GRACE THE WILD CARD

Chapter 7 Mindy's is Where It's At

SOON, SKY, TOO, SAID GOODBYE to the mission workers and walked to his hotel, basking in the morning’s early light. It has been quite a night. In the excitement of it all, he found it hard to fall asleep. He needed to read something to wind down. After a combination read of the Gideon Bible and the morning paper, Sky finally fell asleep around 10:00 am.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON. It was 4:00pm when Sky jumped out of bed, wondering how Sarah was doing. It was Sarah, Sarah, in his mind just before he went to sleep; and now that another evening was opening up, it’s again the happy thought of Sarah that filled his mind.

Sarah and her mission workers must be putting the meeting room back in order, after the all-night prayer party. Or visiting the sick in the hospital. Or more likely, she and the band are on their evening crusade. As much as Sky wanted a glimpse of Sarah right now, he thought it best to stay out of the way and not be a distraction. He’d surely catch up with her later.

Sky also wondered if Nathan would be opening up the game tonight. Buoyed by his luck the night before, Sky definitely wanted to play again, this time, for the money.

As well he’d like to know if any of the genuine sinners, he brought to the mission had actually repented. He’d be willing to bet only one or two of them did. Repentance for the many will be a slow, long, and hesitating process but there will always be miracles. As his Daddy once told him what the venerable former sinner, Saint Augustine said, “Yes, Lord, later; but not now.”

Sky got dressed, picked up the evening paper, and decided to go to Mindy’s. In a few minutes, Nathan Detroit, too, walked in with Benny Southstreet. Nathan was not looking too happy, even as Sky teased him, “May I offer you coffee and a bite of the cheesecake? It’s the greatest cheesecake alive.”

“Thanks. Still working on last night’s fabulous breakfast. But I will have the coffee,” replied Nathan.

“I will take both cheesecake and coffee,” Benny said, smiling.

“How’s Adelaide?” Sky asked Nathan. “Based on what I saw last night, I presume you and Adelaide would have reconciled your differences by now and have reset your wedding date.”

“After 14 years of evading marriage, Sky, don’t be silly. It was you who said we should fight it.”

“Nathan, a lot of things can happen even in a period of days,” Sky said, clearing the table of his newspaper as the waiter set down the cheesecakes and coffee. “Does this mean the game is on? Where?”

“Well, now that I have got your sucker bet, it’s at Joey Biltmore’s tonight,” said Nathan, “Adelaide will hate me for it, so what else is nu? All I want is to win back what Big Jule stole with his blank dice last night, before you came.”

“But Nathan, how could you have bet Big Jule? Was it not enough to take the bite off the top? How did it happen?”

It was Benny who answered, “Big Jule held us all hostage with the gun in his shoulder holster. He cleaned us all, including the house. It was highway robbery. Not that we thought he had enough bullets for all of us. But if he tried, the police would surely hear of it and raid us, all captives in the sewer. No one would be able to escape.”

“Sky,” Nathan addressed him, “If you had not disarmed Big Jule, we would still be in the sewer holding on to dear life. Thank God you came in time and saved us. I have Big Jule’s gun still and will take it with me to the game tonight, just in case. Later we will decide on what to do with it.

“I also think Harry the Horse will hold Big Jule here at least for another day. He will not be able to escape to Chicago so easily.”

“I see,” Sky replied. “And what about you, Benny, how were you at the prayer meeting last night?”

“Well, I was the first to confess. I said I had been a bad guy and a bad gambler. But now I want to be a good guy and a good gambler.”

“That makes two of us. Had I been there, I would have confessed the same,” said Sky, “By the way, where is Nicely?

“They sent him off to the tailor to be fitted with a nice, three-x’s size Save-A-Soul uniform. He seems to be smitten by Sister Agatha. When you see a guy wearing the red uniform, you can bet he’s doing it for some doll.”

“I hope not. One red uniform per household should be enough, especially if that uniform has stripes on it,” Sky laughed.

“I was happy to make good my marker and be at the prayer meeting.” Nathan said, “But I’m a good Jewish boy and do not believe in all that Alleluia Christian crap, pardon the pun. I simply try to do my best and let G-d keep the score. But who nu?”

“Fair enough,” Sky said, getting ready to leave. “Now, if you’d excuse me, I have to pick up some stuff from the cleaners before they close. See you later at Biltmore’s.”

FRIDAY, SIX O’CLOCK PM. The mission door was open as usual and with a couple of knocks, Sky walked right in and saw Brother Arvide and Sarah poring over some papers at her desk.

“Good evening, Uncle Arvide, Sister Sarah. Just thought I’d stick my head in to see how you’re doing. And thank you for the breakfast prayer party last night. It was fabulous,” he greeted.

“Come in, son,” Brother Arvide said. “Sister Sarah and I were just winding up our report on the prayer meeting. Thanks to you, the mission will stay open. And General Cartwright was thrilled to have conducted the meeting, herself.”

“She did? Must have been a hoot.” Then, addressing Sarah in a low voice, Sky said, “Am I bothering you?”

“No, we’re all done,” Sarah answered. He noticed a distinct lightness in her movement and softness in her smile, “All I have to do tonight is meet with the General and submit the report on this month’s donations, in case some government inspector shows up next week. It’s that way with non-profits, you know. We do have to account for all donations and expenditures incurred in this place.”

Brother Arvide interrupted, “Well, good to see you, Brother Sky. Now if you’d excuse me. Sarah, I’m off to the dining room, in case anybody looks for me.”

Sarah was about to open another binder from her file, but Sky caught her gently by the wrist. “Have dinner with me tomorrow night?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“In Havana?”

“Nah, just at Mindy’s. You’ve never been to Mindy’s, have you?”

“I’ve never had any reason to go.”

“It’s a hangout for hustlers, the criminal and artistic types; theatre patrons, newspaper people, gamblers, burlesque dancers...” He looked at her face for any signs of cringe but found none.

Sky continued, “Legit stage actors, cops, politicians, pimps, boxers, lascivious Indian chiefs, musicians, thieves, undertakers, bookies, song-pluggers...”

“And butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, and why not? It’s Broadway.” Sarah countered, “You know, Mr. Masterson, I think you really believe I’m an awful prude.”

“Are you?” he teased.

“I’m prepared to be the toughest doll to the highest roller of them all.”

“Lucky guy, I’m jealous,” he quipped. “On the other hand, having seen you send a guy flying across the room with a right hook…”

“Will your guys be at Mindy’s, too?

“There might be a few,” he said. “And just to be clear, they are not my guys. I’m just one of them, when in town. I’m just a peripatetic gambler. I never wanted to own the house. Nathan is the leader of the pack; he is the boss. We’re all Nathan’s guys.

“I see,” said Sarah. “And peripatetic, what does that mean?”

“A follower of Aristotle, with a capital P.”

“P, as in Philadelphia? As in, ‘smarter than three Philadelphia lawyers combined’?”

“Next time try the comics section,” Sky smiled, pulled Sarah closer and kissed the tip of her nose. "All right, then. I will pick you up here same time tomorrow, and we will walk over to Mindy’s. Say Goodnight, Uncle Arvide, for me.” Sky grabbed his hat and prepared to leave.

“Uncle Arvide?” echoed Sarah.

“As I should begin practicing how to call your mother’s brother,” he turned around, winked at her and walked out the door.

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