Carrie Ann sat silently between Dad and Mom in the tiny wood frame church like she had for as long as her eight year-old mind could remember.
Mom was fanning with a cardboard fan with a picture of Jesus kneeling in prayer on one side and advertisement for Bakerman’s Funeral Home on the other. The temperature was already pushing 90 degrees that humid August Sunday morning.
The blades of window fans were a blur as they did battle with the inside heat of the church. The heat was winning. The fans had succeeded in masking the soft snoring sounds of Carrie Ann’s three year-old brother, Danny, who had fallen asleep in Mom’s lap.
Laura Jean and her husband, Luther, walked by the pew where Carrie Ann was sitting with her family. A soft cloud of “Evening in Paris” cologne trailed Laura Jean. Luther’s hair looked like it had been combed by his pillow. But Laura Jean was always dressed in something interesting. This morning, red painted toenails peeked out from spaghetti-strapped sandals that matched her turquoise sun-dress. Across her shoulder swung a red pocketbook.
Oh, how Carrie Ann wanted a red tassel trimmed shoulder pocketbook like Laura Jean’s. When Carrie Ann asked Mom to buy her one from Turner’s Dept. Store, she said, “No, Dad wouldn’t like that.” Carrie Ann asked Mom’s sister, Aunt Gloria, why Daddy would say, “No.” Aunt Gloria said she thought it had something to do with Dad being in the War in Germany. Being sixteen, Aunt Gloria knew everything.
Carrie Ann forgot about the red tassel trimmed pocketbook when Sis. Ruby walked to the pulpit to sing. Sis. Ruby always wore her long gray hair in a tight bun at the nape of her neck. Despite the heat, she wore a long-sleeved dress with the hem reaching her ankles. It wasn’t her singing that Carrie Ann liked as much as it was to listen to her daughter, Clara Nell, accompany her on the piano. Everyone said Clara Nell was gifted because she played “by ear.”
Carrie Ann loved the throbbing beat resounding through the church when Clara Nell played hymns. This morning, the song was “Down by the Riverside.” Carrie Ann clapped along with everyone and joined in singing the chorus.
When the song service ended, Preacher Stone stepped to the pulpit and told the congregation to open their Bibles to Romans 6:12. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”
“Be sure your sins will find you out,” Preacher Stone shouted as he pounded the pulpit with his fist almost spilling the glass of water next to his Bible.
Carrie Ann wasn’t sure which of her sins Preacher Stone would find out about.
Loosening his tie and unbuttoning the top button of his shirt, the preacher pressed on. “No sin will enter Heaven’s gates.”
Carrie Ann was confused. She didn’t know which of her sins would keep her from going through the gates of Heaven.
She knew it was wrong to steal, tell a lie, to kill someone, or talk-back to Dad and Mom. But, Preacher Stone was talking like there were other sins, too.
Was it a sin to pretend she didn’t hear Mom call when she was busy in her “Beauty Shop?” Carrie Ann loved to braid the soft yellow corn silk that flowed from the top of each ripe ear of corn in the garden.
Was it a sin to sit at the supper table until everyone finished eating and let Aunt Gloria give Carrie Ann’s liver and onions to Samson? That dog would eat anything.
Was it a sin to use Aunt Gloria’s nail polish to paint her toenails red like Laura Jean’s? It might be, ‘cause she had to wear socks to keep Dad from noticing.
Was it a sin to listen to “The Shadow Knows”on the radio every Sunday afternoon?
“I’ll ask Aunt Gloria,” Carrie Ann decided as she snuggled up closer to Dad on the pew.
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