“Well, I recently began a courtship,” she said, the pitch of her voice increasing.
“Oh, just like my daughter here,” I said, pointing to Faye. “Well, I’ll be sure to pray for you.”
“Thank you!” said Grace. “What would like for your main course?”
“I will have the Tater Tot Casserole,” I replied. “Jessica?”
“I’ll go for the Chickenetti,” Jessica replied.
“And you, young man?” Grace asked Charlie.
“Oh… umm… I’ll have a burrito, please,” Charlie said.
“And I will have the Chickenetti as well, please,” Faye said.
“Thanks for the order,” Grace said, scribbling it all down. “Here are some complementary pickles and two animal crackers.”
I eyed the pickle jar warily. I was not much of a fan of pickled food, unlike my husband.
“Oh wow, these are so salty,” Jessica grimaced. “And slimy and vinegary. I can’t eat these.”
“Dude! We should say grace!” Faye said, poking her sister.
“Oh yeah,” Jessica said. “Mom?”
“Thank you Lord for the food we are about to eat,” I said quickly. The singing had finished, and now a terrible scratching began. I looked up at the stage, and sure enough, it was who I’d guessed it would be. They were dressed in black and white with the occasional red accessory. The married daughters were holding their kids.
“Oh crap, them,” Jessica sighed. “Hang on, where’s the oldest? Jesus Rehab?”
“They seem to want to forget about him,” I replied. I too had abandoned the pickles and was eating an animal cracker.
“Well, after what that asshat did, I’m not surprised,” Jessica said. “I notice his wife’s there. Such a damn shame she doesn’t have the option of divorce. She must be feeling so conflicted.”
The food duly arrived. The Chickenetti was in a silver serving dish, with a pair of plastic tongs stuck in the centre.
“Guess it’s serve yourself,” Faye said. “Paper plates, too.”
She gave Jessica a serving before helping herself. We all quickly repeated the same grace as I’d used earlier before digging in.
“So, what’s it like?” Jessica asked.
“Greasy as fuck, but surprisingly nice,” I replied, careful to keep her voice down lest a family keel over at her usage of a curse word.
“Mm, same with this Chickenetti,” Jessica said.
“Can’t say the same about this burrito,” Charlie said. “It’s the plainest thing ever. No meat? No spice? Who on Earth made up this dish?”
“They used to use meat,” Faye explained, spooning some spare Chickenetti onto his plate, “but they switched to this meatless, bean version and apparently there’s no difference in taste.”
“Pfft, I call bullshit,” Charlie said. He twirled his fork in the Chickenetti.
The screeching stopped, and the Taylors themselves got up to take the stage- or, at least, the parents and unmarried children did. They began singing in a very nasal chorus.
“Man, I can’t take much more of this entertainment,” Jessica muttered. “None of these people have any discernible talent whatsoever.”
“Too right,” Faye replied. “As long as they’re honouring Jesus it’s A-OK though.”
I could feel the grease around my mouth as Grace took away our plates and the serving dish. As I reached for a paper napkin, I wondered how likely it would be that I would end up in Dr Kaczynski’s office in three months complaining of heart problems.
“So… dessert, guys?” Jessica grinned. “Lots of choice there, too.”
I glanced at the menu again. Ice cream pie… poppy seed loaf… apple dumplings… all the dishes I could have expected were there.
Charlie went for the ice cream pie, Jessica for the poppy seed loaf, I for cinnamon rolls and Faye for cheesecake.
Fortunately, by the time the dessert arrived, the entertainment seemed to have stopped for the evening. Unfortunately, they began piping in hymns over the tannoy system.
“This is quite nice, actually,” Jessica said, “if a little dry.”
“Mmm, yeah, I like this cinnamon roll,” I replied.
“So, do you think we’ll end up coming here again?” Faye asked.
“Probably not,” I said. “I don’t want another evening of screeching and wailing for one.”
“Neither,” Faye replied. “It’s been an interesting experience but not one I want to experience again.”
After paying (and giving the waitress a tip of tracts, like any good fundie would), we decided to browse the shop. The shelves were full of books. I recognised many of the Taylor titles.
“I still can’t believe people actually buy these,” Jessica said. “They’re aimed at such a niche market. Surely all the people interested in this stuff will have bought them already?”
“Yeah, I have no idea how they actually make any money,” I replied. “They’ve stopped their conferences and their IT course thing has folded. None of the sons have any concrete kind of job working at a legit company. They all seem to work for Papa Taylor.”
“Well, they’re managing somehow,” Faye said. “Well, we’re not gonna buy any of this stuff, are we? I wanna get out of here.”
We left the shop just as a family I didn’t recognise came in. We clambered back into our car and headed for home.