Characters: Clark, Chloe, Others
"Who plants fescue anymore, anyway?" Clark mutters as they walk across the meadow "No wonder the Rileys were willing to have them put up the tent here. All of the folks scuffing along from the road will do half the work of ripping this out. They can put in some real grass, then".
Mouth twisting into a smirk, Chloe replies "You know, Clark, every time I think you've moved beyond your farmboy youth, you give me a 4H moment to keep everything in perspective." As they come over the slight rise, she adds "Speaking of which, look at the size of that thing. It must hold five hundred people".
The tent is a huge, white circle on the green field and as Clark stares at and through it he thoughtlessly blurts out "Six hundred and fifty, easy" before stammering "if their previous press reports are right.". Then, more confidently, he adds "But we should check it, see if it is some sort of record. That might make a good lead for the story".
Chloe replies "I'm hoping for more than that! After all, a faith healer visiting our own little burg of twisted miracles ought to generate some sort of sparks. 'Are Smallville's plagues signs of the last times?'--more along those lines. Something good and apocalyptic."
Clark looks over at her shining eyes and says "'Good' and 'apocalyptic' are not words normal people put into the same sentence, Chloe".
Chloe laughs, her arms half-raised and says "I'm just a small town girl, Clark. We take our fun where we find it. Faith healers, fire and brimstone, the angels of the last days.... If it keeps me looking at, rather than jumping on, the Wall of Weird, it's all good". Clark smiles and ducks his head as they trudge along.
As they get close, the sides of the tent nearest them move up, and they see crews of men and women pegging the lines and moving along, slowly transforming the giant, white tent from a Bromdignagian sailor's cap to a hovering cloud massed above the field. Inside they see row after row of canvas-backed chairs, aisles broad between them, broken only by a microphone in each, about half way back. At the far end, they see a stage, raised no more than a foot or two from the grass. Behind it are bleachers that both instantly peg as the revival's version of a choir stall.
Chloe turns to one of the crew securing the microphones and asks "Excuse me, where can we find Reverend Stewart?".
Standing up from a stoop, the young black woman unfolds until she's nearly Clark's height. Wiping her head, she replies "Which one, Mary or Simon?" Seeing Chloe's momentary confusion and a glimpse of her pocket recorder, she says "If you're press, probably Simon; he's the one most folks talk to about the revival. I'll take you over to him; my name's Martha". Clark's eyes brighten a moment and he says "That's my Mom's name, too. I'm Clark. Clark Kent.". She looks at him in amusement a moment and says "Welcome, then, brother Kent; always nice to meet one of the sons of Martha. You two follow me." as she turns, Martha adds, looking back with a smile, "I mean that in a purely secular way, of course."
As they come up to the stage, Martha touches the arm of a man crouched over what seems to be a bent metal semi-circle. He stands up, saying "If I were a cursing man, I would damn that thing." Seeing that Martha isn't alone, he leans across the bent metal to offer his hand and says "Sorry; I'm Simon Stewart " . He then turns to Martha and says "Can you have someone scrap this thing, Martha? We don't really need it, and fooling with it is eating our other prep time." Martha nods, and picks it up in a smooth easy motion. As she turns away, Clark asks "What is that, anyway?". Simon looks at it and laughs "Part of an old fashioned sound system", then points up into the tent's top, where row after row of the semi-circles aim down at the chairs. "Sometimes the problem in getting the word out is sheer acoustics; these are old reflectors from the Chautauqua days. They let the folks hear the music and the preacher without having to mic everything."
Looking out at the rows, Clark says "But you have microphones in the aisles".
Simon nods and says "The reflectors focus the sound in a single direction--the mics are for folks that don't start out up front. In most services, someone will come forward to give a witness, to ask for prayer, or healing, sometimes even a baptism. The mics make sure we hear them when they offer to come up".
Chloe, looking around at the set up, says "How much does it cost to stage a night of revival, Reverend? The mics, chairs, crew, that's got to add up." pointing up at the tent, she goes on "not to mention the tent and Chautauqua antiques".
Simon looks puzzled a moment, then gently asks "I'm sorry, maybe I misunderstood. You are here from the local school?" Chloe nods and says "Yes, from the school paper, the Torch. I'm Chloe Sullivan and this is Clark Kent. We're hoping to get an interview. After all, a tent revival in the new millennium is a bit of a rarity." She then says "I'm also curious about you as a healer. Is it true that many of your followers are also your patients?"
Simon smiles. After a moment's pause he asks "Have you ever been to a revival meeting? In a tent or otherwise?" Chloe and Clark both shake their heads. "Then let me suggest we do this interview tomorrow. You can talk to anyone you like, of course, but without the context of the meeting itself, I'm not sure whether we'd get to the right questions today."
Chloe asks "And what are the right questions, Reverend?".
He answers "'Who is God?' 'Where and how does he act in the world?' 'Why is the world the way it is?' 'What is our role in the world?'". Smiling, he goes on "Did I get all the journalistic touchstones there: Who, what, how, where, why?"
Clark blurts out "When". Then stammers "Sorry, that's one I forget sometimes too. When."
Simon looks absolutely grave a moment, says "Ah, yes. 'When does it all come to an end?' That's the critical 'when', I think.". As Clark and Chloe look at each other, he adds "Until tonight then.", then turns and walks away.
An hour or so later, Clark is in the kitchen with his parents, washing a bushel of peaches. As he spins them in the water, he asks "Mom, Dad, did you ever go to a revival?"
Martha laughs and says "There hasn't been a revival in Smallville for the twenty-odd years I've been here, before this weekend's extravaganza. And they weren't thick on the ground in Metropolis when I was growing up." She wipes a tray of peaches dry, turns them over to finish drying them and says "How about you, Jonathan? Did Hiram take you to any revivals growing up?"
Jonathan answers with a mock solemn "Nope". After a moment's pause "I think there were a few when I was a boy, but it wasn't popular even then. Maybe in the deep South they held on, but not around here. I've wondering how the Stewarts have managed to keep theirs going. I can't see how they'd take in enough money to feed and move that crew of theirs".
Martha replies "Don't complain! Their order for produce and home-jarred fruit is a godsend with the fair market closed. But I do wonder whether they have their own money funding it."
Clark answers "Chloe did some checking, and they usually don't even take up a collection. They're on donated space, and the rigging and stuff are all with them from place to place, but it still must cost a mint. When Chloe asked Rev. Stewart for a figure, though, he said to ask him her questions after seeing the revival."
Martha says "So you're going to go?"
Clark replies "Yep. Chloe, Pete, and I are all going."
Jonathan, looking puzzled, says "Pete? His Torch beat is a little off that path, isn't it? Or do they have a football team with them?"
Clark breaks into a grin and says "Chloe told Pete about one of the riggers we met today, and he has some very worldly thoughts in that direction."
Jonathan breaks into his own grin and says "That's one way to get 'em into the pews."
Martha looks over at him and says "Jonathan! Behave!"
Looking over at each other, Clark and Jonathan both put their hands as if in prayer and then back, bowing, out of the room.
Martha, scraping a bit of dirt from a jar on the kitchen counter mutters "Heathens!".
That evening, Chloe, Pete, and Clark are crowded into the near end of the middle row, jostling against each other in the tight space.
Clark asks "Why didn't we sit further forward? We could see things better up there".
Chloe rolls her eyes and points at the mic.
Clark, looking puzzled, says "You're planning a prayer, and don't want to wait in line? You're not going to Interview Rev. Stewart from that, are you?"
Chloe laughs and patiently says: "This mic is at the center of the largest block, so its the one most likely to get someone coming up; we can see who's at the lines and ask follow up questions, like 'what made you come tonight'. Maybe we'll find a good interview."
Pete looks over at her and says "That's another five minutes in purgatory, right there."
Chloe shoots him a look and says "Episcopalians don't do purgatory, my Catholic friend, in case you didn't get the memo. And how about the one about 'intent equals action for sin'. Did you come here with sin in your heart?"
A swell of music drowns out the bickering, and Clark looks up to see Martha in front of the choir, white robe setting off her skin and the long, silver cross hanging from her neck. As the choir starts to sing, Clark picks out her voice from the others, slowly growing in intensity. She starts a solo and, her voice soaring, sings:
"I am a servant, and I am a slave.
But no man's my master,
Except him who came to save
I am a servant, and I am true.
But I am your sister,
'Cause I am his daughter too.
You are my brother, and you are my son
We are one family
Adopted children, every one!"
The choir behind her takes up the last line as a chorus, and repeats, it swelling, until a spotlight flashes onto a podium at the end of a long row. There, a woman in her thirties wearing a red robe says "Welcome, brothers and sisters. We always like to start a revival with that song, as it reminds us of our connections. Born apart, we are brought together in the body of God's family, made sisters and brothers to each other, as adoption makes sons and daughters of strangers. Like any family, we have our rifts and grudges, some larger and some small. But that cannot take away our connection. Every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve is part of God's family, and everyone here tonight is brother and sister in his love. My husband and I run a revival to help bring the love of God to his people, and to grow in his love by seeing it in your faces, in your lives. Thank you for being part of that; thank you for being part of our family!"
With her closing words, the choir starts again, and Pete and Chloe look over Clark, whose squirming discomfort during the song and her brief welcome have almost worn the chair into the dispirited fescue beneath. Pete, deciding a joke would help, for puts his arm over Clark's shoulder, and whispers "Don't worry that you're the ugly brother. You're still family." Clark gives him a shy smile but is so disturbed that he actually sits on his hands to keep his fidgets down. Chloe, seeing the unaccustomed distress, stares a moment before turning back to the stage.
After a few more songs have passed, Simon appears at the podium, a spotlight shining on his earnest face. He looks out over the audience, picking a few faces to gaze at longer than others. As he finishes his sweep of their row, his eyes hold Clark's a moment and he looks concerned. Clark looks down, plucking at the grass as Simon begins.
"I promised the press tonight that I would cover some questions" his voice booms out. "'Who is God?' 'Where and how does he act in the world?' 'Why is the world the way it is?' 'What is our role in the world?'" and finally, 'When does it all end?'" Chuckling he goes on, "Lucky for you, I also promised Mary that I wouldn't talk all night. "As the crowd laughs, Simon goes on, "So I'll run through the first few quickly. God is the being who loves and created this world. God acts in all times and in all places, and he mainly does it through people like you, who do good works in his interests and in his name. The world is the way it is because it is how he made and it is how we have made it; he gave us this world to be our field for creation and we must live with the history of what we as a people have done. Our role in the world is take up the challenge of being God's family." Smiling, he says "That was quick wasn't it? But it leaves out a question, the 'when' of the journalist's litany. 'When will it all end'?"
Pausing briefly, Simon takes a drink of water from a cup under the podium, then goes on, "That pause wasn't just poetic license, I was thirsty." Over the laughter he goes on "And I have bad news." Looking over the suddenly still room, he says "It's not soon. It's not today. It's not tomorrow. It's not in the lifetime of any man or woman present, and it is not in the lifetime of our children, or their children or their children's children's children." He looks up and says "That's the bad news". Over the renewed laughter, he calmly says "No, I mean it. At least once a day I see bumper sticker that says "In case of rapture...", and I worry about that soul. It is hard for any of us to think about eternity, and for too many these "signs of the last times" have become a crutch, a belief that they don't have to stick it out for the long haul because the end is near. That's exhausting, because we're trying to run a marathon like a sprint. And it makes us careless of the consequences of our action." His voice booms louder "We plan for next week, and not the next generation; we plant grass but not oaks. So here is the bad news: your actions have consequences, and they are real. God didn't give us a play creation; this is the real thing. Every single thing you do in your life will reverberate in the lives of those around you, in the world around you, and those consequences will last." Now almost shouting he says, "That should scare you." Mopping his face a moment, he goes on, much more quietly, "The good news is that he didn't make us do it alone. The people around you, and all the people of the Earth, are in this together. We are signs to each other of God's goodness, of his love, and of his mystery." His voice growing again, he finishes "There is evil in the world; renounce it. There is good in the world, be part of it. It sounds simple, and it can be. You must simply empty yourself of pride, and give your life to God." Behind him, a chorus of "amens" breaks out. Looking out, to the rows in front of him, Simon continues, his preaching obviously done, "Now, tell me sisters and brothers, how can we serve you tonight?"
As a few brave souls advance to the mics or the front, Clark squeezes past Chloe and heads away, his head swimming with the images of all the actions he's been unsure about: lying to Lex, to Chloe, to Lana; the months in Metropolis; the one that haunts him most-- using the kryptonite key that seemed to promise him freedom and instead made him the cause of his family's biggest loss.
Hours pass, as Clark crouches at the dark edge of field, staring out at the glowing tent in the meadow, seeing the shadows of the sound reflectors move against its brilliant white, the music ebbing and flowing as the revival and night wear on. Finally, the night falls silent and the streams of people cease. And Clark, robbed of this earthbound Moon, turns to stare up at the stars.
The next morning, Jonathan and Martha come down to a breakfast table piled high with pancakes, eggs, and coffee. Martha says "Well this is a surprise. Did the revival include an 'honor your parents with breakfast' sermon last night?" Clark answers "Actually, I left pretty early. I heard the first sermon, then just wandered around. I was remembering the first time Ryan came, and made us breakfast. So I made breakfast for us."
Jonathan looks at Clark, and asks "Everything okay, son? You don't look like you slept much last night."
Clark says "I don't know Dad. I never really thought about a lot of stuff before from the spiritual side. I know you've always said I should be a force for good, and I want to be that. But I wonder whether it's right for me to be here at all. What if there is a plan for all of this, a way this world was supposed to find its way toward some higher path. My being here at all could be a wrench in those plans." He pauses for a breath, then says "I'm not a "son of Adam". I was thinking about all the people whose lives are different because I'm here. A lot of those changes aren't good--from the meteor shower forward, I've been a cause of a lot of hurtful things."
As Jonathan moves to interrupt, Clark continues, "I know Dad, you've always said I can't blame myself for the meteor shower. But there are a lot of things that are my fault, and even some of the good things that have happened to us, like Ryan, just prove that I don't really belong here. Ryan liked being around me because he couldn't read my mind. Because I was different. Maybe I'm too different to belong here in the way the Stewarts say you do. This is your field for creation, right? Am I a part of that, or a piece from a different puzzle that found its way into the box? "
Martha answers "You're part of our family. If we belong here, you do."
Jonathan, seeing that hasn't really satisfied Clark, says "Well, we can finish this discussion later. In the meantime, I see some eggs with my name on them."
Clark says "And powdered sugar for your pancakes, Mom, just like you like".
A few hours later, Clark walks into the Talon and sees Chloe at a table. Walking over, he says "Hey, sorry for ditching last night. Did you finish the interviews off?"
Chloe answers "No, I'm meeting the Reverends Stewart here, in fact, to finish them off. There probably won't be much, though, as the "faith healing" isn't a fake, just good marketing." Seeing Clark's raised eyebrow, she says ""Faith healing" means "healing your faith" not using faith to heal. Nothing quite Wall of Weird worthy in that".
From behind her, Simon's voice says quietly "Well, I'm glad you at least think it is good marketing."
Chloe jumps, and reddens, but goes on "I do. People want miracles, and you give them responsibility. Without good marketing, you'd never pull that off. And I'm hoping you'll continue with that interview, despite my colossally bad timing, for that same good marketing. 'There's no such thing as bad publicity', I think the saying goes". She smiles up at him, abashed and brazen at the same time.
Simon declines to be deflected and says "People want miracles, you say? Are you sure? A lot of miracles are uncomfortable, worrisome, dangerous. Don't they really want comfort, not to have their boat rocked, to have this day be like the days that came before? I take it your "Wall of Weird" covers miracles--how many of them were happy tidings? I don't do splashy miracles, but I am here to rock the boat."
Mary, coming up from behind Simon, sees his grim face, and says "Now, now, people like wine at a wedding. That was one of Christ's first miracles."
Simon breaks into a grin, and says "They're a little young for that in this crowd, even in this age. But it is a classic miracle; paired with the loaves and the fishes, one of my favorites."
Clark asks "I get the loaves and fishes, I guess, but I thought most preachers weren't all that hot on drinking."
Mary interjects "For me, those two are such human miracles. To feed someone who is hungry; to help a friend throw a party well. They're miracles we can do by dint of hard work and listening for the need. You may never part the Red Sea, throw down the walls of Jericho, or stay the sun in its course, but who couldn't make breakfast for his parents when they wake up hungry, or help a friend celebrate happy news?"
Clark, staring at Mary, asks "What happy news?"
Simon, a broad grin, answers "You know what happy news we're here for, Clark. But since we've struck our tents today, we should be going. We'll be in Granville tomorrow, should either of you need another night of Gospel. Until we meet again, may the lord bless and keep you both."
As he turns away, Chloe says "But what about our interview?"
Simon replies "That was the bit just now, the part that wasn't prayer. But I suspect we'll see you in Granville. Good day."
As they walk out, Chloe says "Well not "wall of" but definitely weird."
Lana, out riding that afternoon, is the first to see it. Pulling up short, she mouths "What the..." as she gets out her cell phone. As Chloe answers, she interrupts "Chloe, wait, when you were at the revival last night, wasn't it in the Rileys' south field?" After a pause, she says "Just to clarify, they didn't hold it in a forest, did they?"
Clark, Chloe, and Lana stand at the edge of the little wood. Chloe says "This isn't necessarily Wall of Weird stuff, right. I mean, they could have arranged this as the deal with the Rileys and had the landscaping done this morning, right?" Clark looks at her and says "I called the Rileys, and they thought I was crazy until they saw it for themselves. Besides, these trees are full grown. Moving them all in and planting them in the night would take an army. To do it without anyone noticing would take a very quiet army, even out here. And it matches where the tent was exactly."
Chloe answers "So we're either talking Wall of Weird, or Luthor-sized amounts of money, eh?"
Clark answers "Or..."
Chloe interrupts "Don't say it, farm boy."
Clark laughs and says "Whatever the answer is, Simon's worked a miracle. He's going to get us both to a second night of revival."
Chloe replies "At the risk of more time in Pete's cancelled purgatory, you couldn't keep me away without throwing me to the lions. I have got to know how he did it."
In Granville, the revival is an old theater, practically the Talon's twin. The same crew that been raising the tent in Smallvile is inside, painting, hammering, and hanging the old-fashioned reflectors when Chloe and Clark arrive. Chloe sees Martha on a ladder and goes up to ask her, "Hi Martha, where can we find Simon?".
Martha looks down, and says "He's still resting. The hotel's over a few streets if you want to check there, but it's probably easier to catch him here when he's up again." Smiling, she asks "How about helping out while you wait?"
Chloe says "I've got to get some research in. When will he be back?".
Clark interrupts "But I can help. What do you need?"
To Chloe, Martha says "Try back about dusk; he should be around then to help with the lights". Then to Clark, she says "If you can hold a level, you can help with the reflectors."
Clark replies "Can do." as Chloe leaves.
A few minutes pass, and Clark and Martha are almost finished when Martha suddenly says "So what brought you back? After I saw you leave so early in the service in Smallville, I'd have counted you on the unlikely-to-come-back fingers."
Clark shrugs and says "Chloe wants to talk to Simon about the wood that's where the tent was rigged in Smallville, and I came along because I was curious too."
Martha asks "And that was all?"
Clark answers softly "I'm curious about a lot of things."
Martha looks at him carefully and says, "Simon is in the office at the back of the theater. He never rests in a hotel if he can hear the revival going up around him instead. You go back and talk to him there, and I'll send your friend in when she's figured out that there isn't much in Granville worth the research."
Clark looks at her shyly and says, "Thanks, Martha."
She grins and says "Don't worry about it, brother Kent."
Clark finds Simon in an office in back of the theater, standing over a misshapen reflector. Looking up, he sees Clark and says "Don't worry, it's the same one. Martha knew that I'd want to fix it after I said to scrap it, so she brought it with us here. She often knows what I want more than I do."
Clark nods, and says "She seems very intuitive."
Simon replies "That's why she sent you back here, right? You had something she knew you wanted to talk about, but you didn't know it until she told you?"
Clark says "Close. Only I'm still not sure what it is myself."
Simon looks at Clark closely and says "Take your time."
Clark says "Chloe wants to know how you got the oaks into the Rileys' field."
Simon smiles quietly and replies "And Chloe will have her answer. But what do you want to know?"
Clark swallows, picks up the reflector between them, and smoothes it in a single motion of his hands.
He hands it to Simon and says in a rush "I want to know if the abilities I have are a gift, like my parents tell me, or are a wrench thrown into the works of this world." Stumblingly, he goes on "My being here has caused a lot of people a lot of pain. Everything that happens seems amplified by what I can do; I made one bad choice that killed a child growing in my mother." Half-choking, he says "I made another that meant a friend of mine had his brain fried by his father. I'm afraid of using these abilities and afraid of turning away from them. And I'm afraid that the choices everyone else has, to rely on each other, to trust in this big family you preach about, just aren't there for me." Suddenly almost angry, Clark finishes "Sure, God adopted humanity and humans adopted me, but is this grace transitive? Do I count too?"
Simon, eyes wide, looks at him and says "You're not human? You're not from this world?"
Clark says, simply, "No."
Simon looks stunned, staring at Clark and the now-perfect reflector a moment, and suddenly laughs, long peeling half-shouts echoing in the room. Wiping his eyes, he looks at Clark and says, "I have been wrong a lot in my day, but rarely such a blithering donkey. When I saw you acting so uncomfortable in the tent the other day, I bet myself you would come to me with a harrowing coming-out story; in love with the young man you brought to the revival, probably, with parents unknowing or forbidding." As Clark interjects "Pete?!", Simon goes on "It's a fairly common reason for restlessness in the faith of handsome young farm boys, so don't be surprised. And it's a wound to the faith that I know how to heal, if someone is ready for it." Grinning, he goes on, "But here, here we have a coming out story to end them all. I could weasel on it based on that, but I'm afraid I lose my bet."
Clarks, his mood a little lighter, grins and says "Pete's cute, I guess, but he's like a brother to me. He knows my secret, and my parents treat him like family. Besides, he came to the revival to see Sister Martha. So, sorry, you do lose your bet."
"No donuts for a week, then" Simon sighs. "But I will re-use some of what I had planned to tell you before. Because it's all still true. However you came to be this way was part of God's creation, and how you live your life is still up to you. You can live it as a good person, caring for and loving those around you, or you can live it using those around you for your own pleasure. Those choices don't change. You may feel your actions are magnified by who you are, and that could be true. If a billionaire is a good person who cares for others, the world feels it in a way that it doesn't feel a teacher who gives that same extra care. The same may be true for you. And as for grace, no, it's not transitive. It's offered to you whatever world you come from, and it will keep being offered to you whatever the results of your decisions. God will love you, as he loves you now, for who you are."
"How can you be so sure?" Clark asks "We're not talking about me taking a friend out in the cornfields here." Clark's eyes are wide as he says, "My strength has killed people, and my coming here brought the meteors that slammed half of Lowell County. The world that sent me here doesn't seem like it was too full of grace, either; the message sent with me told me to conquer the world. How can I be sure that I fit in this puzzle? That what I'm doing here isn't hurting the people who belong here, whatever my choices are?"
"You already know that your actions have consequences, Clark. " Simon answers. "Which choices you make does make a difference. Some of them might hurt people, intentionally or unintentionally. Others help. You don't get to discount the ones that help because other choices have other consequences. You can choose to help people. That choice, and its consequences are real."
"But what about all the 'son of Adam' stuff--isn't this your world, your salvation, your grace? How can you be sure that 'no man cometh unto the Father, but by me' applies to alien farm boys? It certainly couldn't have applied to the world I came from." Clark replies.
Simon shakes his head and answers "You're on the inside of a puzzle that theologians have struggled over for years. There are a lot of folks who think first contact with an alien society will kill Christianity, since other worlds would challenge the story of salvation in the Bible. I guess that's why I am a revival preacher, not a theologian, because it looks a lot simpler to me. Christ spoke in parables, and I think that passage from John is a parable too. After all Jesus wasn't really a big lantern, lighting up the world. To me, it means that you can't find God in the abstract; you find God in the concrete realities of this world. In the actions of humans, as Christ was human. Having met you, I guess I should say, in the actions of beings in the world, as Christ was in the world. It still applies to you, to your people, whoever they may be."
"May have been." Clark corrects him. "I'm the last. I'm alone."
"I'm sorry for your loss Clark." Simon responds, and pauses for a moment. "I can't imagine what it would be like to be the only one my kind. But it doesn't make you alone. You have family, friends, and even strangers who love you enough to give you part of their lives. That's really the most anyone can hope for." Simon falls silent, holding Clark's gaze.
Slowly, Clark nods. "I should go, let you rest a bit before the revival".
Simon holds out the reflector and says, "Put this back the way it was, will you, Clark? I am no good at explaining miracles that I didn't have hand in, and I don't want to let your secret out."
Clark nods again, and carefully crumples the reflector into its familiar, broken shape.
As he's leaving, Clark says "Thanks, Reverend." Then he turns suddenly and asks "What should I tell Chloe about the oaks?"
Simon replies "Like any act of faith, we planted them, and they grew. That's really all there is to it. Oh, we said a blessing, but we also put down a lot of good fertilizer and some nice strong oaks. But that's all we did."
Chloe bursts out "Like any act of faith, we planted them, and they grew? That's the quote you got from him? I can't print that without a Hallmark card border and an Easter hat!"
Clark looks down at the floor of his loft and says "Well, that did seem to cover it. I mean, not the faith part, but the oaks themselves. I know that they were smaller than that when they planted them from what Martha told me, and that he put in fertilizer. But it was just standard LexCorp Weed-and-Feed, nothing fancy. It's not like this was a Nicodemus plant, come back from extinction".
Chloe replies "Sometimes I don't know if you'll ever be a reporter, Clark Kent. We finally have a good story from the revival, and when I trust you for the payoff quote, we get a homily."
Clark, with a mild look of defiance says, "But that wasn't the story I wanted to write. There's enough wall of weird stuff--this was a story about a human being. One whose faith is so strong that it can get people to leave jobs to put up tents, to wander around nowhere Kansas, and to get up at the crack of dawn to plant trees. Who cares how fast the trees grow? The human being is the story. Anyway, that's the story I wrote." Clark hands a sheaf of paper, and stares down at the floor again.
Chloe looks skeptical as she takes the pages, but as she reads them, her color gradually heightens and the restless tapping of her feet stills. When she comes to the end, she looks up, her eyes half-teared and says, very quietly, "I take it back, Kent. You have a gift for human interest I never saw you use before. There's a part of you in this piece, and that makes all the difference. If you can use that in your writing the way you use it here, you'll be twice the reporter Perry White ever was."
"Thanks, Chloe", Clark says, beaming. "Coming from you, that means a lot."
"Yeah, well, send it to me in email, would you?" Chloe goes on in her normal voice. "Even this isn't good enough to turn me into a typist."
"Cool, I'll get right on it" Clark says, waving to Chloe as she heads down the stairs.
Pulling over to the side of the road outside the Kent farm, Chloe flips on the reading light of her VW convertible and looks again at the final page. Almost whispering, she reads aloud "Believing that someone can mean 'I love you' without knowing your darkest secrets is hard for any of us in our everyday lives. Simon and Mary Stewart bring their revival to towns like ours to say those words to strangers, as a witness to how they see God's love for us in the world. You may not walk away from their tent with a belief in God, but you can't help walking away with a belief in the good you can do in the world, just by being there when people need you. They may not be able to turn water into wine or make loaves and fishes stretch to the multitudes, but they do show us how easy it can be to feed the hungry, help out our friends, or just plant a tree for the next generation. Through those they can show us how to show our love for the world. It may not seem like much, but to me, it's miracle enough."
Staring for a moment up at the stars, Chloe says to herself "I guess you're right Kent, that's miracle enough".
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