Gypsy Hope Thomas


They say God has a plan. As far as I’m concerned, he can stuff his plan.

          Advent was in full swing at church with reverential anticipation of Jesus’s birthday. My brother, Bobby, was up in the choir singing God’s praises. I sat in the pew next to Mama and Santa’s upcoming visit to our house was the only thing on my mind.

          The smell of grits and bacon from breakfast clung to Mama’s sweater. I leaned in and took a satisfying whiff. She pushed my hair away from my face, then took my hand and placed in on her belly. I couldn’t wait to meet my baby sister. I was sure it would be a girl. I’d been good, done all my schoolwork, and said my prayers. God surely wouldn’t punish me with another brother to snoop through my things.

          The choirmaster sat on the organ bench, his feet lurching feverishly on the pedals and his hands hammering like God sent him on a mission to fill our ears with hymn and harmony. Most of the time, the organ sounded like a dying cow to me.

          A clap of thunder rattled the stained glass windows. Mama patted my leg.

          Hitler, as we kids called him, sat in his usual place next to the choirmaster, turning the pages of music. Surely he’d been overseas with the rest of the men, all in the name of taking the Great Satan down. But there he sat, looking just like the dictator himself with a tiny mustache and side swept hair.

          Thunder as loud as a train rumbled the same moment the choirmaster pressed the keys with all his might. Sparks burst around his fingers and he was thrown back off the bench and onto the altar. For a moment, I think we all wondered if it was part of the Advent service performance.

          A scream came from the pew behind us. One of the biggest pipes from the organ fell off the wall onto a row of choirboys, toppling them like dominoes.

          “Bobby!” Mama screamed.

          My brother stood inches from where the pipe fell. Daddy rushed to the altar and grabbed Bobby from where he stood. People raced up to the boys under the pipe.

          Mama cried as Daddy rushed back to our pew and ran his hands over my brother as if checking to make sure none of his child had been left behind.

          Later that night, the doctor told my father that Mama’s labor was likely brought on by the stress at church. Her body didn’t have time to stretch right, that’s why the baby got stuck. There wasn’t anything they could do and Mama bled to death.

          The doctors said they were lucky to get my baby sister out before she died too. The pastor said we were lucky none of the choirboys were seriously hurt.

     There wasn’t anything that felt lucky about that day. And nothing good about God’s so-called plan that everyone talks about. Not one thing.

Gypsy Hope Thomas wishes she had spent more of her time at the University of Iowa learning the craft of writing instead of memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements. She is the author of two novels currently in re-write purgatory. In 2013, her short story “Reflection” was published in the Wapsipinicon Almanac. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and daughter.