In this excerpt from The Moaning Bench, Margaret Holmes, the girlfriend of Rufus Hightower – who is a suspect in his father’s murder – is remembering the first time she noticed Rufus, at Piney Bluff Baptist Church in Pate County, Ga.

But (Rufus) was always up to mischief.

One Sunday, a Communion Sunday when the Piney Bluff sisters were serving dinner between the morning and afternoon services, she saw Rufus play a trick on big old Sister Minnie Hudson.

Sister Hudson, who weighed a good three hundred pounds, always fixed herself three heaping plates of food when they had dinner, then ferried them to her table. She always did this, whether there was enough to go around or not. On this Sunday, Margaret watched as she waddled over to her table with a plate laden with fried chicken, ham and potato salad, and another one straining under its weight of collards, black-eyed peas, green beans, squash and rutabagas.

She set these down, turned on her wobbly-heeled shoes and made her way back to the three long folding tables pushed end-to-end as a buffet. She picked up a plate of cornbread, cake and sweet potato custard. While her back was turned, Rufus slid up to her table, got the plate of meats and snuck it back to the buffet table.

When Sister Hudson got back to her table with her breads and desserts, she was perplexed that her meat was gone. She looked around, spied it on the buffet table and slowly made her way back over there. This time, Rufus took the bread and cake plate and snuck it back to the buffet table.

Sister Hudson was beside herself.  She looked over at her plate on the buffet table, shook her head furiously and headed back that way.

Rufus, just about to make the switch for the third time, looked up and saw Margaret watching him. She was about to burst, trying not to laugh.

He saw she wasn’t going to bust him, so he took Sister Hudson’s vegetable plate to the buffet table then snuck out the side door.

The following Sunday, Margaret struck up a conversation with him.

From The Moaning Bench © 2016. Coming Jan. 27th.

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