Charades, Part 1

This is a continuation of Returning to the Pits of Meaningless Despair.

“Praise the Lord. I’ve found you!” 

She looked up from a paperback she’d been pretending to read and there stood Chad. He was no longer the long-legged boy she remembered but still seemed on the edge of evaporating into another world. When she’d first met Nora, Nora had that same look. They could’ve been twins, Nora and Chad. They had the same ivory skin and perfectly straight black hair. The same long, spider-like fingers and patrician noses.

“I’ve found her!” Chad shouted to his family who soon gathered around where she sat on the tile floor with her back to the wall. There was Mrs. C, clad in crimson and turquoise robes like an African Queen, her long hennaed hair piled on top of her head in a loopy bun, Katie Girl, who’d gone from golden-haired cherub to surly pre-teen, and David Josiah, the middle child whom no one ever worried about.

“I thought you had to go to Mass,” Brandy said as she tried to rise to her feet. For some reason, her knees felt weak and threatened to fold.

“We’re so happy you caught us before we left!” Mrs. C said. “Praise the Lord!  Chad Boy, grab her duffel.  We’ve got to run or we will be late!” 

Brandy thought of calling home and leaving yet another message but instead allowed herself to be shuffled out to the Cain’s station wagon and stuffed between Katie Girl and David on the backseat. “After Mass we’ll drop you off at your house.” Mrs. C promised as she drove toward the center of town. “Unless you want to come home with us. Father’s bringing Nora and that precious baby girl of hers to Mass and I know she’d love to spend time with you afterwards.” 

“I really don’t know where home is anymore,” she finally said.  

“Then it’s settled.  We’ll sort it all out, Honey.  Don’t you worry!”

Downtown Reno had given up all pretense of respectability. The JC Penneys was abandoned and boarded up and the Granada theater flattened for a parking lot.  Nothing had survived except casinos and pawn shops. Even the Mapes Coffee Shoppe where she and Old Sarah Jennis had treated themselves to chocolate malts and French Fries at the end of every school year had a security guard standing outside the entrance.  

As they were pulling up to the cathedral David pulled some sort of gerbil from from the inside pocket of his flannel shirt, “Look Brandy.  I brought Mr. Nibbles.” 

“What is he?” Brady asked.

“He’s a ⏤”

“Mother,  David brought Mr. Nibbles!” Katie Girl yelled.  

“Mr. Nibbles deserves the blessings of the Lord just the same as you Katie Girl!”

Mrs. C turned around and glared at her youngest son. “Good Golly Moses! David Josiah, we’ve had this discussion before. If Mr. Nibbles should get loose ⏤”

“Mother! The wheel!” 

Mrs. C had forgotten that she was driving the car.  Fortunately Chad was sitting next to her and could grab the wheel before the “C-Mobile” crossed both lanes and ended up in the river. Unfortunately he’d over-corrected and the car jumped the curb and ended up on the sidewalk.  Not a problem for Mrs. C. She drove the rest of the way into the parking lot on the sidewalk. 

“Praise the Lord!” Mrs. C said, as she parked the car triumphantly. Blessed Lord Jesus had insured that no one was on the sidewalk as if anyone in the car had a reason to doubt. “David Josiah I want you to leave Mr. Nibbles in the car!  And that goes for any other of God’s creatures you’ve dragged along!”

David whispered to Brandy. “The Blessed Virgin loves all creatures.” And then he stuffed the animal back into his pocket.  Brandy thought of telling Mrs. C but then decided it might make mass a bit more exciting if the critter escaped and ran around the altar before joining the sewer rats in the moldy basement of that mausoleum.

As a young girl, she’d been invited to attend catechism class in the “dungeon” of St. Pat’s by a friend she hoped to impress. Instead she’d interrupted class with a shriek after a large black spider landed on her bare forearm.  She’d swatted the spider to the ground and stomped it to death, prompting the sister in charge to proclaim “that’s not what Jesus would have done.” However, after examination, the spider was determined to be a Black Widow and that was the end of catechism for the day.

Thereafter she was leery of attending any church, except, of course, the church down on the corner. It was bright, airy and welcoming to all. And the parishioners didn’t lock children in dark and moldy basements to be lectured by nuns. Especially on the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the founding of Salt Lake City.  What a day that had been. For months the brethren had been “extra tithing” in order to help the pioneers cross the Indian-filled prairies, the mighty mountains and the unforgiving deserts. As the money pile grew and the wagon trains inched closer to the promised land, their progress was marked by flags pinned to a giant map of the “wilderness” behind the altar.  Because her best friend at the time was the seven year old great great great granddaughter of Brigham Young, Brandy got to attend all the festivities and even watch her friend pin the final flag.  How regal Old Sarah Jennis had been as she climbed up to the altar!  The Queen of England herself could not have been more stately or serious.   

I wonder where she is now, Brandy thought. After she’d sprouted boobs and learned to endure contact lens, Old Sarah Jennis was never without a boyfriend, each one slightly better husband material than the last.  After that she had no time for friends who were not like minded.

She’s probably married with six kids, Brandy decided. At least, maybe five. 


As she and Chad walked into the cathedral, Brandy had to ask: “Are you sure you don’t want to return to Galt?”

“I’m not worthy,” he said. “I have unclean thoughts.”

Oh come on, she felt like saying as she remembered the pristine, white halls of the seminary and how it was surrounded by a moat of knee-high grasses simmering in the early spring in so many shades of green that it hurt her eyes. The young men, boys really, dressed in robes and fake beards preparing for an overblown depiction of the final days of Christ, joyous as family arrived with baskets full of Easter goodies. Then she thought of the dark house down on the river, filled with paintings of the saints and angels and Christs on crosses holding their bleeding hearts.  Chad you are a fool she wanted to say, however, it was neither the time nor place.  Mrs. C had just gone out of her way to pick up a girl whose family obviously didn’t give a crap about her.  She could at least go along with the flow for awhile. 

Once inside she had no trouble spotting Nora in the third row from the back of the church. She still sat shoulders back and squared as though suspended from a clothes hanger, her long black hair shiny even in the candlelit church. Katie Girl ran ahead and slid in next to her eldest sister while Mrs. C and Chad sat on the pew bench in front of them. “Sit with Nora. She needs you,” Chad whispered and so she did.

She barely had time to admire the baby when mass began.  


5 thoughts on “Charades, Part 1

  1. I’m eager to find out what’s going to happen next. Brandy seems a bit disillusioned coming home. It’s always weird to see people you’ve haven’t seen in a long time and realize that you’re not on the same page.

    I’m also very curious to see what this Mass is going to be like, because Catholics don’t talk like Baptists 😂


  2. Always take two Baptists fishing. If you just take one, he’ll drink all your beer. Duke Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Wait, that should go first.


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