Mama Lou’s M&Ms
“Oh, Lawd!” Mama Lou reached into her apron pocket and pulled out an ever-present yellow bag of peanut M&Ms. She snatched it open, up-ending a heaping handful into her palm. The arrival of the chocolate was a sure sign of her perplexity. Ethel Mae was only surprised that it had taken this long to make its arrival. Ethel Mae made a grab for the bag, pouring out her own handful.
“Amen,” said Detective Mendoza, relieving the bag from Ethel Mae. The small group crunched in a thought-filled silence, the only sounds between them were the crackle of the cellophane and the clack of hard candy shells.
“Okay, let’s keep this simple,” Mama Lou said finally. “We’ve got one job: save this congregation from financial ruin. That’s all we need to focus on.”
“I agree,” said Ethel Mae, crunch . . . crunch. “Where do we start?”
Mendoza said, “At the source: Pastor Griffin.”
“But in the meantime, we’re going to have to forestall those deacons. The good pastor will not handle it well, being confronted in front of all of these people.”
Mendoza glanced over his shoulder towards the group of men who were still engaged in heavy talk. “They are set for a showdown, I can’t see how we’ll be able to stop it. The best we can do is reduce the amount of collateral damage.”
“Okay,” said Mama Lou. The congregation was spread across the back forty. Many of the older members were settled under the tent, glasses of lemonade and sweet tea condensing on the tables in front of them. The younger mothers still worked, under the direction of Agnes Bradshaw at setting out the food for the coming potluck supper. The numbers of kids had grown: a group of middle school kids, boys and girls, were in the second half of a soccer game, while the teen-aged and young adult boys played basketball in the parking lot, surrounded by a gaggle of teen-aged girls. Ethel Mae spied Jamella Bradshaw and Deacon Kieran with their heads together. The Ice Cream Man had moved from his position beneath the tree and sat just behind Jamella and Kieran, an expression of concentration on his sharp features. Despite the festive atmosphere, there was an underlying tension clearly evident even to the casual observer.
“Okay,” Mama Lou said again, her voice brisk and decisive. “Let’s feed these people. They might be less likely to fight and bicker on a full stomach.”
“A feat easier said than done,” said Ethel Mae. “The traditionalists will not want to start their repast without their Pastor saying a blessing over the food.”
“At this point,” Mama Lou’s voice was sardonic. “His absence would be the blessing. Pastor Griffin seemed to have strayed so far from his calling that anything he said would guarantee that everyone would get indigestion.”
Mendoza nodded towards the parking lot. “It’s a moot point anyway.”
Ethel Mae and Mama Lou followed his gaze. A black, late model Cadillac had just pulled into the parking lot. The car idled for several moments before cutting off. The vanity plate in the front read:
God Did It
Pastor Griffin had arrived.
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