Storied Past – 17

The pain had slowly stolen back into Paul’s consciousness. He remembered the morphine drip and he pushed the button a couple of times.

Then he thought, “Maybe I could push it about twenty times; might solve a few other problems, too.”

That line of thinking caused him recall the confrontation with Ramona. She was right, he supposed. He had been a jerk, though that was so hard to admit for a man with an ego as big as his. He hoped that she would agree to listen to his . . . well; he didn’t quite know what to call it; confession was just too humbling a word.

The next morning, Ed Hammberg, the truck driver, was sitting in court waiting to talk to the judge about his version of the accident. He had “fortified” his courage with an adult beverage prior to arriving, contrary to his lawyer’s advice, but with his record, he figured was going to need all the help he could get.

Ed was Pastor Marlowe’s son-in-law and a long-time church attendee. Of course, there was a time when he was a Sunday school boy and knew all the Bible stories. He was fascinated by the flannel graph cutouts and loved the songs. Nobody else could sing I’m in the Lord’s Army and do all the motions as vigorously as he. But, like Ramona, he had rebelled against the pastor’s strong directives and his constant intervention in the smallest details of the lives of his congregation.

He was deeply struck by Marlowe’s daughter, however, and he played along with the whole system just so he could win Mary Elizabeth’s heart. Though a very pretty girl, no one ever suspected she had any thoughts of her own. She dressed very conservatively and tended to be introverted. With a strongly opinionated father, how else could she be?

Not very long after they were married, Ed started to miss church and within a year he had joined his work buddies at the nightly bar stop before going home. Mary Elizabeth, on the advice of her father, left him and moved back in with her parents. That only served to give Ed permission to engage in whatever he wanted. After a DUI last January, he slowed down for a while but resumed the plunge into self-destruction soon after probation.

Now, as his name was called, he moved to the front of the courtroom.

“Edward Hammberg?” The bailiff called out.

“Yes sir.”

“Well young man, you look familiar. When were you before me last?” the judge inquired.

“Uh, last January, sir,” Ed stated.

“Yes, I believe that’s right, and my record states that we had a conversation about alcohol abuse. How have you been doing with that? Are you attending those classes I sent you to?”

“Oh yes, sir. I went to all of them, sir. All ten weeks.”

Ed was a bit nervous about the question but had attended the AA classes faithfully through the probationary time.

“So then, tell me what happened on the 25th; last Wednesday evening.” Judge Parker prompted.

 

Becky and Ramona stood next to each other serving in the meal line at City Reach. As each person passed in front of her she placed a generous portion of scrambled eggs on their plate and gave them a smile. She also noticed that as the morning flew by she recognized the feeling of joy at participating in this act of kindness and that it energized her. In fact, it became a genuine, fulfilling activity that affirmed her in ways that little else had for a long time. This must be what Becky had referred to last night about becoming who she was wired to be.

She was also to be something else. Morning sickness seemed to be passing more easily but now she had noticed her body starting to exhibit physical signs of pregnancy. Standing that morning in front of Becky’s mirror she could see her profile was changing. The idea of motherhood was settling in to a certain degree and unlike her initial rejection, acceptance of this idea was truly a miracle.

“I don’t know Becky, but I’m thinking I might be able to do this mothering thing; that is, I think I might want to try.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Ramona. I’ll help but I believe you have the self-confidence inside you to raise a child once you’ve made that decision. You are a strong person, you know. Just look at how your conversation went with Paul. You showed your strong side!”

“Yeah, I kind of surprised myself there. But I was ticked and he needed to hear the truth. Of course, I guess I need to hear the truth about my own actions, too.”

Marona; I mean Ra-mo-na,” Marcy had just moved into view. “How’s your Dad doin’ today; how’s he doin’ I mean?”

“Good morning, Marcy! Well, I saw him last night and he fell asleep on me so I plan to get back after I’m done here. Thank you for asking.”

“Awright, that sounds good. Tell him I’m prayin’ for him, OK, I’m prayin’.”

Then Ramona said something she wouldn’t have dreamed of proposing six months ago.

“Would you like to go with me, Marcy, to see my Dad?”

“Yup, I would. Then I can pray for him myself! I’ll be waitin’; whenever you’re ready! I’m goin’ to the hospital to pray for her dad,” she told the man in line next to her. “He’s real sick!”

 

Ed finished his rehearsal of the night of the accident. The responding officer that night gave his report, which largely matched what Ed said. To the judge, the facts were pretty clear that Ed really was not at fault. However, since the judge knew Ed and his propensity for alcohol addiction, he decided an additional rehabilitation effort might be helpful. The judge knew Pastor Marlowe and a little of the home life situation of the Hammbergs and in his wisdom he had a brilliant idea.

“Mr. Hammberg,” he started, “your story and the officer’s story are close enough that I feel like this Mr. Paul Wieser, the victim in this incident, was primarily at fault here, even though you should have maintained control of your vehicle. I also believe that with your record and tendency to want to drive when you have had more alcohol than you should, you need a little accountability in your life. I will call your employer and have a conversation with him but I am assigning you some community service.”

Ed shifted on his feet.

“I am going to have you show up three days a week for three hours a day for a total of six weeks at the service organization, City Reach, down on Main. You can find it. Report back to me in six weeks and we will debrief. Understood?”

“Yes sir, your honor!” Ed replied.

“Next?” the judge queried.

Ed paused for a minute before shuffling off. What was this place? Six weeks? Talk to his boss? Little did he know what was in store for his and Mary Elizabeth’s future.

Storied Past – 16

“Do you know him?” Ramona whispered, not wanting the other bed to eavesdrop.

“Well he, I, I mean he was in the shop a few weeks ago and was hitting on me.”

“On you? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure it was him. Wait, do you know him too?”

“Honestly, I wish I didn’t, but he,” she lowered her voice to where she was only mouthing the words. “He’s the one who attacked me that night, Becky!”

Becky’s face lost color as the news sunk in. “Yikes! That changes a few things.”

Ramona took Becky’s arm and led her out of the room.

“I have not seen this guy since that night, Becky, and I’m not going to let him get away again until I’ve straightened out a few things. I mean it. I feel like pushing his gurney back out into the street and letting that truck have another try!”

“I’m sure you do, Ramona, but look at it this way. Maybe God allowed this to happen to him so he could stop and think about life for a change.”

“I don’t know. What he’s been doing might be pretty hard to change. I mean, look, he charms all these women, has his way and then disappears. He gets what he wants and escapes any consequences. Pretty good gig, from his perspective.”

“Ramona, I know you will remember that there are rules about life; rules that say whatever you sow, you will reap. In other words, at some point, you can’t escape those consequences. It may be that now is that time.”

“Are you saying that because I left church looking to have fun; because I wanted to enjoy my friends and party that I deserved what I got? I didn’t deserve getting pregnant the first time I was with a guy and it wasn’t even my own choice! I was raped, Becky and he needs to pay for that, not me!”

The girl slowed down for a minute to let a nurse pass. Becky spoke up first.

“I’m just saying that along with pursuing justice there is also a bigger picture here. None of this took God by surprise. Not your legalistic background, not the early death of your mother, not your exploring the fun side of life and not the rape. The fact is He still and always has loved you, Ramona. You have been handed a challenging situation now and how you work through it will set the tone for the rest of your life.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, this guy hurt you deeply, I know. Even though your choices put you in a vulnerable place, his actions were very wrong. The facts at this point are that you are pregnant and whether you choose to have the baby or not, it will change your life from what you probably thought it would be.”

“That’s for sure!” Ramona sighed.

“So when I said it didn’t take God by surprise I mean He can accommodate any detours you may take on the way to becoming who you already are.”

“I’m sorry. That sounded pretty confusing, Becky. Becoming who I am? If I already am then why do I need to become that?”

“Ramona, you were born with gifts, a calling and a destiny. You are a unique, one-of-a-kind creation. You have dreams, passions and needs like we all do. But it takes time and opportunity to realize that calling and actually become who we were wired to be.”

“OK,” Ramona replied. “I think I am starting to get that. But how do you know all this stuff? I never heard it in church. I think we mostly were taught we had to become holy, stay holy and then . . . and then, well I don’t know what because I never made it that far. To be a Pastor or a Pastor’s wife was the highest achievement anyone could hope for.”

“That is a calling, but it is not the calling for everyone. There are so many places to serve God and each other and none is better or worse than another. The key is to find that calling you are passionate about and do it with excellence.”

“I guess I did an excellent job of screwing up my life. I wonder if I can ever undo the mess.”

“Ramona, there are some things that can’t be undone. The good news is that there is hope. Hope that despite the mess we may have made, God doesn’t throw up his hands in despair and say something like, ‘There you’ve gone and done something even I can’t fix, Ramona. Good luck, you’re on your own!’ He wants to be in your life and help you become who He created you to be.”

Ramona stared at the still life print on the wall behind Becky. It was faded from so many years hanging in this one spot. At one time the colors were brilliant and happy, but now they were all some varying shade of lavender, bleached yellow and faded red. It struck her that what she had become was a still life image without vibrancy.

Just a few months ago she thought the church couldn’t stop her and the whole world was waiting to show her a rocking good time. Filled with excitement to open each prettily wrapped “Box of Chocolates,” she quickly admitted naivete when one of the first boxes she opened contained a snake; which bit her badly.

She closed her eyes. A tear stole out from one side. Becky noted this and immediately asked God for direction in her response.

“Let’s go home, Ramona. We both need some rest.”

 

Driven by the wind, a steady rain started hitting the window by Paul’s bed rather hard. Along with the darkness, it accentuated the isolation that Paul was feeling. Here he was in this hospital bed; no one he knew was anywhere close and not really able to call anyone just yet.

His parents were divorced and his father moved to the east coast with a new bride. Within a few months, he passed away leaving his mother still in the small town 30 miles away. Paul’s job in sales brought him through Maple Valley every few weeks, which is why he ran into Ramona that night in the roadhouse.

He had few friends since leaving high school due partly to an itinerant work schedule. Craving the popularity he once enjoyed, he replaced the hard work of building quality relationships with manipulative encounters. His inattention to a proper work ethic and several bouts with too much alcohol had resulted in dismissal from his job a few days before the accident.

Truth be known, he had slipped into a depression. That foray into church a few nights before, though he didn’t realize it, was a desperate cry for some kind of help. He had heard about Jesus somewhere in the past but really had hoped to talk to some friendly face. If only he had seen one!

– To Be Continued –

Storied Past – 15

A look of fear and guilt pushed Paul’s eyes to maximum width. A deed of pure selfishness and utter wrong resurfaced in his mind. If it were other circumstances, he may have charmed his way out of the girl’s certain confrontation. But he could do nothing but lay there in captive submission to whatever she surely was about to unleash on him.

Ramona was so stunned no words came. An awkward awareness of the situation crept up into her brain along with the flush on her face. Paul, or at least that guy; the guy she had spent that evening with in the roadhouse and then . . . and then, well the awful hours and days that followed.

“Paul?” She whispered. “What . . . what happened to you?” She realized the immediate circumstances obviously dominated the initial conversation.

“I . . . I was going to call you.” He stammered out in a weak, muffled voice. “I . . . I’m sorry I . . . ”

“Mister, Paul, or whoever you are, don’t even.” Ramona said in a measured but strong, quiet voice. “I asked you what happened, that’s all. Can you at least give me enough respect to answer me with a little straight truth?” She was gaining confidence with every syllable.

“I’m sorry: yes, I can.” He started to really grasp the vulnerability of his position in this unexpected encounter. There was no way to run even if he wanted to.

“Well, I was walking across the street in an unlighted crosswalk and got hit by some idiot’s truck.”

“Hmmmm.” Ramona breathed. Her mind went to all sorts of responses she could have spat out, like, “Yeah, I did too,” or, “I think the idiot was in the crosswalk,” but to her surprise, she restrained herself.

“Is anything broken?” She kept it practical.

“Well, my chest hurts, my head is wrapped as you can see, and my left leg is in some sort of a cast, I think.”

“Ramona.”

Mr. Beckett called softly from the next bed. “Ramona, could you step over here for a minute?”

Ramona moved around the curtain again to face her father.

“Dad, that is the guy,” she whispered. “The guy I met before . . . I mean, he’s the guy who attacked me. What do I do?”

“Serious? You mean he’s the baby’s father?” Beckett whispered too.

“Yes,” she whispered back. “I know it’s him. What should I do?”

“Well,” he started, “well he’s not going anyplace soon, that’s for sure. We have time to figure it out.”

That was one thing about her father she really respected. He was wise about things. She knew he could analyze and process things very well and he always seemed to come to good decisions about hard situations. Well, except for that irrational outburst in the mercantile store. That was really so unlike his regular demeanor. Church stuff made him act irrational too, though. She had to say that.

“Ramona?” Now the other bed was calling. “Ramona, I . . . I really am sorry. I hope we can have a conversation when I get better. I want to, I mean I’ve been thinking, I mean before this accident, that I need some help. I have been messed up and something has to change. Would you . . . be willing to talk to me, I mean in spite of what I did to you?”

“Mister, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it. But you aren’t going anywhere soon and I know where you are and I intend to have a short conversation with you, along with somebody like Officer Riley.”

“Really? You would really do that? I know I deserve it. Never mind; just never mind. I mean, please, can’t we just talk first?

“Well, mister, the last time we talked you charmed my pants right off me and that will never happen again!” She spat this out with a venomous edge to her voice now.

“I know, and the drug was totally wrong, too. But that’s what I want to talk about. I . . . well, I need you to know that I wish I could do that night differently. You are such a great girl and I so took advantage of you, I’m . . . I’m such a toad.”

This last sentence seemed to take a great effort to get out of Paul. He looked drained. The whole shock of seeing Ramona in this context and him in such a vulnerable position weakened him physically and emotionally.

Ramona looked at him with a truck load of skepticism. “I will be back. You can be sure of that,” and moved back to the other side. Her father had drifted off to sleep again so she sat down in the worn, plastic overstuffed chair to think. It was 8:25 pm.

Becky had quickly closed the coffee bar. The whole bizarre narrative that Ramona had reeled off earlier has occupied her mind all evening. Fact is, she had to remake a few drinks because she didn’t seem to be able to focus.

What a story! The whole part about the Edith angel, though a strange tale, was entirely in the realm of God activity. After all, hadn’t she and Jeremy prayed for an intervention no matter what or how?

Locking up, she hurried down the street toward the hospital. It was possible Ramona was still visiting her father and she wanted to be there for her.

And what about that guy in the next bed? She wanted to tell Ramona about him, too; that she thought she had encountered him in her coffee store.

The hospital elevator was so slow! But after an eternity and a stop on the second floor to let on an entire entourage of family from the second floor maternity ward, the elevator groaned to a stop on the third.

Confusion from the family about having gotten on the “Up” elevator when it should have been the “Down” caused the doors to open and shut several times before she could wriggle out through the crowd.

“Excuse me, I need to get out. Thank you.” Finally free, she hurried down the corridor to 314.

“Ramona? Oh, good, you’re still here.”

“Hey Becky, guess what? I have to tell you something!”

“Well, I have to tell you something,” Becky insisted.

“The guy in the next bed . . . ,” they both said at once.

Storied Past – 14

“Where are u? I need 2 talk,” the text read.

“Jeremy! It’s Ramona,” Becky said out loud. “She must be around here somewhere because she wants to meet up with me.”

“That is good news! I wonder where she has been hiding,” Jeremy responded excitedly.

“Yeah, Becky, where’s she been, I wonder where?” Marcy joined in a little louder.

Just then a voice from the next bed chimed in too. “Yeah, if that’s my Ramona, ask her where she’s been. She’s been darting off for days lately. I hope she’s ok.”

Becky moved around to the other side of the curtain so she could address Mr. Beckett again.

“I don’t know yet. I’m responding to her now by text. I hope she’s ok, too. I was afraid she’d left town or something.”

“Oh, God have mercy,” Beckett sighed. “I don’t know why she would do that. Don’t know why she would just take off without saying anything. We don’t have much family so where would she go. Everything she needs is right here in Maple Valley. That’s what sin does! It will take you farther than you will want to go.”

“She must have thought her options had run out here.” Becky didn’t want to get into a religious argument with Mr. Beckett but she did want to present another possibility. Maybe it would give him something to think about.

“Or maybe she is running from something,” she ventured.

“Well she can’t run from her predicament, that’s for sure. The best thing for her to do is get back to church and serve God.”

Just then he winced with pain. His monitor started ticking faster. Becky darted out of the room immediately to find a duty nurse. Jeremy expressed concern and tried to comfort him. Marcy started praying.

Ramona heard the tone on the phone’s message app.

“I’m visiting someone at the hospital but I want to meet you right away. I need to be at work in 45. Want to come there?”

“K” she responded. “See u.”

An intern hurried into the room. “Excuse me,” he barked, “it looks like he needs to rest. Too much excitement. Maybe you should come back later.”

“No worries. Come on, Marcy, we need to let Mr. Beckett rest awhile.”

They both quickly exited.

Becky usually covered the 2-8 pm shift since she was a fairly new hire at Holy Grounds. Foot traffic was lighter in the afternoon and attracted mostly die hard coffee and tea drinkers. She pulled her uniform apron over her head and clocked in. A few minutes later Ramona strode in carrying a valise and flowered overnight bag. Setting them down near a table in the back she approached the counter nearest Becky.

“Hey,” she nodded to Becky.

“Hey yourself,” Becky said. “Are you ok.”

“I think so. You won’t believe what happened though.” Between espresso pulls and tea steeping, Ramona related the events since storming out of the apartment.

“And that’s why I had to get back here,” she finished. “What do you think it means?”

“Wow, that is quite a story. And I think you are right to pay attention. Sometimes weird things happen to shake up our world so we will change direction.”

“Right?” Ramona observed with the faddish rhetorical question. “But I don’t know what to do, really. I thought I needed to . . . to be done with my situation and move on with my life and then, then just when I take steps to do it, it’s like I get stopped by an angel. How crazy is that?”

“Ramona, I’m here for you. I will try to help as much as I can. If you want to keep the baby it would be hard, for sure, but it needs to be a decision you make and feel you can live with.”

She hesitated for a moment but felt she had to say the next part.

“I know you know this, but remember, it is another real person, a life with a future and a destiny who deserves a chance. I hope you will give that person a chance to live that future.”

“Thanks, Becky. I am; I have been thinking about that part. I need to go, to see my dad.” She dashed out before Becky could tell her anything else.

Mr. Beckett was resting more comfortably now. Reflecting on the past hour or so, he thought about his conversation with Becky.

“I guess I shouldn’t have been so harsh with her,” he reasoned. “After all, she probably doesn’t know as much about salvation and God’s ways as I do, or as much as Ramona.”

“Speaking of Ramona, I wonder if she will come see me. Maybe I should dial it back a little and at least try to be happy to see her. Sure miss her mom.”

Arriving at the hospital, Ramona inquired where her father’s room was and as she got onto the elevator a dread of facing him started to form. How would she explain her actions? Should she say anything about her bus trip? About Edith?

As she arrived at the third floor she decided that maybe avoiding trying to explain everything would be best. Mainly she wanted to see how he was doing and would try to stick to that topic.

Entering room 314 Ramona put on a cheerful face.

“Hi Dad! Are you feeling better?”

“Hey, pumpkin. You did come. I was hoping you might.”

“Yeah, dad, I’ve been . . . occupied, but I really should have come sooner. I’m sorry. Are they treating you alright?”

“Yep, except they keep waking me up every two hours to give me shots. Won’t let a guy get any rest. And that new friend of yours came in a couple of hours ago and, well, I . . . ”

“Who came in? You mean Becky? Did she come to see you?”

“Well no, she came to see the guy in the other bed. She didn’t know I was here. That guy was in an accident with a pickup. I think the pickup won.”

“Ouch!” Ramona said. “Who is he?”

“Don’t know. She didn’t know either at first but then I heard her say she recognized him from work.”

Ramona stood up and peered around the curtain. A scream shot out from her mouth and she just as quickly slapped her hand up to stop it. It was too late. The young man’s eyes opened just enough to see where the noise had come from and then they opened all the way with a terrified look.

Storied Past – 13

Mr. Beckett had just finished breakfast. The remote control was in his hand and he was trying to figure it out. This was a relatively new experience for him as television was looked down on by the church. “Devil-vision,” the Pastor used to call it. “Just another way for Satan to get a hold on your family,” he said. But since he was in the hospital and he was captive to this bed . . . and, since he didn’t ask for it, it was just there, he felt like he had a free pass to explore what was offered.

But interrupting his well rationalized curiosity of forbidden treats was a walk-in who looked vaguely familiar along with a young man and a vagrant.

“Do I know you?” he asked.

“Oh, not really,” Becky returned. “I was with Ramona at the Mercantile store when you . . . uh, when I saw you talking to her. I heard you had a heart attack. Are you feeling better?” This was more awkward that she wanted but knew that since she had spoken first she had better follow through.

“Oh, that.” Beckett exhaled slowly. “Yeah, I was kinda stupid. Yes, I am feeling much better, thank you. Did you come up here to see me?”

“Well, no, not really. I wasn’t expecting that you would be in the same room. I mean, I, we, came to see the guy in the other bed. He was in an accident and was nearly killed.”

“They brought him in here earlier. He looked pretty bad. Do you know him?”

“Well, not yet. We’re hoping we can find out soon. Um, nice meeting you.”

“Yeah, you too.” Beckett said.

Becky walked around the curtain to where Marcy and Jeremy stood looking at the young man laying very still. There were traction devices holding up a cast on one leg and a partial body cast enclosed his upper body and left shoulder. The essential feeding and medicinal tubes were attached to him. It reminded her of that scene in the last Matrix movie where all those babies were in clear cocoons attached to feeding tubes waiting for their bodies to be harvested. Yikes!

His eyes were closed and his face puffy. Wait; his face! She had seen this guy before! Where was it?

 

Ramona’s journey seemed to be taking forever. She needed to get back and talk to Becky; to see what she had to say about all this weird stuff going on. Only another hour or so and she would be home.

The weather continued to be mild; a little brisk, though. Big, cumulus clouds were spaced so that the bright sunshine made it seem a little warmer than it really was.

Ramona started thinking about her father. She did leave him when he probably needed her to be there; to be supportive even if she was angry with him. That part made her start to feel bad about her behavior. If only he could understand her! If only they could have a relationship more like when Mom was there. He acted happier back then—not so intense.

But the confusing thing to her was that Becky was a Christian too. Yet, their dispositions were quite different. Her dad was usually uptight and appeared angry and sullen at times. Becky never came across like that. What was the difference? As she thought about it, even though people at church seemed friendly, there was this . . . undercurrent of tension, like people weren’t really free to be normal. Like someone was always watching to make sure they didn’t break the rules.

Maybe that was it! That was what she was trying to characterize in her mind. She wanted the freedom to be herself. To live life being real, not who someone else thought she should be. Couldn’t she just enjoy being a young, energetic girl; just go do fun things with friends and not feel like she was being spied on by God’s secret agent pastors?

Of course, not everything she enjoyed was frivolous. Helping people inspired her. She remembered the warm, benevolent stories from the Bible, especially those where Jesus was often visibly affected by the plight of the poor or sick. He healed them and taught about loving and caring for one another. She was always deeply moved when she saw others in need.

She would ask Becky about that, too. She seemed to live life like that. Ramona thought helping people who were poor and needing some help and friendship might be a good thing for her, as well. That City Reach place was doing stuff like that so maybe she could volunteer there sometime.

 

Marcy stared at the man lying silently. “He kinda’ looks dead, Becky. Is he breathing?” she whispered with a coarse voice. Whispering was not comfortable for Marcy.

“Yes. His heart is beating. Hear that bleep from the machine over there?” Jeremy answered for Becky. She was a bit stunned yet.

“Jeremy, this was the guy that came into Holy Grounds a few weeks ago.” She murmured. “He was hitting on me, trying to get me to meet him after work.”

“Seriously?” he whispered back. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure it was him. He was nice but a little too syrupy for me. I didn’t buy what he was selling. Besides, Brad and I are still seeing each other and I didn’t want to ruin that.”

“Shoun’t we pray for him again Becky ‘n Jermy, shoun’t we?” Marcy asked in her best gravelly whisper voice. “We could just ask God to help him git better quick so we could git him saved,” she offered.

“Sure, let’s pray.” Again, Jeremy intervened for Becky who was still in shock at the discovery. He reached out and laid his hand gently on the man’s shoulder.

“Father, please watch over this man and bring healing to his broken body. Allow us an opportunity very soon to tell him about your love for him. Thank you.”

In the next bed, Mr. Beckett lay quietly, straining to hear the conversation. The TV had lost its attraction for the moment. He had never seen these people in church yet they prayed with such brazen faith. And that odd woman who massacred grammar; she didn’t look like a Christian either!

“Pretty scruffy, if you ask me,” he thought. “I don’t know how God would listen to her dressed like that.”

Just then a vibration jolted Becky into cognizance. It was a text . . . from Ramona!

-To Be Continued-