Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Emma’s Church

"Mornin' Hon', name's Emma – what can I getcha"
"Eggs, grits and a biscuit, please ma'am."
"Would ya like butter on your grits?"
Emma handed me a Styrofoam container. "Here ya go Sweety."
He stood by the cash register pointing and a six gallon gas can. "Hey buddy, I only live about seven houses down, I don't know which way you're headin' but can you gimme me a lift?"
I thought; well actually, I was going to sit down and eat. I'm tired; I want to sit here in peace and not do anything, but relax.

I said; "sure."

He handed the girl behind the cash register a five-dollar bill and said, "Um, pump seven – I think" and he ran out the door, turned around ran back in, grabbed the gas can and ran back out.
I stared at him and then at my Styrofoam breakfast.
Emma said, "Brian's a good guy – just forgets to put gas in his old truck now and then. I think he gets a little nervous around Lucy here. Sometimes he'll come in for gas before work. He'll pick up breakfast, same thing every morning, and then take one look and Little-Lucy-Lu here and plumb forget to put gas in the truck. Reckon he's too embarrassed to run back in and so off he goes running on fumes."
Emma walked over and gave Little- Lucy-Lu a hug or two. I noticed Lucy's face had turned the color of the Tabasco sauce. She said, "Oh Mama – he just has a lot on his mind, he doesn't like me."
"Oh yes he does. Mama knows."
"Reckon those two'll become an item – if he ever gets the nerve to ask her out. And when they come home late saying they ran out of gas – it'll be the truth!" She laughed right out loud and clapped her hands together which caused a baking powder cloud of white dust to circle her like a halo. She had a good laugh. It was contagious too, I know because I found myself laughing right along with her. And I didn't think what she said was that funny, but I laughed anyway.
"Anyhow" Emma continued, "he don't live far – I can put that on the warmer if you wanna come back here and eat."
"Sure." I said, again.
The door flew open. "Sorry Lucy but which pump did you turn on – five?" Lucy giggled, "seven, Brian – S-E-V-E-N."
I grabbed a coffee-to-go and walked up to Lucy at the register. "We'll take care of it when you get back" she said.
Brian forgot how many houses away he lived, too. After about a mile or so and twenty or thirty houses we turned into his driveway. "Thanks bud – God bless ya good. That Emma's a real fine cook – you're in for some good eatin."
I asked if he needed me to wait and make sure he got his truck running. He said "No I'll be fine now – happens all the time."
"What do you mean, 'happens all the time'" I said.
"Well, it gets pretty skinny 'tween paydays and if I run her on fumes too long she just won't start in the mornin' "
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I've done that a time or two."
"Get on now Bud. Emma's food is good but her warmer ain't too hot. You best get back or your grits are gonna get cold. Thanks again – God bless ya big."
I returned to the old gas station, sat in the only booth available out of the three. Bowed my head and gave thanks. "Lord, thanks for this food and for letting me help Brian. I pray you'll help him too. I guess I won't be going to church today – sorry about that. Amen."
I opened the lid expecting to find three food groups neatly separated; eggs, grits and a biscuit. I found one mound: homemade biscuit cut in half covered with grits and eggs – all smothered in butter.
On a radio behind the counter Craig Morgan sang, "That's what I love about Sunday".
I thought about the last few days, helping my sister-in-law with a moving-sale and a move. We'd lifted and loaded and packed and cleaned. I was plumb tuckered.
I took one bite. Whoa. That food. Wow. Southern cookin' ! Yes siree. I really had planned on taking my time enjoying a leisurely breakfast. But, it was too dad- gum-good. Like a pack-of-wolves, I woofed it down. (Pardon my manners.)
About the time I was wiping a napkin across my lips in walked Mac. At least that's what Emma called him. His straw cowboy hat stained with hard work was tilted back and to the side just a bit; like the smile he wore. He spoke quietly with Emma but his southern drawl could be heard from where I sat.
Emma asked with a voice of compassion, "How's Missy?"
"It worked just like you said. I brought the tray in and sat it beside her. I walked out of the room – waited one minute; just like you said. And lo-and-behold when I walked back in, she was staring at the tray. And then she tried to sit up. I helped her and was able to feed her about half the bowl before she said she was full. She said to thank you. And then."
Mac stopped talking. Emma waited. He pulled a red hanky out of his back pocket and wiped his eyes, blew his nose and continued. "Emma, it's been so long since I've seen her reach for her Bible. She used to read it every day and then fold her hands on top of it, close her eyes and pray. She never looked so at peace when she'd do that. Well, last night after she ate, she reached out and took The Good Book. She read it until she fell asleep, right there sitting up. But she looked at peace. The same peace I use to see." He wiped his eyes again and his voice cracked when he said. "Thanks Emma. I don't know what's gonna happen with Missy. I don't know if she'll come out of this or go home. But now I know either way, everything's gonna be alright."
"Let the aroma do the talking and you'll wet more appetites." Emma sang the words more than spoke them. I pulled out a pen and wrote that down.
As I stood by the cash register to pay, Emma shook her head, "Hey Sweety this ones on the house. Thanks for helping Brian.
I looked out the window and Brian was jumping up and down in the parking lot with seven fingers above his head. His truck was parked next to the gas pumps. Lucy pretended not to notice at first. She looked at me, turned Tabasco again and giggled. Then she flipped a switch to pump seven.
"Well, since breakfast was free, can I get Brian's gas?"
"Now that you can do," spoke Emma. "And God bless ya for it. God bless ya real big."
I handed her a bill and thanked both of them for the great food and hospitality. "I feel like I've been to church." I said.
"Hallelujah, thank you Jesus. That's us." Emma's clap and laugh produced another baking powder halo.

"Eatin' at Emma's – it may not be healthy, but it sure is good for ya." She sang the words like a hymn.

As I walked out, Brian walked in. "Hi Luce – how's it goin'? Um, I've been meanin' to ask you something."

As I sat in my truck, I thought; Good Lord Almighty I feel like I've been to church. It's never happened quite like this before but I thought I heard a voice inside me say "You sure have Sweety" – it kind of sounded like Emma.

Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma


a sojourner said...

"Let the aroma do the talking and you'll wet more appetites."

what a terrific post! you're light was/is shining in this. it reminded me of we're blessed to bless. our Father was blessed first and then the rest of you were blessed in turn. it was/is church....

S. Etole said...

I'm thinking that should go on a tee shirt ... and refrigerator magnets ... and, and, and ...


Doug Spurling said...

a sojourner - "having" church is so much better and enjoyable than going to. - Thank you Brother.

S. Etole - and refrigerator magnets ... and, and, and ...hearts. Thanks you my encouraging friend.

Kenny Tyson said...

With this bein southern and all. I can just hear the voice of Sam Elliot telling the story. What fine story.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Sweet story, Doug. :-)

Lori said...

I feel like I just got dropped into the cast of characters in a book that I would love to read! Thank you for this post.....Blessings, Lori

mari mayborn said...

Doug, Thanks for serving up some down-home cooking chock-full of the hearty flavor of Ephesians 5:2. What an aroma it is to the hungry when we walk as He walked. To those who are seeking we are the fragrance of life [II Cor. 2:14-16] May we move our hands and feet as God opens the eyes of our hearts. Yes, that's doing church...giving people the chance to "taste and see that the Lord is good."