“No more church!” Dad growled while shaking his well-muscled fist; “Sunday’s my one day off, and I’m not spending it with a bunch of good-doers.”
Mom, dressed in her full choir robe, seemed to shrink. Garith, though, jumped and grabbed my hands in his and spun us around. The spinning made me dizzy, but my eyes sparkled from my older brother’s attention.
“Mom, can I get changed?” Garith asked a few minutes later when the colors stopped swirling in his head.
“No,” Mom answered emphatically. “Keep your church clothes on. We’re still going out; we’re just going to the Lord Fox Restaurant instead.”
“A restaurant instead of church, right?”
“And when we get home, I can play?!”
“I suppose.” At the restaurant, my family sat at a table staring at menus with devotion. “What do you see that looks good?” Mom asked.
“I like the fried chicken,” older sister, Diane replied then closed her menu with a snap as if it had just answered her prayer. Diane had a shiny pocketbook in her lap and wore a pink dress. Garith was reaching down and retying one of his black pointy-toed shoes.
A couple of minutes, later the waitress scrunched her eyebrows and carefully wrote down our orders. We could hear the scratching of her pencil. The waitress wore a black uniform with a white collar. Then she took the menus back, one by one, and stacked them in her arms each time with a clacking sound.
At the Lord Fox Restaurant, Dad sat at the head of the table in his gray suit, “Hey,” he’d whispered, leaning in. We all looked up. Then, like performing a sick magic trick, Dad took one of the salt shakers from the table, glanced right, and then left, and stuck the shaker into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. My siblings and I looked at each other. A little while later, he took the salt shaker out again and put it back on the table, laughing. Dad beamed at each one of us.
There was a picture of the Lord Fox logo on one of the walls. I tried to imagine the fox stealing something but couldn’t. “You kids didn’t think I was going to take it, did you?” Dad smiled. My siblings and I looked at each other with our mouths agape. Off to the side near the table with the pitchers of water, the waitstaff huddled. They glanced furtively at my father and whispered amongst themselves. The ice in the pitchers of water clinked.
Mom tightened her lips. The next day, Garith and I were walking through town. Suddenly I stopped when I saw a Jesus statue in the window of Grier’s Gift Shop. I stared. I wondered if Jesus knew about my family quitting church. “Come on!” Garith whined. My brother started pulling hard on my sleeve because he wanted to get ice cream at David’s. He had a coupon.
I bade the statue a silent farewell. Then we entered David’s Delights. There was a glass enclosure with tubs of ice cream in rows like giant rosary beads. The different colors of ice cream, in pinks, browns, and white, glistened. I could smell the sugar. The server would grab a scoop of confection and pack it into a hollow cone. I looked at the gray-tiled floor; I wished I knew how to pray.
“Come off it,” the father had said to us in the restaurant; “You kids didn’t think I was going to take it, did you?” My father’s words were spinning through my mind.
And they were making me dizzy.
Cyndi Cresswell Cook is a writer and photographer.