I hate the Ought-to-bees! Church folk at Belle Chasse Baptist always talk about how I ought to be. Like, “You ought to be a better role model.” Half of them think I really am a role model! Like, they pray their kids turn out just like me and hold me up for an example. You know their kids hate me for that. Shuh! And other half? They call me a problem child in need of better home training. Whatever!
It is so hard being the Pastor’s daughter. Like, it’s hard just to make friends my own age. Take Shane Guidry. I mean, we are friends. I just wish we could be better friends. Shane Guidry is smart, like me. At Christian school, we’re both way ahead of everybody else in our workbooks. And Shane's always neat. He keeps his shoes as clean as his Bible. But even though we’re friends, still, he’s kinda stand-offish.
Or take that Vardimin Huckabee. Puh-lease! I trust Vardimin Huckabee about as far as I can throw him. And that ain’t far. Ok, there was this one time I thought we might date, but that was a whole year ago! I was twelve! No uh-uh, not anymore. Vardimin’s mean. He always did play too rough. Like this one time, when we was all seven-years-old—that was our first year at Christian school—Vardimin Huckabee put sand inside my panties. Boy, was my mama mad! Everybody was in trouble with Mama that day. Even my daddy was in trouble. And he’s the Pastor! Oh, Mama was all shouting about “boys need better male role models!” So whatever was going on between Vardimin and Shane, I know it’s rough. And I just think, well, Shane has had enough rough in his lifetime already.
I mean, I already know the truth about Shane, despite all my protestations to Daddy, Mama, or anybody else at Belle Chasse Baptist. Oh I can still hear Sister Charlotte Purtell—she’s my mama’s best friend—teasing me, "A pastor’s daughter ought to be selective about whom she chooses for her first beau," she says. "How ‘bout that cute little Brother Shane?” She looked at the other church women and laughed. “I hear tell he’s a faerie nice guy!" Sister Charlotte’s sense of humor really sets my teeth on edge. She always teases me like that, boyfriend jokes, in front of other church women whenever Mama's not in earshot. 'Sides, there's nobody at Belle Chasse Baptist I want for a first beau.
So I nurtured my suspicion about Shane and Vardimin all last semester at Christian school. And then, when it was time for Spring term crawfish boil, I confronted him. I don’t know where I got the gall, maybe it was adrenaline, but I dragged Shane into the church side-yard where I could ask him privately about what was up with Vardimin. “Are y'all sexual?”
Shane denied it, vehemently, but eventually he broke down, all harried by my persistance. I get that complaint a lot. But finally, Shane confided the truth to me. “Don’t tell your daddy!” he begs, all panic-stricken. Like, why would I tell my daddy?
So I don’t know, maybe it was adrenaline, but I just asked him outright, “Shane, does your father ever beat you up?” I mean, Shane always seems so scared, like he winces whenever church men shout "Amen!" too loud. But my friend would not even answer that question at all. Clamped shut his jaw. I stood by and watched the vision in Shane Guidry's hazel-green eyes turn inside. I tapped his shoulder. “Bubba, what is it?”
Well once I got at home, I decided to talk to my daddy, the Pastor, anyhow. I changed out from my good Sunday jumper my mama made me, and put on a boy’s tank top and culottes. Daddy doesn’t like me to wear tank tops; but Mama says it’s ok because I haven’t developed my boobies yet.
Then I tip-toed into Daddy’s private retreat, his sanctuary, his home office in the tool shed. I felt just like Queen Esther, fearfully entering the court of King Ahasereus in order to save my people. I guess it was adrenaline. Cuz with the same gall I had confronted Shane about his father, I now beseeched my own father to intercede on Shane’s behalf.
Daddy was leaning sideways in his office chair, the one with the missing wheel. His big head cocked to the side listening to me in disbelief like I was Balaam’s talking donkey. And when I finished talking, Daddy just shook his big head slowly side-to-side. “That Shane Guidry,” he says, “sure is one confused young fella.”
But I blurted out in Shane’s defense, "You would be confused too if your father hid behind the door when you got home from Christian school and surprised you with a weight lifting belt!"
Daddy sat bolt upright, despite his leaning chair. “Now Sharon Rose Buchanan,” he tells me, “Brother Guidry is just more strict as a parent than me or Mama. Some parents use corporal punishment to teach their kids right behavior. That is their prerogative. But you and your brother Bobby, y'all never get spanked. Mama and me don’t believe in corporal punishment. So of course you think spanking is abuse.”
Prerogative? Shuh! I knew better than that. “A weight lifting belt?! I know what that’s called!” I was just besides myself, trying not to cry. “Daddy, I’m scared for my friend. Can’t you do nothing?”
“Like what could I do?,” he says. Daddy seemed harried by my persistence too.
I faked a smile, holding back my tears. “You’re the Pastor," I said. "You influence people. You could talk to Brother Guidry?” Underneath my fake smile though, I prayed Daddy would see the real distress I felt for my friend. I wanted him to pull me by the waist into a hug like when I was a little girl.
But he didn’t do that. Daddy didn’t hug me. He just thought for a while. “I tell you what," he finally says, "here’s what I will do. I will write a Bible study for this Wednesday night, explore the topic of corporal punishment, using scripture.”
I wailed. "Spare the rod?!"
“Yes!” Daddy says, definitely harried. “But other scripture too, like provoke not thy child to wrath. I will debate the topic of corporal punishment from the pulpit, both sides, with scripture. Try to set some reasonable boundaries.”
I winced at my own gall. “Will you mention the weight lifting belt?” Even Mama knows to back down when Daddy has that look in his eyes, like King Ahasereus, or Moses.
Through tight jaws and clenched teeth, my father just says to me, “I will be very, very clear, my dear." And then, he turned me around by my shoulders, pointed me out the exit of the tool shed, and swatted my butt.
Well I’m thirteen now. And maybe I don’t always know how things ought to be. And maybe I never will become the best role model in the land. But I do know one thing for sure, that's how to be a good friend. And right about now, I think Shane Guidry sure could use a friend.