Frank sat, and as he was beginning to close the curtain a hand perched atop the bar, stopping the metal sliders. Thornton’s head poked in the booth. “You were walking awfully fast, Frank. Granted, it wasn’t a run, but if I’da been on the floor, I might’a written you a citation. I was watching from the security room, monitoring this goth dude wearing thick eye shadow. He was deciding which studded shades to lift from the Sunglass Hut when I saw you on the move. Looked like you were chasing someone, Frank.”
Frank looked up, head swimming, cheeks flushed. “There was this woman. Tall, black, full lips, fuller...” his voice trailed off as if in day dream. “Anyway, she had a little red-headed kid, freckled faced. I didn’t recognize the woman at first, not until she spoke to me. She had a voice just like Janell. And I could have swore on a stack of Pentecostal hymn books that the kid was Mary.”
There was a palpably awkward pause.
“Frank,” Thornton said, “They’re gone. Both of them. Sit’n in a photo booth longing for resurrection won’t do you no good. And chasing down apparitions, nearly knocking over Ms. Tin Le at the Bonsai Pagoda? That won’t do you no good either. Let it go. Cash in your ticket. Move to the Caribbean.”
“Thornton,” Frank started but was interrupted by his authoritative friend.
“I was watching the closed circuits, Frank. Wasn’t nobody fitting your description. It looked like you were chasing the wind, friend.”
“Would you mind checking the tapes, Thornton? Real quick. For me?”
Thornton offered only a slight pause before sliding the curtain closed. Frank could hear the black security-issue sneakers squeaking away on the freshly waxed mall tiles. He shot a cap full of Bloody Mary, trying to clear his head and connected the power cord to the Computer before opening it.
After early Mass, I took to telling Momma that I had to work the short shift at the mill. But my old Chevy—the one that Elder Johnson called the “Four Horsemen” on account of it’s stunning lack of horsepower—always seemed to find its way to the full Gospel congregation on the west side of town. Janell was in the choir, and if I timed it right I’d get the chance to hear her sing the spiritual before the sermon. After the good Elder’s preaching, Janell closed the service with a few verses of “Just as I am.” I swear, I got saved every Sunday, though I don’t think I ever got the Holy Ghost.
Sometimes, when the service ended, we’d take a bit of the potluck and sneak down to the river. Once I carried a jug of wine that my uncle had bootlegged from Missouri. On that Lord’s day, I found that Janell’s love was as good as her alto. If the Elder had known about that afternoon, I’m pretty sure he’d say that Janell didn’t have the Holy Ghost either. But he and his congregation were good to me. They didn’t treat me like I was snow-white, a leper. The old men shook my hand; the old ladies pulled me into their perfumed bosoms, close enough for my cheeks to be tickled by their feathered hats. They were a good family of folks.
But there are things you learn in life. Families compete. Families are fond of ultimatums.