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Paul then began what was essentially an interrogation on the laws of physics. He asked question after question, and Bill patiently answered every one of them.

“Are you sure you don’t want to play that game?” Bill asked.

“They can wait,” Paul said. “I don’t understand that last part, can you explain it again?”

Bill laughed. He started to speak, but Paul’s mom called them for dinner.

“Can’t we stay up here longer?” Paul shouted.

“Your mother called us down.” The tone was gentle, but it had a sudden firmness to it. “She didn’t ask if we were ready or not.”

The smile on his face took the edge off the demanding look in his eyes. It all felt sort of like being hit with a pillow. It didn’t hurt, but Paul knew it was a reprimand. Something about it reminded Paul of Nobody and that no-nonsense demeanor he always had. 

“Sorry, Mom!” Paul shouted down the stairs. “We’re coming down.”

He turned off his TV and console and made his way to the dining room. As they walked down, Bill started to offer the explanation as they walked.

He was still explaining the effects of energy and thermodynamics when they took their seats at the table. 

“What are you guys talking about?” Paul’s mom asked.

“Physics,” they said together. 

“Oh, so you’ve learned what Bill does for a living,” his mother said.

Paul gave an embarrassed shrug. “I probably should have listened to you more when you talked about him.”

“You actually understand that stuff?” His mother didn’t seem to feel like the apology needed to be addressed. They were talking now, and that’s what mattered.

“He has absolutely been studying this stuff closely.” Bill’s compliment made Paul’s chest swell. It was genuine recognition from an actual scientist.

“Are you just saying that because you’re dating my mom?” The thought occurred to Paul even as he asked the question.

Bill cocked his head and nodded in thought. “I can see why you’d think that might be a suspicion, but I won’t offer you a false compliment. I’m not saying you should come work with me next week. I’m just saying is obvious you have a passion for this, and you seem be be learning quickly.”

There wasn’t a way to know if Bill was just deflecting or if he really felt that way, but Paul chose to believe him. Paul wanted desperately to believe him. 

They sat down together and passed food around. Paul dug in, but he froze when he saw Bill from the corner of his eye. The man folded his hands in front of himself and bowed his head in prayer. Paul wondered if Bill was waiting for everyone else, but then Bill whispered “A-men.”  He didn’t talk out loud, and it wasn’t a very long prayer, but Paul didn’t know what to do. Was he supposed to pray, too? 

Bill just smiled and went to eating. Paul stared. Bill took a few bites of food before he realized Paul was watching him. 

“Is something wrong?” Bill asked.

“We’ve never said grace,” Paul’s mother explained.

Bill smiled. “I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. I just say grace before I eat.”

“So, you’re religious?” Paul asked.

“I’m Christian,” Bill said. 

“But you’re a scientist.” Paul couldn’t believe it.

“Did someone tell you those two things are exclusive?” Bill asked. Again, the question reminded Paul of Nobody. 

“Well, how can you believe in Christianity when you know it’s not true?” Something in Paul felt wrong at the question. A part of him felt like he was letting Nobody down, but the truth was he didn’t believe. 

Sure, the Bible had a lot of useful comments and tools. Maybe there was a God, but science and Christianity just didn’t mesh, at least not with the Bible. 

Bill tilted his head again in thought. “I’m willing to talk about it with you, but I’m curious. Are you trying to understand my thoughts and beliefs, or are you trying to argue for your own?”

Paul froze. He still hadn’t touched his dinner. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” Bill said, “some people truly just want to discuss what they believe so they better understand each other. Others don’t really want to understand people, they just want to dispute and argue with them.  I’m not interested in an argument, especially at dinner.”

One thought on “Visits From A Man Named Nobody 27

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