Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 | Page 28

The old lady adjusted her glasses. “Well, blessed be, Father. It looks like Brother Joe. Doesn't it?”

“It sure does,” her partner answered, fanning out the hairy fingers of his pudgy, sun-spotted hand.

Dad took up the offer, and the two men shook hands firmly.

“How you doin', Brother Joe?”

“Not too bad, Brother Mike. Thank the Lord.”

“Amen to that Brother Joe. You remember Sister Cheryl, don’t you?”

Sister Cheryl put out her hand like women sometimes do and said, “It’s good to see you, Brother Joe.”

Dad let go of Brother Mike’s hand, took Sister Cheryl’s “You too, Sister Cheryl,” sounding more like a cowboy with every word. “And God bless.”

“Well, thank ya, Joe. God bless you,” she said, then turned her bespectacled gaze to me as I tried to make myself as invisible as God himself. “And who’s this little critter?”

“Oh, this? This here is Joe Junior. Say hi to Sister Cheryl, son.”

I kept my eyes on the weathered planks of wood and my mouth shut.

“L.J.?” Dad commanded.

“Hello, ma’am.”

“Oh, what a polite little fella,” she said.

“Thank you, ma’am.”“Are you ready to meet Jesus, little Joe?

Are you ready to hear His Word?” I was not at all ready to meet or hear the words of that tortured, bloody man nailed to the cross in the big church down the road from ‘Buelita’s—or even the more peaceful, robed one gazing up toward the heavens from above her dining room table.

Besides, wasn’t he dead?

Regardless, Sister Cheryl’s question hung in the night air like the cup of a beggar waiting for change.

So I said, “Yes,” and offered a more Texan sounding "ma'am" than before.

“Well then, little Bucky, you’ve come to the right place,” she said and wrapped her long bony hand around my short Vienna sausage fingers and led us into church.

Dad followed, and Brother Mike brought up the rear, stopping to lock the door behind him.

I thought it strange to hear those keys since ‘Buelita never even knocked on the heavy wood doors at la iglesia. We’d just walk on into the tall white and blue marble foyer, dab our fingers in the holy water, and do the sign of the cross in front of La Virgen. Then she’d go on about God’s business while I combed for not so used bubblegum beneath the seats of the creepy building’s long, wooden pews.

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