she couldn’t stay

Some years ago, a Jehovah’s Witness lady showed up at my door and, with a only a moment's hesitation, I invited her in.


I had reason to. Religion had been very much on my mind. During formative years, my grandmother had given me a Bible and my mother had given me Mark Twain’s “Letters from the Earth” and, siding with neither, I’d become an agnostic, or had come to think of myself as one, anyway. But was I? Had I really thought it through? I decided I hadn’t, so, the other day, had typed “Do you believe in God?” at the top of a page and had been following my every answer with yet another question to see where it led. I was nearly ten typed pages into it at this point and primed for religious discussion.


I hung her coat in the closet and invited her to have a seat. She thanked me, we sat down, and she started into her spiel. She was only a little ways into it, however, when I interrupted with a question, her answer to which prompted a further question, and another after that, which led to my suggesting I read to her what I’d just written on the subject. She didn’t so much agree as not object, which was all the encouragement I needed. I retrieved my ten typed pages from beside the typewriter, sorted them in order, and cleared my throat.


“Do you believe in God?” I began.


I wouldn’t be reading for long. A half-page into it, she was already checking her watch and, a few minutes later, I was helping her on with her coat.


Her eagerness to escape disappointed though didn’t surprise me. My reading aloud to others had had people checking their watches and scurrying for the exits for long enough, by now, that I was used to it.


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The other day, after sharing this memory with my friend, Laura, I remarked that I hadn’t read my work aloud to others for many years and wondered, If I did, would they still be checking their watches.


Laura didn’t think so. “These days,” she said, “it’s much more likely they’d be checking their phones.”