This is the next installment from the published manuscript, Landscape With Figures, by my grandmother, Beatrice Allen Page:
“Mr. Hollis finished up this noon. I was just about sitting down to a salad and a cup of coffee as he was about to leave, and I invited him to join me and was pleased that he accepted. I fixed up another salad and added some cold cuts and rolls, and we settled down a the kitchen table as comfortable with each other – at least for awhile – as two friends who have known each other for years.
Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, everything from the best way to make clam chowder to man’s ultimate fate. He had some rather whimsical notions that at first I found entertaining – an ingenious way, for instance, of reconciling a God of love with a just God that sees to it evil-doers don’t get off scot-freee.
‘A lovin’ God wouldn’t put a soul in hell and torture it forever and ever. I figure the Almighty gathers up the really bad ones that don’t show no sign of repentin’ and sort of kneads ’em together – you know, like the bits of dough that are left over when you’re cuttin’ out cookies. Then he rolls the whole lump out flat and cuts out new souls to be born on earth, just like you cut out new cookies from the bits of dough that would just be wasted otherwise.’
He also had a theory that the hate in men’s hearts is responsible not only for murders and ward but for accidents like plane crashes and even earthquakes.
‘You don’t believe that, do you, Miss Bee? Well, I’ll explain it. Do you know what causes lightnin’?’
I murmured something about it’s being a discharge of electricity.
He nodded. ‘You can’t see electricity, now, can you? But it’s all around just the same. And when it ‘cumulates in the atmosphere up to a certain point, it discharges in lightnin’ and somethin’ may get struck.’ He paused to make sure I understood him thus far. ‘Hate’s like that,’ he went on. ‘When it’s in our minds and hearts, it’s leakin’ out and poisonin’ the air all the time, and whenever enough ‘cumulates, it discharges and something’ bad happens somewhere.’
I decided quickly it would be better to change the subject than to argue with him, but before I could think of a topic he went on: ‘Did you ever stop to wonder how men can become so full of hate? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s demons. When a man don’t believe in God, then a demon moves in on him and uses him as a tool for his own purposes. I’ll tell you somethin’ else, Miss Bee, it ain’t just conflicts on earth like wars that’s goin’ on. There’s invisible forces of good and evil, angels and demons, wagin’ a mighty battle. Lucifer’s be’n awful busy since he got chucked out of heaven. He’s still tryin’ to gather enough followers to seize the power and make himself ruler of the world. That’s why it’s so important we know what’s goin’ on and stand up and be counted on the right side. Every vote counts.’
There was no twinkle in his eye and the more he talked, the deeper and stronger his voice became and the more he looked like some venerable prophet out of the Old Testament. I hadn’t suspected him of being a fanatic and I began to feel uneasy.
Suddenly he gave me a disarming smile. ‘You think I’m…’ He left the word unspoken and made a circular gesture with his forefinger beside his temple, ‘…don’t you?’
I smiled back. ‘Of course not! It’s just that this is all too deep for me.’ I swallowed the last of my coffee and crumpled up my paper napkin.
He took the hint, picked up his empty plate and cup and stood up. He did not move away from the table, though, and I felt his eyes on me as I gathered up my own things. There was a long moment of silence. I suppose I was frowning or betrayed my uneasiness in some way. Finally I looked up.
The twinkle was back in his eyes, expressing not so much amusement as fatherly tenderness. ‘Don’t worry, Miss Bee. The Almighty’s not goin’ to let go his hold on the universe. It’ll come out all right in the long run.’ He gave me a reassuring little chuckle. ‘In the meantime it’s a good thing to be as happy as you can and laugh as much as possible. That makes it harder for the demons. They don’t like joy and laughter, you know.’
He carried his dishes over to the sink.
‘Thanks for the lunch. I enjoyed it. And it’s be’n a really pleasure workin’ for you, Miss Bee.'”