The Reader - Week 10
Andy was still asleep, but smiling, when Jennifer got up. After a trip to the bathroom, she went into the kitchen and began to make coffee. As it was brewing, she saw a stack of papers, stapled into small booklets, on the desk that was near the kitchen table. She picked up the one that was on top and began to read:
The longest hour of the week.
The six-year-old sat in discomfort on the steel folding chair in the church basement. Upstairs, the grown-ups were contemplating their sins (some of which were sins), while listening to the earnest but uninspired pastor conjure up examples of depravity, which was the lot of all who strayed from God’s Holy Word. Downstairs, the boy was trying to occupy his mind with something interesting while his teacher went on about his sins. Meanwhile, back downstairs, the boy had discovered that the chair he was sitting on had a star-shaped perforation on its seat. If he scooted back all the way, he could see almost the whole thing. He put his finger on the seat and began to trace the outline of the star with his finger, made greasy by running his fingers through the Wildroot in his hair. The grease left a faint iridescence; micro-rainbows that engaged his attention fully.
The final song was always What A Friend We Have in Jesus, sung by Mrs. Johnson, a quavering grand dame of the congregation. She had been alive a long time, thought the boy. If Jesus was her friend, did she know him? Was she that old? The child suddenly became acutely aware of a need to pee. Mrs. Johnson began another stanza. He was really uncomfortable now. Finally, he heard the sounds of the congregation above begin to shuffle out, and Mrs. Johnson dismissed the class. He ran to the bathroom.
Later, at home, the boy’s mother asked him about what he had learned in Sunday School that day.
He drew a blank for a minute, thinking about the chair. Then he smiled and cheerfully said: “What a friend we have in Jesus!”
Jennifer poured herself a cup of coffee and, shaking her head, spoke aloud:
“What kind of a nut have I just spent the night with?”
“Hi,” said Andy, walking into the kitchen, “I see you’ve found my homework… and my pajamas.”
“I didn’t think that you’d mind, since you slept in your clothes,” Jennifer said, “And I used your toothbrush.”
“No problems with any of that. Sorry I conked out on you.”
“I guess we’re still virgins, huh? What’s for breakfast?”
The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.