The Jesus Truck
Aunt Ruth said, “Fuck,” in a car with two Bibles. She snapped the fan switch back and forth a hundred times but the air-conditioner wouldn’t come on.
“Danger, danger,” I said to myself. Danger, danger because danger was all around. We were out in Granny’s car and it was the kind of hot that burns your elbows. The hot you have to sit inside yourself to get away from.
Danger was the heat and the parking lot and the shopping carts and it was the skinny old man who pushed them. He wiped his sweaty head with his apron and he smoked a cigarette with two cut-off fingers, and when he saw that I saw him, he put it behind his back.
Aunt Ruth saw it, too, and she gave me a wink.
But she didn’t know about the Bibles with their scratchy leather covers and that they touched each other on the seat behind us. The corner of one edged up to the back of the other. She didn’t know that when Raney and Len left them there after Sunday School they were way far apart.
“Sis,” Aunt Ruth said to me, because she called all of us sis when she was home, “this a/c is a bitch.”
It wasn’t a smile on her face but she wasn’t mad, either. Just hot. She was going to get Granny’s air-conditioning fixed before she took me back to Oregon with her.
“You shouldn’t say that,” I said. “Those words, I mean.”
She nodded and looked at me with her brown eyes that were squinty with wrinkles in the sun. “You’re right,” she said. “A lot of people don’t like those words. I should be more careful how I say things.”
The car clunked when she put it in reverse. Across the street a boy threw a pair of shoes over the phone line and a littler boy without a shirt on cried. He jumped up and down with his bare feet hot on the sidewalk.
“Hey,” I shouted at the first boy. “You big butthead.” But I only shouted that to myself so the Bibles wouldn’t hear, and we drove on by.
“Cherry limeades?” Aunt Ruth said. “Or root beer floats?”
“Cherry limeade,” I said, which was one of my favorite things to say.
We drove with the windows down and everything hot. Aunt Ruth lived in Oregon where it never got hot, but until she was twenty she lived here with us, so she knew where the Sonic was, since no one had ever moved it.
When we parked under the aluminum awning the Bibles were still touching. Aunt Ruth ordered a root beer float and smiled at me when she ordered my cherry limeade.
“You’re really going to miss everybody,” she said.
I nodded so I wouldn’t have to answer.
“When I moved I cried all the time at first,” she said. “I missed Granny and your mom and everybody so much.”
Under the awning her eyes weren’t squinty. They were round and sad and wide like my Mom’s, who had died.
“It’ll be time to pick blueberries when we get back,” she said. “We’ll have blueberries on our yogurt everyday.”
Her legs were skinny with wrinkles on her knees, and they’d gotten just as tan as mine in only a week. Our legs looking extra tan in the car because we were parked in the shade.
There was loud music then that vibrated the awning over us, and Aunt Ruth said, “What the hell is that?”
It was the Jesus Truck that had parked across from us, which had a big wooden cross standing up in its bed and Bible verses painted on its hood and doors. They raffled it off and bought a new one every year.
The music turned off and Pastor Zach who drove the truck saw me with Aunt Ruth and leaned out his window with his big shoulders. He had a blonde mustache you could hardly see and little crosses tattooed on his arm.
“Hey, sis,” he called out to me. “Don’t forget to smile. Jesus loves you even more today than yesterday.” Then he gave the One Way sign with his finger pointing and waved at us.
I waved back but Aunt Ruth just stared at him. After a minute she gave him a small wave, too.
“You know him?” she asked.
“It’s the Bibles,” I said.
I pointed to them in the back. Where they were touching.
“I don’t get it,” she said.
The Bibles called him, I wanted to say. Because. But I only said that to myself. I was turned around with my arm over the seat and I pushed them even closer. I said, “They’re touching.”
Aunt Ruth’s weight pulled us together as she leaned beside me. “They are,” she said.
Then she put her arm around me and kissed me even though it was so hot, while Pastor Zach said a prayer in his truck that might have been for me. I’d never had blueberries and yogurt, and Aunt Ruth held me to her. She was sticky with sweat, and smelled like my mom.