Church, Pt. 1: Atti-nude Adjustment

by Dillon Hayes

Keith and Marcia sat across from the principal, awaiting the ruling on their son’s punishment from his school. Because of the understanding that Keith could not enter Joseph’s school, the three agreed to meet at Applebee’s, an establishment that hasn’t yet outlawed nudity and unabashedly welcomes it.

“For the crime of refusing to discontinue making fart sounds with his mouth and inner elbow in the middle of Ms. Schmidt’s 4th grade class,” Principal Hardy began, “Joseph K. Howell is sentenced to two of days out-of-school suspension.”

Marcia gasped and moved to pull Keith closer to her, Keith’s arse audibly peeling from the leather booth. Marcia put her head on Keith’s chest, and his nipple fit inside of her ear.

“Does he need counseling?” Marcia asked with tears beading in her eyes.

Principal Hardy adjusted his bib, took a bite of his chicken parmesan (only $20 with two appetizers!), and with a full mouth said, “We think it may be a cry for help-type situation.” Hardy swallowed, took another bite, and said again with a full mouth, “You know, these types of things generally start at home, and this isn’t the first time he’s made fart noises in class.”

Marcia backed away from Keith and made a small separation between the two of them. She looked at her husband, seeing him differently. Marcia thought of the handsome home her on-call optometry business had provided, the ritzy public school she had put her children in, and the love she had for her children that she constantly reminded them of. Keith was the blemish in their children’s upbringing.

“I see,” Marcia said, staring at a potato wedge. “Well, what do you suggest, Principal Hardy?”

Keith had hardly been listening to their dialogue. He spun his fork in his chicken alfredo, attempting to construct a monolith of some sort, but wet noodles don’t really have the consistency for it. When he heard his wife ask for suggestions as to remedying his son’s behavior, however, he made a sound.

“Ya know, this is all just kind of dumb,” Keith blurted. Marcia furrowed her brow at his dissention. “Joseph is a funny kid whose sense of humor is just a little beyond his teachers’ grasps. Fart sounds are always funny, and if his teachers don’t agree, they need to check on their attitudes.”

“Sure, Mr. Howell,” said Principal Hardy. “But the issue here is his disruption of the class.”

“This could be a cry for help, Keith!” Marcia exclaimed, ire drawn. The restaurant patrons at the booth behind them turned to catch some of the conversation.

Principal Howell felt the onus of the discussion shift and grew to feel very unwelcome. “Mr. and Mrs. Howell, I think we’ve said what needs said. I’ll leave the rest of the disciplining to you.” With that, Principal Hardy left $20 on the table and walked out of the restaurant.

Keith and Marcia climbed into the family roadster and drove out of the Applebee’s parking lot.

“Keith, I know that the offense was minor, but the circumstances are such that, I dunno, maybe Joseph feels alone. Maybe he wants attention,” Marcia explained calmly. Keith looked ahead, feeling ambivalent but considering her words. “I mean, his dad was the only one not allowed to attend career day. His dad can’t bring him cupcakes on his birthday. His dad can’t coach little league! You have no idea how baseball works!”

Keith stewed. “Well,” he said, “What would you like me to do?”

“I think we need to go to church. This family needs to get right with God. It’s a family activity that promotes togetherness and, you know, Jesus.”

“No way! They would never let me in there. And I’m very confused about God right now, anyway. Like, if he’s there, what purpose are we serving him? And why do innocent people suffer? I dunno. I think I’m too existential for church.”