan that makes the
organ work is whirling. The corner of Susanís robe catches
in the blades. Her mouth opens like an organ pipe, but no sound
comes out. Jimmy double-times it up the stairs to tell Organist
to stop playing. The fan spins Susan closer. She reaches out
for us. The belt slaps her thighs. Over and over. Her white
tights burn black. They tear. Thereís a smell like when Mom
lit her cigarette to close to the stove and lost her eyebrows.
We yell. Susan! Fire!
Preacher runs in. Heís always
on the lookout for fire. Preacher plays tug of war with Susan
and the fan belt. Her robe isnít white anymore. She cries off
key. Preacher holds her in his arms. I pat her hand. I say,
Your legs look like jellyrolls. Then I push through the children
and run to the snack table.
# # #
Every Good Girl Does
published November 2, 2008