A church potluck in the country. I’m a visitor with a bloodhound named Thelma Lou. Thelma is begging for food from anyone on this church lawn by using her hidden super-power.
Very, very big eyes.
People feed her left and right. A ten-year-old girl gives Thelma two cheeseburgers and a drumstick. I ask the girl why she does this.
She answers, “Just look at those eyes.”
She’s got a point.
This is a country church. There’s a carport behind the chapel—a church van parked beneath it. And a cemetery behind that. And a hayfield behind that. And cows behind that.
Tonight this place is buzzing. Boys throwing baseballs to fathers. Grannies chasing toddlers.
There’s music. A makeshift band is serenading a line of people at a buffet table. I’m standing in line with folks who all pronounce “‘nanner puddin’” and “tater salat” the right way.
I’ve met people tonight.
One woman hugged me and said, “Did you know that my Shih Tzu is named Dolly Parton?”
I did not.
I meet a man named Jeremiah, who wears a bowtie and suspenders. Jeremiah is late seventies, an elderly version of Bernard P. Fife.
Jeremiah tells me his first wife passed sixteen years ago. He still misses her. Then, he shows me his left hand.
He wears a brand new gold ring.
“Just got married to a younger woman,” he says. “She’s practically a baby!”
His new wife is two months and four days younger than he is.
A child runs, hollering, laughing. The kid crashes into me so hard I almost spill my plate. His name is Chris, and he’s playing football with his brother.
Chris hands me the football. “Throw it!”
I’ve never been able to throw a spiral. I lob the ball like guy who couldn’t play competitive shuffleboard on an AARP cruise. The ball flops…