The errant van pulled into the lot and jerked to a stop. She expected to beat us there.... Which meant she couldn't give her version of things first. Lucy and the pastor had been in rather tense conversation practically since she got off the van. What was clear was that Lucy was not giving an inch when it came to her decisions insofar as to how she had decided to run the trip after meeting up with us criminals and whores. (It was also clear Chelsea had been having regular phone calls with the pastor, telling him about the whores and criminals etc. we were subjecting the children to.)
"I have a lot of things I want to tell her, but I'm not going to. You can probably guess what they are, so would you mind relaying my thoughts?" I told Lucy.
"Well, you can debrief the pastor here on her behavior. That seems fair," said Lucy. "I don't think she's getting out of the van, possibly not while you're here."
So I explained to the pastor about the vilification, the abusive language, the lies, the insults, and the straight-up abuse she doled out. I told him of her mental abuse of Dutch and Bekka.... Especially of Dutch, and that purposeful cruelty. Yes, some of us worked in an industry that he could not accept or probably even understand.... But despite that, we were still Christians, and faithful ones. He only needed to ask Lucy about the power of our faith. We did not question our faith in any shape or form. We knew our views split, but.... We'd have to agree to disagree.
We heard a van door slam. We were about to be joined by the topic of conversation. As one voice, Lucy, Ellen, and the pastor asked, "Where have you been?"
"Why did you leave like that? You had us all terrified!" said Lucy.
The pastor added, "You had us worried, young lady."
Ellen certainly wanted to add something about "You annoying bitch," but resisted the urge.
"Ma'am, ya had a lotta people worried, takin' off like that. Glad to see you safe and sound, though. I'm Walter, everybody calls me Boss," and he extended his hand. She gave him a dead-fish handshake and as always managed to insult a complete stranger. "I'm sure you're another criminal."
"Ma'am, did you call me a criminal?" he asked. "Not for about thirteen years, then I found the Lord. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna wait by the Chevelle so I don't say somethin' I regret. Wrong time o' day to be insulted by a woman I've never met, y'know? Smokes in here?" I tossed him a pack from my pocket. Boss leaned angrily against the Chevelle, aggressively puffing.
"You still seem to have your charm," I told Chelsea. Oh, and I'm not a drug dealer. I only said that to bug you.."
"You may as well be," said Chelsea. You and all your friends are just criminals."
"....And whores, and junkies. Yes, we've covered all that already. If it offends you, we're involved in it. Including profanity and driving too fast. By the way, if you decide to relocate to California, you need to learn to use the pedal on the right. You move waaaay too slow for freeway driving."
In a tired voice, the pastor said, "Why don't we try ending it now?"
"Pastor, I personally have been trying to end it for a few days. So has Ellen, Lucy, and Bekka. There are one or two who won't be happy until she's missing teeth, but that's a different kettle of piranha. Simply put, just when a state of detente seems to have been reached, a statement will be made by Chelsea which would destroy any good feeling that may have built up. She has purposely alienated and vilified people who tried to befriend her. If someone does not meet her standards as a christian, she writes them off in as insulting a manner as she possibly can. You just saw how she greeted Boss, a man who is spending three days making sure these kids arrive home safely, and only asked for gas money in return. He does not meet her template, therefore he can fu--- get bent. And I'm still waiting for her rationale for taking the gas cards and money and van, leaving Lucy to scramble to find a way to get fourteen kids home safely. Fortunately, Lucy had people to turn to: the criminals Chelsea disparaged."
"The word 'criminal' keeps getting bandied about,' said the pastor. "Are you, in fact law-breakers?"
"No sir, absolutely not." (So I lied....) "Some of us are, as I'm sure Chelsea has told you, involved in the adult film industry. Neither are we drug addicts. We will sometimes use illegal drugs, the same way people have a couple of cocktails after work. It is not a habitual thing, but occasional use. I'm trying to be honest with you here, sir. That way there are no questions about our behaviors and actions. None of them affected the children in any way, at any time.
"Having been forthright about our lives, I feel my questions about Chelsea's behavior deserve an explanation," I said.
"I agree," said the pastor. "This young man, and his friend, and Ellen, put a great amount of effort into getting the kids home safe and sound, work which would not have been necessary if you hadn't abandoned the kids, leaving them with no money or transportation. Explanation is in order."
Chelsea looked at all of us, and quite simply stated, "I hate them. All they did the entire time was scare me. They just want to scare people and lie to them! That's why I ran!"
"They lie about their faith: they claim to be Christians, but.... Look at them! They clearly aren't! Try to convince me people who look like that are Christians!"
(I began to recite, "The lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing, he makes me lie down in green pastures....")
"The girls were no better, dressed like whores and slags. I don't care if they were swimming, they looked sleazy. All of you were on drugs at that fun park, don't deny it.
"But it's the lying about your faith that makes me hate you all. You're all punk rockers and bikers and whores, you may as well just drag yourselves through the mud before supposedly attending church. You're a disgrace to your faith the way you look."
"Might I interject?" I said.
"What did Christ do as a career?"
"He was the savior!"
"Yes, but how did Christ earn money before taking the show on the road, as it were?"
"He was a carpenter, Him and His dad. That was a really low-brow job to have back then. There was no union, He didn't have work suits or a laundry service, and nowhere in the New Testament does it mention Him getting new duds before going out to start his new career as the Savior of man. Quite simply, Jesus looked pretty haggard most of the time."
"'S right, girl. Like it er not, he was a workin'-class stiff 'fore he became the son of god as a full-time gig," said Boss.
"BLASPHEMY!" shouted Chelsea
The pastor spoke up. "It's rough around the edges, but Lenny is correct. Jesus was poor His entire life, birth to death, and it would have been evidenced in His appearance. I know we always depict Jesus in fine robes, but we also show him with blue eyes and light hair, two inaccuracies going back to the middle ages. To put it in a rough way, the Lord would have looked like a bum.
"There are plenty of other aspect of faith I'm sure I would disagree with these two men, but that would take days. I am tired. However..... I have to ask, uh, Boss.... Is that the 1970 SS Chevelle? With the 454?"
"It is. Good eye, pastor."
"I don't suppose I could, uh, talk you into giving me a ride? I'd greatly appreciate it."
"Hop on in, put on yer belt. Don't ride with nobody unless they wear the belt. Lenny, ya wanna do the honors?"
"I promise to keep it between the ditches, Boss. As far as specs go, sir, you'll have to ask Boss, I'm just the driver. It's got mighty good grab for an automatic, I'll put it through the gears manually like they meant it to...."
I launched as hard as I could without losing grip, no burn-out, pressing the pastor pressed against the seat, jumping into second with the smallest amount of tire chirp and keeping the traction up, then bringing it down to an idle at the freeway on-ramp. "A bit of a speed run?" I asked. He nodded happily. I knocked into Drive, waited for the light, then launched it up the ramp, pushing it up the ramp --- hitting 85 while still in second --- and clicking into third on its own. Not knowing the laws in Nebraska, I kept it below 120, running at that speed before bringing it back down to 80, exiting, and bringing it back home at around 100.
The pastor looked like a kid on his first roller coaster ride. Or a teenager getting his first.... Well, you can figure that out. Suffice it to say, he was feeling the joy. I spun a donut in the parking lot, then shut down, locking it exactly into a parking space.
The pastor got out, all smiles. A woman stood on the steps of the vestry with a slightly annoyed smirk on her face., presumably his wife. "Honey, you know how I said my hod-rodding days were over?"
"I was wrong. I'm saving up for a Chevelle, an SS, like that one."
Boss called over, "Check Hemmings Auto News and you kin probably pick one up that needs work for cheap! I'm guessin' you know which end of a wrench to hold...."
"Besides, you've been saying I need a hobby again. The men in the congregation will be happy to help, I'm sure.."
"Mebbe start with something simple, like a Ford Falcon. You can git a lot of power out of one of them 289 V8s. I mean, my 454 is modified, lemme show you...." And Boss popped the hood, using a flashlight to show off all the modifications made. As much as I loved Bekka's Falcon, the Chevelle made it look like a skateboard. Less curb weight to the Falcon, but the 289 versus the 454.... No comparison.
Chelsea seemed to realize no one was paying attention to her, and hated it. "I'm... Going... Home!" she announced, and received a muttered "G'nite" in response. She went to fire up her Toyota or Nissan or whatever it was, and.... No luck. The battery had gone dead in the week it had sat idle. Prompted by her tears, we moved the Chevelle nose-to-nose, hooked up the cables from the Chevelle's trunk, and fired it up. We advised her to let it idle in her driveway for about forty-five minutes to get a charge back in. She gave us a pouting goodbye (and no thank you to Boss or me) and left in a squeak of tires.
"She work here?" asked Boss.
"Part time," replied the pastor, "when she's not at the local college as both a student and employee in the book store."
"Sir, I gotta say it: that is one awkward woman."
"Walter, I will make no comment, and leave it at that."
We went inside the building where Lucy was sorting through three metric tons of mail, putting it into six different piles, the logic of which was none of my business. She hugged us both , telling us what lifesavers we are, the lord will bless us for our hard selfless work, and if for some reason we were in Kearney, and found ourselves stranded, to call the emergency number on the front of the building, it rang through to her phone.
"Do you want to give Ellen a hug? She's asleep in the back of the Chevelle," I said.
"Of course, of course! I got so distracted by all that mail...." She came out and gave a groggy and barefoot Ellen a tight squeeze. Both women asked if Chelsea had gone home. We replied yes. Every part of their bodies except their mouths said, "good."
We got directions to the nearest mini-mart, shook hands with the pastor, and hit the road.
While Boss fueled the Chevelle (which caught the eye of every farm boy going past) I bought a roll of quarters, found the pay phone, and began shoveling in coins to call my apartment. She picked up on the second ring.
"Fairly quiet. Five sales and one paranoid who will only deal with you. Because naturally narcs send women the client has dealt with before. He wouldn't tell me who it was, so it was that guy Justin."
"Good and quiet otherwise?"
"It's me answering the phone, isn't it?"
"Point taken. Boss is going to forgo stopping in Vegas, so we're headed straight home. See you in about twenty-seven hours. Love ya."
"Love ya too. Oh, almost forgot. Did you rescue anyone? Save any lives?"
"You know that only happens when you're with me on a road trip. Disappointed or relieved?"
"I'm not sure. G'nite sugar."
I pulled around the back of the mini-mart, poured a good amount of speed on the web of my hand and snorted it up, then went around front (wiping my nose first) to get a soda. "Wake you in eight?"
"Works by me," said Boss, curling up against the door to sleep with his belt on. "If ya get tired or start feelin' tweaky, wake me up. Ya got nothin' to prove." Between Ellen and Boss snoring, plus the drugs, plus the Mountain Dew, plus the Marlboros, there was no way in hell I was about to fall asleep.