Milada was pretty sure somebody was at the front door. She rolled over and tucked the covers around her shoulders. The clock radio on the nightstand flashed 9:05. In the bloody morning.
The doorbell rang again.
She groaned. It’s Sunday morning! Her visitors were impertinent and impatient. She could ignore them. Probably. Maybe it was some neighborly thing they did here, some city statute about welcoming new residents on Sunday morning. Hell, she didn’t know. This was new territory for her.
She pulled on her yukata, tying the sash as she marched up the stairs. She turned the deadbolt and flung open the door. Sunlight reflecting off the roof of the house across the street nearly blinded her. She squinted and took a step back, raising her hand to shade her eyes.
“What?” she said.
It was more a command than a question. The two boys heading down the steps stopped in their tracks and returned to the porch. The taller one said, “Um, Sister Lindstrom?”
Do I look like a nun? Instead she said, “You must have the wrong address.”
The boy held up a pale blue envelope. “This is 1204, isn’t it?”
She had to think about it for a moment. “Yes.”
“Oh,” the boy said, stymied.
“May I see that?” She plucked the envelope out of the boy’s hand. The label on the envelope read: Ryan & Maryanne Lindstrom, 1204 Larkspur Lane. She said, “I suspect the Lindstroms were the previous occupants.”
The boys shrugged in noncommittal agreement.
The cardstock envelope was sealed at the top with a Velcro flap. Below the address label was stamped in block letters: FAST OFFERINGS.
“What, pray tell, is a fast offering?”
The sunlight was beginning to irritate her skin. She hadn’t had time to put on any sunblock. “Why don’t you boys come inside and explain it to me?”
The two exchanged nervous glances. But she had the envelope, and that was the only way they were getting it back.
The foyer opened onto the living room. Milada settled into the overstuffed armchair. She indicated the couch against the opposite wall. The two boys sat side by side with nervous civility. Milada pried open the Velcro flap. Inside was a three-by-five form with a yellow carbonless copy attached. Along the top of the form was printed in bold type: TITHING AND OTHER OFFERINGS. She read down the columns: TITHING, FAST OFFERING, MISSIONARY, HUMANITARIAN.
“The two of you are collecting religious contributions?”
The taller boy gulped and reddened. Milada realized without looking that the collar of her yukata had relaxed when she sat down, revealing most of her left breast. She suppressed a smile, tightened the sash, crossed her legs, and smoothed the yukata over her thighs.
“Yes, ma’am,” the boy squeaked.
“Explain to me what a fast offering is again?”
The shorter one piped up. “You’re supposed to skip two meals and donate the money you would have spent.”
“I am?” Milada was beginning to enjoy herself. “Two complete meals? Not just meat? Or fish instead? So this is a Mormon practice? And what are these contributions used for?”
“For poor people.”
Milada smiled again. These kids wouldn’t know a poor person if one smacked them up the sides of their blond little heads. But good intentions did count for something in the breach of actual experience. “A noble thought,” she acknowledged. She went into the kitchen and retrieved her checkbook. “I gather I keep the yellow copy?”
“Yes, ma’am,” they chorused from the living room.
“And to whom do I make out the check?”
There was a flurry of deliberations. The shorter one spoke up: “Cottonwood Estates Second Ward.”
Milada slipped the check into the envelope. When she returned to the living room, the boys bounced to their feet. She handed the taller one the envelope and said good-bye.
They escaped as might a pair of mice freed from the clutches of a hungry cat. Milada returned to the kitchen and pinned the yellow copy to the message board next to the telephone. A trophy of sorts. She shook her head in wonderment and almost giggled. Some things were worth getting up early for.