The parson pushed the plate that recently hosted two eggs over easy, two sausage patties, and a heaping helping of grits that had been host to a small pond of butter. The plate was now almost clean, having been wiped free of the yolk, crumbs, and bits of grits with the remaining toast.
Wanda, the server who was used to the parson’s habits, immediately appeared and filled the coffee cup with decaf, removed the plate, and leaned over to see the title of the book the parson was reading. “Theology Without Borders, An Introduction to Global Conversations,” she said. “Parson, I don’t have a clue about all this stuff you read.”
The parson smiled, “Wanda, I’m just trying to look more intellectual than I am.” Then the parson smiled even more. Over Wanda’s shoulder he saw Cecil Turner, the lay leader at a nearby church, walking in the door.
Cecil spied the parson and headed toward him. “Parson, good to see you. How are things going.”
“Things are going really well, Cecil,” said the parson. “I’m sure they’re going well for you, also.” The parson felt a pang of guilt because Cecil did not know how the parson knew that things were going really well for Cecil.
Wanda brought a cup of coffee to Cecil and he asked her for a doughnut to go with it. He talked to the parson about some community affairs and some needs in a transitional housing ministry both his church and the parson’s were involved in.
Finally, the parson couldn’t resist. Maybe Satan whispered into the parson’s ear. Whatever the source of the temptation, the parson gave in and said, “Cecil, doesn’t Alice Peters go to your church? How she’s doing? I haven’t seen her in months.”
“She’s doing okay I guess,” said Cecil. “She’s usually at church every Sunday.”
The parson sipped a bit more coffee. He opened his mouth to say something. He was going to ask Cecil, a widower, if he was dating anyone. But the parson went back to his better self and said nothing. The parson listened to Cecil talk about this and that. The parson was conflicted. The parson was having difficulty concentrating on what Cecil was saying. The parson’s mind was on the latest text Cecil had written.
A few days before Alice Peters had sent a group text to some people in the community. The text concerned a project to raise funds in support of some indigent children in the schools. The text had gone out to a couple dozen people. Cecil apparently didn’t realize it was a group text. Cecil had replied to Alice that he would love to help. And then Cecil added that he really enjoyed the weekend he and Alice spent together. Cecil also made reference to some activities he and Alice had engaged in during that weekend. Cecil also had not realized his reply text had gone to everyone in Alice’s group text.
The parson’s consternation was interrupted when Bill Elder walked over to the table. “Hey, Cecil, how are you doing?” asked Bill. “You and Alice doing anything this weekend?”
The parson did his best to look innocent and ignorant.