Albinos and Holy Rollers ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
“They have albinos at the Penny Cost church,” Ruthie says.
“What’s Penny Cost mean?” Phillip asks.
“It’s a kind of religion, dumbbell,” she says. “You know. Methodists, Baptists, and Penny Costs.”
“Oh. What’s albinos?”
“It’s people that are all white, even their eyes and hair.”
“I don’t believe you,” he says.
“They’re just like anybody else, only they don’t have any color. Anywhere. Everything is all white.”
She was eleven and he was nine, just at the age when he was starting to doubt things people told him.
“I’m white and you’re white,” he says.
“We belong to the white race,” she says, “but we’re not albinos. Your hair is blond and mine is brown. You have blue eyes and I have brown ones. If we were albinos, our hair and eyes would be white, just like our skin.”
“Do albinos have white blood?”
“I guess they do.”
“You’re making that up. I don’t believe you.”
“I’ll prove it to you,” she says.
She goes to the other room and gets the dictionary and when she comes back she opens it on the table and begins flipping the pages.
“A-l-b-i-n-o,” she says. “Here it is. Now, listen to this: A person or animal having a congenital absence of pigment, causing the hair and skin to be white and the eyes typically pink.”
“Hah-hah!” he says. “You said they have white eyes!”
“Well, isn’t pink even better?”
“I’d have to see it to believe it,” he says.
“Just ask grandma.”
They find grandma lying on the couch with a cloth over her head, having one of her headaches.
“Grandma!” Ruthie says.
“Don’t bother me unless it’s an emergency,” grandma says. She slurs her words, meaning that she has probably been taking nips of whiskey in the pantry.
“We want to ask you a question.”
“What is it?”
“Have you ever seen an albino?”
“Not that I recall.”
“But you’ve heard of them.”
“Everybody has heard of them.”
“Am I an albino?” Phillip asks.
Grandma removes the cloth from her eyes and looks at him. “Have you been teasing him, Ruthie?” she asks.
“No, I have not!” Ruthie says.
“If the two of you don’t have enough to do, I can give you some chores.”
“We want to go to the Penny Cost church to see the albinos with pink eyes!” Phillips says.
“No! You stay right here where I can keep an eye on you.”
“But you’re not!” Ruthie says.
“Not keeping an eye on us. You’re napping.”
“Don’t get technical on me, dear. Even if I am napping, I’m still keeping my eye on you.”
“Marilyn says they have albinos at the Penny Cost church.”
“You know as well as I do that Marilyn is full of crap.”
“But she’s in high school!”
“It doesn’t make any difference. She’s still full of crap.”
“We want to go to the Penny Cost church and see the albinos with pink eyes!” Phillip says.
“What do you think it is? A circus?”
“How should I know?”
“You stay away from those old Penny Cost people. You’re likely to see more than you bargained for.”
“Like what?” Ruthie asks.
“They’re holy rollers at that church.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means stay away.”
“No, really. What does it mean?” Ruthie asks. “I’ve heard that before but I never knew what it meant.”
“It means they roll on the floor and scream.”
“Are they afraid?” Phillip asks.
“No, they’re happy.”
“Why are they happy?”
“They think they see Jesus.”
“Do they see Jesus?”
“I guess they think they do.”
“That’s it!” Ruthie says. “We’re going. I wish I had a camera so I could take some pictures.”
“Last time I checked I’m still the boss around here,” grandma says. “I think that means whenever I tell you to stay at home, you’d better do it.”
“We’ll wait until you go back to sleep and then we’ll go, anyway,” Ruthie says. “We’re not prisoners.”
“No, you’re not prisoners, but you’re little children and in this family little children do as they are told.”
“I want to see the albinos!” Phillip says. “I want to see their pink eyes!”
“Albinos nothing,” Ruthie says. “It would be a lot more fun to see the holy rollers.”
“I’ll tell you what!” grandma says. “The next time the circus comes to town I’ll take you to see the freak show. There’s sure to be at least one albino.”
“That doesn’t do us any good,” Ruthie says. “We want to see them now!”
“I’ll drive you over in the car. For a minute or two! And when we come back I want absolute peace and quiet from both of you.”
“Well, all right,” Ruthie says. “If that’s the only way we get to go.”
“Oh, goody!” Phillips jumps up and down. “Grandma’s going to take us to the Penny Cost church!”
The church was on the edge of town, at least a mile away, in what grandma considered an unsavory neighborhood. When she pulled onto the parking lot of the church, nobody was there.
“Where are all the albinos?” Ruthie asks.
“They must be inside,” Phillip says.
“The church is closed now,” grandma says. “Can’t you see that all the lights are off and the parking lot is empty?”
“I bet they’re all inside,” Phillip says. “Having punch and cookies.”
“You see that sign over there? It says the next revival meeting is Saturday night at seven o’clock.”
“Oh, can we come back then?” Ruthie asks.
“You want to attend the revival meeting?”
“Just so you can gawk and stare?”
“You know, don’t you, that they’ll make you join the church?”
“No, they won’t.”
“Yes, they will. They’ll make you get up and come down to the front of the church and they’ll say some magic words over you and then you’ll be a holy roller, too.”
“I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do!”
“If you want to see the albinos and the holy rollers, that’s the price you have to pay.”
“I don’t think so!”
“You don’t want to be a holy roller?”
“You’d be the only one in fourth grade. People would come from miles around just to see you. They’d stare and gawk and want to take your picture.”
“Maybe we’d just better forget the whole thing,” Ruthie says. “I’ve got better things to do with my time.”
Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp