CW: Religion (Christianity), Child Corporal Punishment
Last night, I ask Mom and Dad what it meant to be “born again.” Daddy sits me on his lap and reads the Bible and asks me, “Will you take Jesus in your heart?” I say yes and Mom cries and gives me a big hug and Dad says something about being saved. I don’t tell them that I only want to know if born again meant someday I could come back as a dog. Or even better, a penguin!
So today I get to go to the big person church. No more singing “Father Abraham” or playing with felt animals on an ark. I’m gonna sing from big hymnals and read from the Bible and yell “Amen” like Daddy does.
“Paris has one of the largest teen pregnancy rates in the country,” the preacher begins.
He reads the Bible and shows how it says it’s a sin to do something “out of wedlock.” I listen and don’t understand, but by the end, I remember things Daddy tells me all the time like “If you ever get pregnant before you’re married, I’ll disown you.” I can’t wear shorts outside or shirts that are too small because they suggest things. He says he doesn’t want someone to get the wrong idea and get me pregnant. I always nod at him like I understand, even when I don’t.
Every Sunday after church, we go to Grandma’s house. She cooks us lunch, and we talk and eat and watch a movie together. Grandma insists today we should watch A Summer Place, and Dad agrees because it will show me the message of the sermon.
I sit in her wooden rocking chair. My feet don’t touch the ground even if I lean forward as I do now.
“I have the best story, Grandma,” I say as she stirs instant potatoes in the kitchen.
She turns to look at me.
“The funniest thing happened last night. When I was in bed, I could hear Momma and Daddy jumping in their bed and I-”
“Melony Renee!” Momma growls. Her cheeks are red. With a frown, I stand up from the chair. It swings back and forth for a few seconds until Dad grabs the top. His eyes glare down on me. I’ll be lucky if I don’t get whipped by him when we get home, but it’s Momma’s turn again. I follow her into the back bedroom.
“I… I’m sorry,” I say. I want to ask what I did wrong, but it’ll just make things worse.
Momma’s wearing her thick 3in belt. I hate that belt.
She says nothing. I bend over on the daybed. There are whispers in the living room, but I don’t listen. I jump as the first lash meets my behind. Was I not supposed to talk about Mom and Dad playing? The next swing stings more. I always get in trouble when I talk. Maybe – The final swing burns so much I yelp. It must make Mom angry, so she gives one more for good measure.
As Momma leaves the room, she says, “Go to the bathroom and wash your face before lunch.”
I cry. I pray for forgiveness, wash my hands and face, and keep my mouth shut from now on. It’s just easier that way.