Palm Sunday, 1974
It was a sunny Palm Sunday in Oklahoma, and he thought she might be listening. He sure hoped she was. The little chapel in the old St. Mary’s Cathedral seemed like the right place. He took all the money he’d gotten in his last paycheck from the restaurant that fired him, five dollars even, folded it and put it in the slot at Mary’s feet. He lit a candle and touched her feet like he’d been told, crossed himself like a good boy. He hoped she knew he was serious. He’d thought about bringing flowers but a friend said not to go all overboard buttering her up because she could spot that sort of thing.
“All I want is to be cool,” Jackson said, squeezing his eyes closed as tight as he could. “And a girlfriend that’s special and different, just for me.” That had better work, ‘cause it was the best he could come up with. How hard could it be? Mary was like Super Mom. She could pull it off.
Jackson was just the good side of being an intolerable smart ass. He was awkward with girls, got a ticket every time he started his car and wrecked it every time he tried to show off. His grades were good, he wasn’t stupid, he was just foolish, loud and a little too profane. “Nothing,” his mother said, “that couldn’t be fixed by a good old fashioned ass whipping.” He hoped Mary worked her miracle for him over the summer. He was tired of being a punchbowl boy, wanted cool and the girlfriend to kick in as soon as possible.
On that same Palm Sunday in St. Anthony’s, the oldest Catholic Church in Wichita, Kansas, a few scattered clouds cast occasional deep shadows in the corners of the sanctuary. In one of those corners, a pretty young girl in self-exile named Deanna took all of her money from not eating lunch for two days, three dollars and seventy-eight cents in change, and dropped it in the slot at the feet of another Mary. She made a face while she waited for the noise to subside and softly closed her eyes.
“I want someone who will think I’m special, just me, just who I am, who will love me forever. Please.” She lit her candle, crossed herself and really, really hoped Mary had heard her. Mary was a girl, so she understood.
Deanna was a good girl. She studied hard and tried to make people happy. She was smart, athletic, and just a little skittish. Her mother said she could be difficult, demanding, obsessive and hard to get along with, but other times she could be the sweetest girl. She just couldn’t seem to put them all together.
Deanna had been frightened, angry, and fed up. So she left Oklahoma to live with her aunt in Wichita after Christmas her sophomore year. Her parents said she could come home whenever she wanted, so when school was out that spring, her semester in Kansas exile was done. She’d go home for the summer, and start over in a new school somewhere in the fall. The sooner the better would be nice on that guy who thought she was special.