John goes to church

By Karen Brode

It was her birthday, and Mammy asked me to go to church with her. She knew I couldn’t do much else for her birthday, and that was okay with her because church-going was all important to her. She had dreams of me going to church and changing into one of the saps who ran it. I’ll tell you now, I couldn’t see it happening even as I tied my tie and straightened the collar of my white shirt.

I turned 20 years old a few months back and I had a nice life. I didn’t need no changing and being saved like Mammy was always talking about. I was happy with things the way they were. What did she want me to be saved from? Having fun?

I went down to the pool hall most nights and made enough money to get drunk by winning at dominoes or pool. Once I was drunk, the world was a fine place. Women were beautiful and they were always in abundance for me. I can’t help smiling a little at this. I am a fine specimen of masculinity. Women just look at me, and they can’t help themselves. I think I am a happy person. I don’t know anybody any happier than me.

I do some horse trading from time to time and there’s a few men in the county who won’t trade with me for various reasons. It’s their loss. I have had some great horses over the years and if they got sick or died soon after I sold them, that’s not my problem. People can be so petty.

Mammy and I walked into the little church and the service had already started. I was hoping that would be the case since I wouldn’t have to go around glad-handing everyone. Mammy was beaming as she looked at her handsome son standing beside her singing in church. It was a sight to see. There were some frowns in some of the other pews. Oh well, let them judge and be judged. I came to church with my Mammy on her birthday.

Behind me, I heard the most beautiful singing. A girl’s voice that sounded like an angel’s lilted into my ears as I stood by. I wanted to turn around so bad and see her. I wanted to see what kind of looks were on a girl that could sing like that.

Now, I had never had a girlfriend like most boys my age. I just had a girlfriend when I wanted one. I figured that was better for now. Like I said, I had never lacked female companionship. Even before I knew what she looked like, I think I fell in love with her. While I was sitting there beside Mammy at church that day, I began thinking of what she must look like, what her life was like.

Pictures of her kept running through my mind as the preacher droned on and on. I thought of her cooking at a stove, holding a baby, lying in bed waiting for me, and for the first time in my life, I blushed! I stared down at the floor and wondered what was wrong with me. That girl sitting behind me was having such a powerful effect on me, and I didn’t even know what she looked like yet. Hell, it didn’t matter what she looked like if she could make me feel this way just by being a few feet away.

Amen, said the preacher finally. Mammy grabbed one of her old lady friends to come and meet me, and then as I turned to follow her out of the church, I saw her. She was young, maybe only 16, and she had the most beautiful blonde hair I’d ever seen. But it was her eyes that captured me. They were bright gray-blue and as I looked at her, she looked up at me, and for a moment, our eyes locked. I think that was when I told myself I was going to marry that girl.

All my bravado and worldly ways wouldn’t help me any with this girl. I felt that I was meant to be with her for all eternity. I wanted to run after her and hold her hand and kiss her but I didn’t dare. Suddenly, all the colors in the trees were brighter and I looked at Mammy and put my arm around her as we walked back to her house.

“Mammy, who was that family sitting behind us at church?”

“Oh, that was the Browns. They’ve had such a hard time since Louise died. That girl has had to pitch in and take over.

“What is that girl’s name?”

“Oh, her name is Alice. Alice Brown.”

I reached up to grab a leaf off a tree. Alice Brown, the most beautiful name in the world.

__________________________

Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972.  She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years.  She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon.  Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.

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