Hymnals

I wasn’t paying attention.

“Violet, your hem looks like Vietnam, honey.”

I fiddle with the hem of my dress, when I’m nervous or bored, excited or sad. Mama would slap my hand anytime she caught me, but I always ended up looking like a ragamuffin. Especially at church, I’d do it until the threads were just bare. All that loud talk would get to anybody with any sense. And there I was, front row, while my little sister would come back from Sunday school with paper Angels and warm cookies with no thought of the Devil or much of anything else.

Just so you know, “playing doctor” is frowned upon. Perhaps if Levi had been seven like me, he would have had to sit front row too. He was not. Meanwhile, I had to talk to the law, see a bunch of doctors and be more miserable than when the whole thing started.

And to boot Grandma Bertie was mad at God. I had so many questions about that. “Why did she get to be mad at God and I had to sit next to her? Wouldn’t it rub off or something? She was old and I’m pretty sure would die any minute, was that of no concern to anybody? “Bertie, aint no sense in getting all tore up over it now – it’s done,” Mama would rock that old woman just like us and end up with a drenched collarbone. “You’re gonna wake them babies up.”

Mama would smooth Grandma Bertie’s wiry gray and silver hairs back into their tight bun. While her left hand would wipe away her own tears, her purple eyes would make a sweeping inspection of imperfection, from head to foot of her own mirrored reflection.

Persistent as she was, Mama would inevitably draw blood.

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