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Dinner with Grace
Impressions of a Uniquely Churched America, 2 of 2: 10/17/21
© 2022 James LaFond
Written from memory while attempting revival by coffee on 11/1/21
He was weeding Tim's driveway between church at the chapel and dinner at Zane's. How his work rate could have been reduced by 60-plus% in a single year was sobering enough that he promised he'd get drunk tonight—on three big cans of light beer...
Tim was gone, passed in the spring, one of Arla's numerous children, all older than he, including the giant named Tiny. “You are the same waste-size,” Arla said, and packed him four pair of Tim's work pants, blue, heavy and practical. “My son bought good clothes and you need another pair of pants—at least...”
As he was working in the driveway where Tim's daughter and widow live, he was approached by slightly a older man in a cowboy hat who said, “I turned off the water—I'm next door. You can keep going with the weeding if you want!” he laughed. “How do you know Tim?”
He related how Bob and Shayne had given him a tour of the Beartooth Mountains in 2016 and that he had, on returning each year to base camp Utah, become friends with Tim.
The man said, “Shayne?”
“The Colonel,” said the hobo.
“I remember him going off to the army. How is he?”
“Yeah, he's out of the service. I stay with him in the Cascades over the winter.”
“What in hell is he doing?”
“Still cuts timber and works in carpentry—hunts of course. He tore his bicep, so hopefully I'll be able to stay longer than three seconds in the arm wrestle with him.”
“Is he still a big, strong ape?”
“Yep—a regular Viking chimp! Carries more wood in one arm than I can in a wheelbarrow. Had me rolling logs with him in his yard drunk at midnight. I just touched them while he rolled them.”
“Well, tell him Mike said hello. Shayne ain't a man you forget easily.”
He was a few minutes late, he assumed, and as he limped past Zane's house to return the pry-bar [another misused tool he mused, probably misnamed as well and Shayne would set him straight] and Zane yelled from across the street, “Dinner's ready when you are!”
He checked his phone and saw he already had a text from Zane and Deb, changed shirts and limped across Utah Route 32 to dinner.
Taco salad he now recalls, a curious favorite in this land so far from avocados and maize...very tasty, served by Zane's darling wife: two grandchildren, a 6-foot 6-inch train engineer son, a night-haired daughter-in-law who is a solid 10 on all scales, two darling little “missionary sisters” and “Aunt Arla,” who commented at his look at running into more blood relations, “Of course we're related...but don't worry, we keep it straight...”
It is nice to be able to discuss religious texts you have read with young people conducting a witness or mission. It enables the subject of their beneficent efforts to help them develop a deeper command of their own material. It occurred to him, as the two young ladies took turns witnessing to him, that this exercise, while outwardly a seeking of converts, is primarily a means by which the young people examine and express their faith.
He was as helpful as an oddly self-proclaimed heathen Christian-sympathizer could be and tried to divert his one un-patched eye from the nubile “sisters” who looked like latter day Gilligan's Island babes Mary Ann and Ginger, if Ginger wore a black dress and had a degree in mathematical theory and Mary Ann were as fair as Marilyn Monroe and dressed like a cast member of Little House on the Prairie.
Arla shared the same seat in the sectional with him, placing her hand on his thigh and noting, “I'm a widow, so you can regard this as a date...”
The little girls were well-selected as a team, one hazy on her text and bubbly of countenance, the other quite a scholar and more reserved. They were both in awe of Arla, who sat there between their darlingness and his heathenishness as a guardian as Zane helped them develop their command of the text.
The meeting finished with the hood-yeti asking for a link to an audiobook of their one specific text, a book that he had not read for some thirty years. He unable to use such small text paper books as they carried. Zane led them in prayer and thanked the visitor for “your service” helping widows in the community with their yard work and continued, “Maybe on your next visit, we can get together on the front end instead of the back end. We could use mean like you in The Church,” to which the old heathen silently mused, 'If I was young and you threw these two in, I'd stack up a pile of invaders for you, and father you a fresh batch.'
But, being no Jacob in Canaan, and faded fruitlessly besides, he smiled slightly and said, “Thank you Zane, and I wish you two ladies the best in your Mission.”
As he departed with Arla, who insisted on driving him across the street in her intimidating tractor-like machine, he wondered at his collision with a religion that valued work ethic above most earthly concerns, in light of the fact that he had spent most of his heathen life being hated by Christians and Atheists alike for working as hard as he could...
...and that just as he met these folks who admired him so much for his working ability, His Creator had shorn that ability in three, leaving him but a third to limp along on.
Four nights later, leaving that 7,000 foot high valley while the wind howled in snowy autumn overtones, he felt like a yellowed leaf blown from the tree of life to dance along in the gutter of a narrowing plight.
Ward and Stake
upon the earth
Instinct and Divinity
supplicant song
the fighting edge
black & pale
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