The father bends down and whispers to his daughter, who stands, with hands solemnly folded, in line for Holy Communion. Go right out the side door he tells her. She does not register the disappointment she feels, but still, hates to say her prayers on the run. She’ll miss the display of goodness the opportunity allows her, will miss the priestly procession at the conclusion, the go in peace she longs for but doesn’t know why.
Outside in the cold, brilliant sunshine, the father lights a cigarette, and takes a draw that deflates his cheeks so that he looks like a man who is starving. When he throws back his head and exhales upward, she thinks she sees a bit of communion wafer in the corner of his mouth, and she cringes at the thought of the nicotine mixing with the body of Christ.
The father walks briskly and smokes. The daughter’s short, plump legs work hard to keep up with him. He turns around a few times, his smile jaunty, the cigarette smoking itself in this mouth. He squints from the sun or the smoke or both.
The pavement in front of the old German bakery is cracked and dirty. The daughter can see through the smudged glass that they are the first to arrive before Mass lets out. The father throws his cigarette out and exhales as he leans into the heavy door with the rusty bells around the door knob. The daughter breathes in the smoke that trails behind him and imagines what if feels like to be polluted.
The girl is behind the counter. She sees the father and folds her thick, dark hair behind her ears. The father hands stuffed in his coat pocket, points to his choices with his shoulder, laughs too loud. His voice goes up and down. The girl laughs, soft, her mouth pale pink inside, her tongue punctured with a small silver stud.
The daughter stamps her feet on the old wooden floor of the bakery. Her whole body begins to sing a sad song and her fingers and toes tingle. She watches the father and the girl like they are actors in a play. The daughter thinks, that she has said Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad many times. He pays no attention so she isn’t sure if the sound ever left her mouth.
The girl touches the long twisted crullers, the sticky chocolate covered donuts, the plain “old fashions” placing them ever so gently in the white bakery bag. She licks her fingers and begins again. The father stares.
The father is saying something over his shoulder as they leave and the girl stands, head cocked to the side. She moistens her lips, listening. The daughter feels as though days have passed standing in the bakery and she feels hot and itchy underneath her coat.
Father and daughter each carry a bag and walk home. This time the walk is slower, the father’s eyes like hard blue marbles, focused on something far away. The daughter looks inside of her bag and pulls out a donut and begins to lick the cinnamon sugar. She finishes it in three bites and goes for another. The father looks down at the daughter, good navy blue church coat dirty with the tell tale signs of something sticky and sweet. The wife will be pissed. Dirty girl he hisses, swiping at her coat with his big, hairy hands attempting to remove the evidence. Her small breast buds hurt from the pressure of his quick hard slaps, a sensation she cannot get used to. The daughter begins to cry. A memory of shame washes over her like a blush. Your mother will not be happy he hisses as they step over the spotless threshold of the front door to their home. The daughter thinks that is true. She stops crying as she steps inside, her eyes desperately trying to adjust to the darkness inside. It is the only thing he has said all morning that has made any sense.