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Thoughts on Music, Community, and Spirituality
02 April 2017

Mary Never Cooks Potatoes (Sunday Psalms Series)

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Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives & Poetry Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical Works

Josh shoved the plate of food across the table. He hated Annie’s Diner, and these lunch dates with Walter left him exhausted.

“I don’t like potatoes,” Walter informed the steaming plate.

“It’s cauliflower.” Josh could feel the muscles in his neck constrict. He hated these frequent displays of irritation that kept creeping up. He was abrupt with his wife and yelled at the dog. Lunch with Walter always put him in a mood.

“They look like potatoes. Mary never cooks potatoes. She knows I hate those mushy things.”

“That’s good. They’re not potatoes. Cauliflower.” Josh pointed his finger at the white florets and handed a fork to Walter. The old man always took so long to eat. An hour could crawl by with most meal of his remaining.

“How is everything?” A young server with braces approached. Her name tag said “Kelsey.” Her fingernails were hot pink.

“We’re fine,” Josh said, forcing himself to be polite.

“I don’t like potatoes,” Walter piped up. He jutted his chin out and tossed the fork aside.

“Potatoes? Did I bring you potatoes? Oh dear.” The girl instantly put her hand to her chest as if the world was going to implode.

“No, no. We’re fine. You didn’t bring potatoes. He gets confused.” Josh shook his head and ran his fingers through thinning hair. He was always apologizing for Walter.

“Mary never cooks potatoes, you know,” Walter informed the girl as if he was revealing top-secret information.

“Mary? Who’s Mary?” the girl asked. Walter’s eyes twitched at her as if she had asked who Oprah Winfrey was.

“Mary’s my girl,” Walter told her, proud as a young buck. “She’s the prettiest girl in school. We’re getting married next week. Bought her a ring fit for Queen Elizabeth.”

Kelsey looked to Josh for help. He gave her a sympathetic smile, kindly dismissing her. She was new. Walter always insisted they had served him potatoes. She didn’t know he liked ketchup on his cauliflower or honey in his coffee, or that he refused to order from the senior menu.

“Mary makes the best apple pie, you know.” Walter peered through goggle-thick glasses, making sure Josh was listening.

“Yes, I know,” Josh tersely repeated the phrase. Walter concluded most sentences with “you know.” This subtle habit was more annoying to Josh than when Walter wore his clothes inside out or insisted on paying for everything with coins.

Lately, Walter’s mission was to make sure everyone knew about Mary. Where they met, their first dance, their children. Josh would listen to the ancient anecdotes, waiting for the opportunity to cut him off and focus on whatever task was at hand. Today was Wednesday. Lunch at Annie’s Diner. Today the task was eating.

Josh sighed and examined his own plate. The sight of juicy beef, melted cheddar, and mayo comforted him. The crispy fries helped too. The chocolate shake almost made him forget his annoyance. These days, food was the one thing he enjoyed. His tight pants bore witness to that. He took a bite out of the burger and told himself he’d start exercising next week. Maybe it would release some of the stress and make lunch with Walter less burdensome.

“You look sad.” Walter wasn’t eating. His arms were crossed, and he examined Josh like the younger man was an exhibit in a museum window. “My son used to get sad sometimes.”

“I’m fine,” Josh said and felt a bit of compassion return. He was being too hard on the old guy. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t remember anything that had happened in the last thirty years. “Go on. Eat the cauliflower. And look—you’ve got meatloaf. That’s your favorite. Here’s the ketchup.”

Walter peered at the food items Josh had described and slowly accepted the instructions. While Josh devoured his meal, Walter took one cautious bite at a time. Every few bites he would make sure to tell Josh, “Mary cooks better than this, you know.”

Yes. Josh did know.

“How is everything?” Kelsey popped back to the table, her braces beaming with new-employee energy. Walter launched into a fresh series of “Mary” facts while Josh sipped his milkshake. Kelsey proved an attentive listener.

“What’s that?” Walter had just been telling Kelsey how Mary brewed the best lemonade in the state when he suddenly sat up and glanced around the diner. He reminded Josh of a blood hound catching a scent.

“What?” Kelsey tried to find what Walter was staring at.

“Do you hear it?”

“Oh, the music? Yeah, Annie got in a jukebox. Found it…” Before Kelsey could finish her explanation, Walter was out his seat, shuffling over to the brightly lit box where the voice of Nat King Cole poured from the speakers. The old man spread his fingers across the contraption, his eyes bulging life. He hummed along, his foot kept time. He was in heaven.

When the song ended, Walter smacked the side of the jukebox as if that would do the trick.

“Here you go.” Josh walked over with a handful of quarters. Walter snatched up a half-dozen and shoved them into the slot. Together, they selected a variety of tracks from the forties and fifties. The first song was a Dean Martin tune. Gripping the sides of the jukebox, Walter bobbed his head along to the rich voice; he even swayed a little.

“That’s our song. Mary and me dance to it every night, you know.”

“It’s a great song,” Josh agreed. He laughed when Walter closed his eyes and belted out the words with gusto.

Eventually the music ended and Dean’s voice disappeared. Walter slowly turned to Josh. He squinted, looking him up and down, and said, “I love you, son.”

“What did you say?” Josh jerked his head up from the milkshake menu he’d been perusing during the last chorus.

“I love you, son,” Walter repeated. He reached out a wrinkled hand and patted him on the shoulder. More than a year had passed since Walter last recognized him.

“I love you too, Dad.” Josh sniffed back the threat of tears. He wasn’t going to cry in the middle of this crappy diner.

Walter turned his attention back to the jukebox. He rubbed his hand across the glass and gave it a few taps. “My son used to like music. Last week he brought home a new record by some new kids from England. You ever heard of the Beatles? Most of the parents don’t like them, but they’re pretty good, you know.”

Yes, The Beatles were pretty good.

The jukebox went on to a new song, and the lucidity passed. They were back to being Josh and Walter. But for that brief moment they had been father and son again.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. Psalm 71:9 (ASV)

And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. Ephesians 5:18-19 (ASV)

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 (ASV)

Question to Ponder: Who are the forgotten ones in your community?

Song Recommendations: Dance by Caedmon’s Call, Grandma’s Hands by Bill Withers

Film Recommendation: Alive Inside

-Read Previous Sunday Psalms from Season Two: Episode 1Episode 2, Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5,Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8Episode 9, Episode 10,Episode 11, Episode 12,Episode 13, Episode 14, Episode 15, Episode 16,  Episode 17Episode 18, Episode 19, Episode 20, Episode 21, Episode 22, Episode 23, Episode 24Episode 25, Episode 26

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Embracing life’s wilderness through music & community

To support future Chasing Ebenezer endeavors, visit our Donations Page! 

Written by Heidi Beth Sadler, Inspired by Psalm 97, Ephesians 5, & Malachi 4. Copyright © 2017 Benjamin & Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.

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