Meeting of the Minds
Part One: The First Guest
For the eighteenth time in the space of a minute, I glanced at my watch and wondered in exasperation why time had chosen to slow down to a crawl. I absent-mindedly stared out of my front window and watched the autumn leaves falling and twirling in the breeze. Sighing, I turned from the window and wandered into my cozy little den, sat down in my favorite reading chair, and tried to relax.
My guests, three gentlemen of repute, wouldn’t be arriving for another half an hour.
In the days leading up to this meeting, my emotions had swung pendulum-like between excitement and nervousness. There was nothing to be nervous about I kept telling myself—just a few guys coming to my home to shoot the breeze while I took a few notes on what could be a career-making story. As an inspiring journalist, this interview was a plum.
Less than a minute later, I abandoned relaxing as a lost cause and was up again, pacing around the room, looking for something to keep me occupied. I pulled a book at random from my large and overflowing bookshelf, began to flip idly through the pages, and then slapped it shut—it was no good. My mind was brimming with questions that I wanted to ask my visitors. I looked forward to the stories that I knew they would inevitably tell.
My friends and co-workers doubted that I could pull off such a meeting of the minds. After all, these were no ordinary men that were coming over to spend the afternoon with me. Yet when I extended an invitation to each of my potential guests, they were eager to accept. Perhaps they were as excited about the prospect of meeting each other as I was.
There was a knock at my front door.
Here we go, I thought as I took a deep breath, trying to quell the butterflies in my stomach. I strode quickly down the hall to the front door, opened in, and ushered in Abraham Lincoln.
“Good afternoon,” he said, giving a slight bow. “Am I early?” He removed his stovepipe hat, which nearly brushed the top of my doorway.
“Oh, um, not at all, Mr. President,” I said, (even though he was). Receiving his firm handshake, I gestured to the coat rack beside the door. “May I take your coat and hat?” He thanked me, handed over his large black overcoat and hat which I hung up. “Thank you for coming, Mr. Lincoln. This is an honor, sir,” I said trying not to gush…and failing miserably. “I have always been a great admirer of yours.” Lincoln flushed slightly at the adulation.
“Well,” he drawled, “that’s mighty high praise for the common jackleg lawyer and president that I am, or was.”
“I think you underestimate yourself,” I replied, leading him toward the den.
“Still,” Lincoln continued, “I’d rather be viewed as common. Common people are the best in the world.” Then he said with smile and a wink, “that’s the reason the Lord made so many of us.”
We entered the den and I asked Lincoln if he would like any refreshments.
“Some water would suit me,” he said. As I poured out a glass of water from a decanter, Lincoln moved to the other end of the room and intently browsed my bookshelves, occasionally removing a volume and skimming the pages.
“You have quite a collection here,” Lincoln said as I handed him his drink. He took a sip, his eyes still fixed on the shelves. “You’ve got history, theology, philosophy, poetry…”
“If you find anything of interest, you are more than welcome to borrow it.” Lincoln’s glance moved from the shelves to me.
“That’s mighty generous of you,” he said, tracing his large finger across a row of books. “I’m mighty fond of books, as you may have noticed. Yes sir,” he murmured thoughtfully, “my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book that I ain’t read.” His finger stopped at a large book. He pulled it off the shelf and examined it; it was a biography of himself. His thin, worn, bearded face dominated the cover. Lincoln clucked his tongue and shook his head. “Not one of my better pictures,” he said wryly, “and that’s saying something.” He brought the tome with him, took a seat in a recliner, and crossed his long legs. “No one could fairly accuse me of vanity with a face like mine.” He pulled a pair of glasses from within his coat pocket, put them on, and idly began to flip through the pages, looking up a moment later. “It makes me feel like the ugly man who was walking through the woods one day. He came across a woman, heading in the opposite direction.
“‘Well, for land sake,’ she said, stopping, ‘you are the homeliest man I ever saw.’
“‘Yes, madam,’ said the man, ‘but I can’t help it.’
“‘No, I suppose not,’ she replied, ‘but you might try staying at home.’”
We both laughed; his chortle high and strong.
There was another knock at the front door. I excused myself and went to answer it.