The Garsonville church congregation came ricocheting out of the sanctuary, bouncing off the walls like a red rubber ball tossed by a naughty toddler.
They were so pleased with themselves.
Those who had participated in the “Group Sermonette” reprised their roles to the delight of listeners, as the individuals who were passed over by the lottery of numbers sat with a blending of jealousy over being left out and excitement over when they, too, would be asked to be leaders in the Reverend’s Round Robin.
Meningsbee had barely made his way out the door when he was greeted by Matrisse. She asked to see him for a moment, so the good reverend followed her over to a secluded alcove and sat down on a bench.
Now…Matrisse had not been one of the early encouragers to Reverend Meningsbee. She did not criticize him, nor did she leave and join the “Express” congregation. She just watched–carefully.
Although only fifty years old, she had a depth of soul and a rigidity of countenance which reminded him of a giant eagle perched on a high mountain, peering down at the flightless mortals below.
One day she just called and asked if she could come over and see the preacher. She brought chicory and sticky buns, and for three hours the two souls enjoined.
Meningsbee learned much.
Matrisse was the only human of color in the Garsonville community. Her father was a Cherokee chief–retired–and her mother was a Creole dame from New Orleans who dabbled in the “dark arts.” So Matrisse grew up learning the smoking end of a peace pipe and on rainy evenings, found herself digging in the muddy soil to retrieve night crawlers and crickets for her mother to use in favored potions.
Matrisse was a delicious milky-brown color, which in a normal city would render her nearly invisible, but in Garsonville made her appear like she was fresh off the boat from Africa. In her lifetime she had gone from being called “nigger” to more recently being referred to as a “treasure of our community with a colorful personality.”
Meningsbee knew one thing about Matrisse–she was the kind of woman to listen to because she had spent much of her life hearing nonsense, and was able to pull out nuggets of gold from the rubble.
Once they sat down in the alcove, she wasted no time. “Who is this woman you have brought to our church?”
Meningsbee replied, “Kitty? She’s just a girl.”
Matrisse fired back, “Girls do not have boobies and babies.”
The pastor had no reply. He knew it was time to listen.
Matrisse colored in the picture. “I will not take much of your time. I know because you’re a man who has a generous heart, but often a clumsy understanding of pioneer people, that you probably plan to lodge the girl and her baby in your home as an act of Christian charity.”
Actually, Meningsbee didn’t know what his intentions were, but had no reason to argue with the assertion.
Matrisse marched on. “You cannot do this. You are a man, even though you think you are of God. I mean, you know you’re of God, but you’re also a man. What I’m saying is, a man of God is still more man than God. Even if you would never lay a hand on this young girl, everybody would have visions of you fondling her, making wild passionate love to her, and never give you the benefit of the doubt, even if you were remaining pure and chaste.”
Meningsbee hadn’t even thought about it. Any of it. He started to object, but Matrisse interrupted.
“I’m not asking your opinion on this. I am telling you that I will take this woman into my home for two weeks and treat her as my daughter. And her little child will become my pappoose. That’s fourteen days. In that fourteen days, you should talk to her, find out what she wants to do–but make sure that she does not accidentally turn into a Jezebel who comes and destroys this work of God. Do you understand me?”
Matrisse disappeared, and he sat for a moment, thinking about her words. Perhaps they were crude, but they were true to the understanding she possessed of the locals based upon the abundance of experience she had with their tongue-wagging.
At length, he emerged from the alcove and saw her with Kitty and Hapsy, heading toward the door, with Kitty turning helplessly to wave as the juggernaut of activity known as Matrisse pushed them toward home.
Sometimes every human being needs to have saints who come along to help make dreams lose their cloudiness…and offer clearer skies.