It took us two days before we started checking in with grandchildren who’d gone to Galilee College with Pastor Neal, asking them who he’d been seeing long ago. Three days, four days—and we still had nothing. Claire said maybe we ought to think about hiring out a private eye.
The thing is, we love him because he pays attention. You talk to Pastor Neal, and he honestly lets you talk. Not like a lot of preachers. The women here love him because you look in his eyes and you trust him. Men don’t understand that, but then a whole lot goes right past them.
And I’ve got to admit myself that I almost climbed aboard my own husband’s skepticism when Pastor Neal—a good, good man—first announced what was going on, how he really wasn’t “seeing anyone,” per se, but how he’d met someone on-line. On-line.
I had to explain that to Garrett, which was not pleasurable at all, let me tell you.
“On-line,” I told him, before he went off to play snooker at the Senior Center. I didn’t want him sounding dumb when those other guys started laughing about what Pastor Neal had announced.
He hunched his shoulders.
“He met her on the internet,” I said, pulling his half-empty cup away before coffee ended up all over my kitchen cabinets. I don’t think there was room in his mind for such an idea—a preacher of the Word finding a girlfriend on a screen full of porn.
“It’s a Christian thing, Carrie says,” I told him. Carrie’s our daughter. She lives in the Twin Cities. “’You got to be a Christian to sign up,’ she told me.”
Garrett’s face turned to pink quartzite, I swear.
“It guarantees the girl you’re hooked up with will be a believer in the Lord,” I told him. “This internet thing—it’s just for believers, so how bad can that be?”
“Garrett, I hate to have to break the news, but my calendar says we’re now in the 21st century now,” I said, “and there’s no going back to some old-time religion.”
“The internet?” he said, half in fog. “He’s seeing this girl on the internet?”
Good night, that sounded awful. “Are you hearing me, or do you have to crank up that machine in your ear?” I said. “I told you it was a Christian thing—this whole business—and besides there are tons of places in the world today where love isn’t the spark at all, where parents line things up. I don’t even know if that’s such a bad idea.”
“He’s a preacher,” Garrett said.
“So he’s talking to this girl before he’s smooching—think of it that way,” I told him. “That’s better than our own kids. Shoot, that’s better than you and me.”
“He’s finding a wife on the internet, you say?” Garrettt said. The whole business had him snookered, poor man.
But that wasn’t the half of it. Seems this young woman he’s seeing—like I said, he’s got this little camera-like thing on his office computer—she’s in seminary. Oh boy, ain’t we got fun. As if Garrett and the Senior Citizen gents didn’t need more combustibles.
Tomorrow: The preacher's new girlfriend comes to town.