Slow day at work...
“What if I choke on a cracker?”
“You won’t choke.”
“But what if I do?” the boy said, and the father picked up a Bible.
“If you choke, then you can drink the wine.” The father tapped the cover. The boy looked ahead. Burning candles surrounded them.
“Mom says drinking is wrong.”
The father flipped the pages. He then placed the Bible back on a shelf attached to a bench in front of them.
“Mom’s not here.”
“Well, when mom's not here I’m in charge. And if you choke on a cracker I give you permission to drink the wine.” The father spoke sternly - stern enough to silence the boy’s questions.
“You won’t choke, though…No one does…and your mother’s right, drinking is bad.”
The father picked up the Bible again. He tapped the cover. It was a dark room, even with the burning candles.
“You probably wanted to play basketball or something,” the father said. He adjusted his position. “I wasn’t sure where you’d want to go…Ra…Your mom said you liked architecture.” He stared at the ceiling, noticing the different colors of painted glass.
“I don’t play sports,” the boy said.
“Me neither,” the father said. “I don’t really like architecture either, though.”
They were silent. People prayed all around them.
“You probably shouldn’t drink the wine, though…Your mother’s right. You’re young.”
“I know you’re supposed to be 21. I’m not dumb.”
The father smiled. “21. That’s right.”
He looked down at the boy, and for the first time he didn’t immediately look away. For the first time he noticed the familiar blue eyes.
“You do well in school?”
The boy spoke sharply, and the father paid close attention.
“Well, good…School’s important…Your moms told you that, I’m sure.”
“I like Art,” the boy said, without being questioned.
And then people all around them stood from their benches, mid prayer. They moved to the front of the church, forming a nice, neat line, heading straight for the candles. It felt as if everyone was leaving them.
“See…No one will choke. Watch.”
And the boy watched, just as the father told him to.
“I can do that,” the boy said.
“I’m sure you can,” the father said. And he laughed under his breath - a condescending laugh. The boy quickly stood. He was now the tallest.
“I’ve drunk before,” the boy said. And he moved past the father’s legs.
“You don’t want me to come with you?”
The boy neither stopped nor spoke, and simply took his spot at the back of the line. He was the only child, a sight that amused the father as he watched the boy move forward one small step after another. He then stood in front of a priest and a small cracker was placed by his mouth. Not hesitating, the boy took it, faster than anyone had before him, and he put the cracker in his mouth. Before beginning to chew, he took a sip of wine, though it was not offered, and he moved away, causing the other people to turn to his direction, as if he was the only person worth noticing.
“Did it taste good?” the father said.
The boy continued to chew, making a face that required no response. The father smiled. He leaned in close and stared at the boy's familiar blue eyes.
“I don’t like wine either,” the father said. And they sat. The boy swallowed. The father silently laughed - not a condescending laugh.
“I like the buildings near my school,” the boy said. “I like the designs...That’s what my mom meant.”
“Oh,” the father said, and he looked to the front, noticing people still waiting for their crackers, all different sizes, shapes, and ages. But with no children there, it was far less entertaining to watch.
The father stood. He tapped the Bible resting on a shelf attached to the bench in front of them.
“It’s early,” the father said. And the boy looked up, noticing the father staring at his own feet, waiting.
So the boy stood. He was much shorter than the father - just as it should be.
They then walked through the isle, using the candles to light their path, side by side, silent as they exited the church.