photo of church pews

Cruising God Land Without a Weapon by Lyndi Waters

At twelve I was on the lookout for signs to confirm God’s approval. I told Granny I wanted to henna my hair like my friend Carrie, who planned to be a nun. Granny said “Those goddamn Catholics don’t know shit. Dying your hair is a sin because God made it how he wants it.” This seemed reasonable to a girl who just the week before, not knowing what a Holy Roller was exactly, but hoping it required accessories and a name tag, asked Gina Rosenkrantz if she could go to church with her and her family. Stunned, Gina said “What?” But first thing Sunday morning a Buick the rusty color of a road-killed partridge pulled up in front of the trailer house where my mother and I lived. “Get in back,” said Gina’s mother, Hilda, waving her cigarette in the general direction of Gina and her younger brother, Frank. I had heard that Frank had only one testicle. In the front seat Burl Ives was singing “An Itty Bitty Tear” which I took as a comforting sign, since everyone knew he was related to Santa, and his round, bearded face proved it. 

Sometimes signs would come in the form of something someone said. For example, I was sitting in the back seat, sandwiched between Gina and Frank, wondering if I had made a mistake by looking for God here because of something my mother had said about Hilda. “She’s the one who got arrested at the fair for selling her neighbor’s dog to a tourist from Ogalala.” But then Hilda began changing the baby’s putrid diaper in the front seat. Bud, Gina’s dad, cranked the driver’s side window down, hung his head out, and shrieked “Jesus Christ!” and I was immediately able to relax. See how that works? 

“Do you like lizards?” Frank asked out of the blue. “Sure,” I said, secretly worried that he was going to reach into his pants and produce one from the empty space left by the missing testicle, but not wanting to say something that might label me as anything other than a cooperative fellow roller. One willing to braid live lizards into my hair if that’s what God wanted. “Oh,” Frank said, obviously disappointed. Later after the service, when the Rosenkrantz family took me home, my mother asked right-off, “So. How’d it go? Anyone pass out?” “No, Mom. No one passed out.” “You’re such a liar. I know what they do over there. God my ass. If I hadn’t been floating on the ceiling, watching as they ripped you out of my body, I’d think you were adopted. Get me a beer.” I had lied to Mom. They passed out alright. The Holy Spirit dropped Angus Mullen right in front of me, and Reverend Benedict announced he knew an evil sinner when he saw one, obviously aware that my knees were dissolving like a vampire in a holy-water jacuzzi.

Lyndi Waters is a Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Writing Award, the Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest, and the 2019 Wyoming Writers, Inc. free verse contest. Her writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in literary magazines and anthologies such as The Owen Wister Review, Gyroscope Review, Unbroken Journal, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (Sastrugi Press, 2016,) Troubadour (Picaroon Poetry Press, U.K., 2017,) and others. She lives in Wyoming with five chickens, and a couple of dogs.

Lead image: “The Pews of Safety Harbor Church” (via Flickr user Drew Coffman)