It’s the Party Store.
As our resident cardinal flies, it would be a mere wing stretch. But for this local citizen, it’s a bit more involved, requiring the use of the **BMV and a trip around the mile square. To the Party Store.
You can blame it on her. Late in the week, I’d gotten a text. “We had this tonight. It was great!” And tucked in with the culinary raving, she’d sent a link. For Carne Asada Stew , a Latin concoction, which is why I announced blithely to The Mister over the weekend that, “I need a beer.”
For a girl who’d been raised in a country church where a picture of Christ in Gethsemane hung over the pulpit, it was new. Every year, we’d sit through week-long revival meetings. Drinking, dancing, smoking and sex routinely made the Top Ten List of Unthinkables. At least as I recall it, so we stuck with Pepsi, Rook and Walk-A-Mile. All of this, of course, with a liberal helping of thumping eighties rock that we’d play on the sly, when the folks weren’t home.
You can see, then, why this grain-fed Kansan, a Bible Belt girl, felt just a tiny bit funny on her mission.
My friend, Carrie, will know what I mean. When slugs took over her yard in disgusting, shimmering hordes, she asked for help. “What do I do? How do I get rid of ’em?” she pled in a status on Faceook.
“Bowls of beer,” a helpful friend suggested. “It draws ’em.”
“Just drink the beer,” someone else chimed in. “You’ll forget about the slugs.”
We all had a chuckle, but she tried it. Every night, she’d set out bowls of brew. And every morning, dead slugs. Which is when things got really weird, and she began fielding phone calls from her mother: “Honey, I saw that Dollar General has beer on sale…”
Anyway, knowing that I had a number of stops to make yesterday, I crafted a list, hopped in the BMV, and pressed the pedal down. Figuring I’d start my search at the local gas station, I trotted in. “Can I help you, honey?” said a helpful cashier.
“I’m needing a beer for a recipe. Do you sell alcohol?”
“No, honey,” she said, oozing sweetness as though I were a kindergartner, looking for a new box of crayons. “But the Party Store down that way would have it.”
And that’s how I found myself at the Party Store, slipping in behind a tan truck (which was parked and running) as though I were the blackest of thieves.
I could almost hear it: “Local Mother From Bible Belt Caught Sneaking Into Liquor Store. Before noon! Is this a Desperate Housewife of Wakarusa? Full report at 5. Now, back to you, Tricia Sloma.” That’s how the trailer might go.
At any rate, an elderly woman suddenly alit from the truck, wafting in just before me in a cloud of cigarette smoke. Ah, the employee.
I gave her my line. “I need one beer. It’s for a recipe…”
She smiled, having heard it all, and pointed me to the case. I grabbed a single. She rang me up. “That’ll be a dollar seventy,” she chirped. “And I’ll have to check your ID.”
Seeing me reach for my debit card, this girl who won’t carry cash, she said, “Five-dollar limit.” Good heavens. Lord knew that one was enough, wasn’t it? As I scrabbled quickly through my change, she said it again. “I need to see your ID.”
And that’s when it happened. Seeing that I was coming up short, this smiling, elderly cashier, running point at the liquor store, reached into her pocket. And offered me her change.
I looked into her face and saw the beautiful young woman she once was. Her smile…truly. She glowed, and at that moment, my heart melted. “Thank you.” I said. “I appreciate it.”
And she? Still smiling, she said to the Girl from the Bible Belt, “That’s what people do. They help each other.”
“What’s your name?” I said, reaching out my hand.
“Beth,” she said, and her hand reached for mine.
I drove home in the February sun with a prayer in my heart and on my lips. A prayer for mercy, a request to the Father for love. That He would invade her life. That He’d not let her die without Him. Without Friend Jesus.
Friend Jesus, Who’d gone with me to the Party Store and entrusted me with His heart’s desire.
Her name is Beth.
*Our three acres
**Blue Mommy Van