This is a continuation of a scene I posted on 11/27.
Charlene leaned back and crossed her arms. “Your ghost writer?”
Pastor Sebastian jumped up and paced in a tight circle beside the booth.
“Yes. I’d tell you about my life and you’d write it up, like you just did.”
Charlene broke off a piece of Sebastian’s cookie and popped it into my mouth. “Why wouldn’t I just write my own damn book?”
Sebastian stopped pacing and looked at Charlene intently. “Because I’m the one with the interesting story.”
Charlene slid out of the booth with a “harumph” and walked behind the counter. She busied herself cleaning toasted crumbs out of the bottom of the oven, muttering an occasional “harrumph.”
The pastor perched on the edge of his table and took a sip of Mountain Dew, watching Charlene’s back as she vigorously brushed crumbs onto the floor.
He gazed up at the Quizno’s ceiling and asked the Lord for guidance. After a long, quiet moment and no immediate answer, he put down his soda and wandered over to the counter.
Charlene walked into the kitchen. She returned a minute later with a broom and dustpan.
Encouraged that she came back at all, Sebastian tried again. “Charlene?”
She glanced at him from under her red bangs. “What?”
He put his hands on the counter and leaned on them. “What would you write about? If you wrote your own book, I mean.”
Charlene continued to sweep up crumbs as she spoke. “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about writing a book until you mentioned it. My life, I guess.” She leaned over and swept the crumbs into the dustpan. “We all have interesting lives, Pastor Sebastian.” She dumped the crumbs into the trashcan.
Sebastian frankly doubted that Charlene’s life was as interesting as his. After all, she was the Assistant Manager of a Quizno’s while he had his own ministry and played professional poker. But he sensed that if he kept her talking, he might get her to agree to write for him. “Tell me about your life. Where did you grown up.”
Charlene poured herself a cup of coffee and took a sip before responding. “Meridian, Mississippi. It’s just twenty miles from the Alabama border.”
“I’ve never been to Mississippi.”
“It’s a pretty enough state, I guess. I couldn’t wait to get out, but that had more to do with my daddy than it did with the landscape.”
“Why did you want to get away from your father?”
Charlene sighed and glanced at the clock hanging above the oven. “Oh, what the hell. I’m here for another hour.” She refilled her coffee cup and got another Mountain Dew for Pastor Sebastian. She took both drinks to his booth and sat down heavily.
Sebastian grabbed a new straw and sat down across from her.
“My daddy was a preacher, too. At the Bucatunna Baptist Church. He still is, as far as I know.” She smiled at the look on Sebastian’s face. “I know. I don’t look like a preacher’s daughter, do I?” She fluffed the bottom of her frizzy hair with her hand.
Sebastian shook his head. “It’s not that. I’m just surprised. I’ve invited you to attend services and you never come, so I assumed that you had never found the Lord. But if your father is a minister…” He trailed off, wondering if maybe he just hadn’t worked hard enough to bring Charlene into his fold.
Charlene seemed to know what he was thinking. “It’s not you, Pastor Sebastian. I went to church every Sunday growing up. By the time I turned eighteen and moved to California, I’d just had enough religion.”
“You’re right, Charlene. You do have an interesting story.” Sebastian gazed at her, his head tilted to the side. “I still think you’d make a great ghost writer, though. Can I convince you to do it?”
Charlene finished her coffee. “I don’t think so, Pastor.”
As she started to leave the booth, Sebastian blurted out, “I’ll play you for it.”
“We’ll play one hand of poker. If I win, you’ll start coming to my ministry for Sunday services and ghost write my memoir.”
“What if I win?”
Sebastian’s mind scrambled for an answer, one good enough to make Charlene take this bet. Before he could think of anything, Charlene answered for him. “You’ll take me to Las Vegas and help me win enough money that I can quit this crummy job.”
As much as Sebastian wanted to Charlene to help him write his book, he hesitated. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I haven’t played professional poker in a long time.”
Charlene stood up. “That’s the bet. Take it or leave it.”
“Ok. Ok. We have a bet.”
Charlene grinned. “Now we just need some cards.”
“I have some.” Sebastian pulled a deck of cards out of his backpack and started shuffling.
“You carry cards with you?” Charlene sat back down as Sebastian dealt.
Sebastian shrugged. “Old habits die hard, I guess.”
The Pastor glanced as his cards. They weren’t great. A ten and an eight, but he hoped he could quickly intimidate Charlene into folding.
He dealt the flop and was pleased to see another ten.
“Since we don’t really have chips and can’t up the ante, I guess we should just say if we want to fold or not. Do you?”
Charlene appeared deep in thought, but she shook her head.
The turn was a queen, which didn’t help him, but he pretended to suppress a smile anyway.
“Want to fold now?”
Charlene crossed her arms. “Nope.”
The river was another queen. Sebastian silently prayed that his two pair would beat whatever
Charlene had. But before he could reveal his hand, she said, “Can I fold now?”
“Um, I guess so. Are you sure?”
Charlene got up out of the booth and headed back to the counter. “I’m sure. See you Sunday, Pastor.”
Unable to resist, he reached across the table and turned over Charlene’s cards. A pair of queens smirked up at him.