Authors: Wendelin Van Draanen
Meg was surprised more than happy about the lock, probably because of all that muttering she’d done about me not being able to open it. And seeing how it was gaping at her like a baby bird needing bugs, she couldn’t really
But Vera says, “That’s amazing! I can’t believe it actually worked! Why, all this time it was our old phone number.”
Meg picks up a broom and starts sweeping. “Yeah, and now we’re gonna have to get the combination changed.”
I look at her and say, “I won’t tell anyone what it is!”
Vera says, “This is
, Meg. She’s more trustworthy than a locksmith, and I don’t think I need to remind you that she’s trusted us with a few secrets of her own.”
Meg keeps sweeping up dog hair and pretty soon she sighs and says, “You’re right. I’m sorry.” She looks at me. “Ma and I are much obliged, Sammy.”
Vera says, “And if there’s ever anything we can do for you, just let us know.”
I head home, and after I sneak past Mrs. Graybill the first thing I do is call Hudson and say, “Thanks!” And I can just see him, smiling like a silver fox, when he says, “That’s my girl!”
I call Dot and say, “Guess what? You are officially off poop patrol!” and let me tell you, that is one happy girl.
All night I had so many dreams about spinning dials
’round and around that when Grams woke me up in the morning, it took my brain a second to quit feeling dizzy.
After we’re done cleaning up from breakfast and it’s time to get going, Grams says what she always does when she drags me to church, “We have
to get you some decent shoes.”
And I say what I always say, “If I can’t wear my high-tops, I’m not going.”
She just sighs, and we head over to Hudson’s.
When we get there, he answers the door and says, “Good morning, ladies,” then winks at me and says, “Perfect day for church, isn’t it?”
I laugh and say, “Perfect,” because it is—it’s overcast and gloomy. Then I point to his boots and say, “Even your feet are ready to be bored,” because they’re not wearing yellow pigskin or green iguana. They’re stuck in black cowhide.
He smiles at Grams and says, “Do we have time for a cup of tea? I’ve got the water hot.”
Grams stays put on the porch. “I’d like to get a good seat. Maybe afterwards?”
As we pass the statue of the Virgin Mary on the church walkway, out of the corner of my eye I notice Father Mayhew by a side door. And I do a double take, because he’s talking to a police officer—Officer Gil Borsch.
Now, my feet were smart—they tried to keep on walking. It’s kind of a long story, but to Officer Borsch I’m like a swig of sour milk that he can’t spit out. If he had his way, he’d spray me all over the walls, but the way things are he just has to swallow and wait for the upset stomach to go away.
So I probably should’ve kept on walking, only I could tell that Father Mayhew was really upset about something. So I say, “Save me a seat, Grams. I’ll be right there.”
Father Mayhew seems happy enough to see me, but Officer Borsch takes one look at me and mutters, “Tell me this isn’t happening.”
I decide I’m going to be nice to the guy, just to see what happens. “Good morning, Officer Borsch. How is everything?”
He looks at me like I’m going to pull a squirt gun from behind my back, but since I just stand there smiling, he finally grunts and says, “Things have been worse.”
I look at Father Mayhew and ask, “What’s happened? Is something else missing?”
Officer Borsch squints a bit. “Something
Father Mayhew closes his eyes and sighs. “My papal cross disappeared earlier this week. It was in the sacristy also. Perhaps the person who took the chalices also has my cross.” He shakes his head. “I should probably also mention that our guests, the Sisters of Mercy, have had an attempted break-in in their motor home.”
While Officer Borsch is writing all this down, I whisper, “What else got taken?”
Father Mayhew says, “Two Eucharistic goblets. I just can’t believe it. All these years and we’ve never had an iota of trouble. Now in less than a week we’ve had three incidents.”
Officer Borsch looks up from his writing. “You mentioned they were gold—gold plate or solid?”
Father Mayhew looks down. “Solid.”
Officer Borsch lets out a low whistle. “And you never lock that room up?”
“Only at night. We’ve kept them there for years. Years and years. As a matter of fact, they were here when I was assigned to the parish nearly twenty years ago.” His eyebrows practically knit together and his complicated eyes look sad and confused. “Please do your best to find out who has stolen these things. It’s more than their monetary or even their sentimental value. Not knowing casts a shadow on the church. A long, dark shadow.” He looks at his watch and says, “It’s time for me to go. Maybe I could speak with you more after Mass? I’ll come to the station if you’d like.”
Officer Borsch agrees, and while Father Mayhew ducks through the side door, I head back to the front door, calling over my shoulder, “Good luck, Officer Borsch!”
He doesn’t quite know what to say to that, so he just grunts and goes back to writing in his notebook.
When I spot Grams at the front of the church, I go up and take my seat like a good little girl, and just as Grams is about to ask me where I’d gone, someone attacks the organ and we all practically jump through the roof.
Now you have to understand, they don’t usually have an organist at St. Mary’s. Someone’ll strum a guitar while everyone sings “Chorus of Faith” or “Amazing Grace,” but that’s about as noisy as we get.
So having a seat near the organ pipes has never been dangerous before, but there I was, peeling myself off the ceiling. Then I notice that behind the organ is Sister Clarice, pounding away and rocking out like Barbie Bebop.
Then all of a sudden Bernice’s voice is booming, “When Heaven, when Heaven calls your name …” from one side of the church, and Abigail’s voice is echoing, “When Heaven, when Heaven calls your name …” from the other. And I’m smiling, because this is more awake than I’ve
been in church.
Then Sister Bernice and Sister Abigail come swaying through the congregation and over to the organ with their hands up in the air, singing, “I said, Heaven, when Heaven calls your name … You gonna be ready? When Heaven calls your name. Let me hear you now, Heaven! When Heaven calls your name!”
Some people are starting to clap along with the music, but most people are just whispering to each other like they can’t quite believe what’s happening in their church.
I hear Grams say to Hudson, “Good heavens! What
Hudson says back, “Something this church has needed for a long time!” He starts clapping along, singing, “Heaven, when Heaven calls your name … You gonna be ready?” and while he’s singing and clapping, he nudges Grams and looks at her like, C’mon, Rita! Loosen up and have some fun!
Well, before you know it, there’s my grandmother, clapping her hands in church, kind of looking around to make sure that no one she knows is watching. And pretty soon I hear her voice singing, “Heaven, when Heaven calls your name … You gonna be ready? When Heaven calls your name.”
By the time Father Mayhew walks up to the pulpit, the
bricks of the church are practically shaking in their mortar from all that singing and clapping. Of course, there are still some old people looking around like they just bit into a green persimmon, but when Father Mayhew says, “May the Lord be with you,” everyone practically shouts, “And also with you!” like they’re happy and they really mean it.
After the opening prayer, Father Mayhew says, “This time of year brings, for many of us, great joy. It is a time for giving thanks, and most of us have much to be thankful for. For family, for friends, for our good health and the comfort of our homes. Even for the lessons, however hard they may have been, that we have learned on our journey through the past year. As for myself, I am thankful for all of you. For your faith, for your dedication to your church. For your charity and willingness to believe in a higher cause.
“Our work, though, is never done. Each year it seems we see more hunger, more need for human kindness, and, yes, more despair. The Church does its best to address those needs, but often our efforts fall short.”
Father Mayhew is quiet for a minute. Then he says, “Last month after a long talk with God about what more I could do to help the unfortunate through the coming winter, I received a letter from a touring group of Sisters, asking if our parish would be interested in having them do a series of concerts as a fundraiser. Attached to the letter was a stack of recommendations and copies of newspaper reviews, and after reading how successful these Sisters have been in raising money for the needy, I realized that my prayers had been answered.”
He looks over at the organ and smiles. “Our guests for the week are Sisters Bernice, Abigail, and Clarice. They’re known as the Sisters of Mercy and it is their mission to raise enough funds to see every needy person in Santa Martina through the winter.”
The Sisters of Mercy smile at us from over by the organ, and then Father Mayhew says, “It is my hope that you will support them in any way you can. Talk to people you know in the community, let them know why the Sisters are here, and encourage them to attend the shows. They will be giving performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week, and although you’ll read about them in the paper and see them interviewed on television, the very best way for us to have a successful drive is word of mouth. We need your help and I know I can count on each and every one of you to provide it.”
Now, I hadn’t noticed it before, but Sister Josephine and Sister Mary Margaret are in the row in front of us, down toward the aisle. Sister Mary Margaret’s sitting very still with her hands in her lap, but Sister Josephine is gripping her cane like she’s going to get up and leave any minute. And when the organ blasts again and the Sisters of Mercy start up on a new song, well, Mary Margaret and Josephine can’t seem to stop whispering back and forth to each other, buzzing like flies in a barnyard.
And I was so busy thinking about Mary Margaret and Josephine, and how funny it was that nuns could treat other nuns the way eighth graders treat seventh graders, that I didn’t really tune back in until Father Mayhew was going through the Eucharistic Prayer and I heard the
goblet he was using clink against the dish with the wafers on it.
It was the clink that made me quit thinking about Nun Wars and look up at the communion table. It was the clink that made me forget all about singing in church and remember the missing goblets.
And when I remembered where I’d heard that sound before, my heart started bouncing around in my chest and my hands started going clammy. And the more I thought about it, the more sure I was that I knew who had taken Father Mayhew’s goblets.
And who had taken his cross.
It wasn’t hard getting away from Grams and Hudson. They were so wrapped up in the Sisters of Mercy that they didn’t even ask me where I was going when I said, “See you back home in a while.”
I took Church Street to Bradley, across to Main, and then under the freeway. And about halfway across the field I started thinking that calling Dot or Marissa would have been a better idea than taking off on my own. I mean, it was the middle of the day and there were cars and people buzzing all along Main Street, but I couldn’t really hear them anymore. And the farther away from the street I got, the quieter it was and the more I was wishing Marissa and Dot were with me so at least I could tell them “Shh! Shh!” and
By the time I got to the bushes, my heart was flopping around like a goldfish in grass. I snuck from one bush to the next, looking for any sign of the Girl, and when I got close enough to see the box, I crawled behind a bush and waited. And waited and waited some more. And when I was sure she didn’t know I was there, I started tossing rocks.
The first couple landed in the sand in front of the box,
and the next one didn’t really connect because it was blocked by a tumbleweed. But then I landed one,
, against the front flap.