After dinner, Sally shooed the men back into the living room despite Gretchen’s threat.
Only Meg was drafted into service and, after loud complaints of sexism and ageism, she resigned herself to the dishtowel while her boyfriend and his son returned to the sofa and the football game.
Although he was anxious to leave, Daniel carried dishes from the dining room and kitchen until the table was cleared and then lingered beside the screen door waiting for the right moment to make his exit.
Pastor Sebastian sauntered into the kitchen and stopped beside the pouting Meg.
“Hey, Meg. What do hippies put on their mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving?”
Meg ignored Sebastian and concentrated on drying the glass in her hand.
“Oh come on, Meg. You love my jokes.” Sebastian’s smile at Meg was so genuine it was almost magnetic.
He wasn’t sure if he agreed with Sebastian’s theology, but Daniel was certain the Pastor cared about his congregants.
Gretchen, elbow deep in soap suds, shot Meg a disgusted look and then turned to Sebastian. “What do hippies put on their mashed potatoes, Pastor Sebastian?” she asked in a high voice.
Sally turned around from the counter to listen to the punchline.
Sebastian held up two fingers in the peace sign and made his eyes slits. “Groovy, man” he said in a drawl while slowly nodding he head.
Gretchen and Sally burst out laughing. Daniel l didn’t know if it was at the joke or the sight of their minister imitating stoned hippie.
Meg muttered the word dork under her breath, but Daniel saw her smirk as she turned back to the sink.
Sebastian gave her a light punch on the shoulder and then headed outside, gesturing for Daniel to follow him.
Roger was in the driveway again, trying to empty the oil from his turkey fryer into a large plastic jug.
“Do you need any help?” Sebastian called over to him.
Roger waved and shook his head.
Daniel was going to point out the Roger was spilling oil all over his shoes, but Sebastian led him out to the front lawn before he could.
The pastor sat in one of Roger and Sally’s lawn chairs. He stretched his long legs out in front of him and clasped his hands behind his head.
The other lawn chair was very close to the ground, the kind made for sitting in the water at the beach. Daniel lowered himself into it, his knees up by his chin.
Sebastian let out a contented sigh and they sat in silence for a few minutes. Just as Daniel was thinking Sebastian had fallen asleep, the pastor turned to him.
“Do you like our ministry, Daniel?”
Surprised by the direct question, Daniel didn’t respond right away.
He did like the ministry. Or rather he liked having somewhere to go every Sunday morning.
And he liked the idea of attending church in a movie theater. Before finding the Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love Ministry, movies were the closest Daniel had gotten to a truly religious experience. So it seemed fitting that he worshiped in a movie theater now.
But Daniel wasn’t sure about being a part of such a tight knit community. And that’s what the ministry was, a community.
Today was the perfect example, in Daniel’s mind. He was perfectly content to follow his usual solitary tradition, but now that he was a part of the Fiery Embrace, there was an expectation that he’d participate. Even if he’d rather be alone.
And Daniel was a little suspicious about Pastor Sebastian’s qualifications to lead a church.
The fact that he had been a professional poker player was interesting, but Daniel wasn’t sure it meant he was qualified to sermonize or guide someone’s spiritual growth.
Daniel kept these thoughts to himself, though, and just nodded.
Sebastian grinned at him. “That’s great! I’m so happy you found us, Daniel. In fact, I think it may have been a big part of God’s plan for the ministry.”
Sebastian leaned forward until he was almost eye to eye with Daniel.
“Before you arrived, I had been praying a lot about how to make money. For us, I mean. So we can buy a church of our own. But the solution had eluded me. Then when you came and said you worked at Payless, it hit me like a lightning bolt. Jesus Sandals!”
Daniel blinked. “Jesus sandals?”
“Yes! We’re going to manufacture Jesus Sandals. We can sell them in your store. And I will personally bless each and every pair. They’ll sell like hotcakes!”
Daniel chewed on the inside of his lip. “I don’t know if I could sell them at the store, Pastor Sebastian. I mean, Payless is a big chain and I don’t think that they’d let me…”
Sebastian waved his hand in the air, dismissing Daniel’s hesitation. “Oh, we can work something out. Maybe give the manager a cut or something to start. And I bet that Jesus Sandals will be so popular that every Payless in the country will be caring them within a year.”
“What do Jesus Sandals look like?” Daniel didn’t think the scheme would work, but after eight years in the shoe industry, he had a natural curiosity about footwear.
“Oh, they’re really flat, I think. With lots of straps that wrap up the leg. And maybe one of those loop thingies over the big toe. You know what I mean?”
The sandals didn’t sound very attractive or comfortable to Daniel, but all he said was, “They sound nice.”
Sebastian stood up and pulled Daniel to his feet.
“Just one more thing, Daniel. We have a policy at the Fiery Embrace that once you’re ready to become a full fledged member you have to bring someone new into the congregation. So why don’t you bring along a friend to the next service, ok?”
With that, Sebastian headed back toward the house leaving Daniel on the front lawn wondering who he could possibly bring to church on Sunday.