TITLE: The Dutchman
By Jody Day
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by Jody Day
The Dutchman's not the kind of man
Who keeps his thumb jammed in the dam
That holds his dreams in,
But that's a secret only Margaret knows.
Michael Peter Smith
Margaret Graham held the hot, iron handle of the mailbox in one hand, and the letter in the other. She ran her thumb over the handwritten address of the recipient. She grinned at the thought of the sharp contrast between departure and destination. For less than one dollar, this letter would leave the hot, dusty west Texas desert and fly to the mild, green, lush Irish northern shore.
A disgruntled man honked her out of her reverie.
Drop it in, and get on with your life, for crying out loud. She obeyed her thoughts and then got out of the way.
She’d barely driven out of the alley behind the post office before regret rose up in her throat. Could there be anyone more ridiculous than me? No one would believe that it isn’t a crush. What fifty year old woman writes a celebrity, with a request thrown in to further add to the insanity?
It was the song she loved, not the man. What man? He was a kid. She had children his age, for heaven’s sake. It was the song; the lyrics and their meaning, the delivery, how it touched her. Not the man. She would go straight home and listen to the song again. The music would bolster her courage and make her feel less juvenile.
She popped the cd in the player, pushed the repeat button and lay down on the couch, covering herself with a quilt. The guitar intro relaxed her. Yes, that voice must be the one to sing my song. “That’s a secret only Margaret knows” made her think of her own secret. She wanted to go home. Desperately, urgently, feverishly she wanted to go back to east Texas. Ten years in the desert was drying her up; spiritually, mentally, and physically.
“Mom, you are so weird. How many times are you going to listen to that song?” Her daughter curled up on the end of the couch, requisitioning a portion of the quilt for herself.
“I didn’t hear you come in, Jenny, get off early today?”
“Yes, free as a bird from changing diapers until Monday. I love Fridays, especially when it’s only half a day,” Jenny said, closing her brown eyes and leaning back against the couch.
“You know, you wouldn’t have to change diapers if you’d go back to school. That 4.0 can’t just hang in limbo without some sort of degree satisfaction,” Margaret said.
“I’d love to go back to school, but I’m not going to let you spend the money when I don’t have a clue what I want to do.” What’s a 4.0 if it’s not attached to passion? She was sure her mother understood that, so why did she keep bringing it up? A mom’s job, she supposed.
“Besides, when I do go back, I’m paying my own tuition. I’ve been working a year now and saving most of it, thanks to mooching off of you. Speaking of mooching, what’s for supper?”
“I thought we’d go to Pito’s tonight, as soon as Dad gets home. Want to wait with me?” Margaret sat up on the couch and pulled the quilt over both of them.
“Sure. You know I’d love to hear the rest of that cd. I don’t think I’ve heard more than that first song.”
Delighted. One traditional Irish song after another filled the modest family room, where mother and daughter shed the duties of the week and welcomed the weekend to come.
“So what’s his name? The one that sings that song you like so much?”
“Seamus McCarthy.” Non-challant, matter-of-fact, non-revealing answer, Margaret hoped.
“And the others? There are five male voices, I think.” Jenny cocked her head sideways, brown eyes looking into the air, trying to determine what she heard.
“Good listening, there, Jen. I don’t know their names, but we could look on the cd. It’s a group from Ireland called ‘Irish Storm’. I think they’ve been around for awhile, but I’m only just now getting acquainted with them.”
“Well, it’s nice. Not my every day genre, of course, but nice. That Seamus is a pretty good guitar player.” Her email moniker wasn’t iluvhmetal@somethingorother dot com for nothing.
“You would notice that. Have you practiced your guitar much lately, by the way?”
“Nope, not since the, um, the incident. Kind of lost my motivation. Plan to get back on it, though.” Bad taste in her mouth, and knowing it was the same for her mother, said nothing more.
It was a very bad taste in Margaret’s mouth. Twenty-five years of ministry had taught her alot. Many positive things can be accomplished by a Minister, but when they congregation decides they want to get rid of you, they will stop at nothing. To be accused of having sex in the sanctuary balcony was too just much. Marilyn Jo Tippitley, church organist and ancient matriarch of the church, came to Paul’s office with the accusation, claiming that she wouldn’t tell anyone if he would leave the church. She gave him two weeks to make up his mind.
Paul had immediately reported this to two of the deacons. He asked them to go and see her. She refused to talk to them.
“It’s ridiculous, Mom. Don’t worry about it. People that know you don’t believe it, and probably nobody else does, either. It will pass,” Jenny had said.
But it didn’t. Marilyn called a meeting of the deacons to “hold Mr. Graham accountable.” It seemed that she had pictures on her cell phone to prove it. It didn’t matter that the church was smack in the middle of a revival. The meeting was scheduled.
When Paul would not admit to Marilyn’s false accusations, the Chairman declared the subject dismissed due to lack of evidence.
“Wait a minute,” Margaret had said before the meeting broke up.
Paul grabbed her hand and gave him his “Let it go” look.
“I want to see the pictures. You said you had pictures on you cell phone. Why don’t you show them and then you’ll get your way.” Margaret reached her hand across the table. “I’d really like to see them.”
“I don’t want to show them, they are embarrassing,” Marilyn said, crossing her arms and jutting her nose up into the air.
“Oh, come on. You’ve gone to all this trouble to get Paul fired, why don’t you show the pictures and then poof! We’re outta here.”
Chairman Carpe seemed anxious to end the meeting. “The incident is dismissed,” he said, matter-of-factly. Margaret opened her mouth to insist on seeing the so-called evidence, but Paul pleaded with her to let it go.
The deacons knew it wasn’t true, but they refused to silence the accuser. Margaret told her tale far and wide. The gossip was all they needed for leverage. It was just what they needed to push her husband over the edge.
Only he wouldn’t be pushed. Paul Graham would not budge. He pretty much ignored it. He wouldn’t turn to the right or the left without direction from God. He was unmoving, but he was discouraged and Margaret thought he looked dreadfully tired.
Humiliation was breakfast, lunch and dinner for Margaret. To make matters worse, Margaret was church pianist. They sat facing each other week after week.
How can she sit there and play hymns after telling such a ball faced lie? That only lasted a few weeks. One day shortly after the meeting, Marilyn had the organ removed from the church. It had been a “gift” to the church from Marilyn in honor of her late mother. There had been a huge dedication ceremony in which Marilyn “gave” the organ to the church. Since she didn’t get her way, she took her toys and went home. Her offerings must have gone with her, for the talk was now that the church couldn’t afford to pay Paul’s salary.
Margaret felt that people were talking about them. Paul and Jen didn’t like it, but they didn’t seem to be as affected and she was.
Their friends in the church seemed to think it was funny. “You’re married aren’t you?” they quipped. Margaret didn’t think it was funny at all.
At least they could go home now. Surely, surely Paul would take her back to east Texas.
Paul Graham slipped in the back door. Nice. Music playing, his two best girls snuggled up together on the couch, an unscheduled Friday night stretched out before him. He would talk to Margaret tomorrow about his plan to resign his position at the church. But they would stay in Chapston. They would start a new church.
He breathed a silent prayer for the hundredth time today, that she would understand. He knew she was hoping to go back home. That news could wait until tomorrow. He hit his recliner like a long, lost friend.
Margaret and Jenny giggled at the sight of him. West Texas wind had his salt and pepper hair so disheveled that it nearly stood up on end. His brown eyes were allergy red and gave him a wild look. He kicked off his shoes and stretched his full length across the recliner, long feet hanging over the edge.
“How was your day?” the girls said in unison. He looks better somehow, Margaret noticed.
“Alright, no upheavals today.” He’d spent the whole day in prayer. Discouragement was gone, he had a new direction. He’d tell them tomorrow. Tonight they would just enjoy each other.
They never did go to dinner. The three of them dozed until it was too late. They enjoyed a bowl of cereal and went to bed.
Margaret thought about the song that brought her back to life and inspired her to write the poem that expressed how she felt about her situation. It probably won’t come to anything, but at least she had mailed it to the young man.
Jenny thought about how hard her parents had worked in churches for years, and how much she wished things would go better for them. She wondered when would be a good time to tell them that she was going to start a band.
Paul thought about his plans, the direction that he was certain was from God; the direction that energized him and gave him purpose again.
Margaret was not the only one with a secret.
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