Meningsbee had always found it much easier to memorize the Beatitudes than to adhere to them.
Along with his “wayward wishings on the Web,” he seemed to have an inability to express consideration to other Earthlings. He didn’t feel animosity, just found that fellowshipping was better performed, in his mind, by reading a fine book.
When he woke up on Wednesday, it struck him that he had not interacted with Matrisse and little Hapsy for some time.
Guilt settled in.
Like many mortals, Meningsbee pretended to despise guilt, but often welcomed it as a warm comforter for a chilled thought. So the first thing he did was incriminate himself for failing to be in contact, and treating Matrisse like she was a drop-off center for abandoned children.
He fussed over that for a season, nearly sprouting a tear, and then was able to don appropriate pastoral garb and head off to her house. The activity did lift his spirits, and he began to feel like a preacher again. After all, when you stand behind the holy desk and thunder everlasting truths, it is good to give a damn about souls.
He arrived at the house, took a deep breath, and exited his car. As he walked up the steps to offer solace and comfort to Matrisse, the door flung open in front of him and there she was–squared off, staring at him as if some monster had invaded her porch.
“What do you want?” she challenged.
Stunned, he tried to respond. “I just came over…”
She interrupted. “You came over here because you’re a parson–and think you should interfere in people’s lives when they haven’t asked for your help.”
He paused, surprised, because she had pretty much nailed the situation. That’s exactly what he thought.
She continued. “Listen, Reverend, I’m not like other people. It’s not as if I despise them for being weak, but my thought is, I go to church to take the Word, to answer my questions, to create the sentences for me to go out and make a statement. I don’t cry a lot, but I also don’t bitch. I don’t fuss with other people, especially if they decide to learn their lesson and not fuss with me. And I don’t judge a young girl who had a baby because she forgot how to close her legs, who right now would rather be just a lost child herself. Hapsy seems happy. I feed her. I love her. She laughs. She thinks I have a big belly. So I pretend my stomach can talk, using my belly button as a mouth. She thinks that’s hilarious. I am not looking for help and most certainly–dear God–I’m not looking for pity or the wise words of some seminarian who spent too much time at the library. Let me take the message you preach on Sunday and act it out–so this little girl has a chance to be something other than a stripper, or a nervous sermon-maker.”
She took time out to breathe, glaring at Meningsbee, content she had made her point. He thought about explaining his motivations or trying to convey to her the need to let the community of believers share in her struggle, or just allowing him fifteen minutes to come inside and have a cup of her most delicious tea.
But he waited too long, because Matrisse punctuated her soliloquy with one final thought. This one was a little more tender.
“Listen, Richard. Why don’t you…”
She paused, leaning forward, changing over to a whisper.
Richard–Reverend Meningsbee–the Shepherd of the Garsonville Church–agreed. He smiled, turned on his heel and walked back to his car.
As he climbed in, he thought, if the world had been filled with folks like Matrisse, Jesus could have retired instead of being buried by his critics.