I stopped by Ellen’s café the other day to have a chat with one of my characters. Ellen was happy to see me—she always is—but I stopped by at lunch time and the place was busy.
“I don’t have a lot of time to talk right now,” she said when I came through the door. She reached for a menu, but then she paused. “I don’t guess you need that. You know what’s on it.”
“Give me one anyway,” I said. I don’t know if you’ve tried this, but it’s a strange feeling to be able to walk into a restaurant and order a dish that isn’t on the menu and know that they will being it to the table, cooked to perfection. “And I didn’t come to talk to you.”
“Sometime when we aren’t so busy, I might be offended, but as you can see—“ She swept her hand toward the lunchtime crowd. “Who did you come to see?”
“Gene,” I said. “Your pastor is retiring. I wanted to talk to him before he does.”
“He isn’t here,” she said.
“He will be,” I said.
“Where do you want to sit?” she asked.
“How ‘bout that little table upstairs? You know—the one that’s off in the corner.”
She led me across the room to the stairs.
“Does he want to retire?” she asked when we reached the stairs. “I know he’s been talking about it, but talk isn’t the same as doing.”
“That’s part of why I came. I wanted to hear his thoughts on the subject.”
“We aren’t ready to see him go,” Ellen said.
“I’m not sure that I do either,” I said, “but Gene is in eighties and Wayne is sitting over there in the wings. I think Wayne has learned enough to make a good Senior Pastor now.”
“So you’re certain that Wayne would replace Gene?” She waited for me to sit down at the table before she handed me the menu.
“That’s the plan, but it’s up to your church.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.” She sat down in the chair across the table from me.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“I can just see you writing out a heated fight over who our next pastor will be. Mark thinks Wayne should be our next pastor. I think he should be our next pastor. I’ll tell you right now, I’m not going to let you split us on the issue.”
“No,” I said, “I wouldn’t dream of it, but the thought of the church begin divided did cross my mind. I just don’t have a preacher who would work as the other preacher—unless it’s Rob Snider.”
“But it’ll turn out okay won’t it?” She didn’t look very happy.
“I’m not sure. I’ve thought it through yet. Maybe Gene can help me with that.”
“We’ll talk about this again.” She stood to her feet. “I’m busy right now, but I want a chance to talk you out of doing something foolish.”
“O, yes ma’am. We’ll definitely talk again.” I turned my coffee cup over for someone to come fill it.