What troubles you, Clive? Tess asks me as we lie in bed on a rank day of fog and rain in late summer. My moodiness is rampant as I worry about how untenable my position is as the head of this strange ministry. I have wound a lock of her light blonde hair around my finger and give it a tug.
I say, I’m thinkin. And that’s always dangerous.
It’s good somebody’s thinking. That mob…she shudders.
My parishioners? I know it. They scare me too.
We could leave, she says. Just go. Anywhere. Take the money and leave the country.
And do what? There’s not that much money after I pay off the cops and the expenses for this show biz shtick.
Start another ministry? She says and looks hopefully at me.
I’ll think about it, I say. I’m tired of these cutthroats, too.
I roll onto my back and say, That day on the river-did Amos have you up there to talk people who left into going back?
I wish I hadn’t listened to you, I say. I’m worried. Before this place I had no responsibilities to anyone but me. Now I have you, and the baby coming, and these so-called people. Before this my life was like Huck Finn on acid. Sometimes I wish…
You said you were getting drunk every night and passing out in alleys by the river. How long before somebody came by and cut your throat?
That would’ve been fine with me, I say.
Do you hate your life that much?
I guess so. How long before you start showing?
Another three or four weeks I think. RU going to be ashamed of me?
No, no. Some women are really cute pregnant, like you will be. Feel up to shilling people back to the river like you did for Amos?
Business is good. I have found faith healing very lucrative. I added a few new wrinkles and it really helped. Poor old Amos was ignorant and had no imagination. But despite how well things are going on the business end everything seems ominous.
Did you see about going on TV? She asks.
I talked to some of those Jesus TV stations. They want a big fee up front. It might actually be a good investment but it would make us cash poor. And we’d need sets and costumes and help and by then we’d be broke.
Cant we live with being broke for a while?
IDK…it’s all beyond me. I’m not a businessman. Besides, I don’t like not having cash around in case the shit hits the fan.
How much do we have now?
About ten thousand.
She whistles. That’s all? Not much to start over on.
I know it.
She rolls onto her side and says, They love you, you know.
You’re impressive, Clive. And that Australian accent of yours makes these old hick women wet.
You’re from England?
No. My family was military and I grew up on army bases. Everybody seemed to have a British accent. But I’m an American citizen. If I weren’t I might have all kinds of trouble. You have a passport, Tess?
Then get one. I’ve got mine. We may have to move fast some day. And we need to make plans for that.
Where we go and how we get there and what to do if we get separated.
Meet in Mexico?
Tess, you know they’ve been kidnapping young blonde girls there. Why not Canada?
I still like Mexico. I can take care of myself. I’ve been doing it since I was ten.
Fine, I say irritably. We’ll meet in Nogales. If we skip we don’t leave together. If we take a plane we can leave at the same time but not on the same flight.
You worry too much, she says.