After Jimmy dropped her off, she walked up to the bar. It was early. Really early. Too early to go into a bar. She turned from the door and walked up Orchard Street past the big church and toward 6th street. She stopped at a bench in the triangle park in front of the church. 

She sat with her legs crossed on the bench, and reached into her jacket for a pack of cigarettes. She set them on the bench and pulled out a paperback book and set it on top of the cigarettes. She looked for a lighter. She sang a song she’d fallen in love with to herself.

I walk along the street
I look into your eyes
I’m pleasant when we meet
I’m there when you go home
How many times before
Could you tell I didn’t care?

She opened the book and found a spot she’d been obsessing over. 

Lane had started in on his frogs’ legs. “What was the book, anyway? Or is it a goddam secret or something?” he asked. “The little book in my bag?” Franny said. She watched him disjoint a pair of frogs’ legs. Then she took a cigarette from the pack on the table and lit it herself. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “It’s something called ‘The Way of a Pilgrim.’” She watched Lane eat for a moment.

She set the book down and lit a cigarette. Franny made her want to smoke. She loved Franny. She hated Lane. What an asshole. But Franny. She loved Franny. She seemed so well put together yet falling apart. She’d tried so hard to cry like Franny did in that bathroom stall, 

She cried for fully five minutes. She cried without trying to suppress any of the noisier manifestations of grief and confusion, with all the convulsive throat sounds that a hysterical child makes when the breath is trying to get up through a partly closed epiglottis.

But she couldn’t do it. She wanted to. But it wouldn’t happen. She did start saying the prayer. 

Franny stopped suddenly to reflect, to organize. “Well, the starets tells him about the Jesus Prayer first of all. ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ I mean that’s what it is.

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” she’d say with her eyes closed. Then again. And again. And again. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

She looked around and soaked up the neighborhood. She loved Strawberry Hill. There was one thing she could do while she was here, along with wandering through the shops. She marched down 6th and through the park to the library. She kept saying the prayer under her breath, 

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

She searched the card catalog for the book. When she walked through the stacks she couldn’t find it. Maybe it was checked out. She decided she’d better ask. 

The librarian took the title and the call numbers she’d written on a small piece of paper with a stubby pencil and disappeared behind a wall of books. She returned with a small volume. 

“Here it is,” the woman said. “The Way of the Pilgrim.” 

She pushed forward her Kansas City Library card. 

“Ok dear,” the woman said. “You have some late fees.”

“How much?” she asked 

“It looks like $4.75”

She slid a 5 across the counter and took the book. 

“Keep the change,” she said. 

She wanted to walk down to the view point and dig into the book. She read as she walked. 

It is also the story of the pilgrim’s learning and practicing, and on occasion teaching to others, a way of praying. Upon this, the hesychast method of prayer, much might be said, and not everyone will be in sympathy with it. But everyone will appreciate the sincerity of his conviction and few probably will doubt the reality of his experience. Strongly contrasted as the method may be with an ordinary religious Englishman’s habits of devotion, for another type of soul it may still be the expression of vivid realization of the truth “for me to live is Christ.

When she arrived at Armstrong and 4th she felt a bit of a chill. The sun was setting on the gray day. She found a spot. The lights of the city were beginning to contrast with the waning light of the sun. It was hard to read the pages. She felt like it was worth saving for later. 

Something told her, though, to go into Saint John’s church. The looming building sort of beckoned to her. She came to Kansas City to run away from home and get drunk. What was pulling her into the church? 

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” 

Maybe she’d faint in the pews like Franny. Maybe a priest would appear and give her some answers. Maybe she’d finally be able to cry. 

The place was lit with candles. She felt vaguely guilty and like a trespasser. But she kept going to the front of the church and sat down in the front. 

The front of the church was all white with a painting of Jesus wearing a red robe hanging off his left shoulder. She was the only one sitting there. 

A older man, a priest came walking down the aisle. 

“Hello young lady,” he said. “Welcome to Saint John’s.”

“Thank you,” she said. 

“We’re about to close,” he said. “What’s that book you have.”

“Oh, well,” she stumbled, “The Way of the Pilgrim.”

Well, my oh my,”’he said. “That is a complicated work.” He say down next to her. 

“May I see it?” he asked. 

She handed him the book. He flipped through it. 

“Here,” he said, reading from the book,

So offer to God what it is within your power to offer. Bring to Him at first just quantity (which is within your power), and God will pour upon you strength in your weakness. “Prayer, dry and distracted maybe, but continuous, will establish a habit and become second nature and turn itself into prayer that is pure, luminous, flaming, and worthy.

He handed the book back to her. 

“Why would God care about us praying?” he asked. “He’s God.”

“He wants to hear from us?” she asked. 

“Yes,” he said. “You understand this intuitively. It’s what made you come here.”

“He needs us?” 

“God has a purpose for us,” he said. “He needs you. There’s a story of a soldier in the book, and he becomes a thief. But even his prayers as a thief are redeemable as long as he says them.”

“I’ve run away from home,” she said. 

“You can’t run from God,” he said. “You’ll just keep running into him. Turn running away into a prayer. Turn what you are running away from into a prayer. Your whole life is a story, but it is a prayer. He can’t wait to hear your story, your life. What will it be?” 

She thanked him. He walked her to the door. 

“You are always welcome here,” he said. “And this place will always be with you.”

She walked back up the hill toward the bar. The books felt good in her pockets, their weight seemed to confirm her experience, her existence. The anger she felt subsided and was replaced with a sense of well being and fear. The fear danced along the edge of her comfort, as if the encounter with the priest and the book was a bright fire. 

“It will die down,” she thought. “Then what?”

She didn’t know. So she said the prayer. 

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”