Joseph put his old truck into neutral and put on the brake before turning the key and letting the engine rest. The drive to visit Mrs. Douglass was a weekly tradition, every Tuesday to check on her in the guise of fixing something in her house and accepting a cup of tea as payment. She lived twenty minutes out of town on a seldom used country road that desperately needed to be paved. Every week he was shocked that his truck made it there and back in one piece, the old beater was three years his senior and he was turning thirty next spring.
He ran a hand through his sandy-brown hair and looked at himself in the rearview for a moment before opening the door. This was getting harder and harder to do, his reflection told him, Emily was the one to start this and she…
“Stop it,” he opened the door and stretched as he got out of.
Reaching across to the passenger side he grabbed his tool belt and strapped it on. He had been visiting every week for the last three years, ever since her son had moved away, and there wasn’t a loose screw or squeaky hinge to be found but the tool belt was just something he had to do. It was Emily’s idea.
Shaking off the memory of her smile and how she would laugh at how the shocks on the truck would bounce them around on the drive over, he closed his eyes and took a breath. This was too soon.
“Every week for three years,” he whispered as he walked to the front door and raised his hand to knock.
Mrs. Douglass opened the door before his knuckles touched and pulled him into a hug. She was a tiny woman, maybe five feet tall and she couldn’t have weighed over hundred pounds soaking wet but that did not mean she was weak. Her grip pushed the air from his lungs and stopped him in his tracks.
“What are you doing here, young man?” She looked up at him, her eyes were tear-filled.
“It’s Tuesday,” he shrugged feeling himself start to cry. “We always come on Tuesday.”
“No,” she shook her head but did not let him go. “She’s not two days in Heaven. Go home, you don’t need to worry about me.”
“I can’t,” he coughed, pushing the pain out in the one sound. “Please, let me do this.”
She looked up at him and shook his head, “it’s not me you need to talk to.”
One small, bird-like finger pointed to the old leather family Bible. The book was lovingly placed on a special table where the light from the nearby window made it luminescent. This book had been in her family longer than anyone could rightly place, at one time an antique dealer offered a healthy sum for the heirloom but he was turned down with a nice smile and a pat on the hand. His eyes rested on the words ‘Holy Bible’ for a long moment and then he stepped back. She let him out of her arms and watched him turn around.
“This was the last Sunday I’m setting foot in that church,” he took a slow breath and let it out.
“God isn’t bound to some building, Joseph,” she placed a hand on his shoulder. “He lives in your heart.”
“Well,” he patted her hand and smiled an empty smile. “My heart, it was hers from the day we met and now,” he shrugged. “I don’t think I have one anymore.”
He walked back to his truck, not listening to see if she had any more to say. He took off the tool belt and tossed it to the passenger side through the open window before getting in. The drive back to town was a blur.