So off we went. And there she was, coming off the plane. Small, like people said. Unpretentious, too.
We’re thirty minutes outside of Omaha when I’m thinking that Fran and Joe’s report from the field was on the money. Not that she was reserved either, really, but she didn’t fill the air with talk like some can. Mostly, Garrett stayed out of it, which was fine because I thought he could learn a little civility, maybe even warm up to her if he heard her speak a little. All I needed to do was steer the conversation away from the potholes.
Seems she’s come to the Lord on her own, her parents no particular help at all—she even asked us to pray for them, her father especially. Something happened in college, something that changed her life; she bottomed out on something, didn’t exactly say what, and I wasn’t about to pry. Quoted C. S. Lewis in fact—about kicking and screaming his way to the throne.
I’m thinking Garrett has to like all of this, but I’m also guessing that there’s some voice in him saying she’s awfully young in the faith.
It’s dark on those roads once you get outside the city. You start on your out here, and sometimes people get antsy in all the open space, where there’s nothing but headlights out front, like the snoot of a hound. Deer galore, too. More after harvest—which is what time it is now.
This Leanne is sitting in the back seat by herself, and I’m thinking that maybe I should have insisted she sit up front like I would have if she’d been a man, should have put her closer to both of us or something, but maybe that’s just the mother in me. We’ve got kids older than Leanne.
“He speaks very highly of your church,” Leanne said, her voice coming out of the darkness. I’d have liked to see her eyes, but there was nothing in her voice that gave me any clue she was being fake nice.
“We like him, too,” I told her. “Don’t we, Garrett?”
My husband hadn’t said much, and I didn’t want her to think that he was just some muddle-head farmer. The man raised our kids and kept the whole place afloat through really hard times. He’s got a right to his opinions, and I love him. Maybe I said that already.
“We do, don’t we?” I said again.
He swung his face toward me as if he didn’t really want to participate.
“I was saying how much we liked Pastor Neal,” I repeated. Ever since Garrett’s had a hearing aid he’s even more of a selective listener. “He’s been a Godsend to this church, hasn’t he?”
All he’s got to do is grunt, I’m thinking.
“He’s a fine boy,” Garrett said finally, which wasn’t exactly the message I wanted sent. “He’s going to be a fine preacher someday, I think,” he said. “He’s on his way.”
That wasn’t bad.
But then he started on his own. “Could you live out here?” he said.
“My word, Garrett,” I told him. “Talk about a cart before the horse.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “There’s a lot I don’t know.”
“Can’t see it right now,” my husband said. “But we live on beautiful land.”
“What’s that town?” she said.
“No town out there, just farm lights—fewer and fewer of them, too,” my husband said.
“Looks like a town,” she said.
“It’s a community,” my husband said.
“That’s a nice thing to say,” she said. “I like that.” Then it was quiet—for about a minute. Then, “I can’t imagine living here,” she told us. Not haughty either. Lord knows, we get a lot of that out here. That wasn’t the point, and I could tell it. “I mean, it’s an awful lot, so fast. So much to worry about.”
“Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day either,” I told her.
“If you marry him,” Garrett said, “tell him to sell that scooter.”
Honestly, it was about the best line right then, as if it were scripture. That little girl sat in the back seat and just roared. “I don’t really like it all that much myself,” she said. “But don’t you dare tell him.”
“Don’t worry—we can keep secrets,” I said, figuring the Lord himself would forgive me for that one.
“So are you going to be a preacher too?” Garrett said. “The two of you? Methodists in town got a tag team like that. They seem to like it. ‘Variety’s the spice of life,’ my friend Norm says. He goes there. The only difference is, he says, the guy’s a bunch funnier than his wife.”
“That’s a switch,” I said.
Through the windshield, the stars were barely visible, and I had this sense that maybe if we’d show her the skies out here, she’d like it. She’d like us.
“So you going to preach?” my husband said again. If I’d have known it, I’d have thrown an elbow.
“I don’t know,” she said. “In college I was 4.0, and I just went right on to seminary, maybe too full of glow, just having become a believer. I’m the kind of person who got where she is because I didn’t have to work much—does that make sense?”
Tomorrow--More on the long ride home.