Brother Antonio opened the chapel – a 52-foot semitrailer in the parking lot of the Traveler’s Treasure Truck Stop – at 6 a.m. as he did on most mornings. He liked to be available for the truckers who were getting an early start and wanted to pray before heading out. As he walked up the wooden stairs and unlocked the wooden door in the wooden wall that replaced the metal doors of the trailer, Antonio recalled the pain of opening the original doors which would swing around and bang against the side of the trailer, knocking a few pictures off of the wall.
Leaving the door open, he flipped on the two window air conditioning units installed on the left wall. The units were a welcome benefit of the redesigned entrance. Taylor Perkins, a long hauler for a lumber company, donated a batch of leftover lumber to the chapel that the company did not want to pay him to haul back. Fred Mullins, the truck stop owner, paid his handyman, Jeff Purvis, to build the steps, the rear wall with the door in the middle, and add supports under the trailer.
Purvis, a deacon at the Community Christian Church, painted The Church of the Necessarily Significant on both sides of the trailer as a favor to Brother Antonio. He also was a handyman for the Restful Traveler Hotel across the road from the truck stop. The hotel had upgraded from window unit air conditioners in the past year and the owners were happy to donate two of the units to the chapel. Jeff Purvis attended Brother Antonio’s Thursday night Bible study.
The Mothers of Miracles group at the Community Christian Church sewed blue tarps together to cover the underside of the trailer. The women added crosses alternating with the words Jesus, Forgiveness, Redemption, Faith, and Love. Mavis Monahan, secretary of the group, was the waitress/manager in the evening at the Food and Plenty diner in the truck stop.
Antonio walked out and closed the door behind him. He straightened the sign hung on a nail in the center of the top of the door. “I’m in the restaurant, 406-224-5893 (ask for Brother Antonio) or stop in.” When he was in the restaurant the waitresses would call him to the phone.
Which was where he headed after straightening the sign. He entered the truck stop through the main entrance – saying “hello” to Fred at the cash register – and turned left toward the restaurant.
“Good morning, Antonio.” Francis smiled brightly as she served his coffee – one sugar, one cream – while he settled into his usual corner booth.
“Good morning, Francis.”
“Do you want the usual on this beautiful morning?” She went ahead and wrote special on her order pad anyway. He had only been in town for four months, but the order had not changed.
“Yes, thank you. It is a good day that the Lord has made, isn’t it?”
“Better than yesterday.”
“Nature has a mind of her own, so to speak.”
Francis smiled, topped off Antonio’s coffee, and headed to the kitchen to turn in his order, stopping along the way to refill the coffee cups of other patrons. Antonio glanced around the restaurant, smiling at everyone who caught his eye, and nodding to the regulars. He pulled out his phone and checked the Church of the Necessarily Significant’s Facebook page. It was not a church, per se, although that was Antonio’s goal. The church had begun…
“Here you are, Antonio. Two eggs over easy, bacon, toast, and grits.” Francis slid the plate in front of him as he raised his hands to give her room. She filled his coffee, smiled, and walked to another customer.
Antonio bowed his head and said a quiet prayer. He added butter, salt, and pepper to the grits, stirred them, and tasted a spoonful. Then he cut a piece of an egg, broke off a piece of bacon, and put them on the corner of a piece of toast and took a bite. As he was preparing his second bite, Antonio felt the rush of air as the door to the restaurant opened behind him. He was chewing the second bite when he was suddenly jerked out of the booth and to his feet by a vise grip on his shoulder. While he was regaining his footing he saw the gun.