This is the fifth and final part of my short story "Things Were Better Then."
Sunday morning at Church, Jojo was dressed in his nicest clothes. His father wasn’t there because his father went to the Presbyterian church, and never came with Jojo to St. Francis. And, since Jojo’s mother was away doing business again, he came alone again. Jojo didn’t mind this because he would sit in a different place each week, and see new people. For some reason, which he could never figure out, it was as if people always chose to sit in the same seats week after week. It was a routine, a habit that they couldn’t break. Jojo sat beside a man who always wore a white suit, was a bit too fat, and who had a sweaty bald head he always wiped.
There were the readings, then the sermon, and finally came the offertory. Jojo always like singing along, and since they sang mostly the same songs each week, he never had to open the hymnal. The Ms. B’s stood up with their baskets attached to poles, and they went to each pew take money from everyone at mass. When it was Jojo’s turn to put in his offering, he saw the Agnes Ms. B smile at the fat man in the white suit, and talked to him for a moment, like she did every Sunday.
“Nathan, good to see you. Anything for the church today?” Agnes looked at Jojo as he reached over and fut his two dollars and sixty cents in the basket. “Why thank you Jojo,” Anges said. “And how about you Nathan?”
Nathan took out a small box wrapped in brown paper, with a nice ribbon around it and put it in the basket. “For the good father, my dear. I hope he enjoys it.”
“I’m sure he will, God bless you,” Agnes said and went to the rest of the pews to collect the offerings.
After the offertory, Jojo shared the peace of Christ with everybody, and got ready as Father Francis started preparing for communion. It was then when eight policemen walked through the doors. Everyone stood and turned, and Jojo had to get on the back of the pew to see over their heads. While everyone was looking at the policemen, the police men were looking at everyone else. Their faces turned from happy pride to confusion. Jojo turned his head and looked towards the altar and saw the back of Father Francis’ head as he slipped out the side doors to the rectory. Then the two Ms. B’s started running after Father Francis, and as they crossed in front of the altar to get to the side door, they slipped on the spilled wine that was all over the floor. They both fell with a thud on the hard marble floor, and a pair of dentures flew up from one of them and landed on the steps of the altar. Jojo laughed, climbed down, and walked over towards the altar, where a group of people were already gathering around the Ms. B’s and talking worriedly.
Jojo stepped past them and picked up the cracked wet teeth which dripped with spilled wine. He walked over to the crowd, got on his hands and knees, and scuttled under the legs of one adult. He looked at the Macy Ms. B, who was shaking her head and moaning, and he held out the dentures in his hand.
“Want your teeth back?” Jojo asked. Macy Ms. B didn’t seem to hear him or see him, so Jojo shrugged and crawled out from the crowd and walked out of the Church to go home and see his father who was still sick from eating the muffins Jojo gave him a few days ago.
* * *
One Sunday, when all the police came back to mass, the priest, I can’t remember his name, ran out the rectory. Later he said he did it because he thought they were coming to lynch him for being a Catholic. And the two old Bernier sisters who chased after him said they thought the same thing too. Not much happened after that, until a couple of years later when the Berniers both died of a sudden, and the priest, yes Father Francis, I remember his name now, had some sort of nervous breakdown shortly after. That ws around the time my mother left us for a city executive, and my father decided enough was enough and he took me from then on to St. John’s on the other side of town.
I still remember how pure and good things used to be back then. There were no problems like today. Now when you’re in church, you’re as likely to hear a cellphone ring as hear a prayer. And nobody cares what religion you are. They don’t even care what you are period, what with all the different marriages and such going on now. No sir, Norton just doesn’t feel like a town no more. No spunk, no spazz. Just people locked inside their homes. Back then you could talk to your neighbors. Things were better then.