“More than 300 every Sunday,” said Marjorie to the woman next to her, a guest, apparently.
“Must be a good pastor.”
“We like him.” Marjorie settled in the pew as the organist struck the first chord of the first hymn.
All around were fragrant ladies in Dorothy Grey makeup, with fancy hats that matched their brightly colored dresses. Their gloved hands lay neatly, one above the other, on their laps. All the stockings were nude, their heels were black or brown, in summer white, beige, navy or even two-colored spectators.
Marjori sat between her two children. They were her pride and joy, but she wasn’t good at communicating this to them. Her daughter, now twelve and almost a young lady, had her own Bible, and her son — still a little boy — wore a tie.
The morning light came through the stained glass window, casting a golden glow on everyone and everything.
After the sermon, everyone stood for the doxology and praised God from whom all blessings flowed, then they left in a friendly procession as the organ played a jubilant hymn at march tempo. The pastor waited at the door to shake everyone’s hand and say a few words that showed he really did know them.
Marjorie saw the family car parked at the bottom of the steps. Everyone would have to pass it as they left. They would see that her husband had not been in church and, worse. Her husband sat behind the wheel reading the Sunday funnies in plain view.
“How could you do this to me?” she asked, opening the passenger door.
“Couldn’t you park somewhere else, somewhere where everyone won’t walk past our car and see you weren’t in church?”
“Marjorie, I…” Jack began, then he looked at his wife. The look in her eyes resembled the gathering clouds of a late afternoon summer thunderstorm. “OK, honey. Next time I’ll park over there.”
“And the funny papers! A slap in the face to Reverend Seibel!”
“It isn’t even noon!”
“What does the time of day have to do with the comics?”
“GO! Everyone is staring! Go. We can talk about this at home.” Marjorie’s mouth formed a terse hard line across her chin.
It was a long Sunday afternoon for everyone. The roast was overdone. The mashed potatoes lumpy and dry. The cooked carrots were, well, cooked carrots. The jello salad watery. The comics — which the kids regarded as their reward for two hours of looking at old ladies’ nose hair and trying to breathe air saturated with the random mix of Fabergé scents piled on top their mother’s Chanel #9, were OUT. OF. BOUNDS.
“When I was a girl,” began Marjorie in a stentorian voice, “we only read the Bible on Sundays. We couldn’t read the funnies, or Elsie Dinsmore, or anything else. Only the Bible.”
Jack looked up from his roast, “Pass the horseradish?”
Marjorie set it in front of him with the force of a pile driver.
“I said I was sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t make up for the humiliation of all those people seeing that my husband would rather ready the funny papers than go to church of a Sunday.”
“Of a Sunday?” thought Meg, the little girl, picking up the archaism in her mother’s speech. “Mom is channeling grandma.” She wondered if her grandma would really care about the funny papers or where her dad had parked. She shook her head.
“What are you shaking your head at, missy?” demanded Marjorie.
“I just wondered if grandma would care what dad did or if she’d just be happy to be here with us and go to church.” She badly wanted to add, “Of a Sunday” but thought better of it.
“That is neither here nor there,” said Marjorie. “Your grandmother is not here. She’s in Heaven with the angels.” Marjorie’s lips disappeared completely.
Somehow the family made it through the day. As the sun began to dip below the horizon, Marjorie said, “If you kids want to read the funny papers, you can.”
It was the end of the sabbath.