I’m not quite sure, but I seem to be lying on my back on the floor with people standing around me and I’m passing in and out of consciousness. There is pain in my stomach but I think help is on the way. There’s the sound of an ambulance siren in the distance. How did I get to this place in my life? Oh, now I remember: Each year the neighborhood Pie Committee in our small town selects some reputable member of the community to serve as the judge for our annual pie contest. This year they chose me. The competition is fierce and feelings run high but I think it is a good thing because people get to discharge their competitive hostility in a harmless way. The worst violence I can think of happening at a pie contest would be for someone to throw a pie in another person’s face.

But why they chose me to be the judge this year is a mystery. I’m not big on cooking in general nor pies in particular. Probably the committee just couldn’t agree on anyone else so I was the compromise candidate. It’s even more surprising because the chairperson of the Pie Committee and I had a “falling out” last year.

Rachael and I had grown up together; our families were very close and we played those little doctor and nurse games that kids go through while trying to figure our what sex is all about. Rachael even seemed to harbor the idea that one day we would be married. And that might have happened but our parents had a big argument about something and they never spoke to each other after that. Rachael and I drifted apart and then last year, out of the blue and some forty years later, Rachael called me saying her refrigerator had stopped working and her husband was out of town and asking if I could stop by and take a look at it.

That damned ambulance is taking forever.

Well, I thought, perhaps this is an opportunity for Rachael and I to patch-up that old relationship from childhood; but I was suspicious. On arriving, Rachael greeted me warmly with a big hug which I found to be disquieting. On checking the refrigerator, I found the power cord was disconnected and on reconnecting the power, the refrigerator seemed to work fine.

As I made preparations to leave, however, Rachael started taking her clothes off. I was speechless and distraught. She was crying and said her husband didn’t want her any more. I felt obligated to offer some consolation but instead found myself grabbing my coat and hurrying out the door.

I”m beginning to think now that she may have arranged for me to be the “pie judge” in order to extract some retribution from me. What’s that old cliche, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?” Come to think of it, I seemed to begin getting sick just after tasting her pie. Oh Rachael, what misery you must suffer to do this to me. But I couldn’t save you Rachael, it was not within my power. I couldn’t take you back to our carefree days of childhood before all of the adolescent turmoil began. No one can do that for you; we just have to find a way to persevere, to look for the joys, both big and small, to cultivate spiritual connections with others and invest ourselves in the lives of other people.

“Rachael, is that you? Why are you smiling?”

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