July 23
8:15 a.m.

I’m driving to work and considering just staying on 101—either north or south, both directions will lead to something better than where I’m going.

Better go south.

If I go north, I’ll have to go through Oregon—have met some very creepy people from there. I remember driving from California to Washington and back. And both times, Oregon had many interesting types…

Okay, I exaggerate. Just a few. But if you’ve a few, then you figure it’s better to stay away from there. Maybe they represent the entire state…and why would you want to meet more of those types? Except that I have some really good friends there…but still…

And then, there’s Washington.

Seattle Seahawks’ territory.

Enough said.

More than enough said.

Can’t wait for the next season so the ‘Niners can barbecue the Seabirds.

Actually, they should sell Oregon and Washington to Canada. Or deed them over.

So I’ll go South.

Palm Desert. I love Palm Desert. I’m thinking about the time I went to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. This friend of mine decides to do this jeep tour to get near the San Andreas Fault. So I’m holding tight, and she’s thinking that this is so cool. I’m terrified the whole ground is going to open up and swallow us like in some disaster movie. She’s laughing.

Such an adventure.

Nope.

Do you know how you feel like just getting up and punching someone when you’re terrified and they’re laughing? And then they’re looking at you and your face has been replaced by Pazuzu from The Exorcist?

So can’t go North, can’t go south.

I have to go to Paris.

“They’re baaaaack.” Text from Brad. “And they’re looking for your pound of flesh.”

Ugh, Brad. That’s so gross. Why are youth directors so graphic?

“Was hoping to get in early before they arrived. Oh, and hell is looking like paradise. So leaving now.”

Thanks Brad! I wish I could do that myself, but I have to be there…because I have to put in my time so I can leave and never come back. I’m stopped at the light, shouting in the car, windows down…it’s a nice day…

“Hi Natalie!”

Oh great. Horror of horrors. It’s Faith. She’s pulled up in her car—next to mine.

“Faith!”

“You okay? I thought I heard you shouting.”

“Shouting? Ha ha. No…just singing…you know…”

“It sure sounded like you were upset…not singing-like…”

“Me? Eminem lyrics, you know.”

“Eminem? Eminem?”

Should have just stayed with my shouting. Now I’m worried that God’s going to judge me and I’ll have a hellish day for telling a white lie.

Why is it that a white lie is okay? But a black lie…?? I think this is very racist.

And a lie is a lie.

Okay, Lord, I’m not going to white lie again. Amen. Or any lie.

Light turn green. Light turn green. Now.

As I pull away I can see Faith in my rear view mirror, her mouth is moving. Bet she’s already speed-dialed Darlene and they’re planning some Women’s Prayer Group intervention to save me from the evil influence of Eminem, the antichrist.

Do they know that he believes in God and prays? I mean God can see into his heart and knows his thoughts. Hey, God created Eminem too. Okay.

I wonder if Eminem knows that a pastor’s family is defending him. My mom loves Eminem. Even bought his CD. Not the explicit one. She never uses bad language—except for what she calls “extenuating circumstances”. Says using curse words shows an unimaginative and uninformed mind and isn’t a proper use of the English language—unless it’s a part of your culture. In which case, it’s fine. Love my mom. She has a reason for every action of hers.

____________

8:28 a.m.

I’m dreading seeing Don and Darlene. I can already tell that they’ve been at my desk. With them in the office, it feels like smelling burning trash all day long. Ha haaaa! Every day I’m learning new methods to stay out of their way. And laugh.

“Hello! May I please speak to Pastor Don?”

“May I know who’s calling?”

“He’ll know.”

Have to find out why Don has been receiving many so many weird calls? After these, Darlene and he have many whispered conversations.

Very mysterious.

“Natalie!”

My stomach is now in knots and my palms are beginning to sweat again. This is what Darlene’s high-pitched voice and presence is doing to me. You know the type, the more self-righteously angry they become, the higher and louder their voice gets.

“Natalie! In fact, I. Am. Disgusted. Faith called me to inform in fact me that you listen to the voice of Satan. In fact.”

In fact, I’m thinking I’m listening to the voice of Satan right now.

“Hi Darlene!”

“In fact, I would be disappointed, but…” She’s trying to stare me down, and I’m thinking she reminds me of a cat (sorry, cats of the world, for such a comparison), but she does…you know how a cat makes all these purring, twittering, and hissing sounds just before they pounce on their prey? There you have it, in fact.

“Hi Natalie!”

“Martha! So good to see you.”

“You alright?” Martha comes and gives me a big hug. I want to burst into tears.

“Hi Martha!”

“Darlene, didn’t see you. Are you creating more work for our secretary?”

This is not going to go down well. I can tell.

“I think Natalie needs to be put in her place. Her choice of music is appalling.”

“I don’t think Natalie’s the only one. What says you we go into the kitchen and grab a cup of tea and let our office staff do they work if we don’t have anything else to do?”

“Faith mentioned that Natalie said…”

“Frankly, Darlene, I have very little time for what Faith has to say.”

I’m watching Martha march Darlene out of the office. When I grow old, I hope I’m like Martha.

____________________

July 24
11:45 am.

Allan called. The denominational guy isn’t going to be coming in today. Thank God. I don’t want to talk to him right now. Any other day, but Friday.

But, hello, we have three drop-in visitors from Don’s denominational offices. Three suits…two men, one woman.

All looking like they just put on their breastplates of righteousness and marched in.

“Welcome to First Church. I’m very blessed to be the called pastor here. Let me show you around my church.” Don’s proudly showing them around his church??? Seriously?

“And this is our sister, Natalie. She’s my secretary, although…”

“In fact, she’s the one I requested prayer for…in fact.”

Thank you, Darlene.

“Praying, sister. Praying for you. We can see you need the prayers.”

So…I made the denominational prayer list. I’m actually kind of excited about that. Isn’t it some kind of backwards compliment? Better not let my mum hear about this. The denominational headquarters will be closing down their doors after she finishes with them.

“I’m not quite sure how long we’ll be blessed to have her with us,” Don’s blustering, his huge belly shaking with the extra exertion caused by his frantic waving hand.

Huh? I never said anything about leaving to him…or Darlene.

I don’t know why but I’m feeling uneasy about his constant talk about “my church,” “my secretary,” “my office.” I might be overreacting, but it seems awfully possessive for an exchange pastor to refer to everything as “my.” I mean, he’s only going to be around for a short while.

Or is he? I’m really going to need another job then.

Has Mark made a permanent exchange and not mentioned it to us???

Nah. I don’t think he could.

Or could he? What do I know??

____________

4:45 p.m.

“Natalie, heard you had a horrible day.”

“Walt, good to see you. But please make a noise when you come into my office. I nearly swung this baseball bat on you.”

Walt’s laughing softly. “Then, I’m going to take this away from you and put it in Pete’s closet. Just to be safe.”

“I don’t think…”

“It’s okay, don’t worry, instead, ask me why I’m here?”

“Why?

“I’ve got you a two day get-away to Carmel.”

“You’re joking?!”

“No, a friend of mine couldn’t use it…and Martha said you were having a bad week…so…”

“Walt, you’re an angel!”

“Natalie, you mean a lot to me. I know I’m not much…”

“Walt, this is wonderful. Mitch and Gwen will love it too.”

“Say hi to them.”

No wonder everyone likes Walt.

I can’t wait to get away from this entire Peninsula for a while.