The sound of crickets filled the room. The night was warm and a humid haze hung in the air. Wasn’t it supposed to be cool in the north? Dee Anna tossed restlessly, turning her back to the window. The relentless glare of an orange-tinted streetlight cast shadows on the wall. They were so vivid Dee Anna could, she thought, see them even with her eyes closed. What had they done with the curtains? Maybe the former minister’s wife had taken them.
Sighing loudly, she swung her feet to the floor and felt for her watch, which she had stashed under the lumpy pillow. It was two in the morning. Retrieving her robe from the foot of the bed, she draped it around her shoulders. “Why am I bothering since no one is here?” she thought. She snapped on the switch by the bedroom door and squinted as florescent light assaulted her eyes. “There is no way I’m coming here. No flippin’ way!” she said aloud.
Her eyes felt grainy from lack of sleep. She padded down the narrow stairs in bare feet, absently wondering what would happen if she tumbled to the bottom of the steps. Alone with no phone in the mostly empty house, would she lie helpless until morning when someone finally came to look for her? It was stupid to have forgotten her cell phone charger.
Had there ever been an uglier carpet, she wondered as she stepped into the empty living room. It looked like a shaggy pizza—orange, gold and green spots splashed over its reddish surface. “Even by streetlight, it is horrid,” Dee Anna thought crossly.
The refrigerator in the kitchen hummed loudly, and Dee Anna decided to drink one of the soft drinks she had stashed there. “I bet they’d be mad if they knew I wasted electricity by plugging you in” she said to the refrigerator.
An old kitchen chair was pushed against the wall. She pulled it into the living room and sat looking out the front windows at the empty street. Sipping her Dr. Pepper, Dee Anna pondered the previous day’s events. She had already been doing that most of the night. Her thoughts combined with the heat had kept her awake, the images and sounds curling back in a seemingly endless loop. She couldn’t seem to stop, even though she knew she needed to be rested the next day. “It doesn’t matter if I am sharp or not,” she thought, “since I’m not staying.”
No, that wasn’t right. She must never take the privilege of standing a pulpit for granted. She said aloud, “I’m sorry, God. Help me to share something from Your heart, even though I know I won’t be coming here.” She wondered how her sick dog was feeling, back home. She'd be glad when tomorrow was history.
She grinned as she pictured the sight she must have been as she uncurled herself from the front seat of the Falcon after an eight-hour drive. Since the deacons had been waiting nearly an hour already (how had that happened?) she had told them she would not delay them further by changing clothes.
They had met in the church nursery, sitting on uncomfortable metal chairs; Dee Anna had tucked her dusty feet under her chair as far as she could. Portly Bald Man began with prayer. It was a good and warm prayer, and Dee Anna had felt grateful for that.
It was a positive sign, she had thought, that two of the men seemed quite uncomfortable in their suits and ties. Crew Cut Man had continually run his finger inside his shirt collar as if he were choking. He clearly wasn’t used to dress shirts. Portly Bald Man had eventually taken his coat and tie off, saying, “Man, it is hot!I hate those things. Why should we be puttin’ on airs anyhow?" That brought a laugh from one of his peers and a frown from another.
The interview had not been at all what she had expected. She was prepared to share about her pastoral experience, her philosophy of ministry, her strengths and weaknesses, her goals, her theological views on some tricky topics. Instead, they had asked about her upbringing, her family, her marriage, and why she had decided to become a minister, “being a woman, you know.” That last was from the third deacon. He was lean and wrinkled but had an engaging grin. He looked Native American. It was impossible to tell his age. The others had nodded in interest at the question. She couldn’t remember what she had answered.
At one point a mostly silent younger man with a thatch of hair that fell over his forehead had blurted, “So, what do you think of Pat Robertson?” Her mind had raced, wondering why he would ask that question. Was she supposed to love or hate Pat Roberson? It was obviously an important issue to Ted Turner Boy. He was more animated than at any other time in the hour they spent in the nursery.
Mercifully, the church phone rang in the office across the hall and he, being closest to the door, had risen quickly to answer it. By the time he returned, Indian Chief had asked about her views on the end times and the Great Tribulation. This had led to a heated discussion in which she remained silent. The deacons hadn’t seemed to notice.
As she was attempting to gently turn the conversation to her own questions, Crew Cut Man said, “It’s late. I gotta be getting to the barn. Those twenty Bossies are gonna be bellerin’. Immediately the others rose to their feet, looking relieved. Stepping back in the room, Ted Turner Boy announced, “The Halvorsens were supposed to take this lady to dinner. That was Brenda on the phone. One of the kids is throwin’ up and they can’t make it.” The men looked uneasy. After an awkward silence, Portly Bald Guy said, “Well, I’ll take you over to the drive in and you can order whatever you want.”
Dee Anna had immediately thanked him but said she would like to drive around town for a while and would eat later. They all looked relieved and headed for the entry and the glass church doors. Each shook her hand as they left. Crew Cut Man had said, “You already know there’s towels next door. The bedrooms is upstairs and my wife brought over some clean sheets. It’s a spare room for missionaries and such, so there’s a bed left in there. It belongs to the church, you know.”
Indian Chief added, “Church starts at ten, but Sunday School is at 9:00 sharp. Would you like to teach the class?” Once again, her mind raced, but she had decided to diplomatically decline. “Oh, I’d rather hear the person who usually teaches. Is that all right?” Portly Bald Guy looked pleased and said, “Sure. Hey, can I get your suitcase for you?” She opened her trunk and he retrieved her small suitcase as she plucked her garment bag from the back set. “For a woman you pack kinda light.” He grinned for the first time as he headed for the stairs.
In another three minutes, they had all climbed into their cars and departed. That, apparently, was that.
Dee Anna had gone directly to the small bathroom and stood under the shower for a long time. Deciding against make up at this point, she ran her fingers through her short hair and dressed quickly in a clean pair of jeans. She fished her tennis shoes from the bottom of the garment bag. Maybe she’d find a park or something.
Driving around the town, Dee Anna had felt a little as though she were in a bad movie. Many of the building had false fronts, and the Paul Bunyan look-alike she had seen on the town’s welcome sign appeared two or three more times. She could hardly imagine a setting more foreign to her personality and experience. Nope, no way she was going to pastor a church in this town.
She’d found a small diner that advertised “home cooking.” After a meal of meat loaf and mashed potatoes she grew lonely and a bit depressed. She had driven out into the woods surrounding the town and sat in her car praying for a while. The heat had lessened by only a few degrees and the effects of the shower had long since worn off.
Returning to the little parsonage, she’d taken a closer look around. Hideous carpet. Undulating floors. She wondered what might be hidden by the abundance of paneling. The colors had been a bit shocking: a chartreuse kitchen (though it was nice and big), a dark purple bedroom, a bright touquoise stairway. The upstairs room in which she found the bed was, mercifully, a neutral beige. She had opened the closet to hang up her garment bag, pulling the string on a bare light bulb. What she had seen had caused her to gasp aloud and burst out laughing.
It looked like Hell. The closet was painted the color of a florescent pumpkin.
Nope there was no way she’d fit in here. In the darkened living room of the parsonage, Dee Anna thought of the orange closet upstairs and shook her head. She looked at her watch. Four a.m. Okay, maybe she could finally fall asleep. She headed upstairs and climbed back into bed. She said a quick prayer that she would get some sleep. Her last thought before dozing off was, "Lord, Little Big Foot sure is an odd name for a town."