Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bible Study

"It's raining," the Reverend Calvin Johnson said, and smiled, while standing on my front porch, dripping wet in a sudden downpour, a picnic basket slung over his right forearm.
"How can you tell?" I laughed and opened the door wider to let him into my house. "Put the basket on the kitchen table. I'll get a towel."
I fetched a white Turkish towel from the bathroom, hurried back to the kitchen, and handed it to him. "Forget your umbrella?"
He laughed, a deep laugh with another warm, blue-eyed smile attached. "It wasn't supposed to rain," he said, wiping his head, face, arms, and hands. "Not today."
He was the new minister at our church—tall, with blonde wavy hair. I first saw him five Sundays ago in church, when our retiring pastor introduced him from the pulpit. My widowed mom, leaned close to me in our pew, and whispered, "My, I've never seen such a handsome minister."
After the service, I officially met Reverend Johnson in the church basement at a reception to honor our retiring pastor and to welcome our new one. When Reverend Johnson and I were introduced, we gripped hands to shake, and my heart thudded crazily because for some reason his magnetic blue eyes locked with mine. I gulped. "Dr. Theresa Campbell," I said, as our hands pumped twice.
His head tilted. "The only dentist in town, I've heard."
"That's right—Rapid Falls' only dentist."
"Upper right," he said, pointing to his cheek. "Way back."
"Might be a molar."
Two days later, I pulled Reverend Johnson's ailing tooth—painlessly, I might add; he thanked me profusely. Then he said I could call him Cal, instead of Reverend Johnson and asked if he could call me Theresa instead of Dr. Campbell.
I said that was fine, and I couldn't believe what I was thinking. He was single. I was single. Neither one of us had ever married. We were exactly the same age. Thirty-eight.
Then: Stop it, Theresa! I told myself. He's a man of the cloth.
And that's what frightened me.
Quaint and quiet as this little town is, it's filled with gossiping tongues. Can you imagine how rumors would fly if the new pastor and the old-maid dentist were...well, even seen together in public? Holding hands could probably ruin our reputations.
Telephone calls, text messages, and emails between Cal and me followed his office visit. I learned that after ordination, Cal spent ten years in the service as a U.S. Navy chaplain, rising to the rank of Captain. He'd spent the last two years in Casper, Wyoming, as an assistant pastor. Now he'd come to our little town as pastor.
 I poured out my own story. Dental school at State College. Then I returned home to practice dentistry with my dad, until he died. I even told him about Roy—my high school and college sweetheart, who left town five years ago with someone else.
Cal handed the towel back to me now, and I draped it over a kitchen chair. "Our first date," he said, "—we're washed out. And I thought your idea of a picnic on a Sunday afternoon was such a great one."
I frowned. Cal and I were in a dicey situation. He had wanted to go to a movie this afternoon and then to dinner later; but—call me silly, if you want—I was afraid for us to be seen together. Too many wagging tongues in this town. Maybe after he'd been a pastor here for six months or so. Then maybe...
"Don't frown like that," he said. "We can move the coffee table in your living room, spread the table cloth on the floor, and still have our picnic—it's all in the basket."
"But your red Jeep," I said, "is parked in front of my house. People will drive by..."
Now it was his turn to frown.
"I don't want anybody to misjudge you," I said. "You're very important to this community." I held my breath before I said the rest: "And you're becoming very important to me."
While my heart fluttered, he stared at me. "Do you have a Bible?" he asked.
"Why, yes. Of course..." I fetched my Bible from the night table drawer in my bedroom, returned to the kitchen, and handed him the book, wondering what was next.
"First of all," he said, "all any of us need worry about is the Lord's judgment. And secondly"—he opened the picnic basket and pulled out a red-and-white checkered tablecloth—"if anyone asks why my Jeep was parked in front of your house, we'll tell them we had a picnic on your living room floor. And later we studied the Bible."
I smiled at that. I'd never had a picnic in the house, and I hadn't really studied the Bible since I was a kid. I couldn't wait.

The End
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