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Cheryl Pahz 


                                                                                                                   WAITING FOR WITNESSES 

                                                                                                                                                                            by Jim Pahz

            “You’re drifting.”


            “Drifting—driving recklessly. Keep your eyes on the road.”

            “There’s nothing wrong with my driving. I’ve been driving a long time. And, by the way, I haven’t had any accidents.”

            “Not yet,” Charlene said. “But if you’re not careful, you will. It’s only a matter of time.”

            “Yes, dear.”

            The next morning Charlene asked me to help her with a stuck barn door. It was frozen in the ice. I tried to force it open, but all I succeeded at doing was getting her to scold me.

            “Watch it,” she said. “You’re going to break the door. Step back. Move away.  I’ll do it myself.” She gave a push and the door dislodged. I tried to walk away.

            “Where are you going?” Charlene yelled.

            “To the house. I’m going to put on a pot of coffee. It seems like I’m just in the way here. Besides, today is Saturday and the Witnesses may come.”

            “Oh, sweet Jesus, not again.”

Once each month, as regular as the appearance of a full moon, the Witnesses came to our house to visit. Carrying their Bible and a few issues of their magazine, the Watch Tower, the men would ring the doorbell and stand patiently on the stoop while their women waited in the car.  The gentlemen were dressed in suit and tie. That’s how you knew who they were. Nobody else would dress so well on a Saturday morning. We lived in the country and were too remote to attract sales people. 

Seeing the Witnesses come up the driveway always annoyed Charlene.

            “What do those people want?” she asked. “Why are they here—again.”

            “They just want to talk,” I answered. “They’re nice people. You ought to try talking with them.”

            “I don’t have time to talk. I’m busy and those folks always show up at the most inconvenient times. Haven’t you noticed?”

            Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered when they showed up. My wife would have always been too engaged in some activity. She was, in fact, a busy woman, and there was never enough time in the day to accomplish all she wanted to do. The last thing she desired was to stop her important work and sit and gab with strangers.

            Myself, I liked the Witnesses and enjoyed their visits. I tried to anticipate when they would be coming next so I could have a pot of coffee ready. The Witnesses were nice company.

            “They just want to convert you,” Charlene said. “They want you to join their cult.”

            “It’s not a cult. Jehovah’s Witness is a legitimate religion, like Baptists, Methodists or Presbyterians. And I don’t think they are trying to convert us.”

            “Then what do they want? Are they selling something?”

            “I think they are selling God. The concept, that is. These are spiritual people, and they believe they have a mandate to go forth and spread God’s word.”
            “If they’re so spiritual they should join a 12-step program and leave us in peace. Why do they have to interfere in other people’s lives? You know,” Charlene said, “I bet they get a lot of doors slammed in their face.”           

            “Maybe so,” I answered, “but not mine.”

            “What I can’t understand,” she continued, “is what you get out of it. Why do you indulge them?”

            “I’m not sure,” I said, “but when I learn, I promise you’ll be the first to know.”




The Witnesses didn’t show up that Saturday, and I confess I was disappointed. Later that morning I decided I would cook some beans. Now, I know beans are an under-appreciated legume, but not by me. Beans are a highly digestible source of protein and if prepared correctly can be very flavorful. I like Great Northern Beans. I add an onion, about a spoonful of sugar and a nice piece of meat. I let the beans simmer for hours. And that morning I let them simmer too long. The water evaporated. I was in the living room watching television when I smelled the beans burning.

            “Oh no,” I screamed. “My beans!”

            “Is that what stinks?” Charlene asked. Then, “You’d better see about your stinky beans.”

            When Charlene got to the kitchen I was filling the pot with water. I thought I would boil the water to soften the residue of the burnt beans.

            “Give me the pot,” Charlene demanded.

            “I’m washing it,” I said. “It needs to be cleaned.”

            “I know, but you can’t do it. What do you know about washing pots? I’m the housewife,” Charlene said. “I know about cleaning.”

            “I’m not a moron,” I said. “Even I can clean a pot.”

            “No, I don’t think so. Give me the pot.”

            I didn’t want to give it to her, but I did.




On Wednesday, Charlene and I had a confrontation. “You look dumpy,” she said.

            “No I don’t. I’m fine.”

            “No, you’re not. You’re dumpy. Not firing on all cylinders, if you know what I mean.”

            “I know what you mean. But honestly I’m fine. I have a little stomachache, that’s all.”

            “See, I knew it. You’re not manic like you were the last two days. I suspect you’re bipolar.”

            “Cheese Louise. I have a stomachache. I’m not bipolar and I’m not dumpy.”

            “It’s jeeze Louise… not cheese Louise. I rest my case. You’re on a down cycle.”




            By Friday she was still insisting I was dumpy. I tried to avoid her as much as possible. It made life easier.

            Then Saturday morning, while eating breakfast, Charlene confiscated half of my portion of potatoes.

            “What are you doing?”

            “I’m taking away some potatoes.”


            “Because you’re putting on weight,” she said. “Too many potatoes, Buster.”

            “But I love potatoes for breakfast.”

            “I know. That’s why you’re getting fat. You’ve got to trust me on this. It’s your health I’m thinking of. I’m only looking out for your welfare. Can you understand that?”

            “I suppose.” And I could. I appreciated that Charlene, my wife and companion, would have my best interest at heart. Besides, I could eat the rest of my potatoes for lunch. It gave me something to look forward to. But an hour later I saw something that shocked and dismayed me. Charlene was taking my potatoes and mixing them with the dog food.

            “What are you doing?” I inquired, alarmed.

            “Fixing the dog his lunch.”

            “But those are my potatoes.”

            “Well, yes, they were, but not any more. Besides, potatoes are cheap. You can buy more potatoes.”

            “That’s not the point. They are my potatoes—not the dog’s.”

            But, it was too late. The potatoes were gone. She had already mixed them with the dog food and an egg. They were on the floor in front of me in a stainless steel dog bowl. My spirits sank. At that instant, I was dumpy.

            Then I remembered it was Saturday. In an hour or so the Witnesses might come. I thought maybe I’d put on a fresh pot of coffee, just in case. As I thought about the Witnesses I had an epiphany—a moment of insight. I was coming to terms with who I was and what made me tick. I didn’t understand all the reasons for enjoying the visits by the Witnesses. Maybe it had something to do with my religious angst or perhaps it was something as simple as I liked hearing myself talk. But at this moment, in this time and place, I recognized one reason out of many. I liked being visited by the Witnesses because my wife, Charlene, didn’t.

Waiting for Witnesses is from Jim's collection of short stories entitled Saving Turtles.