She kept her head bowed in what she hoped was an acceptable fashion in the congregation, especially to her mother and Brother Welks. Eleven-year old Angelique felt caviled by adults and relegated to silence during the service. The pastor’s deep baritone blasting from the pulpit almost demanded respect and adherence. Such high expectations meant the girl could expect a sound thump on her head if she dared utter a peep during the prayer.
Her eyes cast downward, she glanced to her right where Mr. Lundgren sat with his leg twitching a mile a minute. “He must be as bored as I am,” thought Angelique, pondering the nervous jitter. The polyester of his gray perma-press pant legs jumped up and down, the solid seams pointing in the direction of the hymnal rack attached to the pew in front of him. Lundgren’s wife sat beside him, her hands lay splayed across her lap and open in upturned supplication. The elderly couple bemused Angelique, and she emitted a tiny snort of ponder before she could stop herself.
A sharp flick of her mother’s middle digit and thumb shocked her back into submission quick as a wink. All it took was a quip of “Ssst,” just like a snake, to quiet Angelique, who quickly looked back down at her own legs. As the preacher’s words continued, the girl clenched her fingers more tightly around each other.
Walnut creaked under the heavy load of parishioners in the pew, and they shuffled in their uncomfortable seats. Angelique’s little body fidgeted for a minute, her bottom wiggling for a new position. She agonized, “How many more minutes? How many more minutes?”
The girl sensed a whiff of vegetable soup and wondered if the church ladies fixed an after-service meal. An acrid mix of Campbell’s tomato base laced with a toxic sodium level invaded her nostrils and took her thoughts back to their kitchen at home. She so longed to return to her new Shaun Cassidy album and whatever lunch her mother had in store there.
A woman beside her mother sniffed audibly, so Angelique opened her eyes again to steal a sideways peek. Miss Harriet sat stock still with spindly fingers cupped in prayer, ropy blue veins bulging out from the pressure of her grip. A splash of water dropped onto them, and Angelique’s curiosity outweighed her better judgment. She spied a tear rolling down Miss Harriet’s age-spotted cheek, and it saddened her.
She nudged her mother and whispered, “Momma, somethin’ is wrong with Miss Harriet.” The surly woman’s quick snap and disapproving look were all it took for her daughter to realize her error. Such admonishment spurred Angelique to dread waking up on Sunday mornings. Now witnessing someone cry in church reinforced that desire to instead be home in her bed reading a Nancy Drew mystery or perched on the sofa watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. She’d much rather hear Marlin Perkins talk about lion cubs than someone drone on about the wages of sin.
A hard slap of Brother Welks’ hand against the speaker stand made Angelique jump in the pew. She gasped for breath, tightened the squeeze of her fingers, and asked God for release from the church’s sanctuary. They’d all be set free upon utterance of the morning’s final “Amen.” The pastor prayed and persuaded all he could, but no one took the invitation to come forward, so his job remained unfinished.
Another whiff of soup blew past Angelique’s face. Imagining the taste of Saltines in her mouth made the girl lick her lips in anticipation, and a hungry grumble stirred in her stomach. She knew all the words to Hey, Deanie and couldn’t wait to get to her record player to hear them again. Her mother grasped Angelique’s hand and tugged her to standing so they could finally follow everyone else out.
Miss Harriet had already left the row and made it to the exit by then. She even beat the pastor to the door where he always greeted parishioners upon their exodus from the building. The poor woman wouldn’t have a chance to shake his hand in passing.
This week’s Studio 30+ writing prompt was quip.