I didn’t see her come in. Whatever entry sound she made were dispelled by the sound of the fans hanging on long steel pipes from the high roof of the chapel. It was light that gave her away. When she got almost midway on the path between the middle pews and the ones on the right, she cut off the light glancing off the glass crucifix behind the pews on the right that was constantly teasing the edge of my vision.
My hand was on the prayer bell on the floor beside the pulpit when I saw her.
Her face said nothing as she kept up her firm, fixed pace. She was carrying a baby on her back and was unstrapping it as she came.
She stopped before the podium, baby in hand.
“They come with warranty, right?”
She didn’t wait.
“This is only three months. Warranty is usually twenty four.”
She dropped the child in the shawl just before my boots.
Her hands grabbed my legs under my robe.
They were soft against the massive hairiness.
I couldn’t remember her face.
You are not a member of this parish, I wanted to tell her. The look on her face said I couldn’t.
I looked out each array of windows on the three sides of the long chapel. Except for the other parish boys playing football, far down near the lodges, there was no one. No priest.
“Mummy, you know Polio?”
“My faith has polio.”
She didn’t budge.
“Her maker is here. That is why I brought her here. To her maker.”
Do we make babies here?
Just behind the grin were information I wanted to feed her. Like:
I came to the altar to steal the gold prayer bell just beside me. I needed to pay for the state junior football club registration if I would ever dream of playing more than in the parish compound.
My parents said I had no brains for books and sent me here.
I have lived here everyday never understanding why the Priest would keep telling us what God wanted from us. I was only interested if he wanted a football match. I had none of what he wanted.
I wanted ball. Football.
I looked at the baby for the second time.
“Leave my legs. Your hands can’t make me see the baby well.”
I squatted beside the child when she let go of my legs, and touched its face. It was not exactly cold like I expected. But she wasn’t breathing. That much was so clear.
Why didn’t she go to an hospital? Where was her husband? Will her in-laws call her a witch? A child killer? Will they bring another wife from the village followed my the husband’s mother?
Questions. That God could answer. Should answer.
I felt my own frustrations in the woman’s.
I took five quick paces back like I would do when I wanted to take free-kicks. Free-kicks that never miss.
With a roar of “Goddddd!!” I ran towards the child. The mother, whose eyes never left me, rushed to cover the child with her body from the floor where she was.
My left foot met my target giving a canvas-leather-metal sound. The gold prayer bell sailed for the head of the glass crucifix behind the rows to the right.
It didn’t get there. It hit the pole holding a fan and that deflected it into the paths of the rolling blades of the one behind it.
A clang and it began coming back but was going higher.
The woman had got off the child when she saw I didn’t mean to kick the child. And was watching.
It hit the ceiling a little before directly overhead us. And fell at a little angle on the ornate chandelier over us, which came down too.
Both fell on the glass pulpit beside us. The mother didn’t sense the end of the resulting crash quickly enough to bend over her baby.
Everything crashed beside the child sending big pieces of glass on her body in the shawl.
And like every child broken glasses fall on, it cried.
The mother didn’t scream.
“They don’t pay for warranty services, do they?” She asked as she picked up the last piece of glass from the crying child.
“I guess not.”
She stared at my left leg.
“Buy another pair of boots. Here, I’ll slash prices for you.”
She gave me a card from her purse.
“Call me when you get there.”
She cuddled her baby as she went out by the right back door.
I shook the pieces of glass off my robe and boots.
I picked the prayer bell.
A labourer deserves pay.