Twin Beeches -- an Illinois Love Story
Author: paul schoaff

Chapter 7
Trying to help Nan


(all M.J.)

Trying to help Nan

Nan came to me when she showed at least 8 months along, telling me her folks wouldn't even talk to her but they were willing to sign papers to let her marry if Max's folks would do the same for him.  Could I get the papers and get my mother to notarize them and take them all to Rushville to get the license?  Yes, I could, except I wasn't old enough to drive, so Mama took all of us in her car down to Rushville and called the Goodluck Church elder, Hoke, who gave them the name of their most recent student minister and his phone number in Lincoln. 



And so it happened, on a sunny August late morning, I sat outside the Goodluck church in the car with Nan and Max and Jerry Cranshaw, Max's best man, and we talked about what they might see, for the first time, inside the building.


Max:  “Why couldn't we just go to the J.P. In Rushville?”


Nan:  “We been all through that before, Max – I want to get married in a church!”


Max:  “You never been inside a church in your life!  Why, Now?”


Nan: crying, “You haven't neither! But my baby deserves it!  I want him or her to be baptized so's they won't go straight to H -E – double L if it dies!”


Me: silence, because I don't dare tell Nan what I suspect, at this late date.


Max:  silence, because he couldn’t argue with potential Hell and Damnation.  Plus, he had told Nan he would always do whatever she wanted to try to make up for his cowardice when she was gang-raped.


Nan: “We're here, Max. We made all the arrangements, let's just go ahead and do it.”


Jerry: “I always heard that you got to eat human flesh and blood in there.”


Me:  “Don't be silly, Jerry, it's just bread and grape juice!”


Jerry: “That's what I heard, that's all – they say it changes right in front of your eyes!”


Me:  “Maybe you have to be a real old member to see it change.  I never saw any difference after they prayed over it.”


Nan: “Blood?”


Me: “Don't worry, Nan, they won't make you drink anything.”


Nan: “I'm still thirsty.”


Sonny: “Did Jesus come back from being dead, or didn't he?”


Me: “I don't really know.  They sure think so.”


Max:  “I never understood that part.  Wouldn't it make more sense that all his disciple-people would get real mad when he was burned at the stake and go kill all the Romans?  If he came back to life, then why didn't they keep it a secret so the Romans wouldn't just burn him up again?”


Me. “I don't really think that's how it was, Max, but you might be right.”


Jerry: “Where's the ring?  Oh, I guess I still got it in my shirt pocket, don't I?”


Jerry: “Had you goin' there, didn't I?”


Jerry: “Look, their startin' to come out – duck down so's they don't see us!"


A few minutes later, I saw that blond-headed boy again, looking quizzically across the churchyard at me, finally shrugging his shoulders and leaving with his folks.  Now I knew his name, Larry, and he was in the same grade as me in high school. He always seemed to want to say something to me, but he couldn't quite get up the courage.  I thought, someday soon, I'll have to corner him, maybe ask for some help with math. 


Then it was time for us to casually walk and waddle in — me, followed by Nan, then Max, with Jerry bringing up the rear, breathing the church-smelling air for the first time in his life.  Not seeing any tables with dead bodies partially consumed, he followed us carefully up the aisle to the front of the little sanctuary.   The student minister was waiting in a room off to the side, probably rehearsing and rereading the rite of marriage from the back of the hymnal.  He came out, dressed in a white thing he must have brought special for the ceremony, for I had never seen him in anything but a suit with a white shirt and tie.


He tried to put us at ease, even though he was obviously nervous himself.


Reverend, almost, “Brother Bob” Spence: “Who has the license?”


Me.: “I have it, Brother Bob.”


Brother Bob: “Then we may begin.”


The most recent incarnation of Chalk Talk Girl eased her way from the room along the side to a pew in the back of the church…. 


Brother Bob: “Would you like Miss Stevenson to sing a wedding song?  She has been practicing all week."


Nan: “Well, sure, I guess, I mean, why not?”


Miss Stevenson: “O.K., how about I Love You Truly???”


Nan: “I always favored 'Oh Promise Me'.”


Miss Stevenson, as all heads spin around to stare at Nan, sings beautifully, accompanying herself on the piano.


Me: to myself, “She'll make a fine preacher's wife, someday."


Nan: to herself, “HOW did I come up with THAT???"


Finally, all the vows were read and repeated and sworn to saying they would, in fact, cherish and obey and live together faithfully forever until they died -- vows approximately 75% of us eventually break.


Brother Bob: “I now pronounce you, ‘Man and Wife’.  You may kiss your bride!”


Max nervously bent over to give her a big mushy kiss, like ones he had seen in the movies.  Nan moved her head just in time for his lips to brush her cheek before landing on her shoulder.


Jerry turned and ran out of the church and locked himself in the car.


Brother Bob: “I hope you two” smiling, “three, will come to church here from now on?”


Nan: “Oh, I'll soon be back, Reverend Bob, to have the baby baptized!”


Brother Bob:  After a few moments of contemplation about the various churches he served…  “I'm sorry, Mrs. ....”,  he glanced at the license," Hucklebee, but we don't baptize infants here – one must reach the age of reason before one may receive the rite of baptism in this church."


Nan: “S**t!!”, partly because it was the first time she would be called 'Mrs. Hucklebee'.


Max: After being quiet for the last 15 minutes, "Don't worry Nan, we'll just get someone else to dunk the baby.  We kin do it ourselves, I reckon?"


It all worked out, though.  When Brother Bob got back to LBI -- Lincoln Bible Institute -- and bragged about officiating at his first wedding ceremony, Reverend Butterworth quickly advised him he couldn't have done such, since he wasn't yet ordained and thus could not have married anyone in a Christian Church.  If he thought he had, he had better let the couple know immediately so they won't live in perpetual sin and go straight to H – E – L--L.


The very next day, we did it all again, this time after work for Max and Jerry, and after I finished mailing all of Mama's monthlies into Springfield.  Reverend Ben Proctor with the crippled arms, at the Methodists, showed us his license from the state to perform marriages and we went through it all again.


  A month later, we came back to baptize little Maxine…just in case.


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