Mother: “She has school and lots of work.”
Colleen: “Nice to see you too. It’s been a pretty busy term.” She is still playing nice because Church Lady’s first salvo was merely a glancing blow.
Church Lady: “Your mother said you were too busy for mass. School and work?” Her tone is doubtful, as if she were examining her son’s browser history.
Colleen: “Yeah.” Sensing the undertone of judgement, Colleen jabs a little. “And where is Daniel?” Damn her. Her son never comes to church, so who is she to act so high and mighty?
Church Lady: A moment’s confusion—a direct hit. “Daniel just bought a house. He goes to the church closest to his new place. West Waverly.”
Clever maneuvering. Colleen knows Daniel is off church but Church Lady has neatly avoided the direct blow and struck a few of her own. She has pointed out that Colleen still lives at home, that her son—who is a year younger—has moved out, and that he lives in a rich neighbourhood and so has done better than Colleen’s family. Church Lady can’t resist preening.
Mother: Trying to deflect. “She was happy to come today.”
Colleen: “Oh, so Daniel goes to a different church?” Colleen is not willing to let Church Lady squirm out of the lie that easily.
Mother: “Just like Anh.” Everyone knows that Anh is done with church but no one will say anything outright, and Mother is not above riding the coattails of Church Lady’s excuse for her son.
A moment’s silence while they reflect on the various lies going around the church entrance. The smell of lies and blood attract some of the other church ladies.
Colleen: “That must be what I am doing too, then. Going to a church closer to something. In for a penny in for a pound, Colleen raises her voice for the old biddies who have chosen to stop and listen in case some good gossip comes up. “That’s probably what everyone’s children are doing. I bet the churches are full, everywhere else but here at least.”
The old biddies shuffle away, hiding their own families from the onslaught. Church Lady is outraged that Colleen has called her bluff. She thinks for a moment.
Church Lady: “Well I hope you take the time to attend in the future, dear. The children miss you.”
She’s good. So Colleen has been ignoring the children she has been helping in a volunteer position she’s held for years. That’s how it’s going to be is it?
Mother: “Colleen misses them so much. Father Jefferies said as much when we arrived.” Mother knows Colleen feels bad for the kids, so she can’t resist but tighten the screws; she wants Colleen to attend and Church Lady has afforded her the perfect opportunity.
Colleen: They’ve pushed too far now; time for the big guns. “I look forward to Daniel’s marriage. I haven’t met his girlfriend yet. Is the wedding going to be at the church near their house too, or here?”
Church Lady reels as though she has been hit with a bible. No one ever mentions the offspring living in sin, not within the church entrance where god can hear. And now it has been said aloud in front of her peers, who despite their inexpensive coats, still hold sway over the congregation.
“I better let you go. I’m sure you have to do some Sunday cleaning.” A statement about class is the best she can manage before she squeezes past them and flounces out the door.
Mother: “You didn’t have to bring that up.” Although she speaks in Vietnamese the other biddies know Colleen is being scolded and they wish public burnings were still a possibility like in the old country.
The conversation degenerates into angry looks and empty platitudes with the biddies as Colleen and her Mother leave the church, one of them triumphant and the other mortified.