As I watch her face shift from amusement to rage to contempt and back to befuddlement, I am curious about what her rejoinder will be.
She fingers the cross that rests on her cleavage and rubs the back of her neck, trying to compose herself.
“Jesus loves you, Will, and forgives you for doubting him.”
Now it’s serious. Dorothy has laid down the gauntlet with the “Jesus challenge.” I can let it lie there, take it on, or . . . Out of the corner of my eye, Gregory is moseying up to us—just a few short sentences away. Shit! This could be a career-ending rebuttal. My body feels hot all over, and my hands begin to shake, shake, shake. . . .
“Dorothy, I respect your love of Jesus and his teachings, I do. Mostly, though, I worship at the church of me, myself and I. I’ve had to pull some big-time miracles out of my ass to survive in this freaked-out advertising game. No amount of prayer or paying homage to a guy who died two thousand years ago and lives in the sky in a place called ‘h e a v e n’ . . . offers me much succor. Nor do I ever expect it to.”
Her face blanches as Gregory nears. I can see the wheels turning in her mind, but her mouth can’t seem to form any words. Deborah looks at me with curiosity and fear: Where in blazes is this going?
“And Dorothy, when I run across a ‘C h r i s t i a n’ whom I feel has true peace and forgiveness in his heart, then I might begin to think that ‘C h r i s t i a n s’ are worth paying attention to. Until then, what I get from them is hate-mongering and mind-warping narrow-mindedness.
With these words, the ever-affable Gregory reaches us.
He lays his hand on his wife’s shoulder and says hello. Dorothy’s stupefied expression sits frozen atop her ashen face. She registers no emotion at his touch. My motor is idling on high.
“Three of my favorite people! I’m delighted you all have finally met,” he says.
Deborah knows she is the only one with any chance to salvage this train wreck of a first meeting between me and my boss’s wife. If I utter one more syllable, my ass will be on the next plane back to the West coast.
“Will and Dorothy have had quite a stimulating conversation about their respective views on religion and spirituality,” Deborah offers gamely.
Point to Deborah!
Knowing his wife’s fundamentalist stance on religion and being aware of my iconoclastic views on most topics, especially “systems” of any kind—religious, governmental, educational, or corporate—it takes Gregory a nanosecond to size this situation up.
“Wow, I can only imagine how interesting that was!”
He looks us each in the eye and changes the subject.