Lent

by Julia Webb

We talked about the pit falls of summer babies, those BAD-UNS gone to seed and Whitsun weddings, Easter when it falls early and the time we found all that CHOCOLATE that she had GIVEN UP for Lent hidden in the bottom of the cleaning closet. And how we despised the way she cried and said Please DON’T tell your Daddy – as if we would! But we liked to imagine his big bitumen hands resting on the faded skin of the BIBLE and his stern and serious face and the: Mary you know you have done WRONG! But Alice she took all that chocolate and we ate it up in the yard burying the silver foil underneath the compost heap where only JESUS could see it. Alice says JESUS can see everything – he can even see through walls. Sometimes I think about that when I’m in the bathroom and I pull the raspy towel close around me but it’s hard to wash that way – and even harder when Mamma is shouting: Come down stairs at once and go and get some potatoes and Alice is whispering through the door: Hurry up in there, Mikey will be here soon and I need to get ready. And then I remember how she KISSED Mikey in the car and I wonder why she isn’t worried about JESUS seeing THAT and about the whole threat of MORTAL SIN? Mama says that autumn births are the WORST because you have to go all through the long hot summer and Daddy puts his hand on the holy book and says: We won’t talk of SUCH THINGS. And then I remember the chocolate in the closet and how good it tasted and I am about to say something because I don’t want to go to HELL, but Alice kicks me hard in the shin and I see Mama shaking her long shine of hair and I remember the sting of Daddy’s hand. So when he looks at me with his caterpillar eyebrows raised THAT WAY I just lower my head and say NOTHING and know that presently we will eat dinner which will be ham and peas and POTATOES and I concentrate hard on my plate and imagine that I am JESUS and that I am eating up all the world’s SIN.