Bible in the Window

by: Stephanne Morris Marsh

Try as I might, I couldn’t find a picture of the bookstore, or Keely in the bookstore….but she looked JUST like that. She’s the little one, on the right. I am the one on the far left.

I must have been eight years old, because Keely was at least three.  This story is more about her than me, but I was there, and I saw it all.  We were living in Guayaquil and it had to have been after the Fanny and the Soda Crackers episode, because this took place in a bookstore that my mom and dad opened in downtown Guayaquil.  It was of course, a Bible or Christian bookstore.  The people of Ecuador are collectively rather poor.  When I say poor, it is much more than you could ever imagine.  Poor as in their clothes are rags and they have no others with which to change.  Poor as in they don’t have electricity or running water.  Poor as in they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  Bloated belly poor. 

Catholicism is the predominate religion, and while most people would love to own a Bible of their own, they simply can’t afford one.  (Don’t you feel guilty now with your 7 Bibles in different colors and versions stacked on a dusty shelf?) My mom had the bright and beautiful idea of placing a big Bible in large print in the front window.  She told us that people would stop to read it every day, and that way, we would be planting seeds that would one day grow beautifully. 

My mother was right (I actually never knew her to be wrong about ANYTHING!). People did stop every day to read the Bible. They would line up 2 and 3 people deep to read.  When they finished the page, they would either tap on the glass or simply leave and come back the next day.  When they tapped on the glass, we would turn the page for them.  It got to be a full time job, turning the pages back and forth, and I was given the honorary position of page turner.  People would get quite angry and impatient with others who were reading too fast or too slow.  It was actually quite an ordeal.  I still can see the looks on their faces, the hungry look in their eyes as they devoured the words.  Those memories are the ones that help me remember and know that the things we did were good and served a definitive purpose. 

My mom was always busy, scurrying about ordering books, unpacking new ones, moving shelves around, dusting; you get the picture.  She was busy running a book store.  Inevitably, I would have to go to the bathroom.  (Bathrooms are a completely different chapter). Keely was then assigned the task of turning the pages, while I was gone.  Beautiful little Keely, with her blond hair, big green eyes and chubby cheeks, she was a picture all by herself, and truth be told, many people stopped to look at the beautiful little girl in the window and were then drawn to reading the pages of the book. 

Keely was my mother’s favorite.  (Don’t we all think so when we are young? That the other sibling is “the favorite”?) Keely never did anything wrong.  I always had to share with Keely.  I always had to give whatever I was playing with to “Keely”.  I was immensely jealous of Keely, and did several things to get back at her (all in another chapter, or maybe even another book). I was always looking for something that would make my mother see the REAL Keely.  The mean vicious, three year old Keely that stuck her tongue out behind my mother’s back.  One day, when I took my bathroom break, my luck changed.  My sister got caught doing something evil and terrible and I didn’t even have to tell on her.  My mother saw her with her own eyes. 

My mother was working on the accounts for the store, and looked up because she could hear an uproar and terrible shouting and banging.  My mother quickly observed that the people outside of the bookstore were angry, because Keely was quickly and furiously fanning the pages of the Bible, and no one could read it! My mother then saw my darling sister Keely, put her hands up to her ears, wave and wag them and stick her tongue out while dancing gleefully.  Luckily, I came out of the bathroom just in time to see my sister get the spanking of her life. After that episode, Keely was very careful only to change and turn the pages when only one or two people were reading, and NEVER when my mother was around.  

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