Saturday, February 12, 2011

Interruptions of Interruptions

I'm in the church office alone, cranking away on my sermon on a Saturday morning.  There's rustling around, and I find myself saying hello to a visitor, a longtime member of my congregation.  He pops in, and I'm drawn into conversation.  As the sermon sits fuming and whining for attention on the desktop, we talk about church stuff, about the future, about the challenges and possibilities.  It's good meaty planny churchy-church talk, entertaining in its own way.

And then the church door bell rings, and I'm compelled to go answer it.  It's a young woman, all big blue eyes and ragamuffin-hippie-chick clothes.   She's, like, you know, kinda coming down from New York, and running out of gas, and, hey, could I like, maybe give her five bucks for gas, or even two bucks would help?  She was clearly once beautiful, and was still pretty, in a frail sort of way, but the faint graying tone under the windblown redness of her skin and the thinness of her face tells me that she will not be for long.

I say, no, I do not give out money.  She seems a bit crestfallen, and starts in on a "well, I understand, but, like, my life is just so messed up right now..." before I tell her that I will happily show her to the nearest gas station and get her some gas.

She brightens up, as the rest of her sales pitch suddenly is no longer needed.  I excuse myself from interruption number one, and get on my coat, and head out for interruption number two.  We walk out together.

Hey, like, I'm traveling with my buddies, she says, to alert me to the fact that she's not on her own.  I visualize some seriously sketchy looking folk, and am thus unsurprised when I encounter her buddies.  Buddy number one is barely seen in the back of a huge honkin' gold Dodge Ram Crew Cab pickup.  There are big hands and a shadow, and a sense of mass...although more Hutt than bodybuilder.  Buddy number two appears from nowhere, popping into being like a silent wraith from behind me to my left, a pale ruined ghost of a soul, hollow eyes and wispy red-tinged facial hair.  Not the guy you send to hit up a church for cash, unless that church has a soft spot for meth zombies.  

You want a chance at cash, you Send the Pretty One.

I lead them to the obscenely overpriced Exxon in nearby Cabin John, and funnel fifteen dollars worth into the gaping maw of their obscenely inefficient vehicle.  She stands by me, talking quickly and fluttery about how she, like, loves God, and you know, told her buddies that you always find good people at churches, and OHMYGOD FIFTEEN DOLLARS!  I didn't think you'd give us that much, oh thank you, thank you.  At Bethesda prices, that's just barely four gallons.  I ask where she's going, and it's, just South, just going South, but, like, you know, we kinda have a stop to make first.  I said I figured as much.

She asked my name, and I told it, and then I offered my hand, and she asked if she could hug me, and I said sure.  She was frail as a bag of bones, and it seemed heartfelt in that moment.  We said our farewells, and I told her to be good like ET offering up fruitless advice to Drew Barrymore. 

Then they were off.  And I returned, and wrote this.

The sermon will get done, eventually.