Marguerite MacPherson sat alone at her kitchen table before a dish of warmed-over lasagna. Now on the third day still working on its leftovers, all she wanted was to be done with it forever rather than save it for yet another meal! It had been one of her rare extravagant fancies. But three days of lasagna were two days too many. Enough!
That’s when the doorbell rang.
Marguerite, though better known as Maggy, glanced down on her plate of limp lukewarm lasagna, balanced the options, and decided that answering the door had the edge. Against the odds that a home invader stood on the other side–yet even that more alluring than the vapid leftovers–she opened her front door halfway and peered through the screen door beyond.
“Yes?” she inquired.
“Madam, I’ve come to save your soul,” were, after a clearing of the throat, the first raspy words out of the mouth of the nervous-looking fellow in a burgandy-colored suit, standing diffidently on her porch, bible and accompanying literature in hand, at the other side of her screen door.
“Have you, now?” she replied, one eyebrow arched, peering the man up and down.
Normally, she would have slammed the door in the man’s face, perhaps including an epithet or two. However, this time instead she weighed the pros and cons of his invitation to salvation against her three-day-old lasagna. As well as the fact that the fellow was, in spite of his alleged biblical intentions, not a total loss in good looks. In fact, a bit of engaging eye candy.
“Well, by all means, come on in, then,” she invited with a grin, widening her front door.
The man, whose name was Gabby (short for Gabriel) Gulliver, blinked at her with undisguised wonder. Up until now, “eye candy” or not, no one, absolutely no one, neither man, woman, child, nor beast, had ever once exhibited so welcoming an invitation once apprised of his mission, the vast majority being those who either directly said they weren’t interested, suffer politely through his spiel, then thank him claiming they belonged to some other faith they were already comfortable with, or throw caution to the wind and, along with a few derogatory words, slam the door in his face.
Ergo, wary of this woman’s latent true intentions, he hesitated. After all, had he not been strictly enjoined by his heavenly instructors to never, never, ever, never! enter a home unless, one: accompanied by a companion, and two: even more so if the resident potential seeker of redemption was of the opposite sex without a requisite spouse or other family member alongside? Which, of course, narrowed considerably the number of latent converts eager to be saved. In a word, Gabby Gulliver, without a companion (there being a dearth this day of willing comrades), basically restricted himself solely to front-porch deliverance of alleged errant souls from the nethermost fires of perdition. No easy task for the meek, in spite of the Lord’s promise they’d one day inherit the earth.
The man was about to inquire discretely if the woman was married or with another family member, when she pushed open the screen door.
“Listen, I’ve got one royal heap of leftover lasagna,” she announced, hope after hope, “and I wager you haven’t eaten lunch yet. You have that peaked look.”
“I do? Uh, well, thank you most kindly,” he said, bowing slightly, “but I don’t wish to disturb you and, uh, your family during mealtime. I didn’t realize the hour.”
“Hell, ‘tain’t no bother ‘tall. Fact is, I’m here all by my lonesome, an’ I really do need some assistance to finish off the lasagna, or I’ll simply hav’ta toss it out. It’s be a sinful waste.”
“I don’t wish to impose…,” he began.
“No imposition in the least. You are a godsend, believe me.”
“I-I am?” This was a first.
“B-but I don’t know if this is the appropriate thing to do.”
“Trust me, brother, it’s appropriate. Tell you what: while we’re eating, you can get busy with this soul-saving game of yours.”
“No question! After all, that’s why you’re here, ain’t it?”
“Well, yes, but…”
“No buts. If you want to save this here gal’s ever-lovin’ soul, now’s your big chance…lunch included. What more could a wayfarin’ preacher ask for?”
“Well, I-I guess in that case, I…”
Maggy grabbed the man’s sleeve and pulled him through the doorway. She then led him to the kitchen, having now attached herself firmly to his arm so he wouldn’t get away. By gum, she’d be rid of that final hunk of lasagna, come hell or high water, or she’d be a monkey’s uncle…or an aunt at any rate. She sat him down at the table, all the while bantering along to keep his mind off any possible means for a getaway.
Strangely, the leftover lasagna wasn’t half so bad sharing it with another. And Gabby, to his own surprise, found the direct weirdness of Maggy strangely irresistible.
“So, tell me, how on earth did you get talked into this door-to-door gig, anyhow? I mean, honestly, you don’t look at all like the hellfire and damnation type. No offense intended, mind.”
Maggy waited for the man to swallow first, who, at the moment, was trying valiantly not to choke on the combination of lasagna and her banter.
“More?” she suggested.
He waved his hand, index finger raised, wagging a panicked no.
“Suit yourself. Water instead?”
“Whew,” he gasped afterward. “Thank you.”
“No problem. You was goin’ to answer my question. But before you do, I didn’t get your name. Mine’s Maggy.”
“Gabby…short for Gabriel.”
“I see. Well, are you?”
“Ah.” He blinked. “Uh, not so much, no.”
“The name? Oh…well, one of those school things. Because I was the quiet kid in class, one of my teachers, to be amusing, called me Gabby. And of course the nickname stuck.”
Maggy nodded. “In my case, as a child, school kids somehow thought Marguerite too highfalutin, so I ended up with lowfalutin Maggy. Though if I’d had my druthers, I would have opted for Scruggs.”
“Uh-huh. After Earl Scruggs.”
“The banjo player?”
Maggy’s eyes lit up. “You know Earl Scruggs?”
“Uh, well, no, not personally. Anyway, he’s been dead for years. B-but I loved his Bluegrass banjo playing.”
“Good for you! You ain’t a total loss after all.”
“I’m gratified you think so.”
“So, Gabby, getting back to my original question, how’d you become a street preacher?”
He stared at her a moment, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, opened his eyes. “Bluntly?”
It was Maggy’s turn to blink. “Well, yes, I guess that’ll work.”
“I got the call.”
“Yes. The call.”
“I’m not sure I’m following you, Gabby. Do you mean the call of God?”
“Uh, not exactly.”
Maggy waited. Gabby squirmed.
Gabby closed his eyes a moment, then opened them, taking a deep breath.
“May I call you Maggy?” he suddenly asked.
She started, somewhat surprised. “Well, sure you can. That’s the name I been usin’.” She paused. “You were about to explain…bluntly…what you meant by ‘the call’.”
“Sometimes, thing just happen.”
“God spoke to me.”
“What! Get out!”
“Figuratively speaking, I mean.” He paused, then blurted, “In truth, I was chosen…no, cajoled really.”
“Cajoled? As in sweet-talked, blarneyed, wheedled, inveigled, arm-twisted?”
“All six…yes. Plus soft-soaped.”
“Why, you poor man! Who did this terrible thing to you?”
“It’s a long story, I’m afraid.”
“I got all afternoon.”
“Listen, Gabe… Mind if I call you Gabe? Somehow ‘Gabby’ just doesn’t seem to fit you.”
He blinked. “You want to call me Gabe?”
“I do…but I won’t impose if you’re truly stuck to Gabby. Just remember, though, I’m lettin’ you call me Maggy.”
“Uh, well, of course, then, it’s only fair.”
“Ah… wonderful. Gabe it is, then. That’s one obstacle out of our way. You see, every time I hear Gabby, I think of Gabby Hayes.”
“Yes. You know, the bewhiskered, cantankerous, woman-hating, but ever-loyal and brave comic sidekick o’ them cowboy stars Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers.”
“Ah, that Gabby Hayes. A bit before my time.”
“And mine, but he’s still out there on the TV re-runs. And you are no Gabby Hayes. No offense intended, mind.”
“Good. Let’s see, where were we?”
“I, uh, was…well…I guess you could say, to put it mildly, sweet-talked into becoming an itinerant preacher.”
Maggy’s eyes widened. “Sweet-talked, you say?”
“Yes.” He paused, then added, lowering his head, “Waylaid might be more precise.”
“Really? How so?”
“By my God-fearing Aunt Maud. She was determined that one of her nephews become a preacher before she died, come hell or high water, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” He blushed then. “Sorry. I got carried away.”
“Don’t be. Sometimes things just happen we can’t help.”
“Yes, I suppose they do, don’t they? Anyhow, my aunt didn’t die–she’s still around, actually, and all too healthy for a woman her age–and here I am an itinerant preacher, out to save people’s souls by hook or by crook, whether they like it or not. Aunt Maud’s words, not mine. If anything, she’ll be the death of me. She’s a formidable woman. I’m afraid to cross her, you know.”
“Me becoming a traveling preacher is, all the same, an extravagant fancy. My aunt’s, not mine. I’m not really cut out for the call.”
“I can see that,” Maggy said, nodding slowly.
The two sat looking at one another quietly for a moment.
“I-I should probably get going,” Gabby said at last, standing up. “Thank you for your time, and I apologize for taking so much of it.”
Maggy got to her feet as well and walked him to the door. “Not at all. And, listen, should you ever be back in my neighborhood, drop in.”
“Thank you. I’d like that. You’ve been very nice.”
They shook hands. As he began to leave, Maggy cleared her throat. “Gabe?”
He turned. “Yes?”
“Sure you don’t want some more of this here damn lasagna before you go? There’s still a ton of it to finish on my own if I don’t have some help.”
Afterwards, Gabby Gulliver invited Marguerite MacPherson to the movies.
They were married in the fall.
Steve Pulley copyright © 2019
Note: Just so you know, I am a Korean drama addict to the marrow, and in virtually every romantic comedy the guy and the girl get married in the final episode. I feel duty-bound to follow that code in this particular story.