Although relatively new to freelance writing, Lisandra Bergey’s article “He is Not Removed From Us” was published online for CampusCrosswalk.org, a magazine aimed for campus ministries and Christian college students, particularly within the Churches of Christ denomination. She holds a BA in Journalism-Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and a Master of Science in Bible and Ministry from Lubbock Christian University. A true Sooner at heart, Lisandra was born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma, where she lives today. She is currently writing her debut novel.
“Mary, can I get another piece of pie?”
Mary spun around, coffeepot in one hand and an order pad in the other. Joe always brought a smile to her day. “Sure. One slice of coconut cream coming up.”
“Hey, I heard the teen girls Bible class was a huge hit.” “God blessed me with that.” She smiled as she served the pie and refreshed his cup of coffee. A little after 11 a.m. the door chimed.
“It’s George,” Martha said dryly from her perch on the right-hand side of the register. She pushed aside the calculator and stack of bills that never seemed to balance. “I swear he brought bad luck with him when he walked through that door a year ago. I’ve got him.”
“No, I’ll go.” Mary fixed a smile on her face and went to his table, determined to win him with kindness. Lord help me.
“Hey, George,” she said brightly. “What can I get for you?” George narrowed his eyes. “A little perky this morning, aren’t you?”
“Well, I don’t know what good it would do to be otherwise. I mean, look at this great day we’re blessed with.” Mary wanted to bite her tongue. She’d meant only to kindly take his order—nothing more, nothing less.
“I’ll have the usual, and leave the side of preachy judgment to yourself. I like the coffee black.” George slammed the menu down so harshly it slid onto the floor. Mary retrieved it and walked back to her counter, deflated. She placed the order with the cook and put a fresh pot of coffee on to brew.
“Don’t let him get to you,” Joe said. “Keep trying and God will get through to him.”
“Have you looked at the calendar? I don’t have much time. George doesn’t either.”
“Do what you can and leave the rest to God.” Joe left a generous tip on the counter and walked out whistling.
Mary served George’s order and to him. “Here ya go, George.” She laid the plate in front of him and filled his cup with coffee.
“Did you run away with the cook? I wanted the coffee ten minutes ago. No wonder this place is empty. You people got lousy service.” He shoved a forkful of food into his mouth. He motioned his elbow to the window, indicating a new business going in across the street. “If that’s a new restaurant, I may go there.”
Mary remained silent as she left the check on the table and busied herself with filling salt shakers. Mr. Lake had come in through the back door and was in an intense discussion with Martha.
“Isn’t there anything I can work out with you? My parents were good customers at the bank, and I need this. Elijah’s medical bills are due, too. Please? Tourism season is coming. Business always picks up. You knew my family, what it would mean to my parents to keep this place open. And my sister—”
Mr. Lake sighed and his shoulders drooped. “Martha, I’ve cut you every break I can. I’m sorry, especially with all you’ve been through. But my boss is demanding this payment or my job is on the line. I’ve got kids, too. I’ll be there until the thirty-first at midnight.”
Mary took the shakers and went back to her work, knowing that Martha wouldn’t have wanted her to hear the conversation or even discuss it. She began to pray and to craft ideas to save the diner. Her shift passed quickly, but she offered to stay longer.
“Go on,” Martha said. “I need to do the shopping and restock the kitchen. No one will come in for dinner rush tonight anyway.”
Mrs. Harrison walked in just before Mary left. “Do you mind if I get an order to go?”
“Anything you want,” Mary said.
“Well, it would be better if you could bring it to me.”
A surge of excitement hit Mary as she handed Mrs. Harrison her order. That’s it!She burst through the double doors of the back room. “Martha!”
Martha jumped and almost dropped the plates she was holding. “You scared me. You have that crazy look on your face.”
“Delivery. We deliver orders to customers.”
“Mary, we can’t even get them to come in now.”
“That’s just it. Why not offer delivery?” Mary was so excited she didn’t wait for Martha to respond. “I’ll tell you why. People don’t have the patience to wait anymore. But if we take their food to them, they won’t have to.”
“No one else offers it. But I don’t know—”
“Come on, Martha. Take a risk. Please?”
“We’ll try. That’s all I can promise.”
Business boomed the first week they offered delivery service, but it died down the second when the new restaurant opened across the street. Surprisingly, George didn’t abandon them, though Mary wondered that she didn’t see Joe.
“I don’t get it,” Mary said, scanning a diner that was twice as it empty as it had been. “We were doing so well.”
“Did ya really think you could compete with ‘America’s Diner?’” George said gruffly. “They got a dine-in, take-out, pick-up, delivery, and a drive-through. You can place your orders over the Internet, and they serve everything you don’t.”
Mary slammed the coffeepot down on the table and slid onto the seat across from him. “George, something really terrible must have happened to you, because you are the most miserable, hateful person I have ever met. God can heal that pain. I’m truly sorry that you’ve been hurt so badly that you’d pour that hurt onto other people.”
George stared at her, seemingly bewildered, and slid a ten dollar bill onto the table to cover the tab. He got up, threw his napkin down, and barged out of the diner, the door banging behind him.
“What did you say to him?” Martha said, coming out of the back. “He’s practically the only paying customer we have left.”
“I was just trying to take care of him.” Mary blushed.
Martha put her hands on her hips. “You are way too idealistic sometimes. Close up for me. I have to take Elijah to the doctor.”
Mary prayed again and started busing the tables. Soon a young gentleman in a suit walked into the diner.
Mary approached him. “Hi. Can I get you some pie?”
“No, thank you. Is Martha Bethany here?”
“That’s my sister. What can I help you with?”
“Well, I’m trying to tidy up some lose ends. I understand she wants to sell.”
Mary’s mouth fell open. “Sell? We both own the diner and she never said anything to me. There must be some mistake.”
He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. “This is the contract she signed two weeks ago.”
Mary didn’t know what to think. “She’ll contact you in the morning.”
“Certainly.” The man got up to leave then turned toward Mary. “Listen, the offer to you and your sister still stands. You’re welcome to stay on the staff when the America’s Diner expands to this property. We need your expertise. And you’ve been fairly successful with advertising, considering what you’ve had to work with.” He wished her a good evening and strolled out of the diner.
Mary flipped the sign to CLOSED. She walked in a daze down the street and stepped off the curb to cross to the church. Tears flowed freely. She sank onto a pew and felt a presence behind her. “I failed. Martha’s gonna lose the diner, George will be George, and I don’t think that I have gotten through to anyone.”
Joe placed his hand on her shoulder. “I bet George would disagree.”
“Yeah, right. He melted on the spot, accepted Jesus, and he’ll be right in to be baptized.”
Joe chuckled. “What is it with people and instant gratification?”
“Maybe you need a new minister or missionary or whatever I am. Or I need a new job.”
“You’re right,” Joe handed her a sheet of paper.
“Your new assignment. Get packing, because you start on Monday.”
“Monday?” Mary looked at him in disbelief. “But Martha needs me. I can’t—”
“Martha will be fine. God has a much better path for her. She’ll be doing what God called her to do.” He checked his watch. “Good grief, it’s almost daylight.” Joe walked down the aisle, whistling his happy tune.
“And that is how you make Mom’s Hot Apple Pie,” Martha said while pulling the golden pie out of the oven.
TV host Kitty Ellsworth took a bite and nodded in approval. “That is delicious. If you want to learn how to make more great desserts you can check out ‘Just Like Mamma Makes’ on the Cooking Network or buy a copy of The Mom and Pop Recipe Book, on sale now. Thanks for being here today, Martha.”
The cameras stopped taping and Martha left the studio to go to her book signing. She was surprised to see a familiar face there. “Hi, George,” she said, remembering the way that Mary always had time to be kind.
“Good to see you, Martha,” he said.
George’s friendliness surprised Martha.
“I don’t know if you heard, but I became a Christian a year ago.”
“That’s wonderful! Praise God.” Martha was happy for the news, then her face darkened at the memory of last year.
He cleared his throat. “I sure miss your sister. Special young lady. And the diner. I loved the joy I saw there. Didn’t know how to get it until that night she talked to me.”
“Yeah. I miss her, too. But she’s just where God needs her now.”
“That she is,” he said smiling. “Hope she knows what an impact she made, and what you’re up to these days.”
Martha smiled. “I imagine she does.”