“Lovely day,” Ethel said to me when we left the house, stepped into her beast of a Navigator, and pulled out of the driveway to pick up Tank at the airport, which had me tingling with anticipation because I was so desperate to see him again.

“I’m beginning to think that it’s always lovely here,” I said.  “I mean, every day since I’ve been here the sun has been shining.  The skies have been wide open with the bluest of blues, like they are now.  Back in the Northeast, where I was raised, it was much more of a mix—to the point that we pretty much called Spring mud season.  It was that wet—and that awful.”

“I have to say that here in Nebraska, we’d long for that kind of mix,” she said as we took off down the road.  “Water is often scarce here.  Yes, when the occasional thunderstorm or twister rips through our neck of the woods, we get hammered with rain.  But not often enough to saturate the land.  Instead, because it’s so dry here, the rain just runs off and causes floods.”

Always the downer in the room…

“Well, it’s still beautiful,” I said.

“I’m glad that you like it here, Lisa.  Perhaps after this week, Tank and you will visit more often.  Because goodness knows, his father and I aren’t getting any younger.  I’d hate to think that you’d keep our son from us.”

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“That you’d decide it wasn’t worth the time to make frequent visits.  Because you must know by now that we’d always welcome a visit from both of you.  And if on the off chance you couldn’t come due to your writing deadlines and obligations, I hope that you would let Mitchell come alone.  Because we do miss him.”

“Ethel, just so we are clear, Tank is his own man and he makes his own decisions.  I’ve never kept him from you.”

“But haven’t you?”

“No, I haven’t.  We didn’t come this past Christmas due to other obligations.  But here we are now, about to be married at your home.  That has to mean something.”

“I wonder if it does.  From what I understand, you had no choice but to get married here.”

“That isn’t true.  I could have gotten married at my parents’ home.”

“You mean at ‘the motel’.”

“Yes—their home sits on the property.  And it’s a lovely house with beautiful grounds.  But I want you to hear me on this.  When Tank mentioned that he’d like to get married in Prairie Home, I didn’t offer my parents’ home as an alternative—though I certainly could have, because they would have been delighted to host our wedding for us.  Instead, I agreed that we should come here if you’d have us.”

“And we did,” she said as she drove.  “We opened our arms and our home to you.  For the past several days, I’ve worked tirelessly at your side.”

“And I appreciate that,” I said.  “But I see where this is going, so before this conversation goes off the rails and one of us says something they’ll come to regret, I suggest that you recognize that I did have another option, I didn’t use it, and that I’d never keep Tank from you.  Are we clear?”

“I suppose,” she sighed.  “Enough talking for now.  In the glovebox is a new audiobook I’d like to listen to.  Would you grab it for me?  It’s called Pigs in the Parlor, and I chose it with you in mind.”

Oh, no you didn’t…

Pigs in the Parlor?” I said.  “Really, Ethel?  And you chose it with me in mind?”

“After finishing your books, yes, I did choose it with you in mind.  Not because of the title, but because of the content.  Read the description for yourself.  Because I am concerned about you, Lisa.”

“What’s to be concerned about?”

“The reasons are addressed in the book.”

I’m not going to let you get to me, Ethel.  It’s not happening—not today.  Not when I’m about to see Tank.  I just need to rise way above the bullshit you’re serving me right now, and act like none of this is touching me.

And so I removed the CD from the glovebox and read the description aloud.  “‘In Pigs in the Parlor, Frank Hammond explains the practical application of the ministry of deliverance, patterned after the ministry of Jesus Christ.  He presents information on such topics as:  How demons enter, when deliverance is needed, the seven steps in receiving and ministering deliverance, the seven steps in maintaining deliverance, demon manifestations, and practical advice for the deliverance minister.  The Hammonds also present a categorized list of 53 demonic groupings, including various behavior patterns and addictions.’”

Stunned, I just turned to her.  “Do you honestly believe that I have a demonic manifestation, Ethel?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I’m conflicted.”

“How are you conflicted?”

“Because of the things you write, and the ease in which you write them.  And because you write them so convincingly, I have to believe that there must be a reason for all of it.  That you’ve somehow experienced some of the things you’ve written about in order to be so detailed about all of it.”

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh in her face—or punch her in the face.

“Do you even know the definition of a demonic manifestation, Ethel?  Because I do.  I’ve researched it for my books.”

“Of course I know what it means,” she said. 

“You do?” I said incredulously.  “You really do?”

“I said that I do.”

“Fine.”  I pulled my phone out of my handbag and switched it on.  “Then if you do know, let me underscore just how offensive you’re being by getting a proper definition of it.”  I pressed a button on my phone and said, “Glo, what is the definition of demonic manifestation?”

“Let me check on that,” Glo said.  “OK!  Here’s what I found about demonic manifestation on the Web.  Traits:  Foul body odors, hearing animals speak, levitation or astro-projection, snarling or growling with hatefulness or viciousness, eyes rolling back in the sockets, evil speech, hearing voices, and foaming at the mouth.  Would you like to hear more, Lisa?”

“I would,” I said.

“Well, I wouldn’t,” Ethel said as she stiffened in the seat next to me.

But Glo didn’t give a damn about what Ethel wanted to hear—she just kept talking.

“OK!” Glo continued in a voice that was so bright and cheerful, it had no place in this vehicle.  “Here are additional traits of demonic manifestation.  Drooling from the mouth, barking or hissing uninhibitedly, bursts of increased and violent strength, taking joy and satisfaction at another person’s tragedy, flittering, wagging or sticking the tongue out, continual torment, and patterns of shrill, over-bearing and annoying laughter—”

“That’s enough,” Ethel said.

“It is enough,” I agreed as I shut off my phone.  “You just crossed another line with me, you did it deliberately, and so I have to wonder—why do you continue to push my buttons?  What kind of sick pleasure do you get out of it?  And why do you believe that I’m forever going to allow you to do so?  Because I’m not.  I won’t.  My patience with you has just met its end.”

“I’m trying to help you.”

“I don’t want or need your help.  But I will tell you this, Ethel—if I have to use my back-up plan, I will.”

“What back-up plan?”

“Two days ago, I called a church just outside of Prairie Home.  I told them about the situation I was in, and they agreed that if things went sour between us and I needed them, Tank and I could get married there on Saturday.”

“Who did you talk to about this?  Which church?  I’m known in this town!”

“It’s none of your business.  But here’s your takeaway, Ethel.  I am getting married to Tank—either at your home or at that church.  Obviously, you’ll be invited to the former if that ever sees the light of day, but if you keep judging me and pressing me, you will never, ever be invited to the latter.  Tank called you out on this days ago, and already you’re slipping back into how you really feel about me and our wedding.  I’m here to tell you that I won’t stand for it.  If you don’t get yourself in line and start treating me with respect, I will cancel our wedding at your home, and Tank and I will get married elsewhere, with our friends and family surrounding us.  You already know that your son will support whatever decision I choose.  So my best advice to you is that you stop fucking with me.  Because if you don’t?  I plan on playing my final hand, and you’ll be out of this wedding for good.”

You can pre-order the book on Amazon for its July 31, 2017 release.  Links are available on my Facebook page.

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