Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Confused( 08/16/07)
By Jan Ackerson
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“I’m Susie Fields, the secretary,” I said, pushing a box with my foot. “Can I help, Pastor Bradford?”
He chewed vigorously. “Call me Jeff,” he sputtered, swallowing. “There’s not really much you can do, I’m notoriously disorganized. But if my wife comes by, could you show her around?”
I returned to my desk, trying to imagine our persnickety previous pastor surrounded by such disarray. Pastor Bradford—Jeff—might just be a refreshing change. I busied myself with paperwork, startled occasionally by thumps from the next office.
The next morning, I found a stack of scrap papers on my desk. I read the topmost note:
Grimacing at the misspelled word, I rifled through the notes in growing confusion.
not care committee
I squinted at the untidy handwriting and turned the papers over. No help there—one was written on the back of a used envelope, the others on old receipts. Jeff was still thumping around, and I really hated to bother him, but his notes had bewildered me. I poked my head into his office.
He greeted me with a grin. “What d’ya think, Susie? Will you join?”
More puzzled than ever, I stammered a bit. “Join—join what?”
“The singles group! Just what we need, doncha think?”
Of course I agreed, being rather desperately single, but…I looked down at the papers in my hand. Singles group! “I…I couldn’t read your handwriting. It says ‘sniggles group’.”
“Oh gosh—sorry. Didn’t mention my dyslexia, huh? Yeah, if it wasn’t for my brother, I never woulda made it through high school, and Caroline fixed all my seminary papers. D’ya think—can you figure out my horrible spelling?”
I showed him the papers, one by one. “Holly holly? It’s only September…”
“Holy, holy. You know, by Jimmy Owens?”
He certainly knew his music. “What about Agnes Day? We don’t have anyone named Agnes.”
“No, it’s a song! You know, ‘worthy is the Lamb’…” He sang a bit of a familiar tune.
I burst out laughing. “Agnus Dei! Okay, I’m catching on, but… not care committee?”
It was Jeff’s turn to laugh. “That’s note. I thought people might like to send notes when someone misses a service…a ‘not care’ committee would be pretty awful, huh?”
Over the following weeks, I learned to interpret Jeff’s scribbles, and to appreciate the enthusiasm he and Caroline shared. My confusion abated as Jeff’s spelling quirks became more and more familiar.
plz find picture of angle…I found a majestic angel, blowing a trumpet.
you pick a him…I sighed, wishing that picking a “him” were that easy, and chose a hymn.
put fiend day on calender…Friend Day was scheduled for September 16th.
jesus lover of my sole… I double-checked this one, knowing Jeff to be an avid fisherman. But no, he had meant “soul” after all.
sweet sweet spit…That one, ironically, caused me to spray my monitor with coffee. Sweet, Sweet Spirit, I typed, chuckling.
One morning in November, I looked through Jeff’s usual pile of notes and stopped cold.
this coopon good for one free back rub wenever you want
I was baffled—it seemed horribly inappropriate. Jeff had always been friendly but professional, and Caroline and I had become great friends. I swallowed hard, deciding to confront him. His door was open, and he was leaning back, his hands laced behind his neck.
“Uh-oh, you look confused. What’s Jeff done now?”
Now I was really perplexed—why was he referring to himself in third person? I held up the handwritten coupon. “I don’t...feel comfortable with this.”
He stood up and took the note, read it with interest, and snorted. “It’s for his anniversary, I think. Look, it’s stuck to another announcement. He must’ve misplaced it.”
“For his…what?” I felt hopelessly muddled.
“You must be Susie…right?”
The light dawneth. This must be Jeff’s brother—he’d never mentioned they were twins.
“I’m Jim.” He grasped my hand and shook it. “Jeff tells me you’re the best. My company sent me here for six months, and Jeff says you’ll show me around town for chocolate. What d’ya say?” He held out a Snickers, and I couldn’t help noticing that his ring finger was bare.
Somewhere in the distance, I heard the angles snig.
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