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Come Sail Away with Us to Where Beautiful  Words Flow Like Wine​​

GOSPEL CAFE
 
            “This is the Gospel Café. The first waystation on your way to salvation.” The preacher frowned at the sparse crowd in the coffee café. “I don’t have time to coddle you sinners. Don’t forget you are sinners or you wouldn’t be here.” He pointed at Rita.
            Rita squirmed in her seat and tried to look nonchalant.
            His voice boomed. “Have you confessed your sins? Stand up! Don’t be bashful in the sight of the Lord.”
            Everyone was staring at Rita. She slowly stood.
            “It says here you cheated your mother-in-law out of $1000.” He turned a page on the clipboard. “You sold your husband’s diamond ring. You’re in deep trouble. Do you realize that?”
            “I only came in here for a cup of coffee.” Rita sat down and looked for a waiter.
            “Did you hear what this sinner said?” He briefly stared at the others. “She’s here for salvation and she wants a cup of coffee.” He turned toward the bar. “Bring her a cup of coffee. Now!”
            A second later, a waitress appeared from behind Rita with coffee. She hurried away before she could say thanks or pay. Rita sipped the coffee. The preacher was looking at her with narrow eyes.
            He glanced at the clipboard. “You are Rita Stonehead, aren’t you?”
            Rita nodded. “What are you doing with my name on your clipboard? I don’t know you or anyone in here.”
            “But I know you. You did cheat those people, didn’t you?”
            “That’s really none of your business. However, since you want to know, there were extenuating circumstances.”
            “Listen to the fool.” The preacher walked closer to Rita. “Extenuating circumstances, she says. None of that trash here.” He glanced at the other people in the café. “What do you sinners say?”
            “She’s lying,” they all whispered in unison.
            The preacher leaned down, his face only a few feet from Rita’s. “Did you hear what your fellow sinners said?” His laugh echoed around the small café. “Tell us some of the extenuating lies. We have a few minutes to spare.”
            Rita glanced at her watch. “I don’t have time. I have to meet my husband in ten minutes.”
            “Did you hear that?” The preacher radiated scorn. “The woman is full of lies. Tell us these lies.”
            “If you insist but I’ll keep it short. I have to leave soon.”
            The preacher smiled wider.
            “My mother-in-law loaned the money to me. I just haven’t paid her back, yet. Times have been tight.”
            The preacher nodded at the others.   
            “She’s lying,” they whispered.
            Rita shook her head. “That’s the gospel truth.”
            “The truth!” The preacher sneered at Rita. “What do you know about truth? What about the diamond ring?”
            “Technically, it was mine. I bought it ten years ago.” She looked at the others. “Actually I didn’t sell it. I put it in a pawnshop for a few weeks. I’ll redeem it next month.”
            The preacher looked at the clipboard again. “That’s not what it says here. It says you wrote a check on her account without her permission. You sold the ring to a woman in a bar. Her husband in Texas is wearing it now.”
            “That’s not quite right. I did write the check without her permission but I have her ‘Power of Attorney’. The pawnbroker’s husband may be wearing my husband’s ring.” Rita grinned at the preacher. “Close, but no cigar. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go meet my husband.”
            “Wait, you are Rita Stonehead, aren’t you?” He turned back two pages on the clipboard.
            Rita stood and briefly nodded. She put two dollars on the table. “For the coffee.”
            “Born 10/26/33 and live in Ocean City, New Jersey.” The preacher laid the clipboard on a table. “Is that you?”
            Rita walked a few steps toward the door. “Nope, my birthday is 2/4/33 and I live in Ocean City, Maryland.”
            The preacher turned back another page. “I see, I see. There’s been a slight mistake. You are the wrong Mrs. Stonehead.” He walked Rita to the door. “Sorry about this but a few mistakes happen from time to time.” He opened the door and gently shoved Rita out onto the sidewalk.
            Rita looked around, saw her husband and waved him over. “I just had a cup of coffee in there.” She pointed to the door. “A very strange place.”
            He tried to open the door. “The sign says the building is condemned and has been closed for years. Have you been drinking again?”