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contribute, even though we’d been living in a Belladonna condo for the past three years and no longer owned a yard. “Hey,” Noel said. “I’m contributing. I’m only flushing for Number Two.” Tonight, Christina Crane was wearing a pale pantsuit, so you couldn’t quite tell where her blunt hair ended and her collar began. She hunched over, then started raising her unsteady hand. “Marginally cooler air is up to our north—” Now she began lowering her arm. “While even warmer air is down to our south.” She stared straight into the camera. “Couldn’t we all use a good Artic blast about now?” “Arctic,” Noel snickered. “Least she could do is learn the lingo.” “The Tootsie didn’t know the lingo, either,” I reminded him. “She called snow frozen percipitation.” When Noel raises his eyebrows, they move just like caterpillars. “I never noticed.” “You were too busy ogling her workplace-inappropriate attire.” “Why not? She looked like a pole dancer, for God’s sake.” I felt the blood coming up in my face. For a year and a half, I took Senior Pole Dancing lessons from Mona Beegle as part of my weight-control program. But I never told Noel. “She could melt the wax in my dissecting pan,” he continued. “Any day of the—HFC!” I refocused on the screen. The Weather Crane was kneeling in front of her telestrator, praying. Praying for rain that would bless the just and the unjust. I’d never seen that on TV before, except on Sunday mornings, and then I’m usually in church. “Dear God.” Noel folded his hands, melodramatically. “Grant us, in Your infinite wisdom, the second coming of Tootsie.” “The woman’s just trying to help,” I said. “Bleep,” Noel said. “Bleep. Bleep. Bleep.” “What’s that?” I asked. “My Super Doppler Fundar,” Noel explained. “Idiocy must be in our Extended Outlook.” “Matthew 5:45 is idiotic?” I hadn’t been this mad since Noel had insulted my minister while I was in the recovery room of the hospital, twenty years ago. The poor man was only trying to help me pray, but he made the mistake of grabbing my husband’s hand as well as my own. “What are you humming?” he demanded now. “The Thirsty Are Called to Their Lord,” I muttered. And I was.

with rain.” After Noel went back to teaching in late August, I started helping out with the Mosquito Ministry. Our—my—new pastor, Reverend Rogers, is an outdoorsman eager to increase the size of his flock. And decrease its average age. So he goes to the Swamp Rabbit Trail whenever the Xtreme Horizons Club has a scheduled excursion, and he sets up a table with bottled water and insect wipes. He doesn’t preach, but he attaches our church bulletin to each bottle with a rubber band. One morning, after the last hikers had left and we were packing things up to bring back to our Family Life Center, Reverend Rogers said, “I hear Noel’s retiring soon.” I was surprised he even knew my husband’s name. Noel never goes to church, and Reverend Rogers has only been here since Methodist Relocation Day in June. “Actually, he is retired. Technically. He’s on the TERI plan, so he gets to draw his salary and his pension at the same time.” The Reverend lowered the box of water bottles into his trunk. “Sounds like a sweet deal.” “It’s a five year program,” I said. “When he stops teaching, he’ll’ve been at it for forty years.” I laughed. “He calls it his forty years in the wilderness.” “Maybe I’ll be seeing him,” Reverend Rogers said. “When he has more free time.” A picture of my asking Noel to go Sunday service popped into my head, and I wanted to get it out of there just as fast as I could. “Reverend, do you believe in the power of prayer?” “If I don’t, I’m in the wrong business.” “Have you been praying about the drought?” He raised his eyebrows, just like Noel. “Have you been watching Christina Crane?” My face must have answered his question. “It’s a tricky thing, Hilda. Weather isn’t just a personal matter. When it rains, it rains on Little League baseball, roofers who don’t get paid, highways that get too slick for an 18-wheeler to—” But I persisted. “Can God make it rain?” “Yes,” my minister finally said. “But He’s been known to get a little carried away.” We’d gotten a few stray showers, but come September we were still officially at the dead center of Extreme Drought on the weather map—a red bull’s-eye surrounded by orange and yellow that radiated into north Georgia, Tennessee, and both Carolinas. I’d started watching the late TV news in my sewing room, with Dovie, to get away from Noel. Something about Christina Crane made him angry. “Pray for rain. Pray for rain. From cumuloose clouds,” he’d mocked. “You know that’s what she calls them? Cumulooose clouds.” “You’re just jealous,” I’d said. “Of what?” “Well, she’s on the TV.” After he’d snickered, I said, “And she probably makes more money than you do.” “That’s right,” Noel said. “But I’m not jealous. I’m bitter.”

Each night, after Noel began snoring, I began to pray. I’d get out of bed and shuffle into the bathroom, just to make sure he didn’t wake up. Sometimes he did. Noel is a light sleeper. If he stirred, I’d just flush the toilet, then slip back under the covers, clasp my hands, and stare at the dark ceiling. But if his raspy breathing hadn’t changed, I’d kneel next to my side of the bed—the moonlit side, by the east window—and whisper the gospel according to The Weather Crane: “Dear Lord in Heaven, send rain on the just and on the unjust. Bless us all

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undefined : book seven

Profile for Mark Pointer

undefined magazine Book 7  

No fluff, no filler. Just Columbia and the outstanding artists, musicians, architects, chefs, designers, painters, sculptors, craftsmen and...

undefined magazine Book 7  

No fluff, no filler. Just Columbia and the outstanding artists, musicians, architects, chefs, designers, painters, sculptors, craftsmen and...