Click here to read Clean Steps, Part 1
“Yeah.” I walked away again. This time, he followed me.
“What’s it like in there?”
“It’s great. What’s it like inside your church?”
“Lotta yellin’. The minister gets so angry sometimes, he starts turnin’ red and spittin’ on the front row when he talks.”
“Why’s he so angry?”
“You know, ‘cause God’s always mad about stuff.”
“That’s not true. My daddy says God loves everyone and so should we. All men are created the same. It’s called...e-colity.”
Joey giggled. “You mean equality?”
“Shut up,” I said. “I’m on summer vacation.”
“Maybe if you buy him a present, he won’t be so mean to you,” I offered.
“I don’t have any money.”
“Do somethin’ nice for him then. Tell him a secret. Then you guys would be a team.”
He seemed to like this idea. “But I don’t have any secrets either.”
That’s when my daddy walked around the side of the church with two white men and a black fellow wearing a striped shirt. They smiled and shook hands, taking a long time to say goodbye.
“Who are they?” Joey asked.
“Blacks can’t vote,” Joey said, confused.
“Yes they can.”
“No they can’t.”
“Yes they can!” I shouted.
“This is Joey,” I replied. “He’s not my friend.”
Joey crinkled his nose. Daddy just smiled warmly and said, “Hi there, Joey. It’s nice to meet you.” Then he turned to me. “Mabel, finish up and get ready for supper.”
“Okay. I just gotta take the bucket back to the pump.”
Joey stood up with me. “I should probably get goin’ anyway.”
My daddy stepped between us. “It’s okay, Mabel. I’ll take the bucket back.” I handed him the empty bucket and turned to Joey.
“Bye. Good luck with your brother.”
“Thanks,” he said, then walked away, hands in his pockets.
Later that night, when the church began to burn, my daddy screamed for me to fetch water from the well. I ran to the pump, but my bucket was gone. Joey must have told his brother about that too. They were a team now.
I never saw Joey again. And I didn’t have to do any more chores that summer.