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  • Ordinary Time
  • Carolyn Ogburn (bio)

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[End Page 164]

This decision to sacrifice myself was not impulsive: I have struggled all my life (especially the last several years) with what it means to take Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s insistence that Christ calls a person to come and die seriously. He was not advocating self-immolation, but others have found this to be the necessary deed, as I have myself for some time now: it has been a long Gethsemane, and excruciating to keep my plans from my wife and other members of our family. [End Page 165]

The parking lot was light by six in the morning, but its streetlights still buzzed and flickered yellow in the gray-green dawn. House wrens flitted across the abandoned asphalt, little gray birds that had nested in the electric curl of the still-lit O and A’s, the crook of the G. The ditches hummed with crickets, frogs. In a few hours, Caleb knew, the parking lot would seem quiet again, full of everyday traffic: the occasional rattle of shopping carts bumping along the broken pavement, car doors opening and closing, the sounds of ordinary people doing ordinary things. It would seem quiet but for the yellow police tape enclosing a broad empty space at the center of the lot, a space that still smelled of gasoline.

What Caleb was doing there, in a metal folding chair, might have been appropriately called a wake. His truck was still where he’d parked it yesterday, its Louisiana tags the only out-of-state plates in this dusty Texas town. He’d meant to leave as, one by one, the strip mall’s shops closed. He’d intended to stand up as the county’s social services offices closed; then the nail salon and the Dollar General. He’d stood up when the Golden Rule Family Buffet finally turned off its lights, but his feet somehow never moved him toward his truck, and when finally, at the far end of the parking lot, only the gas station’s automatic pumps were lit as the sky filled with dark around its edges, he’d found himself seated again, staring at the oily stain on the asphalt where the Reverend Charles Moore had been.

No one had called. Not that they would. Greta, maybe, who thought he was at the hotel where Aunt Lane’s birthday reception would be, the day after tomorrow.

To be fair, he had checked in at the Hampton Inn about an hour from here, just outside Dallas, where he still had “people.” Family is what he meant, but here in Grand Saline, it was the old ways of speaking that came back to him. Where’re your people from? He envisioned a quiet assembled tribe staring at him wordlessly from ladder-back chairs. Here, he would have said. My people are from here. But nobody was here now. Not even Moore, who wasn’t his people after all. Just a preacher he’d known as a child.

But after he carried his luggage up to the room and after he stopped by Aunt Lane’s to pay his respects, after he sat with Dwayne and Colton and Marie and said how well their mother looked, their mother, Bennie, who looked up from the recliner and giggled like a girl, and Greta made sure they all had plates full of green-bean casserole, sweet tea, coleslaw, yeast rolls, three-bean salad, deviled eggs, and thick slices of ham, no [End Page 166] matter that it was only five o’clock in the afternoon and none of them hungry, after he’d done what he assumed he’d come here to do, Caleb found his truck moving down US-80, directed toward the strip mall on the bypass where Charles Moore had died.

Even now, to close his eyes would bring the image of what Moore had seemed like to him as a child on those long Sunday mornings when Caleb sat wedged between his Aunt Lucille and his mother...


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pp. 164-185
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