It wasn’t fair. Here came Ronnie, sneaking in the back door.
“How is it you can stay out all hours and I get a nasty cuffing if I so much as show up five minutes past curfew?”
“Simple, little Sis, I’m just a little more trustworthy than you. And aren’t you up past your bedtime anyway?” He loved to patronize me.
“Ha! That’s rich! I saw you and Bobby down by the train station…”
“You and who else?” he taunted with a grin.
“I know what you were doing. The two of you were selling something…”
“Shhh. Careful Amy, you’ve got a few secrets of your own, little girl. What about you and Ricky Hansen down by…”
“Ok, don’t mention that where Papa could hear.”
Ronnie’s expression softened and he lightly cuffed my cheek affectionately. “I’m off to bed. You better be headin’ that way yourself if you know what’s good for you.”
Morning light through my bedroom window filtered through the crepe myrtle just outside. I opened my eyes and closed them again quickly as it dappled directly over my face. Grunting, I rolled over. “Just a few more minutes…”
“Boy, you better get yourself down here!” Was Papa really yelling at Ronnie? I was out of my bed in an instant, pulling on jean shorts and a t-shirt that had the name of a rock band on it.
I took the stairs by twos. I wasn’t going to miss this.
Surprisingly, Ronnie actually had beaten me to the kitchen. He was dressed already and was standing squarely in front of Papa. His back was to me. I could see Papa’s face and it was as red as a stripe off the flag that hung over the post office. What had him in such a dander anyway?
I blanched for a moment and started to back up the stairs again. Had Papa overheard our conversation last night?
“Last night I got a call from the sheriff. He seen you an’ that Bobby Prince down by the train yards an’ figures you two are up to no good - again. I don’t like to get those phone calls Ronnie.”
“Yes sir,” Ronnie’s voice was quiet.
“Well, what do you have to say about it?” yelled Papa, getting redder still. Papa liked a straight out answer and didn’t suffer his teens’ foolish evasions, perceived or real, lightly.
“Sir, I admit that the sheriff is correct in what he saw. I was at the train station on Saturday night.”
“After you’ve been warned not to go there anymore? I ought to wallop you good, boy!”
Ok, I was really puzzled now. It wasn’t like Ronnie at all to be so compliant. Nor was it really like him to go out looking for trouble. Sometimes it had found him in the past however.
Something must have seemed strange to Papa. He stared at his son, opening his mouth as if to say something and then closing it again. He seemed as perplexed as me.
Finally, Papa dropped into a chair at the table. It almost seemed as if he had been deflated.
Ronnie hadn’t moved.
Slowly the words came out of Papa’s mouth. “What were you doing down there?”
A long pause seemed to stretch into eternity.
“Sir I bet Bobby that I could get a hobo to accept Jesus.”
“You did what?” Papa was incredulous.
I rolled my eyes. Goody-two-shoes was really trying to put one over on the old man.
“Son, what do you know about Jesus anyway?”
“I know He died in my place for all the bad stuff I’ve done.”
“What do you mean ‘died in your place’?” Papa snorted somewhat dismissively.
I sat down on the step to listen too.
Ronnie continued. “Papa, it means when I die, I won’t really die. I’ll go to heaven…”
“Hogwash! You’re starting to sound just like your mother. We buried her, dead for sure.”
“We just buried her body Papa. Her spirit is in heaven with Jesus.”
He turned to look at me.
“How can I go to heaven? I miss Mama. I want to see her again.”
Ronnie came and sat by me. “Amy, you just have to tell him you need Him. Tell him you know you’ve done some things…”
Thanks Ronnie. Don’t be too specific.
“…that aren’t exactly right, and you need Him to help you change.”
I prayed and Ronnie prayed with me.
We both continue to pray for Papa. We believe there’s hope.
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