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‘Rev, are you gay?”

Alice had set her Superior coffee pot down on the table and slid into the booth where Pastor Walter Mitty was sitting. Last Wednesday, Pastor Walter had arrived at the Main Cafe early, as he often did, to have a little alone time, before the guys in the Wednesday Morning Breakfast Fellowship arrived. Alone time is not what he got.

“I … I … I’m not sure what you mean, Alice. I mean, why do you ask?” The pastor of the Poplar Park Community Church hadn’t seen this one coming.

“It’s this way, Rev. I like you. I’ve always found you easy to talk to. And even though I’m sometimes kinda gruff, you’ve treated me with respect.” Alice seemed to be embarrassed by taking off her tough waitress persona. “It’s like, well, I worry about you.”

“Worry?”

“Yeh. Like I never see you with a woman. I mean, you always seem to be doing things with other men. You know, like with Eric and Ash and Dominique or with Michael or with that new guy-what’s his name-Bernie.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Rev, but not only do you hang out with men all the time, but you’re not exactly the He-Man type. I mean, Eric Anderson, he’s my idea of a man’s man. Debbie’s really lucky to have landed him.”

“I don’t believe this,” Mitty thought as he processed what the waitress sitting across from him was saying. “If Alice only knew the struggle both Eric and Debbie were going through regarding Eric’s sexuality.”

“So, are you?” Alice was serious.

“Thanks for your concern,” Mitty began. “I mean that, Alice. But, no, I’m not gay.”

“But, but then why ….”

Pastor Walt continued, “What happened was that back when I was in college I was head-over-heels in love with this woman. We dated for six months, we seemed to be getting closer and closer. I thought we were headed to the altar.”

“So what happened?”

“Well, I told her that I was starting to feel called to be a minister, and it’s as if that turned a switch in her. She broke off the relationship two weeks later.”

“So why do you hang around men so much?”

“It’s safer, Alice. Less complicated. I’ve learned that I can get all the affection and closeness I need from men without my hormones getting in the way. Now, the sex thing, that’s a little tougher to deal with. But I’ve made my peace with that, too. I’m not saying I’ll never get married. It’s just that right now I’m not desperate.”

Alice’s jaw had dropped down to her chest. She wasn’t used to hearing pastors talk like this. Then her mouth curved into a smile and her attention shifted from the man sitting across from her to the door. Eric Anderson, dressed in a flannel shirt and blue jeans, was striding into the Main, looking like he had just portaged a canoe and built a campfire.

“This is as close to someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger as I’m every going to get,” thought Alice.

“If she only knew,” thought Mitty. “If she only knew.”