Dinner prayers took forever, and there was always the chance someone would walk past our kitchen window and see us on our knees getting religious.
I hated that, and adopted two strategies to cope. First, I kept one eye open, just in case someone came to the door. That way I could jump up and pretend I was retrieving a fallen fork. Second, to distract myself, I dropped tiny spit bombs to the carpet below. Entertainment, Idaho style. When I closed one eye and opened the other, the drip switched positions. Blink quickly, and the elongated drop jumped back and forth. During my experiments in depth perception and the elasticity of saliva, I didn't listen so much as let the prayer wash over me: bless the sick and afflicted, bless the widows, bless the missionaries, bless Grandpa Mac and his arthritis, bless Uncle Jim and let no harm befall him in Vietnam . . .
Befall, befall. In Vietnam, bullets could befall you, missiles, booby trap bombs, shrapnel, even knives. If my uncle didn't come home, my Aunt Karen, a no-nonsense woman with blonde beehive hair, would be left alone to ride herd on my three cousins. But prayer could cancel all that dangerous befalling. When we blessed the food, the words stayed in the room. When we prayed on our knees, the prayers curled upwards, like steam from a vent, like the soul leaving a wounded body.