TORNADO Part 4 by Karen Uffelman
Andrea passed the mashed potatoes to Jackson, who was wearing the polo shirt that Janet found for him in Pastor Bell’s closet. Jackson thought Pastor Bell’s trousers were too big, however, and was still sporting a towel tied around his waist. He offered to help carry the serving plates from the kitchen to the dining room, but Janet thought his towel looked none-too-secure and insisted he sit at the dining table and be waited on. Rebecca was wearing one of Janet’s blouses – a particularly matronly-looking blouse – and she glared with envy at the tight pink sweater Andrea had taken from Maura’s dresser. Rebecca asked if she could borrow something from Maura as well, but Maura stated resolutely that nothing in her childhood closet would even come close to fitting. Rebecca noted (out loud) that hadn’t stopped Andrea. Maura ignored her.
“I think Maura’s sweater looks nice on Andrea,” Jackson said, retying the towel sarong that kept slipping to his hips. “It probably looked really nice on Maura, too.”
“Shut up, Jackson,” Rebecca and Maura chimed in unison. Andrea blushed.
Pastor Bell was still in Cedar Bluffs. He’d called and said they should have dinner without him, that it was looking like a late night and he didn’t expect to be home until early morning. Janet had baked a chicken and was actually grateful that her husband wasn’t going to make it home. Between his absence, and Rebecca being a vegetarian, there might be enough food. Janet had no idea what to offer Rebecca, but Rebecca helpfully found a box of rice krispies in the cupboard and announced that was all she needed.
Janet had Andrea set the table and ordered Jackson to park himself at the head seat, since Pastor Bell wouldn’t be joining them. Then she asked Maura to pull out some wine glasses.
“Really? Since when did you start drinking wine, Mom?”
“Well, we don’t usually. But one of your father’s parishioners brought us some and maybe we should drink it. I mean, you’ve all lived through a LOT today.”
“Hear, hear, Janet, I think that’s a marvelous idea!” Jackson ceremoniously unfurled his napkin and laid it across his toweled lap.
Janet found the two bottles of red wine in the top cupboard and Rebecca helped her uncork them. Janet also brought a bottle of diet 7-up to the table, “I find I like wine better with a little soda.”
Maura rolled her eyes, took one of the bottles from Rebecca and poured herself a full glass. Then she filled Jackson’s.
“I feel very well taken-care-of,” Jackson smiled at Maura.
“Good,” Maura replied.
“Uh – what’s going on over there,” Rebecca asked, “I’m thirsty, too.”
“And so am I,” Andrea whispered, not quite under her breath.
“You’ve got a bottle in your hand,” Maura pointed at Rebecca, “and you, Andrea, I think would do better with some of my mother’s diet 7-up.”
“So bossy, my daughter,” sighed Janet. She took the bottle that Rebecca was holding and filled Andrea’s glass. Then poured several teaspoons into her own and topped it off with diet 7-up. Andrea shook her head when Janet offered to do the same for her. Finally, Janet poured some wine into Rebecca’s glass. But not very much. Rebecca drank it all in one gulp.
“I thought, maybe, a toast.”
Janet eyed Jackson, “First we say grace.”
“Oh, right, grace. Okay. Shall I lead it?”
“That would be lovely, Jackson.”
“Oh my god,” sighed Rebecca.
“Please!” Janet shook her head and looked down. Everyone was quiet.
“Hey there, God, we’ve had one helluva’ day today. I guess you know all about it. Man, when you make your mind up you can really make a mess!” Janet cleared her throat. Jackson continued, “But I’m sure you know what you’re doing, and as messes go this was a pretty magnificent one, so, good going,” Jackson looked over at Janet but she didn’t look up. “We’d like to thank you for letting us all live through it, and especially for sending us all here. Thanks for Janet, and this marvelous chicken and all of the other good things on and around this table,” he shot a glance at Maura, who was staring back at him, and then looked over at Andrea whose head was bowed but was blushing furiously, “ And especially for Pastor Bell’s parishioner who decided to bring over the wine.”
Andrea said, “Amen.”
“Now the toast! Can someone refill my glass, please?” Rebecca stuck her empty glass towards one of the bottles.
“Here you are my dear,” Janet filled Rebecca’s glass. “I don’t know how you all can drink this stuff straight – I can definitely feel it going straight to my head!”