Ever since the revival at the brush arbor, there have been tongues of fire licking at my body. Folks say that the Holy Spirit spoke through me that night and, now that old man Beale Blankenship has got hisself run over by a train, they say that I am anointed in the spirit and have the gift of prophecy.
I didn’t know exactly when it happened. All I remember of that night is setting on the hard log bench and hearing the preacher call on the Lord to send down his Holy Spirit to anoint His people. I was hungry and hot and I begun to feel swimmie-headed so I whispered to Mama could I leave the brush arbor and go down by the river where it was cooler.
The next thing that I remember I was laying on the ground before the raised-up place where the elders was setting. The preacher was kneeling in the dust beside of me, just praying like one thing and they was folks standing on the benches and waving their hands in the air.
And then Mama took me home. I asked her what had happened and she said that we’d speak of it later but we never have yet and it’s been close on to two weeks now.
We did not go back to the brush arbor though the revival went on for another four days. And now Mama watches me all the time with a worried kind of a look and I heard her tell Papa that she hoped I wasn’t going to begin to take fits like that poor child of Fronie’s. I wonder if that’s what happened to me and I think that I would like to go see Least and ask her if she feels the licking of the tongues of fire.
It isn’t till three weeks have passed that I find out more about what happened at the brush arbor. Me and my sister Naomi Ruth, who is fourteen years of age and thinks she’s something, are in the garden picking early beans. We are working our way down the tall shady rows, me on one side, her on the other, so’s not to miss a single ripe pod. The beans have done extry good this year and the sea-grass strings are so thick with vines that all I can see of Naomi Ruth is her hand poking in and out of the sticky green leaves. But I can hear her plain. She is aggravated at me.
“What I think,” she says in her prissy, smarty-pants voice, “is that you weren’t doing nothing but putting on a show, that time at the brush arbor.”
Her pink fingers are jumping in and out of the vines, pulling off the long fat pods with a sharp snapping sound.
“I wasn’t putting on nothing,” I say. “And I don’t remember nothing either but for standing up to leave and then laying on the ground up at the front of the arbor. I don’t know how I got there.”
The busy fingers stop and make a peek hole in the green curtain of bean vines and Naomi Ruth puts her face up to the open spot. She looks cross and her face is all sweaty and red under her poke bonnet.
“You don’t remember hollering out all them made-up words? And pointing your finger at Mr. Beale Blankenship and what you said to him?”
“No,” I say, “I done told you, I don’t remember nothing. What did I say?”
Naomi Ruth squinches up her face like she’s trying to remember. “It was crazy talk – first you hollered out that wine is a mocker, which I have heard the preacher say back of this, and then you called out something about death coming on a black horse and the horse breathing fire and smoke and running down a silver road. And you called Mr. Beale Blankenship a drunk and a sinner, which ever one knows but it weren’t fitten for you to say it, being just a little girl. And the quarest thing was that the whole time you was talking, your eyeballs was rolled back in your head till didn’t nothing show but white but you was pointing right at poor ol Beale Blankenship. And he went to trembling and turning white as a ghost and then you quit talking. First you rolled your head around and then you hit the floor like someone had knocked you down.”
Naomi Ruth pushes her head through the hole in the bean vines and looks hard at me. “And you say you don’t remember none of that?”
I look down where my basket is setting and try to make a picture out of what she has told me but I can’t see nothing but the dirt and the little rocks and a devil-in-the-garden weed that we missed last time we hoed. I reach and yank it out. “No,” I say one more time, “not none of that.”
The hole in the green curtain closes back up and I hear Naomi Ruth making a hmmph sound in her throat like she don’t believe me. Her pink fingers go back to yanking the beans loose and the snapping sounds come faster and faster.
It seems like there is something big pressing on me, trying to press me down into the dirt between the rows. I turn my face up to the hot blue sky and the sun that is straight overhead. And now it seems like there is a golden ray shooting right into my eye like a rock dropping down the dark well that is the narrow place between the tall bean rows. The beam of sun shoots down the bean vine well and down the well made by the brim of my poke bonnet and right into the heart of me and I know that I have been hit by the Holy Spirit and that his flame will burn in me forever.