“I can’t pay for this.”

“It’s taken care of.”

“Everything’s been paid for?”

“Uh-huh.” Rodolfo took the page Adam had signed, then tore off and handed the minister a copy. Followed by his crew, he left.

“Who paid for it?” Adam ran along behind the crew.

“Don’t know.”

“You’re sure you’re in the right place?”

“This is the parsonage, right? Next to the Christian Church?” He turned back and pointed at both. At Adam’s nod, he and the other men got into the truck.

“Who are the widows?” Adam shouted as they drove away. When the truck disappeared down the highway, he wandered inside to look around the newly furnished rooms.

Where had all this come from?

The only person he could think of who knew he didn’t have furniture was Miss Birdie. Well, the other church members who’d dropped by must have noticed the lack, but they hadn’t seemed to mind. Perhaps they believed the rest of his stuff would be delivered later. Or they might have realized that young ministers seldom had money and wouldn’t have a great number of worldly goods.

But Miss Birdie had cared deeply about the inadequacy. She’d taken it almost like an insult to her personally and to the church that had called him. As he walked through the parsonage on the hardwood floors he bet the ladies had buffed earlier in the week, he remembered her deep disappointment in his lack of possessions and her sharp words.

Now a sofa sat against the north wall of the larger parlor, a great green-plaid beast with soft pillows. He’d have a place to sit and watch television. He sat down. Comfortable and exactly long enough to take a nap during a slow ball game. Miss Birdie wore comfortable shoes and inexpensive clothing. Surely she didn’t have enough money to buy all this. Was Adam wrong about that, too?

Only a few minutes later while he admired the rest of the furnishings, the doorbell sounded again. When he opened it, a white-haired gentleman stood there.

“Jesse Hardin.” He grasped Adam’s hand in a huge hand. “Got a card table for you.” As he dragged the table inside,

Jesse said, “My wife and I own a farm outside town. Do you like to ride horses?”

“Well, I’m from Kentucky so I should,” Adam began. “But I don’t.”

 “Well, if you want to give it a try, give me a call.”

A few minutes after Jesse left, Howard Crampton dropped by with two folding chairs and put them in the breakfast nook with the card table.

“Great cowboy hat,” Adam said, noticing the wide-brimmed hat the elder wore.

“Son.” Howard’s expression was someplace between a smile and a frown. “I’m going to teach you a little something about Texas. Don’t ever call this a cowboy hat. You could insult some good ol’ boy who might take exception, physically, to your sentiments. This”—he pointed to his head—“is my Stetson. Some men prefer a Resistol, but real Texans wear Stetsons.”

Adam nodded. “Thank you, sir.” He dropped his gaze. When he did, he noticed Howard wore cowboy boots, too, with intricate tooling on the toe, but Adam sure wasn’t going to ask about those. Instead he asked a completely different question, the one that really bothered him. “Howard, who are the widows?”

“Don’t worry about that.” The elder shook his head. “You’ll find out soon enough. Relax today, get settled.”

Before he could ask more, Howard sprinted out.

Now Adam really worried.

After Maudie Adams left, a set of towels hung over the bars in both upstairs bathrooms, the bed was made, and more linens were folded in a closet. Later that afternoon, two high school football players lugged in an enormous rustic oak armoire, which they settled against the wall opposite the sofa. Adam’s little portable television sat in splendor inside.