Daniel Collins had to find a friend, quickly. If he wanted to become a full-fledged member of the congregation of The Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love Ministry he needed to recruit a new member. The trouble was Daniel didn’t have any friends. No friends that weren’t all ready members of Fiery Embrace anyway. He knew people from his job at the shoe store, but he wouldn’t call them friends. He wasn’t a member of the Payless Bowling Team and never went out for a cup of coffee with them. So Daniel had to find a friend.
He had stumbled upon Fiery Embrace by accident. He thought he was going to see a free showing of a horror movie. The ad in Sunday’s paper had said. “Hell or the Fiery Embrace. The Choice is Yours. Sunday. 11 am. Picadoo Cinema Six.” He had nothing better to do so he went. What he found was better than any horror movie. All eight people in the congregation welcomed him to the Fiery Embrace with open arms. He enjoyed the sermon, entitled “Scorching Sin from your Soul,” and the ministry’s band, The Flaming Disciples. But mostly he enjoyed the coffee hour after the service. People asked about his life and listened to his answers. They seemed to like him.
Daniel had attended services for a month before Pastor Sebastian had talked to him about taking the next step towards becoming an official member. Daniel didn’t tell the Pastor that he didn’t know anyone well enough to invite them to a service. He’d just have to figure something out.
Ever since he started at the shoe store eight years ago Daniel had used the second floor mall restroom during his break. He was too embarrassed to use the bathroom at the store, just off the back room. In fact, as far as his co-workers knew, Daniel never went to the bathroom at all. He was in his favorite stall, the third one from the right, when he looked up and saw it. “Delores has hot tits 909 478 5621” He remembered when that graffiti had first turned up, about four years ago. He had wondered why a guy who knew a girl with hot tits would want other guys to call her. But now it felt like it had been a message for him all along, he just hadn’t realized it. He pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket and wrote the number on his palm.
During his next break, Daniel went to the phone booth in the food court. He stood, staring at his palm with a quarter in his other hand, gathering his courage. With a deep breath, he inserted the quarter and dialed.
A woman with a southern accent answered with a drawn out “Hello.”
“Good afternoon, ma’am. May I speak to Delores please?”
“What’s that, Honey? I can’t hear you. Speak up.”
Daniel cleared his throat. “Is Delores in?”
“This is Dee. What can I do for you, honey?”
He paused. He hadn’t actually thought about what to say during the phone call. He had been focusing on having the nerve to dial. “My name is Daniel. You don’t know me, but I got your number…”
“I’m going to stop you right there, honey. You got my number off that damn bathroom wall, didn’t you? I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t have hot tits. My ex-husband put that there. He knew I hate being as flat as a pancake and wanted to piss me off.”
“I did get your number off the bathroom wall, but I wasn’t calling about your tits, I mean breasts. I, um, was just wondering if you would like to attend a service of the Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love Ministry on Sunday morning with me.”
Daniel could hear Delores on the other end of the line. It sounded like she was lighting a cigarette. “Let me get this straight. You see my number on a wall and call me up to see if I want to go to church with you? What are you, one of those Jesus freaks?”
“No, I’m not.” Daniel leaned his head against the side of the phone booth. “I just didn’t have anyone else to ask, and I saw your number and thought… I’m sorry to bother you.” He started to hang up.
“Hold on there, honey. What do you mean you didn’t have anyone else to ask?”
Daniel put the phone back to his ear. “I need to bring someone to church with me if I want to be a full member of the congregation, but I don’t really have any friends to ask.” There was a long pause and Daniel thought she had hung up on him.
“What’s your name, honey?”
“Well, Daniel. Do you have a job? Could you ask someone from work?”
“I work at the Payless in the mall. Lots of people work in the store, but I don’t know any of them very well. I don’t think they like me,” he admitted.
“How about this, Daniel. Who is the last person to be hired at that store?”
Daniel thought for a moment. “That’s Mindy. She started last week.” He remembered that Mindy had started on Tuesday, because he always had a salad with Catalina dressing for lunch on Tuesdays and she had commented that she loved Catalina dressing.
“Honey, that’s not very long at all. I bet that she’s a little lonely since she hasn’t had the time to get to know her co-workers yet. Maybe you should ask Mindy to go to your little church with you on Sunday.”
Mindy did nod at him when they passed each other in the men’s sneaker aisle. “I could probably do that.”
“Good luck, honey!” Delores hung up.
Daniel walked down the mall, dodging teenagers and elderly shoppers. Mindy was in the children’s aisle, putting patent leather Mary Jane’s back in their boxes. He tapped her on the shoulder. “Hi Mindy,” he said with a smile.