We ate thin cornmeal soup from wooden bowls with wooden spoons. He hadn't left the compound in years, so we mostly talked about the town. The church was pressing for repairs to the Fallen Cross, but no-one had the cash to pay the bill. He chastised me when I mentioned the bordellos, and urged me to avoid the numerous follies of youth. In so many respects, it was like I'd never left. The company here was never too slow for me. If a man's life is measured by his gusto, Preacher Man was ageless, mashing his way through his soup in next to no time at all.
'You can tell me,' I said.
I looked him in the eye. 'My yoke is anything but easy, and my burden is knowing I might not come home tomorrow.'
He turned his head and looked away from me. I wondered too late if maybe I'd pushed Preacher Man too far. Still, this Emmanuel and the promise of answers hovered just outside my reach, teasing in close and then flying away when I stretched out to them.
By the time I stepped back over the threshold, the light was fading. The heat had drained out of the day and it left me glad of my jacket. Behind me, the lights of the compound poured into the void, and God's own home in the desert became the coldest place on earth.
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