It weren't but about 10 feet from the door to the pretty lady's desk, but it seemed to take forever to cross it. My little brother 'n me toted' that big box between us and set it down. Starin' at my grimy toes, I said, "Our daddy says thank you, but we don't need no handouts. We're getting' along fine, thank you kindly."
Daddy'd tole us at least five times, "Be sure'n tell them church folk thank you. We don't want them thinkin' we ain't got no manners."
He sure was mad when he'd come home and saw that box sittin' on the table, bustin' with fancy food stuffs. He commenced to turnin' red, and he grabbed the back of the rickety chair so tight, I was waitin' for the wood to splinter.
He leaned over the box and stared me down. "What'd you boy's go an' do now?"
"Nothin' Daddy! Swear.'
"Don't you swear." Daddy stuck his face in mine, and his eyes got real dark. "You know the Good Book says just let yer yes's and no's be true."
"Sorry, Daddy. No, we didn't. Me 'n Micky were doin' our homework here at the table when the doorbell rang."
"How many times I tole you not to open that door for no one." One of his hands let loose of the chair and I ducked under my arm.
"We didn't, Daddy, I sw.. PROMISE. We just peeked out the window--they didn't even see us. This man, he was holdin' this here box of food. And this lady, she rang the doorbell again. Then the man set that box down in front of the door, then they got in a car and drove off. When I was sure they was gone, me and Micky drug it inside so's no one would steal it. It's ours now, right? They gave it to us?"
The box was overflowin' with cans and boxes and bags, but I was starin' at one big bag stuffed with cookies. My tummy was rumblin' and my mouth was waterin'. I jumped when Daddy spoke up.
"Did you boys eat anything?" He'd let loose of the chair, and his fists were balled up at his side.
"No! An' I didn't let Mickey, either, even though he cried." I was glad my tummy growled real loud right then. "But can we, maybe, have a cookie?"
"Tarnation, boy!" Daddy yanked off his sweaty cap and slammed it on the table. "If'n the Lorda meant for you to have cookies, He wouldn't of taken yer mamma from you. An' if'n he'd meant for us to have this kinda food, HE'D of provided it." He gave the box a shove, never minding the scratch it made on Mamma's table. He spied the card, and snatched it off'n the corner of the box, snappin' the pretty red ribbon it was fastened on with.
"'A gift to you from McClerran Community Church'. Figures. You boys, go wash up. You gonna take this here "gift" right back to those meddlin' church folk. They got no right assumin' we in need of charity. 'Gift.' Right. Handout's what they mean, and the Anderson's don't need no handouts. Be sure 'n tell them thank you, now. We don't want them thinkin we ain't got no manners, ya hear me boy?"
"Did you hear me, little boy? It's a gift? it's yours." I looked up at her then, that same church lady from earlier at the house. Her smile was so nice and her eyes were so soft, I wanted to tell her everything, I wanted to take the gift, but then I thought about Daddy.
"Yes, ma'am. And Daddy says to tell you thank you, but we're fine." My tummy rumbled again and I hoped she didn't hear it and know I was lyin'. I grabbed Mickey and we scooted out the door. I wanted to get home quick. I didn't lie to Daddy--we didn't eat anything out of the box. What I took wasn't somethin' to eat.
Evelyn watched from the window as the two waifs ran across the parking lot and down the sidewalk. She wiped away a tear and turned back to the giftbox she'd prepared for the Anderson's. Not even her freshly-baked cookies had been touched. But then she noticed what WAS missing; her son's old Christian comic books she'd tucked under the cookies was gone.
"A child shall lead them, and Your word will not return void. Thank you, Lord."
Author's note: Scriptures referenced in closing prayer: Isaiah 11:6, 55:11
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