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You Can Walk to Church, Bitch

The boy is already zipped into his snowsuit. The girl is sitting on the kitchen floor, carefully pulling on her boots. She wears them on the wrong feet so that the large purple hearts meant to decorate the outside of each boot touch each other instead. These hearts are married, she explains to her mother, so they have to be close together. As she picks the boy up to take him out to the car, the mother can clearly smell, even through all the padded layers, that he needs to be changed again. So she brings him back in and lays him down on the kitchen floor. The mother cleans him up then lets go of the boy so she can get a pair of his stretchy pants from the dryer, and he crawls away, laughing at the delightful and rare feeling of the air on his bare bottom. She chases him down noisily, so as to add to his enjoyment, and he squeals with joy, crawling faster and faster until she catches him up.

Now the father walks into the kitchen with his coat on and wordlessly takes the car keys off the hook near the back door. He doesn’t say where he is going because the father is a man who knows that telling the mother where he is going or why is as good as being controlled by her, held accountable to her for when he’ll be back, and what money he spends. But if you must know he is going out to a farm to see about buying some old vinyl records from somebody’s dead cousin’s collection. On the way he will pick up his friend Glen, a guy he met last weekend. They’ll grab some beers afterwards.

The father offers one quick syllable as he closes the door. Bye. He pronounces it like bite.

Wait, wait, can they get a ride? Or could they all go together? It’s only an hour. Could he please wait five more minutes? One minute? The mother swings the boy onto her hip, still bare-legged and without his snowsuit, and hurries out the back door to catch the father before he leaves. She holds the girl by the hand, her own coat unbuttoned. But the father is already backing out of the driveway. He turns his head away from them to look over his shoulder. As he does, the mother can see him say something out loud into the empty car, though of course since the windows are closed, she can’t hear what it is that he says.

Professor of theology specializing in American religious history. Published in Religion Dispatches, Sojourners, & more. Aspiring fiction writer.