Sitting at the table of her apartment, Hilde thumbed through her mail. Divorced, her son and daughter distancing themselves from her, she was neither despondent nor surprised to see anything personal. Who needs them? She brushed back a strand of hair. Her hands trembled – the urge for a drink never seemed to go away.
She fanned the mail out on the table - utility bills; five in all, each stamped in bold red letters: FINAL NOTICE - PAST DUE. Opening them was pointless.
Three weeks ago, Hilde lost her job – fired for missing several shifts and customers complaining of the smell of alcohol coming from her body as she checked them out Dottie’s Discount Store. The manger paid her severance pay in cash the day she was fired: $300. She now had less than half that much in her billfold. It was everything she had.
There was a rap at the door. “Hilde?” her landlady called out. “You in there?”
Hilde sighed, got up, and turned down the TV that had been playing in the background – some televangelist going on about repentance and salvation. Not that she ever listened, but it was the only station her TV received. Besides, sometimes the music was nice to listen to – soothing in fact.
Dressed in a dingy slip, Hilde didn’t open the door. “Yeah, what do you want?”
“I hate to keep bringing this up; but you’re two months past due on your rent and if you don’t get current, I’ll just have to evict you. This is your final notice. Either get paid up by week’s end or you’re out of here. Hilde? Do you hear me?”
Hilde wiggled her skinny shoulders, mimicking her behind the door. “Yeah, I hear you. You’ll get your money. Now go away. Leave me alone.”
Hilde turned away from the door, the need for a drink stronger than ever. Fighting it, she reached to turn the TV up. Music was playing and she watched as the preacher – a woman – raised her arms, closed her eyes and danced around the stage to the beat of the clapping choir. She also noted a certain peace about the woman’s upturned face.
“I used to cut a pretty good rug myself,” she told the TV; and began imitating the woman in mocking gestures. Soon, however, even as the music died, she had to admit she felt better. Maybe there is something to this after all.
The Evangelist, Kandy Kane, founder of the world-wide Trust Me Ministries, was in a word, charismatic. Hilde was immediately entranced by today’s message taken from Malachi 3:10 about God opening the floodgates of heaven if she’d only give back to God. “God said to test Him,” the preacher sermonized. “Go ahead, in faith and help support God’s work through us and see if he doesn’t reward you seven fold.”
“What kind of sucker you take me for?” Hilde boomed at the TV. But something inside nudge her: Go on, give it a try, what ya got to lose?
Still a bit tipsy from last night’s immoderation, she took what cash she had left, placed it in an envelope, addressed it to TMM, put on a dress and before reason could over power whim, went out to purchase a stamp.
It didn’t occur to her until after the closing clunk of the lid of the mail drop that she’d forgotten to include any return address or idea of whom she was so the TMM could include her in tickling God’s memory of what she’d done.
“Swell,” she muttered. Then she remembered something else the preacher had said. “God sees your heart.”
“Do you, God?” Hilde sighed, looking up into a gray-clouded sky. “You know I wanted to hold back some beer money, but didn’t. I gave all I had.”
“Not all,” an enigmatic voice whispered.
Two weeks later, Hilde found herself evicted from her apartment. Stripped of everything, she found herself at the mercy of a reticent if not illusionary God and living alone in the streets.
The following days were long, the nights longer. Expurgated by lack, her drunkenness slowly dulled. Her pride, once brittle, softened in the abject solitude of loneliness. Yet an unsettled torment battled in her soul.
What else do you want, God?” she cried. And suddenly she knew and obeyed. A joyous and overwhelming peace swept over her – changing her forever.
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