“Doctor Thorne’s office,” said a disembodied voice.
Clare gulped in a breath of air, exhaling in a flurry of words.
“It’s Clare Thompson and I need to talk to the doctor, now. It’s an emergency so please tell me he’s in.”
“Just one moment, and I’ll connect you.”
Clare’s fingers turned bluish-white as she clutched the phone, one ear tuned to soothing “on hold” music, while the other focused on the crash, swish, grr-whoof, sounds coming from her living room.
“Yes, Clare? How are you? How can I help?” Under normal circumstances, Thorne’s calm and perfectly modulated voice would have soothed Clare. These were not normal circumstances.
“It’s Jim, and I’m not okay. You have to do something. He’s gone nuts.” Clare fairly shrieked, reining in her emotions with difficulty.
“Calm down, Clare. Tell me what’s happening. What’s all the noise I hear in the background?”
“That’s Jim. I came back from the grocery store and found him tearing up the house. He’s out there stacking his things in the middle of the living room floor, muttering something about selling it all.”
“His things? He mentioned selling, not moving out?”
“Selling. He’s got golf clubs piled up, CDs, clothes, the flat screen TV I bought him for Christmas, his home office equipment, the dog …”
Clare sighed. “Yes, even the dog. The cat is mine, the dog is his.”
“Has he been aggressive or abusive?”
“The dog thinks so. He tied her to his exercise bike so she wouldn’t run away. She’s frantic. I’m sure the neighbours can hear the yelping and barking all the way to the corner. You’ve got to do something.”
“Ask him if he’ll speak to me.”
Clare put down the receiver. Bracing herself for what she feared awaited her, she walked out of the kitchen toward the mayhem of the living room. The pile had gotten bigger in her absence. Jim’s recliner held books, three hockey pucks, a baseball bat and glove, barbells and, of all things, his old scouting uniform. Tools were scattered all over the floor, along with the winter tires for Jim’s van. It defied her how he had gotten them down from their storage place in the rafters in the garage without her help.
“Jim, Dr. Thorne wants to speak to you.”
Her husband was searching the strong box where their important papers were kept, and didn’t even look up from his task.
“Tell him I can’t talk right now.”
Jim found what he apparently had been searching for. This time he did look up and Clare was stunned by the pleading expression on his face.
“Honey, would you be willing to sell the house?”
He explained. After hearing what he had to say, Clare stumbled back into the kitchen, picked up the phone and resumed her conversation.
“He says he can’t talk to you right now. He asked me for permission to sell the house and split the proceeds between us.” Clare’s voice was now amazingly calm.
“He wants a divorce?”
“No,” said Clare. “He doesn’t want a divorce. But all this is partly your responsibility. You’re the reason why Jim wants to sell everything, even down to the dog. So you’d better get yourself over here right now and straighten this out.”
“Clare, what are you talking about? Why is this my fault?”
“You told him on Sunday that he needed to go out, find a pearl, and sell everything he had to cover its purchase price. So, that’s what he’s doing. He found a pearl on eBay and is planning on selling everything he owns to buy it. The house is community property and he’d like his half.”
For the first time in twenty years of ministry, Doctor Elias Thorne was speechless, so much so, and for so long, that Clare thought he had hung up.
“Doctor? Are you still there?”
Pulling himself together, Thorne said: “He only got half the story. I was explaining a parable* about the value of giving up everything to enter the Kingdom of God. Jim wasn’t supposed to take all of it literally.”
Clare started to laugh. “I’d be willing to part with the proceeds from the sale of some of Jim’s possessions to cover the cost of hearing aids for our pew at church. Right now, I’d even give you the dog. In the meanwhile, since Jim’s a bit new at all this, you’d better get over here and explain the parts of the message he missed.”
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