Friday, February 15, 2019
Al said, “Gracie, you are a blessing to me and other folks around here. I’m going upstairs and sticking my nose in a book.” On his way up the stairs Al leaned over and kissed Gracie on the cheek. “Good night,” he said, “Thanks for a wonderful evening, and I don’t mean just the food. You are a blessing to me.” Gracie smiled as he went past. She heard him go up the stairs, and she sat back in Ray’s chair. With her eyes closed it would be difficult to see the tiny tear form.
Al sat on his chair reading for an hour or so and then got ready for bed. He knew the week would be busy, and he was going to be dragging by Wednesday night. As he got into bed and pulled up the fresh smelling sheet and comforter he thanked God for Gracie. Before giving in to his tiredness he thought about the sermon of the morning and prayed that he might be ready for the unexpected from God.
The flashes of light were blinding. Al tried to make out the hands on the big wind-up alarm clock. It was just past midnight. The flashes increased to a steady strobe. The pillow over his head did nothing to mitigate neither the pain nor the nausea. After an hour of wrestling with the light and pain, exhaustion won and the battered man fell asleep.
The morning light found him on the floor, half way to the bathroom. He didn’t want Gracie to know, so he pulled himself together and made it into the shower. He let the hot water run over his aching and tired body. When he was shaved and dressed, he headed down the stairs and made it past Gracie. Once out the door, he walked over to Chuck’s place.
Friday, February 8, 2019
Al found his usual seat in church Sunday morning. Larry and Jimmy joined him a few minutes later. As he sat waiting for the service to begin he thought that Pastor Hank must be doing something right. Over the last few weeks about half a dozen new people started attending. The preliminary music was just beginning when Jimmy turned his attention to the door. Both Larry and Al caught Jimmy’s movement and looked towards the door. Spotting Gracie all three men stood up.
Gracie saw the three men right away. She made her way to where they were standing and moved past Larry and Jimmy. She took a seat between Al and Jimmy. When she sat, the other three followed her. Al leaned over and whispered in her ear, “I’m glad you came this morning. I think you kind of surprised a few people.” During the service all three men were dumbfounded as Gracie sang with a beautifully clear soprano voice. More than once the three men stopped singing so they could enjoy the pure voice of the most important lady in their life.
Pastor Hank spoke on, “The Unexpectedness of God.” He used a couple of biblical stories to enforce the truth that what we see as unexpected is not at all. God uses events and circumstances for whatever his purpose is. He said that when Jesus turned the water into wine, it was totally unexpected. He challenged everybody to be ready and expect the unexpected. “And,” he said, “don’t be surprised when God brings it to you.”
At the end of the service Larry excused himself and headed out the door. Gracie tried to talk to him before he left but Pastor Hank was quick to get to the back and welcome her. The pastor talked with her for a minute, and then she joined Al and Jimmy waiting outside. There was a chill in the air as they walked the few blocks down the street.
Before Jimmy turned off Gracie invited him over for dinner. She told him to come around six and not a minute later. As they continued she said to Al, “I was intending on asking Larry over as well. I didn’t want to seem to be forward, but I missed talking to him.” Al said, “I’ll see Larry in a couple of hours. I’ll tell him we expect him for dinner at six.”
Sunday, February 3, 2019
On Friday the information from the hospital arrived. Al read through the papers and signed the release form for his medical records. He walked the two blocks down to the post office and dropped the envelope into the outgoing box. He walked back to the office and found Gracie, on the phone, as usual. As he walked past her on his way to his desk, she waved for him to stop. Motioning to the phone, he turned and came back to her desk. He heard her say, “All right Bill, I’ll tell Al and I’ll talk with you soon.”
From the snippet that Al heard, Gracie had his attention. When she hung up he asked, “What was that all about with Bill? Something I need to know?” Gracie said, “Bill called to say they found the remains of an elderly man in the river about two miles downstream from where you and Ray were. The coroner said the man died of a severe blow to the back of his head. And, it would be consistent with a victim falling backwards and hitting his head against a large rock.” Al said emotionless, “I guess that pretty well answers that mystery at the river.”
That evening, while Al and Gracie were in the dining room Gracie gave Al a brown paper bag. “Open it up.” she said. “I ordered this more than a month ago. Folks from the mail order company never heard of us. Seems like some people don’t even know we exist up here. I wanted to get it for you a while ago. Well, anyway, here you go.” Al looked with surprise at Gracie.
Al sat with the paper bag on his lap. He opened the paper bag and then pulled out a plastic bag. As he looked into the clear plastic bag, the brown paper bag fell to the floor. As he pulled out a natural brown leather portfolio his smile brought an instant smile to Gracie.
Gracie said, “I can’t have you going to council meetings and other important appointments carrying around just a tablet of paper, can I?” Al was motionless for a moment and then pushed back his chair, bending over he gave Gracie a hug. He said, “Thanks, I have never had a leather case, and this is beautiful, and my favorite color.”