When I was in elementary school I sang in the church choir. My mom would drop me off at practice on Thursday nights.

Before practice one night, I soaped our choirmaster’s car windows in the parking lot. Another kid told on me so I spent most of the night hiding in a stall in the women’s room so I didn’t have to Face the Consequences. I remember the sounds echoing off the tiles and the cold hard quiet. It was peaceful and I liked pretending I was hiding in the Metropolitan Museum of Art like those kids in the book.

Once the singing had started and I knew everyone would be in the practice room, I snuck down the back stairs to the corridors that snaked underneath the church and walked through the dark hallways, the muffled sound of the piano and choral voices seeping through the walls. I made my way the length of the church and up the other set of stairs that led to the altar. I stood among the robes of the altar boys, then wandered into the pews and looked at the stained glass windows, robbed of their candy apple luminance by the night.

I wandered back upstairs and into the kitchen and opened the over-sized refrigerator. There was leftover pie from the last covered-dish supper, a jug of fruit punch and a gallon of milk for the coffee after services on Sunday. I poured some punch into a white styrofoam cup. It was cold and sweet, loaded with sugar and preservatives and red food dye.

I wanted to leave before practice was over so I could get out of the church without anyone seeing me, but I didn’t want to get home too early and arouse suspicion.

Around 8:30pm I started home, crunching through the day-old snow on the sidewalk, the dark keeping me alert and ready to run. When I got home I told my mom that someone from church had given me a ride. I never sang in the choir again.

Last week I read “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” to my girls.


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