My gloved hands work the twist tie apart on the blue plastic bag; twenty-one slices of squishy white bread fan across the table. Hail Mary full of grace. I toss the thinnest heel into the bread pudding pile and turn the other one crust side in. The Lord is with thee.
I’m restless, irritable and discontent today and I want to be alone. Bobbie’s music is playing through tinny speakers from the kitchen, I strain to hear it. I’d like to be wearing my headphones – shutting out everything but the shouts of angry rappers, but that would seem antisocial.
I line the bread up in two neat rows — ten on top, ten on the bottom.
Blessed art thou among women.
I dip the spoon into the tuna and plop a spoonful on a slice. And, I scoop another spoonful, (plop) blessed (plop) are (plop) the (plop) fruit (plop) of (plop) thy (plop) womb (plop) jesus (plop). I flip the empty slices on top of each to make ten sandwiches (flip)holy(flip)mary(flip)mother(flip)of(flip)god(flip)pray(flip)for(flip)us(flip)sinners(flip)now.
I turn each sandwich sideways into a sandwich bag and close the flap and(flap)at(flap)the(flap)hour(flap)of(flap)our(flap)death(flap)amen(flap)o(flap)my(flap)jesus.
I pick up the blue bag, and put all ten baggied sammies back in, spin the bag until it is closed, and replace the twist tie.
Then I grab a loaf of brown.
Especially those in most need of Thy mercy.
K is sitting across the table rolled up as close as her wheelchair will get; she has started the peanut butter and jelly decade. I think if she is praying too — it is a slow and languishing prayer that floats along with the one by one sandwiches she makes pulling just a single slice of bread out of the bag, laying it in the palm of her hand, and gently spreading the maroon peanut butter mixed with marion berry jelly across the bread like she is icing the perfect wedding cake.
I look at the clock as I finish my second bag. I’m right on schedule. Just three more cycles of tuna, and I will be on to the spam decade. I wonder if it has been sliced yet.
“How’s it going, K?” I ask as I look at the half bag of finished sandwiches. “I haven’t slept in days.” she smiles at me; I look into the bags under her eyes. “Yeah?” I finish the last bag of tunas without prayers but listening to her tell me about her dreams while she peels the crust off of a bare slice of bread.
The tall young man with tats scrolling his pretty brown neck and long lovely arms joins us. He picks up the white spatula and twirls it like a baton. “I now will do peanut butter!” he announces. I start to explain how he should lay them out because it will go faster. “OK – A.D.D. Girl” he shows his teeth at me. “How much time do you have, again?” I roll my eyes at him. “OK, Mr. Four Months… do it your way.”
He pinches his nose with his fingers, “Tuna smells.” K and I laugh. “it’s done anyway” I say, and I go in search of spam – carrying the empty tuna bowl back to the kitchen.
Ourfatherwhoartinheavenhallowedbethyname, I am happy to see that Lindie is running the slicer back and forth across the shiny pink meat. Bobbie is walking towards me holding out a huge silver bowl of chopped peppers, celery, and onions.
Thykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven, “JB, I have lost track, will you look at the soups and tell me which one already has onions and celery in it?” I look into the bubbling caldrons searching for the white and green cubes. “The furthest one from you is good to go. The closest one to you needs what you have.”
She feels her way to that pot, lifts the bowl high up over her head and dumps in the vegetables. Giveusthisdayourdailybread. I wonder where the mustard got to. Andforgiveusourtrespassesasweforgivethosewhotresspassagainstus, Lindie hands me a bowl full to the brim with sliced up spam; I spy the red bowl of yellow spread. Andleadusnotintotempataionbutdeliverusfromevilamen.
In the time I have been in the kitchen, the peanut butter sandwiches have multiplied into beautiful piles of doneness. “OK peeps! It’s spam time” I dip the spatula into the mustard and smear a spoonful on a slice. And, I dip the spatula again, (smear) blessed (smear) are (smear) the (smear) fruit (smear) of (smear) thy (smear) womb (smear) jesus (smear).
Someone has opened the kitchen window so we can hear the tunes out in the sandwich making room. We three are quiet quiet and swaying in our private trances focused on finishing up the last of the sandwiches before 4:30. I offer a rueful shrug to the woman who is pushing the mop, eyeing the crumbs that are falling from our table. She winks at me.
Turn then, Oh most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy towards us,
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
The song changes to something that sounds like “look, I’ve really fucked it up this time” and we all scream in horrified delight. “Oh My GOD!” Bobby fusses as she stumbles to the player so she can advance it to the next song. “I keep forgetting not to play this, we are in a church, after all.”
The last bag of sandwiches is wrapped and stacked now.
O clement, o loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.
Mr. Four Months fist bumps me. I bend down and give K a hug. We all gaze for a minute at our work spread out on the table.
I feel ease and comfort as I take in the bounty of prayers waiting to be offered up to our guests tonight.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.