Against his better judgment, when Billy was about eleven or twelve, Daddy relented and gave him permission to sit with his friend Kenny in church one Sunday. He’d always had an iron-clad rule that we had to sit together as a family way up in front on the third pew, but was somehow, Billy convinced him he could handle the challenge that day. Neither had reckoned with the devil super ball hiding in Billy’s pocket as he ecstatically took a seat next to his friend about five rows back. All was well till that devil ball started sending psychic prompts a few minutes into the sermon. Billy took it out, inspiring awe in Kenny. They passed it silently between them a few times keeping their eyes straight ahead. No one was the wiser. Temptation got the better of Billy and he bounced the ball between his feet, catching it on the return. There was a small plunk, but no great disturbance. He was emboldened by success and had to try it again. The slight plunk on the hardwood was noticeable, but since the boys kept their composure and stared straight ahead, the sermon continued. It was going so well, Billy bounced it another time or two. Of course, luck finally ran out and the hard rubber ball bounced and rolled down the slightly inclined pine floor, bumping a few supports and bouncing joyously along the way. Daddy knew immediately who the culprit was, turned, and shot Billy the “look of death.” Kenny, who enjoyed much more casual parenting struggled to stifle his hysteria.
That ball rolled and bounced, bounced and rolled. The sound seemed deafening, though Brother Robert, the preacher, never faltered in his sermon. As the ball neared the dais, he stepped down, and scooped up the ball mid-bounce. I had to admire the smooth move. I could see he had some natural athletic ability. Without hesitation, he continued the sermon, walking in front of the dais and bouncing the ball. Brother Robert held my attention as never before. Never missing a catch, he pocketed the little ball and went straight to altar call. I truly prayed for Billy’s life. I couldn’t imagine what his fate might be. We finished church as always, filing out to greet the preacher at the door.
Surprisingly, Daddy didn’t kill Billy as I expected. Maybe it tickled his funny bone, though he never let on. The next Sunday, Billy was in his usual seat on the third row, right next to Daddy. He never got his superball back.