The parson and Gina sat on the church's front porch steps. Her mother had called to apologize she'd had car trouble and was running late.
“I don't know if I can handle all the pressure, Parson,” said Gina, an ninth grader who seemed, in the parson's mind, to be a great big bunch of potentiality.
“What kind of pressure is on you?”
“Well, grades for one thing. I didn't realize that high school would be so much harder than before. But it is. Mom says it's because I'm taking advanced placement classes.”
“I would think that would definitely make your classes harder,” the parson said with an inside smile.
“My Aunt Glenda said I ought to drop out of the advanced classes, but, you see, Parson, if I do that it will hurt my chances of getting into a good college. And I've got to get into a good college. I have to get out of this place.”
“You have to get out of this place?”
“I do. Everybody around here goes to a local college or the tech school. Then they marry their boyfriend. They have babies and the next thing you know their babies are going to a local school and the whole thing just starts over again. That's not going to happen to me.”
The parson didn't say anything. Gina didn't seem to need a comment.
“Look, Parson, I don't hate this place, but, you know what I mean. You've lived all over the place. I bet if you went to a nice restaurant you'd know what fork to use when. Do you know what I mean?”
The parson didn't say anything. He nodded.
“Do you remember when Ms. Parson took us on that trip to Mexico? I'll never forget when we stopped in New Orleans. Oh, my gosh! I don't know what the name of that restaurant was but the food was wonderful. And the people, all the different people. There were so many accents. You know what I noticed most of all? What I noticed most of all was the smells. Did you know different towns smell different? I didn't until then. So, anyway, while we were working on building that church building down in Mexico I told Ms. Parson I wanted to see more places and meet more people than my parents and grandparents have.”
“I remember that trip,” said the parson. “Seems to me you and Ms. Parson took an extra day getting home.”
“We did! We did! Do you know why? The reason we took an extra day … oh, you know why; she called you … anyway … she we stopped in Houston. We went shopping there and she took me to another really, really restaurant. Did you know they have streetcars going up and down the street right in the middle of the city? It was fantastic.”
Gina suddenly got quiet. She turned away from the parson. In a moment she looked back. “I'm sorry, Parson. I still miss her.”
The parson put his arm around her and hugged her close. “I do, too, Gina. I do, too.” Releasing his grip on her, he asked, “So, let's get back to the pressure. You're not the dumbest girl on the block, so I don't get the pressure about the classes.”
“Ah, it's not just the classes. Everybody wants me to play soccer. I love soccer; you know that. But, with all the classes, I don't know if I can take time away from my studies to play.”
“I think you should,” the parson said. “You know the competition of the game might give you some relief from the studies; and when you're relaxed you can study better; don't you think?”
“I never thought of it that way,” said Gina. “I'll think about it.”
The parson thought a moment, the said, “Excuse me just a minute, Gina.” He walked around the corner of the building and made a phone call. Returning to sit beside Gina again, he said, “You know, Gina, this summer I'm taking my daughter-in-law, Ms. Parson's daughter, to New York to the theater. I tell you what, if you make it through the year without a nervous breakdown, you can go with us.”
“New York City?”
“New York City.”
“Get out of here! Are you serious?”
“I'm serious. I just asked your mother. She said it's okay.”
“New York City! Oh, my gosh. When are we leaving?”