I wore the dark blue cotton dress with the tie around my waist that tied in a bow behind me. Not a big wide fancy bow like you saw in movies. Just a regular, narrow bow, like on your shoes. There was white smocking across the chest and no sleeves so my mother taught me to wear a white blouse underneath. I could see how the plain white blouse suited the somber blue fabric. This was my best dress. I wore it the day I got my first holy communion. I did it by myself on a Sunday. Only my mother came with me to church. My father was away that year.
We went to church and when it was time for communion, before everybody else came up, the priest made an announcement about me and invited me up first.
A month later it was my birthday and it was Sunday and I asked my mother if I could bicycle to church. We were not hardcore church people. I liked church though especially now that I could stand up with the grown-ups and go get communion.
I wore the same dark blue dress and I wore a brown wool winter coat and I bicycled. As I coasted down a steep hill, a dog leaped out at me, barking, snarling, jumping, his teeth bared. I kept going and got past him.
I left my bicycle out in the grassy parking lot amongst the cars and when I came out it was bent out of shape. I couldn’t ride it. I couldn’t walk home. It was miles. There were no cars left in the parking lot. Everyone had gone home.
The only person I knew was probably still around was the priest. I had never talked to him. But I had no choice. I walked back into the empty church. I walked down the side aisle to the door of the room that the priest went into after Mass. I had never been in there before. I knocked. He opened the door, dressed in plain black clothes now. I explained how I couldn’t ride my bike. “Here,” he said. “Why don’t you use this phone and call your mother.” He sat me before a large black telephone. My mother suggest I should walk to the store and she would come get me.
I knew where the store was. I walked over there. It only took a couple of minutes. It was an old store, painted red like a barn, with a long wooden porch. It always made me think of the times when I was really little and we were living here the first time and my father would stop here on the way home from church and he would buy the Sunday New York Times which seemed much too big to me – a giant newspaper. How could anyone read that thick thick bulk of pages, all black-and-white and tiny print? My father laughed when I told him what I thought. He laughed because he could read it and I could not.
Inside the store the light was dim. I had never been in here before. Not like this. Only when there were lots of people and I was lost amongst their legs, holding my father’s hand while he steered me through. Now I was by myself and there was almost no one here.
I walked over to the magazines. I looked at the covers. I didn’t touch them. Now and then I heard someone come in, walk to the counter and buy something. I wished I had some money. I wanted to buy a package of Hostess cupcakes, the chocolate ones with the white squiggle of icing and the creamy white inside.
I waited some more. I walked up one dimly lit dusty aisle, lined with canned goods. Then the other. Then I went back to the magazines. My mother was taking a long long time.
“That’ll be $2.65,” I heard the man behind the counter say.
“Oh, just put it on my credit,” the customer replied and left without giving any money.
I waited. No one else was waiting like this. Everyone else came in, bought something and left.
“Can I help you with anything, hon?” the man behind the counter asked.
“No,” I said. “That’s okay.”
I read all the magazine covers again. I looked at the racks of yodels and ring dings and the cupcakes I wanted. I wished so much I had some money. I was hungry now too.
I took a package of Hostess cupcakes and went to the counter. “That’ll be 95 cents,” the man said.
“Can you put it on my credit?” I asked.
“Do you have credit with us?” the man asked. “What’s your name?” I told him my name and he said something that let me know that what worked for the other customer wasn’t going to work for me.
I put the cupcakes back. I waited. My mother finally came. She had thought I would be outside on the porch. I don’t know why she thought that. She hadn’t told me to wait on the porch. She said she had been driving up and down the road, looking for me.