Southern Legitimacy Statement: I come from a place where you save leftover fat in a coffee can for biscuits or eggs or a gravy base. I come from a place where men go from one mother to another right after high-school and where their babies walk fat-headed towards another dead end life. I come from a long line of killers and whores and boozehounds but this is America and I’m sure that’s the case for most of us. At least the ones from the harder-strung places where there wasn’t much else to do but kill, whore, booze, and howl.
Healing Comes to Morewell Elsewhere
Up to that point, I had lived in Morewell Elsewhere my entire life. As of two days prior, I had lived in the same Georgia town for twenty seven straight years with nothing much to show for it except for a two year old little girl I didn’t hardly get to see none account of her mama’s disdain for me, raised two champion fighting dogs, Elmonde and Disher Dan, the former of which had been the top dog in Bacon County until someone had put antifreeze in his drinkin’ bowl, killing him deader than he deserved, and I worked at least two stints at every place in town that hired and paid well enough for the work.
Every place of business and every local property of note was named after the town, which was about five-six buildings. Morewell Elsewhere Auto, Morewhere Elswhere Cemetery and City Hall, Morewhere Elsewhere Family Grocery, the burnt down Morewhere Elswhere Ol’ Country Diner, and The First Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene of Morewell Elswhere. I had always figured it a mouthful, myself, but just as every other building, the church was mostly called by what exactly it was and not so much the name as it was printed on the sign out front or government document.
This was my third time working for Mr. Walsh at the auto shop, which was also a gas station and limited supply general store. Sold ibuprofen, soda, atlases, pork rinds, tampons, emergency things of that nature one might need when on the road. The first time I had worked there, fightin’ dog money was rolling in and I had been able to quit working for close to one and one half years, but Elmonde had lost to Larry Crew’s boy from Rockingham. I had been real pissed about it at first. I don’t know many men from around here that took to losing very well, especially when you lost a fine animal like Elmonde, but it had been a fair fight and if I had to lose there were worse men to lose to.
Then someone had poisoned Disher Dan and it sent me into a tailspin. That and a mix of many things I suppose. I had come back to work for Mr. Walsh and it took for about a month and a half and then he fired me, but I have gotten clean and sober since then. Well, aside from beer and pot, but if beer and pot had been the problem my firing would have been unlikely in the first place. No sir. My problem had been moonshine and methamphetamines. But it’s kicked now. If I stay that way for another little while, then I could start seeing my daughter again. Maybe even get back into the dog game if I started to gain trust back and people started seeing me as a good man again, which I was, and not as a tweaker, which I ain’t.
A jagged red Plymouth, which everyone knew as Horvel Redmehn’s, who was called Red Man, pulled next to the pump. He always struggled to get out of the car. He had one of them big legs from circulation problems that just about made you want to cry when you seent it. He had been a bad, bear of a man in a previous life and now was just about the most generous man in town. He had made a good deal of money in construction but he had worked damn hard for it his whole life, given most of it away, and had only a broken down body to show for it. “Fill it on up, would you please, Cracker.” “Yessir, Red Man.”
Since I was a kid people have called me Cracker for my white skin. As an albino, even now in Spring I had to wear a large gardening hat or the sun would right near cook me to an early grave. When I was a boy there had been times I tried to go without it, or had forgotten as youngins do when they get on going. My cousin had said the top of my head had looked like a castrated pig’s dropped nutbag after a few days of sun and hard weather. I hate to say he was just about as spot on as he could be without my head being a castrated pig’s nutbag.
I began pumping the gas and Red Man went inside to get him some sweets or a Coke and I peeled off a few paint chips from the car. When he came back out he began talking to me about the healer that was supposed to be headed into town. The whole place had been abuzz since it had been announced. The only things that got the town talking like that was other evangelists and people who supposedly been carrying God’s gifts to the unfortunate, the Carnival, which hadn’t been back in two years, and my favorite, the Briscoe’s Georgia Championship Wrestling. I once saw Abdullah the Butcher bounce Randy Barber’s head into the ringpost like it weren’t nothing more than a ripe cantaloupe. I had gotten more from The Briscoes than from the carnival games or God’s love, but at least the others were something to do.
“You going down to the Church when that healer comes on into town tonight?” Red Man said.
“Oh, I don’t know. I heard some talk here and there but I ain’t heard enough to know if I’m going or not.”
“Some big black boy from the Carolinas somewheres Preacher said. Got the power of healing in him. Said he done brought back three or four people from the dead. He even prayed for a sickly man so hard once the lord took him up to heaven right there, just like Enoch or Elijah, by gawd.’
“Well, hell, Red Man. I’m not sure I’m ready to be taken up there on a fiery chariot just yet.”
Red Man laughed heartily. “Me neither, but I’d settle happily if he’d take a look at my leg. You know I’m not one for complaining, but this thing is just about to kill me. Burns all day and night. Feels like it is just about to blow at any second. Most times when the preacher asks those with ails and aches to come down and get prayed for I stay in my seat. I don’t want to take nobody else’s healing from them, but I’ve gone about as long as I can. If the lord don’t fix it, I just might shoot myself. Hey, Cracker, maybe the healer can take a look at your skin! You never know.”
“I figured I’ve gone about this long this color. I don’t mind it none. Seems as if it’s more everyone else’s minding than my own”
“I hear that, good buddy. I’m a gonna get on down the road.”
“Take it easy. Don’t work too hard.”
Red Man said something about it getting harder and harder as he gets older or something along them lines. I was thinking about the Baker boy. He had been one hell of a ball player in school, completely deaf. Every time a healer was in town, like me, everyone pulled him every which way but loose down to the revival tent to try to force a healing on him. He always looked scared half to death. It didn’t occur to nobody that maybe he didn’t want to hear. Can you imagine? Hearing nothing and then at the age of thirty, that nothing goes away and turns into everything? He traveled around to deaf schools, helping younger kids with the same affliction. He’d lose just about everything he’s ever been.
Throughout the rest of the morning, pert near everyone that came to the station had been speaking on the healer and the revival at The First Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene of Morewell Elswhere. Elise Abernathy had been bleeding terribly, or so her sister, Louise had gossiped at the pump, and was going to ask for a healing. Frankly, I didn’t need nor want to hear about the lady problems of my sweet neighbor. I would also be willing to bet that she would be none too happy that her sister was running amuck with the problems of her undercarriage either. Then again, Louise may have not understood how sensitive it was as she herself was an open book, talking ‘bout that she was going to be going to the healer with a problem rash that had been flaring up and causing her a great deal of pain and stress. Only, I and the whole town knew it weren’t no “problem rash”. That being said, if I was stuck with it for life, I might be turning to God and whoever to take it from me as well.
Surlin Howard was going to take his old granny. She had been eaten up by something the Doctor had called Aphasia. She couldn’t communicate or read anymore and from my understanding had lost all ways of communication or understanding communication in any way shape or form. It terrified me the many ways the human mind and body could break down as it aged. Especially those who had not treated themselves all that kindly be it from car wrecks, or fighting, or methampetimes. I shuddered wholly, and tried to shake it from my mind.
Sammy Davis Jr., not the one you know, but the one from our city who in all honesty wasn’t too bad of a singer himself when he wasn’t locked up in jail for failing to pay child support. He had it in his mind to be a blues singer and he had been on a good run. He had even hooked up with Red Man’s brother, Red Man, and his band Luddite for a spell. They dressed up like they’s Amish or Irish or something and played old Muddy Waters songs. I didn’t quite understand it myself, but they were mighty popular. Sammy said he was going to the church tonight not for a healing but to ask God to forgive him for the way he had abandoned his children. He said he knew it was wrong and it pained him everyday. He said what was worse than that was he knew in his heart that it wouldn’t ever be different.
He asked me if I thought God could forgive a man for something like that. I told him I didn’t rightly know. He forgave Lot for screwin’ his daughters and Noah for his lushness. I even remember a sermon about how the Israelites carried out a mass killing because they had thought it was God’s command yet they were mistaken. I assumed he forgave them for it. I know it made Sammy feel better. I forgot I had ever known that much about the bible and felt quite good myself.
It was five o’clock and my shift was over. Usually Parker Boyd would relieve me of my post here and take over for the rest of the night, but even the station was closing early for the revival. I was decently tired and hugely hungry and decided to drive home instead of the church. I was fine with my Albinism and was as sober as I cared to ever be and didn’t need delivered from anything. I didn’t want to be around sadness, hymnals, or the congregation of the church who I didn’t rightly mind spending much of my time with. They were fine people I suppose, I just never figured out how to smile like them.
I set out to make a stew but became overwhelmed at the ingredients once I had splayed them over the counter and decided on a Hungry Man. Salisbury steak wasn’t my favorite by any stretch of the imagination but It was the only one I had left and the first half of it went down fine. Around the second half, Sammy Davis Jr. popped into my mind as did his little lost children. Raised with a perpetual rumbling in their little bellies and wearing other people’s clothes. I’ll be dad gummed if my own little girl didn’t start haunting me so badly that the second half of my dinner felt like ash in my mouth.
I felt a blueness rise in my stomach. I had stayed sober for her and there wasn’t much else I could do. I thought of the others in the church praying for a second chance at this or that. Praying that they could forgive their uncles for their badness, praying the cancer out of their mamas, praying that they could hold their little babies again. I could be doing more, even if it was a little bit of prayer. Why not me? Haven’t I been good? Haven’t I stayed on the up and up fighting the good fight? Surely, if anyone deserved divine intervention it was me? I couldn’t, in good conscience, for me nor my Marabel, stay home and watch Johnny Carson while I could be working on saving my relationship with my own daughter.
So I drove about as fast as my pickup would carry me, passing straight through multiple stop signs and even a yield. Surely God could forgive those too, after all I was on my way to one of his houses. I got there at the nick of time and the deacons shut the door after me. There weren’t nearly as many cars as I had imagined there would be. The church was full, a little over full maybe, but when you think of the healing power of God, I figured half the state of Georgia would show up. I saw Elise Abernathy and tried not to think of her affliction nor what kind of contraption she had rigged up to catch it under that daisy print dress.
“I thought there’d be a whole mess of people here.” I whispered.
“Preacher said Brother Tubbs asked him to not advertise his coming on the radio or paper or nothing. He said his name is so big that when they advertise it too many people show up. It gets way out of hand for everyone involved.”
I nodded to her but didn’t quite like or agree with what she said. Too many people? Too many people to come to the lord? Was that not the point? I remember, and I don’t know the specifics or what book of the bible it was in, that Jesus has healed as many people that shown up. All through the night he helped those that needed him. Were we not called to the same thing? It didn’t rub me quite as right as it seemed to rub the others.
Everyone took their seats and the Preacher, after a raucous song of praise, introduced Brother Tyson Tubbs to the pulpit. Red Man was right. Probably stood a good six foot seven, four hunnerd pounds, and was as black as a Cadillac. He had gold earrings in each ear that I could have worn as rings, and rings on his fingers I could have worn as necklaces. He had a fancy suit on and spoke to those with torn hems, busted Red Wings, and patched denim blue jeans that were as gray as the walls of the church.
Brother Tyson Tubbs had the size of a wrestler and the speaking cadence of the carnival performers and he used both in his telling of how he had come to the gift of healing. The lord had woke him up in the middle of the night, though he had not woken up in his room, but in heaven. It was bright and the clouds swirled like they might in a blizzard, yet the sun was shining as it does in the middle of July. He was being led up the stairs by a man who held him by the hand. He could not see this man, but he felt safe in his presence. Scared at the situation, but safe in his hands. When they reached the top there was a throne and sitting on it was God and he was blinding. Tubbs threw his hands over his face to shield them from bubbling in their sockets. God told him that he was getting his gift, and to travel the world spreading that gift and then God was gone. When Brother Tubbs dropped his arms away from his eyes the man who had been leading him was now facing him. It was Jesus. His hair and beard were brown and his face as white as snow.
The congregation clapped and hollered and cried. Jesus’ skin was white as snow? Wasn’t Jesus Middle East colored, I thought. Everyone else seemed excited about it and I just got more confused. Before I could whisper something to Elise, Brother Tubbs let out a loud and faltering gasp. He fell into the pulpit and was now leaning on it. He began to rub his temple with one hand and reached out to the ceiling with his other as if he was receiving a telegram from somewhere we could not see.
“I’m… I’m getting… a word, a name, from the lord of someone who needs healing.” Tubbs said. “Is there… a Joe in here tonight?”
Sixteen men raised their hands in the air.