After Clark Gable left Joni and John excused themselves from the church ladies and their granddaughters. John elbowed his wife and whispered, “Look who’s breaking the color barrier.”
The who was Dan, and the where was a table where Pastor Chris stood talking to half-a-dozen teenage boys. The boys had all draped themselves over their seats and were eating from heaping plates of food in front of them. Dan’s winter white color stood out among the others’ skin tone which ranged from a black so deep that it looked blue to shades of brown, ochre and taupe. “Looks like he’s enjoying himself,” Joni replied.
“He does. Join him?”
“Mingle, mingle, mingle,” Joni said with a smile. “And if you’re thinking about working with the parish youth seems like this is a pretty good opportunity to meet some of them.”
Chris’ face lit into a smile as John and Joni approached and then stood next to him. “Guys,” he said, “I think most of you know MS Lottie’s daughter Joni; and this is her husband John.” Pointing with his fingers Chris added, “And this is Cesar, Devon, Malik, Elon, Taye, DeMarco and I think you know Dan there; right?”
Joni smiled and John nodded, saying, “The one with jug ears who looks just a little bit like my wife? Yeah, we’ve met. Gentlemen, pleased to meet you. You keeping my nephew in line?”
“Danny here thinks that the Vikings are gonna win the Super Bowl,” Malik said with snort. “As if.”
“Yeah, right!” Danny replied, shaking his head. “They only got an eleven five record. Wait! Isn’t that like the exact opposite of the Bears? Don’t hate the great! Support the Vikings fore it’s too late!”
“Like those sorry-ass purple people eaters are even gonna make it to Fifty. No way, bro!” Malik retorted. “Packers. You’ll see.”
“Packers!” DeMarco hid his face in his hands and shook his head. “No way. Vikings, Cardinals.”
“Vikings, Cardinals!” Danny exclaimed. “They’re in the same division!”
“Pats, Green Bay,” Cesar chimed in.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, gentlemen,” Pastor Chris said, “but I’m afraid you’re all wrong and most of you are letting your regionalism show. Cesar is a little bit closer to reality than the rest of you dreamers but this is not going to be a Midwest slugfest. It’s going to be Broncos versus Panthers and Denver’s going to win twenty-one to fourteen.”
“So, what? You got like, insider information from God?” John asked.
Chris smiled. “No, but I do enjoy my fantasy football league so I am a treasure trove of statistical tidbits; and I’m telling you the numbers say Denver and Charlotte with Denver by seven.”
“That because they from the Mile-High City, Papa?” Taye asked with a smirk.
“Funny, Taye, real funny,” Chris responded with a smirk of his own. “You know what else is funny? Suicides instead of shooting hoops. I bet you Coach Gable would love to have you guys do some gut drills; don’t cha think?”
“Oh, come on, Papa! You know I’s just kidding!”
“Well, I sure hope so, because that stuff is definitely bad for growing men. Or women! You know even in Colorado you have to be at least 21 and the psychologists tell us it really isn’t anything somebody under the age of thirty should be using? Thirty, gentlemen. Of course, here in Illinois it doesn’t matter because the only people pot is legal for is folks with a prescription, and that certainly isn’t any of us, now is it?”
“They gonna change that, Papa,” Taye insisted. “They gonna make pot legal here.”
“No, they’re talking about decriminalizing pot, not making it legal. Fines, not jail. If the law gets changed. You got an extra two hundred dollars burning a hole in your pocket? Plus, still going to have to be at least 21. Hugs, not drugs! You need a big ol hug, Taye?” Pastor Chris asked, arms spread wide, eyes bug eyed and a huge, open mouthed grin on his face.
“Shoot, Papa! You know I don’t smoke no weed.”
“Right,” Chris said nodding his head. “I know. I know you signed a pledge not to at least,” he added with a wink. “Telling you, read the research. Thirty!
“Joni, John, you get anything to eat yet? If we don’t eat it they’re just going to throw it out you know,” Chris asked.
Joni and John looked at one another. Joni said, “No, we haven’t. You want to grab a little something?”
“You took the words right out of mouth.” Chris said with a smile. “Come on,” he added jerking his head toward the line of crockpots and cold platters. As they exited toward the food Chris hollered over his shoulder, “Hope! Not dope!”