Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

You know people will talk--a story (iii)



Here’s the thing. Fran and Joe Henderson got a son in Atlanta, where this young lady lives. You know Fran—well, maybe you don’t. But caution has never been her strong point. She goes to Pastor Neal and says she wonders if they could stop in at this young woman’s place when they’re in the city anyway. “We’d certainly like to meet her,” Fran told him.

And this is just the kind of man Pastor Neal is. He goes to his notepad and scribbles out the address, just like that, smiling. “Let me know what you think,” he said, as if he was decorating the church office.

“How much room you got in your trunk?” I asked when Fran called me to tell me what had happened.

“We’re bringing some canned meat along for the kids,” she says.

“I didn’t mean it,” I told her, laughing. Maybe I did.

Anyway, Fran and Joe came back like Joshua and the Canaan spies, full of promising reports. Small, kind of quiet, they said, very nice smile, not pushy at all, even cute—seemed young, they said, but then so does Pastor Neal. Ordinary. Common. Nothing to worry about. Sincere, they thought. Even seemed pleased to meet them. “Someone I’d be proud to have for a daughter,” Fran said, and she’s raised some fine kids. Most anyway.

And that’s where it stayed for a couple months, Pastor Neal occasionally taking a day off to meet her halfway to there. Don’t ask how it is we know those things. We just do. The church council isn’t exactly a sieve, but how do you really expect those men not to tell their wives, right?

Garrett wasn’t exactly square with the whole business, as you can imagine. But he takes some nursing—don’t they all?

And then Pastor Neal made the announcement, how this young lady—her name is Leanne, and I think that’s a name without an edge to it if I ever heard one—how this young lady was coming to Norwalk for an official visit.

I pitied her. I really did. All I could see was her coming into church like some perfect foal at the county fair, all eyes measuring every angle. If it’s a Sunday, I told Claire, we might just as well get pulpit supply because Pastor Neal isn’t going to be thinking about the Word. Maybe get some elder to read a sermon because nobody’s going to be hearing a thing anyway, Claire said.

Here’s the way it happened, honest truth.

She got a cheap fare out of Atlanta on a Friday afternoon so she wouldn’t have to skip classes, and she’d arrive in Omaha at nine. Pastor Neal was going to be picking her up, of course, and the plan was for her to stay at the Bielemas, just across the street from the parsonage. All well and good.

Well, wouldn’t you know? Tracy Albright had a heart attack. Now Tracy’s one of my friends, and I was horrified to hear the news; but it wasn’t one of those massive ones, just a heavy tremor, you might say. Anyway, she up to the hospital, of course, and Hank, her husband, calls the preacher right away, and Pastor Neal says it’s his place to be with the family at a time like that and how can he get his Leanne here if he’s got to stay with the Albrights?

The Bielemas don’t drive that far anymore, and who on earth would like to be in a car with Ed in the middle of the Omaha? Ed calls Garrett, and Garrett looks at me but he knows well and good there’s nothing he can do but say yes, even though he wasn’t altogether taken with the whole internet thing and the fact that we got someone on our hands who’s going to be a woman preacher. “Good lands, what am I going to say?” he says to me when he puts down the phone.

“Just to let me do the talking,” I told him, which is the way we’ve often enough avoided calamity. “Besides,” I told him, “she’s not the anti-Christ.”

His fingers start to twirl, which I know is a sure sign he’s got butterflies.
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Tomorrow:  The long trip home from the airport.

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