Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Man Oh Man-It's Manna Man

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Man Oh Man-It's Manna Man

Article excerpt

Janie Satterfield does not recalculate. She tries to block out the howling dogs and cats. There's enough money for a week of food-two weeks if a Christian Youth Group comes in and adopts half the strays. Sometimes she dreams of this: If every Boy and Girl Scout troop in the country adopted one dog or cat, then the number of strays would decrease somewhat. Not much, but a little. If every elementary school in America adopted a mascot. If every hospital. If every retirement home. Janie keeps a notebook of people and organizations that she thinks might help control the pet population in America. If every contestant on a game show, if every person who worried about getting into heaven, if every church and synagogue and mosque, if every prison.

The telephone rings. Janie does not answer. It'll be one of her volunteers from the Junior League calling to cancel, she knows. Every day, it seems, one of her volunteers calls, faking a cough, saying that she doesn't want to bring the flu into the kennel area.

The machine beeps. An older woman says, "I hope I got the right number. I'm calling to donate. I can do the five-dollar-a-week program. Just tell me where to send it." The woman leaves her telephone number and address. Janie stares at the answering machine.

The phone rings again and, thinking that it's probably the older woman calling to say she misdialed earlier, Janie answers with "Graywood County Humane Society."

"Yes. I'm calling to offer my donation," a man says. "I'd like to send a hundred dollars to you."

Line two rings, then line three. Janie brightens her voice. She says, "That's so kind of you, sir," and gives him the post office box address.

And it happens and it happens and it happens. For six straight hours Janie Satterfield picks up the phone, takes donations, and at the end of the day she's been promised more than a hundred thousand dollars. And she is amazed to learn that a television evangelist, one Reverend Leroy Jenkins, has directed all of his listeners to donate to the Graywood Humane Society.

"I need to write Reverend Jenkins a thank-you card," she says to herself, still alone without a volunteer. She steps into the kennel area and says to her barking strays, "Maybe we'll take a photograph of us all and send it to Reverend Jenkins."

Janie had never heard of this particular television evangelist.

And she'd never heard of Manna Man, working his powers, redirecting.

Manna Man checfes the internet. He glances over the Local sections of over three-hundred small-town weekly newspapers to which he subscribes. He takes notes. He categorizes and tries not to make assumptions. The mail carrier detests Manna Man. The mail carrier comes home on Thursdays and asks his wife if she'll keep quiet should Ben Culler's house burn down mysteriously one night soon.

The food bank will close in midwinter, right when it needs to be most available. For three years Lloyd Driggers has operated the food bank on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, doling out canned goods, bread, and milk, in large paper bags. He does not question anyone as to hunger or thirst. He makes no judgments. Unfortunately, the donations have dwindled. Area preachers have hinted, then outright demanded, that their congregants give to their own soup kitchens, their own food banks. The preachers have said things like, "Why would you give your hard-earned money and canned yams to an organization that doesn't even try to save the unsaved? Lloyd Driggers doesn't offer testimonials. No, he just hands out food. That's not enough!"

The congregants listened, as congregants do.

Lloyd Driggers's shelves soon went empty. He spent his savings. He went into his IRA and bought groceries on a weekly basis-$1,000 every Tuesday to help feed the homeless, the unemployed, the working poor. He sold his house and moved into his food-bank space-which used to be a two-bay Gulf service station back in the 1960s. …

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