She looked at him, puzzled. She pushed the doorknob until it clicked shut. She sat in the chair. He could see the wheels in her head working, guessing. Dread disease? Pink slip? Midlife urge to chuck it all? She studied his eyes like a doctor checking pupil dilation.
He went on. "I could get called today. Elder Sperry is in town, you know. Interviewing for the new stake president. I have a feeling I could be called in."
By now, her jaw hung open. She looked as if she remembered something from far away and long ago, something like faint warning bells he had set off back in their dating days, warning bells she should have heeded, warning bells that, at this moment, clanged like fire alarms. She looked away at the far wall, rose slowly from her chair and reached for the doorknob. Looking back at him one last time, she opened the door and left the room.
Latham stared at his typewriter. She needs some time, that's all. Let her get used to the idea.
Just as he finished a new paragraph, she poked her head in the doorway again. "What kind of people are they calling in for interviews?" she asked.
"Oh, bishops. High councilors."
"But you haven't been any of those."
Latham's hands froze over the keyboard. "Gosh darn it, Ada! I've got work to do!"
So, it was going to be one of those days, was it? His woman thought he was a fool? And this was the woman he depended on and loved, in spite of having to part curtains of her drying hosiery in the bathroom?
If he was a fool, then what of all those premonitions? He hadn't asked for them to wake him up at four in the morning, to sneak up on him as he leaned over to tie his shoes, to breathe down his neck as he stood before his bookshelf, fingering the spines until he found the book he wanted. What was he to make of thoughts that whispered to him, Maybe you shouldn't start an article right now because you won't get to finish it very soon.
Huh? Where did all this come from?
Why would his mind play tricks on him like that? Why would God send premonitions that were useless and cruel, actually? Why would Erval see greatness in him that wasn't really there? Why would they call only bishops and high councilors and not him? If God wanted him, He could bypass a little protocol. Was anything impossible for God?
Ada appeared in his doorway again. "Lois Kilby's on the phone."
Latham slunk to the kitchen, despairing. Elder Sperry would never get through to him today. He held the phone to his ear. Sister Kilby's thin little voice came over the line. "Could you please come and have a look at where this water's comin' from?" she pleaded.
Latham hung up the phone with the frown of a man who just learned his car was $3000 sicker than he thought. "I don't know why I should worry myself about the water on Rut Kilby's kitchen floor when Rut himself isn't home to worry about it."
"Oh?" said Ada. "Where is Rut?"
"Off at Mugly's. She says they're barbecuing a billy goat."
Ada's eyebrow shot up. "People do that?"
Latham nodded his head slowly. Nothing Rut did surprised him anymore. "And Lois can't get him there because Mugly's phone is cut off again. Oh, what's the use of all this? I go out there every month and they stand on their little trailer steps and they look so sincere and tell me, 'We're planning to come to church next Sunday. Sure thing. Oh, yes, we'll see you there.' And Sunday rolls around and where are the Kilbys? Sitting in the row next to us? Sitting in any row at all?"
"Coming in late?"
"Hah! They're too shiftless to even come late! And there I am, the chump that believed their promises for the 473rd time."
"How much water are we talking about here? Where's it coming from?"
"I didn't ask. I didn't think. Why would I? I'm Mr. Oops, remember? I'm the husband that doesn't know an elbow joint from an elbow ache. I'm the guy you've told," he imitated her high voice, "'Please, Lat, don't patch that nail hole.'"
"OK, maybe these people deserve you. They make promises they don't keep, so God gives them a home teacher who can't help them." She beamed over her own logic.
He looked at her miserably. Then he lapsed into her voice again. "Please Lat, let's just call somebody who knows what they're doing."
"That's it!" She snapped her fingers. "Why don't you call Erval, Mr. Fix-It himself. He'll know how to help the Kilbys."
Latham just stared at the phone. Would it ever ring for him today? Would it ever ring and not be the Kilbys?
"Never mind," said Ada. "I'll call myself. I've got to ask Ruthalin something anyway."
Latham unfolded himself from the kitchen chair. He shuffled into the living room, fell back into his La-Z-Boy and stared at the ceiling. By now, he couldn't even remember what Elder Sperry looked like, even though he had seen the man's picture dozens of times.
"Uh-huh… . Really?" said Ada, in the other room. "I see. Well, yes, I know, uh-huh."
She poked her head into the living room. Holding her hand over the receiver, she whispered, "Guess what Erval's been doing today? Waiting by the phone just in case Elder Sperry calls!"
Latham sat up in shock. They couldn't want Erval! What about his own premonitions? What about Erval kidding him that "it's gonna be you, Latham. You watch out"? After good buddy Erv's gentle kidding, Latham couldn't take it if he had to watch Erval walk up to the stand tomorrow, grip the pulpit, and pause to take control of his emotions. He couldn't take it, watching all of Erval's ten kids troop into the office with the president's big desk where, with a ceremonious laying of Elder Sperry's hands on Erval's head, they would watch their father become the new stake president. Why, the room wouldn't hold them all. That was one reason to reject Erval right there!
But what if it was Erval? Who would Elder Sperry and God like better? Didn't DeVere W. Sperry have something like ten kids himself? Yes, Latham had seen the picture in the magazine, published when the man first ascended to his position: the wife with her new perm; the handsome older sons in their blazers; the thirteen-year-old son trying to change a smirk into a smile: the older daughters, their souls aged from washing loads of dishes and braiding many, many heads of hair; and the youngest daughter, her hand resting on her father's knee, her smile revealing a corn row of baby teeth.
Somehow the photo looked so right, so authoritative. So much like Erval's family photo, with its fresh-scrubbed, frame-filling look.
That would impress Elder Sperry. Not that he'd see the picture, but he'd hear about all those kids. It'd come out in the interview. "Ten? Why your wife's got her ticket to heaven for sure!" he'd tell Erval.
And Erval'd get the job, because he was so right for it. He'd get the job, all because of his wife's willingness to be pregnant for 64 percent of their sum total married life, so far.
And what had Latham's own wife done to distinguish him? Well, after two kids, she had told him it was fine for him to have his premonitions of six children, but he wasn't the one throwing up here.
But now he saw that he'd been had. His phone hadn't rung yet. It might be ringing at Erval's house now.
It couldn't be. His wife was tying up Erval's line just now, talking to Erval's wife. "Yes, the store in Brandywine said they sell it, but not in bulk."
Suddenly, Latham's mouth stretched into a villainous grin. He'd make sure Erval never got that call. He'd drag him out to Rut Kilby's house where Elder Sperry could never find him.
He rose up from the chair and walked to the phone. He twisted the pushpins in the bulletin board while Ada finished talking to Erval's wife.
Then he took the phone. He composed his face. He cleared his throat. He licked his lips. "Hello, old buddy," he said. "Whatcha up to today?"
© 2014 Kristen Carson