Nolan’s church was buzzing that week. In kids church they were all talking about last week’s birthday party and yesterday’s football game. Football was a big deal at church. In fact, several sports were a big thing at church but this was football season. The kids could talk to the grown ups and mingle with every age group if we knew how to talk football. Nolan enjoyed going out to the smoking hole with the adults, even though he wasn’t supposed to.
The smoking hole wasn’t an official location. It was just the place outside where the smokers would hide out so as not to be seen. This was a place of laughter. It was fun to spend time these guys. They would talk a lot of sports, they would tell jokes and talk about things Nolan didn’t understand. He was fascinated by the lifestyle of the smokers. Some of the smokers were his friends older brothers, some were his dad’s buddies although his dad didn’t have that much time for buddies. One of the smokers was the janitor, and Nolan knew the church janitor well.
On Sunday mornings, Nolan and his dad and sister would eat breakfast at the grocery store. They had a full restaurant but they also had donuts! Nolan loved donuts! The church janitor would join them for breakfast, or at least during the fifth grade he did. We weren’t supposed to know it but our church janitor had been involved in organized crime somewhere up north. When he pulled out his wallet to pay for donuts, you could see all his different names on the various licenses. He didn’t seem like a criminal but he smoked like a chimney. This was back when you could smoke inside of a the grocery store. Nolan wasn’t allowed to tell people at church anything about the janitor. He was in witness protection or something. It was dangerous to tell people anything about him. Nolan knew how to keep a secret. He never even told his friends. He had a lot of secrets for a kid his age.
The grocery store was next door to the church so after breakfast, his dad and the janitor would hang out there and Nolan would run over to kids church. As soon as kids church was over, all the boys went out to the courtyard and played football in the field around the giant cross. You never wanted to run into the giant cross while catching a pass, it didn’t have any give. Nolan wasn’t that great at football but he was tough enough to get up when he got knocked down. He would catch a touchdown now and then, even though he wasn’t the fastest. He had to take it easy right now because of his cast but he still tried to play. Football was a big deal at church.