Silos went high.
At least they did for Cam Collier, a gentleman in his late forties, born and bred in Quincy, Illinois.
Ten years earlier, he took a risk and purchased nearly all the silos in a four-state area, setting the price on storage and care of the farmers’ wheat and corn.
Everybody needs food. And the most important part of that process is knowing how to store and distribute it.
So Mr. Collier quickly became a millionaire.
Three months ago, he was floating down the muddy Mississippi on a riverboat, gambling away some of his hard-earned dollars, when his eye fell upon a young girl who was working bar-back on the cruise. It was a hot night. She was dressed in a little tank top with sweat pouring down her arms.
She was lonely, lookin’ for a daddy–and Cam was lookin’ for a whole lot more.
They struck up a friendship and in a whirlwind romance of nineteen days, were married and on a quest to find mystical bliss.
So today, in her glorious financial splendor, Kitty, our fortunate recently-married lass, returned to Garsonville to retrieve her little daughter. Anticipating a struggle to regain custody, she came loaded with well-purchased court orders and ten thousand dollars to sprinkle in donations throughout the community, to sweeten everybody’s will in her direction–although as often was the case with Kitty, she had no real comprehension of the situation.
Matrisse had not taken Hapsy into her home so that she could criticize Kitty, or replace her. Matrisse was like a great collector of art, who stumbled upon a precious piece, purchased it, took it home, cleaned it up and placed it on her wall, giving it the honor it deserved.
And Hapsy was deserving.
When the sweet girl had first come to Garsonville, she possessed a frenetic giddiness brought on by any introduction of gifts or sweets. But now she was just happy to sit in a corner with a box of crayons and draw pictures.
Meningsbee found himself cast into the role of the arbiter. Kitty was sure she would need him to convince Matrisse to give up rights to the child. Of course, Matrisse had no rights to the child, and knew it.
So that morning, when Meningsbee stepped out, saw Kitty and retired with her to his office for half an hour, listening to her story, he realized he had only one job: give Hapsy the best chance possible.
“Listen, Rick,” said Kitty, continuing her spiel. “You don’t mind me calling you Rick, do you?”
“Kitty, I don’t care what you call me. I just want you to understand I’m not a fool.”
“I didn’t say you were, Rick.”
Meningsbee pulled his chair closer to her and lowered his voice. “You see, right now you’re high. I don’t know what you’re on, but you’re in the clouds.”
Kitty smiled. “No, sir. I am not high. Crack whores get high. Homeless people–well, they might get high. I, on the other hand, am well-medicated. I have one doctor in Quincy, Illinois, who does nothing but provide me with needed–shall we say “pilling?”–for my various moods. It’s all legal. And it’s all stamped and approved by my local pharmacist.”
Meningsbee just stared at her. Kitty was the worst kind of dangerous. She thought everything was a game, but she didn’t know the rules.
He continued. “Call it what you wish, but I want to make sure that Hapsy has a future.”
“We got money, Rick. Matter of fact, I’ve been authorized by my husband to give your church a thousand dollar donation. Just think what you could do with a thousand dollars.”
“Just think what Hapsy could do with a mother who could walk a straight line…”
Meningsbee made sure there was no condemnation in his voice, but that his message was clear.
“You see, Rick, you’ve got no say here. When I met you in that motel, I was looking for a sugar daddy. I ain’t gonna lie to you. I quickly realized you had no money. But I thought if I followed my latest lead, it might eventually take me to a pot of gold. That was you. Now, you can’t argue with me. My little plan worked. So I’m here to collect what’s mine and blow this town once and for all.”
Meningsbee paused, took a deep breath and replied, “I haven’t talked to Matrisse about this. Honestly, Kitty, it seemed cruel to consider the fate of the little girl. But I don’t believe Matrisse is going to stand in your way. She knows you’re the mother.”
Kitty leaped to her feet, clapped her hands and said, “Well, good. Then let’s go get my sweetie.”
“Is he a good man?” asked Meningsbee.
“Who?” Kitty replied.
“Your husband. Cam, is it?”
“A good man?” She paused, musing. “Well, he’s never hurt me. He’s always willing to help me. And he doesn’t bother me too often. Honestly, Reverend, he’s in his late forties and working too hard and has heart palpitations. Need I say more?”
Meningsbee sat thinking. Kitty got impatient.
“Are we gonna go get my kid?” she finally demanded.
“Well, when we came in here to talk I wasn’t sure what you wanted, but…well, I kind of knew. So I asked Matrisse and Hapsy to stay in the vestibule just in case we needed them.”
Kitty grabbed her purse and said, “Let’s go.”
They went into the foyer, where Hapsy was perched, playing quietly with some blocks. Matrisse was sitting nearby with her purse in her lap and a small smile on her face.
As soon as Kitty came in the room, Matrisse spoke. “So good to see you, Kitty. You’re looking well. Hapsy is waiting for you.”
When the little girl heard her name she peered up from her toys, squinting her eyes as she gazed at Mama Kitty. Then, in an amazing transition of facial expressions, she went from bewildered to aware to a smile to looking over with sadness at Matrisse.
The little girl knew.
She had traveled with her Mama for years.
So she rose to her feet, walked four or five steps over to Matrisse and gave her a long hug and a kiss. She shook Meningsbee’s hand and stepped over to Kitty, saying, “Hi, Mama. Is it time to go?”
Meningsbee fought back tears. He realized that Hapsy was more aware of her mother’s wild ways than any little girl should be.
Meningsbee put his arm around Matrisse and they walked to the front door of the church, watching Kitty clumsily load Hapsy into a car seat in a huge SUV and then hop into the passenger side, close the door and zoom away.
Matrisse stared at the car as it left and said under her breath, “God bless you, Hapsy. I sent angels with you.”