It was almost three weeks before Sharon could match up Mr. Hans with the posse. She thought it would be more appropriate if she discussed it with one of the pastors first. For reasons she was not sure, the posse didn’t meet that week and Mr. Hans, after appearing each morning for several days, was mysteriously gone the following week. But during the week of Mr Hans’ absence Sharon did chat with Father Randy and the rest.
The gentle priest had just taken off his long rain coat, laid it over the back of the chair when Sharon appeared. She would have chased him down the minute he walked in the door but she was ringing up a family who were on their out. She was desperate to talk to the Father quickly, just in case Mr. Hans showed up that morning.
Before he was fully seated Sharon rushed up beside him and sat down at the table.
“Y . . . good morning Mrs. Saunders, how’re you today?”
“I’m good father. We missed you last week.”
He smiled big. “Isn’t it a lovely thing . . . being missed and all?”
Sharon just smiled back.
The father continued, “I had a dioceses-wide meeting in Detroit last week and I think Pastor Mike had a commitment. We both knew it would be dangerous to leave David and Greg here by themselves,” and he chuckled. “Why do you ask? Did I miss something big in Germfask?”
Sharon looked back over her shoulder when she heard the door open and close. It was the previous customer’s son coming back in for his baseball hat. She smiled at him. He ran in grabbed the hat off the table and was back out the door.
She continued with the smile and looked back at the priest. “I think there is something at least interesting happening in town.”
The priest rubbed his chin in thought while Arnie showed up with a steaming cup of molasses-dark coffee. “Good morning father.”
“Good morning Mr. Saunders.”
Arnie looks at his wife and winked, “Now don’t let her pull you into her little gossip circle.”
About that time the door opened again and it was Mike Monroe. He stopped his feet on the rug to dislodge the last drops of water from the late spring rain.
The priest looked at Sharon with raised eyebrows, “I could use a little gossip to spice up my life now and then.”
“It isn’t gossip, but something quite interesting. You see we have a new visitor to town. He’s living out on the lake but has been coming in for breakfast several mornings a week.”
“Good morning,” says Mike Monroe as he sits down. Sharon and the Priest smile at him.
Father Randy reaches out and grabs Mike by the wrist and leans over like his wants to whisper, “This nice lady was just about to fill me in on some interesting town gossip . . . are you in?” Then he smiled big.
Mike looked a bit more serious, “That’s okay. I hear enough gossip during my week.”
“Okay men, this is not gossip, this is an intriguing story of Germfask news.”
Father Randy looked apologetic “Sorry Sharon, I’m just being silly. So tell me about this stranger.”
“Well, he is an odd-looking fellow. He is tall, dark and thin. He wants to meet you guys.”
“Us?” protested Mike.
“Yeah. He is from a faraway country, which is a secret. Somehow he’s heard about your little posse meeting here in Germfask. He asked specifically if he could join you.”
Mike, with a serious look still donning his clean-shaven face, “Is he a man of the cloth or pastor? And how did he hear about us?”
“No. But he is doing research about God . . . or what he calls the creator.”
Father Randy asked, “Research for what? Is he a reporter or a pilgrim? I mean, is this for his personal spiritual quest or a newspaper?”
“It seems like it is for a book or science or something like that. But now listen, he is really strange. He has an accent, very subtle, that I can’t identify. Also, he is always taking notes on a yellow legal pad. One day he went to the bathroom and I sneaked a peak.” Then she paused and looked guilty. “Oh forgive me father.”
Father Randy did a quick, and somewhat silly sign of the cross and said, “You’re forgiven my child. Go your way and sin now more. Now tell us what was on it.” Then he laughed out loud.
“Well, it was really odd. On the left side of the paper was column of common but colloquial phrases, like ‘gotta get out of here,’ or ‘keep em coming’ and on the right side was a column of curvy writing going from right to left. It looked Indian or Arabic. I think he was writing the words in English and his native tongue.”
Mike remarked, “That doesn’t sound so strange. So he is still learning American English.”
“I thought it was odd. Then on the second page of the tablet . . . “
Father Randy chuckled, “So you turned the page? So you really are curious about this feller.”
“On the second page were these strange drawings, like mechanical or circuits or something like that.”
Arnie arrived with another cup of joe and hands it to Mike. Mike looks up with a kind smile, “Thanks.”
Sharon continues, “So, he wants to join the posse to talk about the creator. I told him I would ask.”
The two men sat in silence and just looked at each other. The door squeaks open and in walks both David and Greg. Greg shakes out his umbrella and David looks irritated that some of the water splashed on him.
While Sharon was watching the dynamics of the two men, knowing that there was always some tension between them, but not knowing it was because they resided on the opposite ends of the Christian spectrum. She was startled with Father Randy spoke up.
“Well, I’m not so sure Sharon. You see, this is a friendly gathering of men who share a similar occupation. We don’t come here to discuss theology. As a matter of fact, we have a ground rule that we won’t discuss such matters . . . they're just too divisive. We just want to be friends and relate around the fact that we must ministry to a lot of people and sometimes we just need to talk on a personal level. Does this stranger want to just sit with us once or more than that?”
David was shaking his head. “I’m not sure I feel good about this. I mean, a stranger, writing in Arabic, drawing circuits and wanting to meet the local pastors.”
Father Randy rolls his eyes.
Sharon continued, “It sounds like he wants to be part of the group for a while. He said he had a lot of questions.”
Father Randy blew across the lip of his white coffee cup and sipped (it was just cool enough to start drinking). “I have a bad feeling about this but not because I think he is a terrorist.” Then he spoke quickly as David and Greg were walking in their direction. “I’m afraid that those two,” nodding at the approaching men, “just might get into it if we started talking theology. I hate to see a friendship end even if it is just a fragile one.”
Mike was pondering the situation. In his mind, he hated the thoughts of turning away a pilgrim . . . someone honestly seeking to learn more about the Lord. But he still felt some unease about the stranger’s intentions. He looked at the priest, “Maybe we should invite him once and see how it goes.”
David asked, “Invite who . . . or whom?”
“Oh, Sharon here has a customer, a regular, who would like to join the group.”
Greg asked, “Is he another pastor?”
Father Randy answered, “No. It sounds like he is just curious . . . maybe a pilgrim.”
Greg smiled, “This could get interesting.”
David immediately spoke up, “I don’t think we have the right to turn anyone down who wants to know more about the Lord. Scripture says in I Peter 3:15 that we should always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us.”
Greg laughed, “But David, you might be hoping that I would shut up if I started talking about my views of the gospel.”
Sharon stood as new customers were coming in the door, “So?”
Father Randy shrugging his shoulders said, “Sure. We’ll give it a try. He can join us next Wednesday . . . is that alright men?” They shook their heads to the affirmative.