By Betsy Neely Sikma
Leona looked at her dainty gold watch. 12:34 p.m., long past the time big church should have ended.
That pot roast would be ruined by the time they got home. Tough as a two-dollar steak.
She should’ve laid the stroganoff out to thaw.
It would have been easier. Leona could have zapped it in the microwave when they got home—right when she threw the rolls in. Everything would have come out at the same time and tasted just fine.
Another wasted Sunday dinner.
Up at the front, her husband was in rare form. Tap dancing up on the platform—red-faced and sweaty—Reverend Hugh Whitley was trying with all his might to win a heart for Jesus. Someone was gonna get saved today. He wanted it so bad, she thought, he could probably taste it.
Next to her on the pew, Mamie sucked on a peppermint and swung her feet back and forth to the music. If Leona knew her girl at all, it wouldn’t be long before her patience—not the best on a good day—ran out altogether.
Her husband caught her attention again as the church band amped up the volume.
“You’ve got to know that you know that you know that you know that you’re saved!” he bellowed.
Leona fought the impulse to look at her watch again.
Mamie wiggled on the pew, adjusting her position to try to keep her stomach from letting out the loud rumble she could feel coming on. The supply of striped Starlight peppermints that had seemed so endless in her mother’s pocketbook had now run out completely. She dug around in the bag, looking for something else to chew on. Even one of those little boxes of dry raisins would have done alright.
Nothing. Not even a stick of gum.
“Mama, can’t we just sneak outta here?” Mamie whispered, desperate.
“Shhhh!” her mother hissed.
“Mamie, hush,” she said. “We’ll leave when your daddy starts the benediction. As soon as he says, ‘And now to the one who is able to keep you from falling,’ they’ll stand up, and we’ll scoot out.”
Mamie watched the band leader nod to the drummer. He laid off on the snare. Sweeping the high hat with a brush, the drummer trailed off into a reverent pause.
Her father deepened the tenor of his voice and began praying, “Jesus, I wantcha to just move these people. Stir your spirit in this place. There’s somebody among us who just needs to take you into their heart today. And we just won’t leave till somebody comes to this altar and declares You as their Lord and Savior.”
As her daddy’s familiar words landed on her ears, Mamie saw her next move. Mama would probably be mad at first, but Mamie knew she wanted out just as much as she did. Expectant silence rang out between the pews. Taking a quick glance at the starving masses that filled them, Mamie decided to take one for the team.
Screwing up her courage, Mamie took a deep breath, tasting the minty scum on the backs of her teeth.
She counted to three in her head, and in one swift motion, stood up, hiked up her tights, and darted for the center aisle before her mother could grab onto her.
“Mamie!” her mother whisper-yelled, gold watch jingling as she reached out.
But she was too late.
There was only one way out of the House of God today, and Mamie saw the path to freedom open before her.
Eyes on her father, she made a beeline towards the altar. And, once again, Mamie Whitley gave her heart to the Lord.