Authors: Margaret A. Graham
Â© 2004 by Margaret A. Graham
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2012
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
a gifted pianist who gives me
oceans of emotions.
Common sense is genius in homespun.
Alfred North Whitehead
Taking a job at the Priscilla Home was the farthest thing from my mind when Dr. Elsie asked me to consider it. Well, actually, she hardly
me to consider it; she just as much as
me I was going. When I realized she was serious, I knew I had to set her straight before she railroaded me right out of South Carolina to the regions beyond.
“Dr. Elsie, have you forgot how old I am? The day has passed when I could say I'm pushing sixty from before or after the fact.”
She just looked at me as much as to say, “So what?”
Now, I respect Dr. Elsie. She's done a lot for me personally as well as for the people in Live Oaks, and I'd do anything she asked of meâanything within reason, that is. This was out of the question. So I told her, “I'm retired, and right now I have got more on my plate than I can handle.”
She sipped her ice tea and kept all her attention on the
birds at the feeder, so I added, “You know I have only went through the eighth grade.”
I wasn't telling her anything she didn't already know, so nothing I said fazed her. I tried another tact. “Sounds like your board is scraping the bottom of the barrel to find somebody.”
“No,” she said. “There are other applicants.”
“I can't imagine anybody asking for a job that means living way up there in the woods. . . . You say it's the job of resident manager? What kind of a job is that?”
“Fancy name for housemother.”
“Housemother? Housemother to a bunch of women addicts?” I laughed. “The women in the Willing Workers Sunday school class are more than I can handle, much less women of the world. Besides, I have got no heart for born losers.”
I don't think she was listening to a word I said. When she finished her tea, she got up to go, and I followed her out to the car. “It's nice of you to ask me, Dr. Elsie, but you understand . . .”
She started the engine and then looked back at me through them horned-rimmed glasses. “ Esmeralda,” she said, “you're the woman for the job. It's an opportunity you can't pass up.” Before I could say a word, she let off the brake and was rolling down the driveway.
it's an opportunity all rightâan opportunity for disaster!
As I watched her make the turn onto the street, it crossed my mind that maybe Dr. Elsie was losing her marbles. You know, people retire and the next thing you
hear they're falling apart, and some of them wind up at the funny farm.
I thought I had dismissed that “opportunity” from my mind, but at night I couldn't sleep for thinking about it. Priscilla Home was in North Carolina, high up in the hills, far away from everything and everybody except one or two summer people who had cottages up there. Now that she was retired, Dr. Elsie was one who lived up there year round. Soon after Beatrice and Carl got married, she retired, left Live Oaks, and moved with all her books to live in a little place she'd bought. As long as I had known Dr. Elsie, she'd been on the Priscilla Home boardâshe and Mabel Elmwood's husband. That stuffed shirt was on every board he could get his name on.
Beatrice had supported Priscilla Home ever since we were girls, and I had too, off and on. Beatrice was the best friend I ever had. We grew up together in Live Oaks, and when she had to move away to find work, we wrote to each other and talked on the phone. She was lonesome and awfully dependent on me, but all that changed. When she met Carl she became a different person. Soon as he sold his business and his house, they got married and started traveling all over the country in that RV he bought. It was hard to keep in touch. I missed her a lot, but getting married was the best thing that ever happened to Beatrice. Carl was one fine Christian man, even though he was sometimes corny. I knew he'd say I should take that job at Priscilla Home but, like Dr. Elsie, he didn't have a clue as to my responsibilities here.
Trouble with Dr. Elsie was that she had not got much common sense. Here I was a widow woman with a house to look after, a garden to make, and church work up to my ears. As if that was not enough, there was my neighbor, Mrs. Purdy, blind as a bat and dependent on me to keep her house in shape, get her groceries, and see to it she got some cooked meals. And there was Elijah, that dear man, who was still doing odd jobs for me and everybody else in town. Sooner or later he was likely to get down, and I'd be the only one to look after him.
No, there was no way I could pick up and leave Live Oaks, and that was that!
Trying to put Priscilla Home out of my mind, I kept busy working like a house afire, but while I was doing a load of wash, a thought did come to me:
What if this is something the Lord wants me to do?
Well, I shook my head and told myself that could not be, but come nighttime, the possibility kept tumbling about in my head. Night after night I tumbled with it, tossing and turning until the wee hours.
Something Splurgeon wrote in that book I have got kept needling me. He said, “A clear conscience is a good pillow.” I had to figure it might be my conscience bothering me; that, or else I was coming down with something. The bad part of it was that this was something I couldn't talk to anybody about, not even Pastor Osborne, for fear somebody would get me more confused than I was already. In our Willing Workers Sunday school class, the women can solve any and everybody's problem except their own, and they'd love to stick their nose in this business. Clara for sure; she's the president, and once
she gets wind of a thing like this, she makes up her mind about it, gets the class to back her up, and wades right in to tell a body what they should do.
I did pray about this thing, but I told the Lord how ridiculous it was, a woman my age being asked to pull up stakes and take over a job she knew nothing about. I tell you the truth, for days I felt like I was walking around in a daze. The longer this went on, the more it got to be a live-in nightmare!
Then it happened. I looked out my window to see the Willing Workers arriving. At first I thought it might be Thelma, the Yankee from Chicago, behind the wheel, but it wasn't. It was Clara and Mabel Elmwood; before they even got out of the car, my blood pressure had shot up. Since I had not told a soul about this proposition, it didn't take a rocket scientist to know how they found outâMabel's husband, Roger, is on the Priscilla Home board. Well, I'll tell you, I was ready for them. Before this was over I would put them in their place and tell them in no uncertain terms to keep their noses out of my business.
I brought them in the living room and set them on the divan. I was so mad I didn't offer them a drink or anything. “Well,” I said, “I know you didn't come here to kill time. What's on your mind?”
Mabel looked at Clara, and Clara looked at Mabel. I don't like to be critical, but neither one of them was anything to look at. Clara always claimed she had an hourglass figure. Well, if she did, all the sand had sunk to the bottom. With her long neck, she put me in mind of an ostrich. And she had got just about as much sense as
one of them silly birds. Mabel, on the other hand, would fit right in a carnival sideshow. Trying to fake the bloom of youth, she wore enough rouge to paint a barn and had taken to wearing eye makeup, which didn't do nothing but make people wonder if she was sick. And twice a week she went to the beauty parlor expecting miracles. One week she came out wearing false eyelashes! I could take her press-on nails, but false eyelashes on a woman with cataracts ripe for surgery was about the tackiest thing ever seen in Live Oaks.