Amber brought me a cup of coffee to the table at the Arabica coffee shop. She blew on the steam rising from her cup as she sat down across from me. She stared at me.
“How are your classes going?” I asked. I huddled my hands around my cup.
“Sweet Baby Jesus!” Amber stared at me.
“Look, I know you’re planning on continuing on to Seminary, but could you be more specific?” Amber continued to stare at me. She started tapping her well-manicured fingernails on the table.
“She gave you a toe-job, didn’t she?” Now it was my turn to stare. The water in the hot tub had been roiling. There was absolutely no way she could have seen what was going on.
“Excuse me?” With Amber, there was no such thing as buying time.
“A toe-job. T-O-E dash J-O-B. Toe-job.” I looked around us to see if Amber’s voice had garnered us an audience. Sister Lindy from Mount Carmel looked at me. Through me. I leaned over to her.
“I keep telling her, Sister, it’s pronounced Jobe, as in lobe, but she gets confused.” Sister Lindy returned to her reading. I looked over at Amber. Now the middle nail on her right hand was tapping the rim of her cup.
“I’m gonna stick confused right up your ass until your prostate hollers uncle, you asshole.” She continued the tapping, looked down at her cup and back up at me. “Did you return the favor?” If I said yes it would be a lie. If I said no, it would mean the act in question had actually occurred. Instead, searching for clever answers, I chose a poor one.
“If Sara had done that twenty-two years ago we wouldn’t be sharing this moment today.”
“That’s the best you can come up with?” Okay. She had me. Memories of toes on flesh--even my favorite flesh--wilted under her stare.
“Did I do wrong?” Was there no end to my stupidness?
“Define wrong.” Her tapping on the cup rim intensified. She was really the greatest daughter in the world. Really.
“Well, wrong should really be my middle name--and I wouldn’t want to use my middle name as proof-text for my actions. Is it possible I could just blame it on too much Southern Comfort?” Stall, stall, stall.
“As opposed to lack of conscience, morals, scruples, and an assault on innocence?” Okay. So. I know, I’d go on the offensive.
“I don’t think a toe-job would be construed as an act of innocence.” There. She sat there silently. Clearly my plan was working. I looked over as Sister Lindy’s chair slid back. She got up, came over to our table, and put an index card in front of me. She made a tsking sound and walked out the door. Amber grabbed the card.
“Romans 12:2. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
“So she thinks my mind needs renewing?” It didn’t hurt to ask.
“You’ve deeply offended the penguin.”
“That’s the last time I play bingo over there.” I took a sip of my coffee. I was deeply offended myself. Deeply.
“Well, well, well, Father, you are quite the man.”
“So some would say.”
“But not many.” Cut to the quick.
“Harsh you are.”
“So was it good? The toe-job?” She looked at me.
. . .from the novel in progress. . .Permanent Declarations of a Temporary Love