The Lord’s Prayer
by Jamie Moore
My first church memory is the melody of The Lord's Prayer.
Our church sang it together, right after announcements, right before the kids were dismissed for Children's Church as the sermon started. Everyone stood up to sing together, everyone knew it by heart. Even the oldest deaconess gripped the edge of the pews and swayed until she got enough momentum to pull her bodies forward, then fan herself for the effort. The air was heavy with pause, as the deacon lead the call and response of the prayer. Everyone stood patient on his inhale, waiting for the start of the piano, the long vowels of the choir show-offs.
Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
It must've been winter, because I remember wearing an itchy sweater over my button up shirt and red clip-on tie. Mom had bought me two ties, one red and one blue, to alternate every other Sunday. The metal clip pushed against the soft space between my neck bones. It felt like a finger there, poking me to see how long I could stand it before I threw up; the kind of game we'd play at recess when grownups weren't watching.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
In Earth, as it is in Heaven
This sweater was too short and rubbed at my wrists and my belly, so I itched. I scratched until my copper skin tuned bright pink, something that Pop's skin didn't do. When he scratched, he had white marks and Mom called him ashy. I scratched and scratched until Mom swatted my arm. I wanted to take it off, but I knew she wouldn't let me since she kept pulling the sweater back down. I could feel every little fiber brushing against me, like they were growing and curling up on their own beneath my collar. The little hairs trying to eat at my skin, to crawl inside me.
Give us this day, our daily bread
Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
I remember pulling at Mom's skirt, as I started to feel real hot. I felt sweat dripping from my forehead, like my hair was crying. One sliding right down by nose. When I went to wipe it with my sleeve, Mom nudged Pop and he pulled me to stand in front him. I was so little, I could rest my chin on the edge of the pew in front of us. Pop placed his hands on my shoulders. That was the sign for stay still. I couldn't help but shift from foot to foot, hoping his hands would rub the itch. Then his grip tightened. That meant, boy you better not move. But his hands made it hotter, like two heaters pushing down and down and down on my body. I knew I wasn't supposed to cry, but I wanted out. The hot breath of all the people singing around me. The heavy clothes. The solider stance. I want to tear this off and run far far away, bare chested in the rain and maybe God lived out there instead.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
I tried to cover my mouth, but the little choke came out. I wanted it to be a cough, but the tears flowed, mixing with my sweat and burning my eyes. I rubbed at my face, but then the sweater fibers were sticking to me and the itch and heat got itchier and hotter. Pop stooped down to me, hissing his sticky breath in my ear, “Do you want to embarrass us, huh? You know how to act in church, you better act like you got manners. If you move one more time, God as my witness, I will belt you in this very church. You better stand up straight and say your verses.”
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory
Pop was right. Good kids stayed still like Zora and Kaiya, and Satchel. Right next to their mom as and daddies like all of this was alright. But I knew it wasn't. This itchiness, this heat was something bigger. I knew the things my body told me, back when I listened to what my body was trying to tell me. I did what I tried to do at home when I couldn't leave. I made my breaths come quick until it felt like I could float, the room swaying beneath my feet. I breathed and breathed and closed my eyes until I was sure I was flying without moving a muscle. I learned how to leave my body again and again.
With the last notes of the piano, the Deacon called out, "Can you feel the feel the spirit? Can you feel God with us right now? Let me hear you!"
As the affirmations called out around me, I felt myself yell "Amen." A few people turned to look at us, smiling down on little one catching the spirit along with them. It was my secret that I was exactly that, spirit, far away from my body. Mom reached for my hand and held it in hers, Pop rubbed the top of my head. "There you go, son. That's a good boy."
Jamie Moore is the author of the novella, Our Small Faces, and received her MFA in Fiction. She is a Kimbilio Fiction fellow and has recently work published in The Nervous Breakdown and Drunk Monkeys. She works as an English Professor in California and is at work on a novel. She can be found online @mixedreader.