“Finish up kids; we’re going to be late.”
“It’s only nine-thirty Daddy. We have lots of time.” Hannah shoved the last bite of the jelly filled donut into her mouth, her eyes never leaving her daddy’s face.
“Maybe, but we can’t be late. I promised your mom…“ Hannah stiffened and she saw her daddy frown. But she knew he wasn’t angry, at least not with her.
“You kids wipe your faces and meet me at the door.”
Daddy grabbed up the trash from the table and stumbled over his own feet as he hurried to the waste bin of the small downtown pastry shop.
“Why do we go to church?” Hannah’s little brother Charlie licked the remaining donut glaze from his fingers as he looked up at her. “Daddy doesn’t like it anymore.”
“We go because Daddy promised Mommy before the angels took her to Heaven that we would go to church. Daddy always keeps his promises to Mommy.”
“Let’s go kids,” Daddy motioned them through the door as he held it open.
Hannah took hold of Charlie’s hand while Daddy rummaged both his pockets. Hannah noticed tiny beads of sweat on his forehead despite the cold December wind.
“Daddy, how come the keys are in the seat?” Charlie’s question brought the world to a stop.
“Oh no. No.” Daddy cupped his hands to look through the tinted passenger window. “And it’s Sunday. It’ll take hours for a locksmith. No, God, we can’t be late.”
Hannah’s eyes filled with tears. I wish Mommy were here.
“I use to have a brown coat like that.”
The unfamiliar voice caused Hannah’s daddy to whip around. Hannah’s eyes grew wide as she stared at the man leaning on a grocery shopping cart. He wore a funny looking hat and he had gloves but his fingers were showing. Hannah put one hand under her nose, wishing the man wasn’t standing so close.
“Yes sir, I used to love everything brown – brown shoes, brown suits- even my truck was brown. Drove my Lucy crazy.”
Hannah looked up in time to see her daddy roll his eyes as he flipped open his cell phone. Before he could touch the keypad, the man spoke again.
“My name’s Brownie and I can get that door open for you without doing a bit of damage. Ain’t nobody else gonna get here anytime soon.”
Without waiting for a reply, the man retrieved a strange looking device from his shopping cart, something like Hannah had never seen before. “Won’t take but a minute.”
Daddy objected. “Hey, wait now-“
“You don’t wanna be late do you?”
Hannah saw something flicker in her daddy’s eyes. Something that held him in place long enough for Brownie to open the passenger side door with ease.
“There you go.” Brownie replaced his magical tool under a pile of newspapers in his cart.
Daddy didn’t move until Brownie began to wheel his cart away.
Daddy pulled out his wallet and offered the man a twenty-dollar bill. “Here.”
Brownie looked at him and Hannah saw his eyes twinkle the way her daddy’s had, not so long ago.
“Just put it in the offering plate at church when you get there brother. We’ll say it’s my tithe for the week.”
Daddy slowly replaced the twenty and reached out to shake Brownie’s hand. “Thanks. I don’t know why, but I think we were supposed to meet today.” Without hesitating, Daddy pulled off his brown coat and draped it around Brownie’s shoulders.
Brownie just nodded and turned away, his cart creaking like someone running fingernails down a blackboard.
Hannah stepped to her daddy’s side and put her hand in his. “We need to go Daddy, or we’ll be late.”
Daddy squatted down in front of Hannah and put his cold hands on her cheeks. “I think it will be okay sweetie. Mommy would understand.”
Hannah’s lips quivered. It was the first time since Mommy went to Heaven that Daddy had spoken directly to her. The hollow look in his eyes was gone and Hannah was sure she saw a faint sparkle.
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