Running ten minutes late, Meningsbee motored his way through some of the back streets of little Garsonville, on his way to the high school to speak to the creative writing class about “what’s it like to be a writer.” He was late to the appointment because Matrisse had entranced him with a tale of foolishness and woe.
When Matrisse first arrived, she referred to Kitty as “Sassy.” Meningsbee didn’t think much about it. But as she related the events from her homestead, he realized that she had no great affection for the young girl he had befriended on his overnight trip to South Dakota.
It seems Kitty had quickly become antsy hanging around home with Matrisse and Hapsy, and slipped away to the only bar in Garsonville–an establishment with nine stools, a pool table, which offered extra-hot buffalo wings to any brave takers. There, Kitty met up with a young man named Tarbo. Although Matrisse was pretty certain this was not his given Christian name, it was the only one Sassy–or Kitty–would provide.
Matrisse explained that Kitty was in tears because she wanted to go with Tarbo to Chicago, where he intended to sign up to join the Navy, to become a SEAL. Kitty was afraid if she didn’t go with him, she might never see him again, as he would certainly be sent off to fight the terrorists in foreign lands.
Long story short, Kitty wanted Matrisse to watch Hapsy for a couple of weeks so she could go chase this dream–which seemed to be ordained by God, Himself, since they met under such supernatural circumstances down at the pub.
Meningsbee had listened intently, knowing that eventually Matrisse would close off her tellings with some sort of question–that probably being, “And what are you going to do about this?”
Fortunately, he was able to make an escape because of the speaking commitment at the high school, telling Matrisse he would call her later so they could cap their conversation.
She frowned, looking at him with an old witchy evil eye, and said, as she departed the house, “It ain’t no good, Reverend.”
So still having the whole fiasco on his mind, Meningsbee arrived at the high school creative writing class to discover that four of the students had asked to be excused from the lecture, because their parents were former members of the church, and didn’t think it was right to have the preacher come to teach the children. This affrontation was more distressing to the instructor than it was to Meningsbee. He just smiled and said, “Let’s go.”
He didn’t talk long to the class–about ten minutes.
He explained to them about writing his book, The Jesus Church, what it meant to edit, how to realize when you were finished with a book, and some of the inner workings of publishing.
At the end of the class, he opened it up for Q and A–the teacher’s request. Meningsbee was pretty sure none of the kids would be very inquisitive.
After what seemed to be an interminable silence (probably only about fifteen seconds), one student raised his hand, and with a huge smirk on his face, said, “I don’t think I would like your book. I don’t believe in God.”
The classroom offered up a mixture of gasps and giggles. The teacher stepped forward to scold the boy.
Meningsbee interrupted her.
“Thank you for your question,” said Meningsbee. “Or whatever it was. I write about God because God wrote about me. It seemed the right thing to do. Polite, you know. Like coming up with a legitimate question for a guest speaker when he takes the time to come to your school. You see, God is either our Creator–or He’s nothing. If He’s nothing, He’s been really successful at extending a myth for thousands and thousands of years. If He is our Creator, then He knows how we are made. I don’t know how I’m made. Do you?”
Meningsbee didn’t wait for the boy to respond. “Didn’t think so. So I read what God wrote about me, and basically, my book is writing back what I think about Him. You see, it’s a combination of appreciation and doubt. First, I appreciate the fact that I can live. I especially like eating. I could do without bowling.”
The class mustered a giggle.
“But also, I have questions. I wonder why, since we’re all children of God, we can’t get together and find what we have in common instead of constantly harping on our differences. I wonder why my Creator tolerates idiots preaching for Him, who don’t care about anybody else, and do nothing generous in His name. And most of all, I wonder how sad He must be that an intelligent young man sitting in a schoolroom has to deny he believes in Him to look like he’s smart. So even though you didn’t ask, that’s why I wrote the book. Any more questions?”
Meningsbee quickly grabbed his papers and headed for the door.
“Didn’t think so. Thanks for your time.”
As he scurried down the hallway of the school like an alien from outer space escaping a NASCAR convention, he chuckled to himself.
He was imagining what the students must be thinking…or maybe he was just hoping he got them to do so.