Tawnysha Greene is currently a Ph.D. candidate in fiction writing at the University of Tennessee where she serves as the fiction editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers. Her work has appeared in various literary journals including Bellingham Review and Raleigh Review and is forthcoming in Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts.
Before we go into the Christian bookstore, gaze at rows of multi-colored Bibles, wooden
angels without faces on glass shelves, Momma kneels in front of us, holds our hands
closed, flat in front of our chests, says, make shopping hands.
We wander the aisles inside and Momma buys Jesus shirts, bumper stickers, praise
and worship CDs. We walk past coloring books of Bible heroes, watch Jesus multiply
fish and bread on the television, our hands clasped, as if praying.
Momma takes us to the candle store next door where everything smells sweet
as she opens, closes glass lids, lets us lean our faces close, smell pumpkin, lavender,
trees. Momma likes the white ones, ones that smell of cream.
We go to the Christmas store last where angels, red reindeer made of glass line
the aisles and Momma says she’ll buy us a peppermint candy cane if we are good, don’t
touch things in the store.
She talks to the lady behind the counter who rings up the candy canes, holds them out to
us, calls us sweetie, darling. We unclasp our hands, reach for the candy, and as Momma
drives home, lick red stripes off the canes.
When Momma’s belly gets big, we stop going to the stores with Jesus movies, candles,
candy canes. We go to the doctor with Momma, hide behind the white curtain, turn
our backs, close our eyes when the doctor looks at the baby.
At night, the baby comes and Daddy takes us to a room where we see him in a glass box,
tubes going in and out, and I go to reach inside, but Daddy catches my wrist, holds me
back, says, shopping hands, and I remember what Momma says
would happen if we touched the angels, red reindeer made of glass. They will
break if you touch them, says Momma. They will fall and shatter to pieces.