TOOTH AND BAG
Nora wears a girdle on the outside of her dress. It’s her back brace.
Come out among them and be ye different.
Wears panties on her head to keep her Pentecostal hairdo in place. The higher the hair the closer to God. Jewel Carpenter fixes Nora’s hair up like the McCaleb girls’: wound and bound in an intricate tower. Padded and reinforced like an antique armchair. Nora says, It’s stuffed with real human hair, not pubic though.
She sings: I’d rather marry a young man with an apple in his hand than marry an old man with a thousand acres of land. For an old man he is old and an old man he is gray, but a young man’s heart is full of love. Get away old man get away.
The yardman calls. He has a sweet voice. She thinks it’s someone who wants to fuck. Says he’s always wanted a Lincoln Continental—so he tied a tire to the trunk of his Pontiac.
George comes to church and Nora thinks he looks like John Wayne. He walks up to her and says, If you don’t shut up your griping and your bellyaching I’m gonna snowball the soup out of you.
Bec says George is the most primitive man she’s ever met.
George: I says I wanta ast you somthin feller. I’m from Texas and I’m proud of my cotton-pickin race. Let me ast you somthin else. Have you been in the army and fought for this country. No? Then back off.
Them forked-tongue people.
I ate one of your bananers.
He calls the astronauts “lars” for “liars,” “and the big shots, they knows it.” Doesn’t believe that people have walked on the moon. Says, The pictures on TV are paper cutouts. The moon is a paper plate.
In church, Glory glory glory for hours and hours. Seeking. One mind and one accord heal the sick and raise the dead. Jimmy says to his daddy (Cookie), Your breath stinks. Burt is in stripes so that she may be healed. Toby, the fiddler, plays Turkey in the Straw followed by In the Sweet By-and-By.
Harold says Get out and turns off the lights. He’s had enough church and wants to go home.
Nora wants to go to Ticko Tacko even though it’s pronounced Taco Tico.
Harold is a carpenter from Washington State where sinners ride llamas and hide their faces in tall grasses. Had his knees replaced, lost three inches in height, is called Little Man. Nora was taken with his poetry.
I was still yankin and holdin to the pole
On the end of the line was an old shoe sole
They’ve been married for fifty-two years. When George moved in with Nora, Harold moved into the trailer behind the house.
Brother Clendenon preached Harold’s funeral, said he was a builder for God. They put this in stone. Marvin wrote it on a piece of flat ribbon with glue, sprinkled it with glitter, and presented it to Nora. She hung it on the wall, next to a sagging loop rug.
The window unit wheezes cold currents around Nora’s difficult bed. Two mattresses and an egg-crate foam. Got the foam for free, only five or six people died on it up at the veteran’s hospital. Several pairs of SAS shoes, radios, metal boxes, dog bones. The high ceiling, an old map of water stains, distant spiders mark time in the corners.
Nora: Daddy longlegs deliver me! I can’t hardly look at a spider. Spiders and snakes is two things if you want to get me in tribulation let me be mixed up with them. A person can dry up, get a little cobweb shootin acrost there. You may never have permanents, may be tormented all your life. Hold their bodies close, don’t let them slip away.
I need to have someone to sleep with in case I go into a coma. My sugar is high on account of lemon pie. 116. We don’t have sex anymore. The little dog sleeps between us. George says he can slit my raggedy throat. Come through the carport and break the winda. Blame it on the little voices. He has an edge. Gives me something to hold on to.
George: If I fall out of the house with a .357 Mr. Devil Crosser. Vehicular traffic. My eyeballs are dry.
Something sour on my stomach.
We eat turducken: a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey. The whole thing deep-fat fried. Nora makes cornbread dressing with oysters, egg, and Sister Crumie brings her famous northern dressing made out of white bread, deep-frozen since the sale at M&P (4/$1.00). Bits of cat food in one, pecan shells in the other.
Bec says, They’re both marvelous.
The birds dismantle the seed tree and preen before tiny, clouded mirrors. Nora got a new cockatoo, a pearl gray male. I ask her how the cat feels about it. The cat was named Fluffy—got hit by a car, survived, was renamed Less Fluffy.
She says the cat lost a tooth and wouldn’t be able to chew the bird even if he wanted to.
Sister Crumie says she can’t chew the meat on account of they need to take the tooth and bag out. The cyst is like a uterus. Could lose her whole mouth. Pin in the bone if it’s strong enough. Pi�ata. Two ways they can operate. Go back in get everything out, take the tooth compromise the bone. If that happens, pinned and wired 4-6 months.
Jaw like two slices of bread make a sandwich. Open it tooth and sack, pin it together or wire.
Cyst is eatin out tooo much of the bone, wire it shut.
She says this with a crushed sausage and a monkey cage sitting right on the table. She set this table plates facedown. 13 yrs ago tonight something hit her in the back of the head. She started making demon sketches. One with a bone necklace—carries a bucket something sloshing out—bucket says “blood.” She says, In the garden, a figure stands, in a conductor’s uniform. Same one seen at the foot of the bed. Turn on the light and he stands there looking. Digs out his eyes and lays them on the—
Lord have mercy.
Loose teeth she pulls with pliers, and secrets not worth keeping, but that’s all she has.
Sister Crumie: Arta just forget about this world. You’re not gonna take it with you. They’ll be throwing their money in the streets. Lay up treasures in heaven. He’ll show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth below. Fire vapor of smoke the sun will darken and the moon will turn to blood.
Are you scared?
Why anybody is scared. The devil put a load of discouragement on you and he’s got you thinking about worldy things wicked sin and corruption: leave that world behind. Wouldn’t it tickle you if someone said, Your consecrated love led me to Jesus? I’d rather be a servant than run pillar to post like you do. He’s got a purpose. Fire up your pistols and do something for God. Lot of these churches are goin’ modern. Using vulgar things to get your mind on them. I’ve seen visions of big gambling tables, cars goin’ six abreast, rifling their money away. Angels come into my room. Doors locked an’ everything. I say, Howdy. Devil tried to jerk me right out of the pulpit. That’s what I say: you can be in the church and have you a car for transportation. I need help awful bad with the Work. Be here for the services and enjoy them while you can.
A good crowd at church this morning. Arlus and Alveena. Cookie Perkins. Mary Bizwell and Leo. The Crane boys. Wileen King. Floyd. The Gentrys. Sister Hill. Buck Renfro.
One young man was delivered from a satanic cult. He has a sticker on the back of his jacket: I Hate Parents. His mother stands up to testify: “If those people in his gang knew he was in here they would break down the door and kill everyone of y’all.”
“Y’all pray for us to have a deeper walk,” she says.
Garland Block says he needs a healing. Tried to pick up a motor out of the backyard, hernia just hanging down. Little David tries to turn the volume down on Block’s bass. Garland says, “You can touch my wife and you can touch my daughter but don’t touch my amplifier.” David leans in close to him and says, “The Lord just told me you’re a bastard.”
Lewis and Opal tell about their house. Gas and electric shut off. Cat hair in every crevice. Around the handles on the stove. Cat hair in his loafer where the penny goes. They were up all night fanning roaches off the baby. The baby sleeps in a drawer.
Ann made an announcement:
God was the one who put me with him. Why me? We’s both scared. Cookie, I said, I believe the Lord put us together. We can run from happiness or go for it.[Toilet flush] Y’all are invited to my weddin’ on the eighth at his mother’s house. It’s at 7:00 after work. Bring a big present.
Bracket supporting the folding leg, Ma Drumright eats the saltines slated for communion. Pulpit under bare incandescent light bulb, a few feet away, the bathroom door sticks. Sign on the door, flush the stool.
Crumie says Lay the ramp for hardly capped access. Neva needs that. She sits near the door, facing the audience. Dying in her pink dress, she is from Orange. Somewhere between the desert and Disney World. Her son Bill has promise and a new Dodge pickup. Back window of the cab tinted with an idyllic deer at stream scene, perfect of its kind. Nora asks him to pull the flatbed trailer for Halloween caroling.
Carlita pulled out her eyebrows and painted on new ones. Crooked. She sings a special with backup music from a tape deck. Says she’s using her Bible as a road map then screams something from the platform. Bec grips my arm like we’re at a scary movie.
Brother Upton got caught with a wild woman “scratching at the walls.”
“Y’all pray for me while I sing”:
If I would have gone by the way I felt I would have stayed home watching Dallas.
Make a joyful noise.
After the song service, Nora took up an offering, and preached this message:
Listen at this
Now we see that old King Herod is startin’ out with persecution again. Vexing the people with a s-w-ord. Herod liked John but he cut the man’s head off and sent it down there to the dance floor as a present to Mother. Wouldn’t that be a gift for you? A great big tray with the head on it.
Herod proceeded further to take Peter also. But he didn’t know who he got a holt of when he ran acrost Peter.
Then were the days of unleavened bread.
Peter was down there preaching and some of Herod’s men grabbed him up, but they put off killin’ him till after Easter. Didn’t want to stir up ever body and git more trouble. So he was delivered to a quaternion of soldiers. Chained to two, guarded by two others. He hadn’t killed nobody, hadn’t stole nothing. But he was preaching bout Jesus oh hally loo and was therefore kept in prison.
Here’s a big but B-U-T. But prayer was made and stopped. Is that what it says Brother Bates?
NO. Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. He wasn’t no ordinary man who disobeyed traffic laws and was throwed in jail. He had somebody on his side.
I preached a funeral in Oklahoma City. There was a man was shot to death over in Missurah. They shot his head off. And had five of the family down in McAllister and they was bringin them up for the funeral. Not all of them. They brought three up there. One of the sisters and two of the men. Littleton family. And they had them chained to the guards, to the soldiers. Each one had one chain to the other and had em real close together and they took em in there to the undertakin parlor. They was gonna open the coffin and the family said, We don’t want to see him. And the guards said, You’re gonna see him anyway. Death doesn’t generally bring conviction for very long. I think they went on a-doin’ wrong. But anyway.
Peter was sound asleep between two soldiers.
And the keepers before the door kept the prison.
And behold an angel of the Lord came upon him and a light shined on him.
Brother George says he had an experience with the light. That old chicken crowed three times and he woke up with the room all lit up. Little girl was standin’ at the foot of the bed sayin’, Jesus, this is my daddy. Daddy, this is Jesus. Wasn’t too long after that George got power on his life.
I guess I sorta got saved.
Oh my goodnight. George, testify on how He sought you and peppered you with His redeeming blood.
It was a short night sleepin but a long night layin there. Ate supper. Wore out. Ma kidneys had to move. Grabbed it right quick. Little jar. Half blood. Git ready we’re goin to the VA hospital fer me. Sceered. Talked to my doctor on things internal and eternal. Under a shade tree. Round heart bigger than a nickel toolin with a gun cotton-pickin bound up in me. 1:00 this morning half of a pie playin cards drectly I dropped over.
Careening. Try to do this
want something for
This light shined in the prison and the angel smote Peter on the side and said, Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals Glory to God.
Peter and the angel walked past the 1st and 2nd ward and came unto the Iron Gate that leadeth to the city. This gate was big. It had many locks on it. All kinds of murderers in there. Got to the Big Iron Gate and it opened of its own accord. Cookie, there wasn’t no Genie automatic garage-door opener. I can drive up to my garage and punch a little button inside my car and that door rolls up just as pretty as you please.
The gate opened on account of that bunch was still prayin for impossibility.
The Littletons asked me: Sister Nora, do you believe in miracles? I said, Yes.
If we was more thankful, we’d receive more miracles. There’d be more things come into our path of victory. There’s not any ob-stack-ul to get in your way. Touch the hem of His garment and He’ll move the mountain.
Now listen at this.
When Peter come to himself he went to knock on the door where his friends was prayin. A damsel came to harken, name of Rhoda. Course she didn’t throw the door wide open. These Christians were all in trouble. Folks were grabbin em up, cutting their heads off. But she heard Peter’s voice and ran back in there sayin hey hey hey stop.
They said, You’re crazy woman. What’s the matter with you. Thou art mad.
Then they were astonished.
Peter departed and went into another place.
Back at the prison, Herod decides the keepers should be put to death. Then he sets up there on his throne, in royal apparel, and he makes an oration. The people said it is the voice of a god, it ain’t no man.
And immediately an angel smote him and he was eaten of worms and died.
The word grew and multiplied.
Cookie, stand up and testify.
Cookie: The Lord brung Melody through havin a baby. No complications. I thank him for the bread. We can walk. How many are they around that can’t even walk. Look at Brother Charlie. He don’t have eyes to see with. We got eyes to see the beauty of the world. The Lord created beasts that does nothing but praise him.
The booster band is fixen to sing.
Brother Bates, testify.
Bates: Sister, the Lord’s healed my body many times. I could use a healing right now. But this is in the plan of God. He’s got something going for me I believe. He will heal by his stripes. Hell, I am healed. I feel 100% in my body. Praise the Lord with a loud voice. Let your faith grow. He will answer. He will not forsake you. Reach out and git it.
Buddy’s back there takin pictures.
(Bates, cont’d): . . . spare that leg. I told Ma, God gave you that leg don’t let them take it off. We want it brought to us in a picture. I took my medicine this morning and before I got out of the trailer I puked it up.
Nora says, We’ve had two miracles with this leg situation. Clay almost lost his.
The booster band enters. (Our memory verse for today is: Jesus wept.)
Neil in coveralls. His head blocks the view.
Nora: I might ask Brother Neil to scoot down or scoot over here so the camera can get the platform. Testify while you’re standin up there Brother Neil.
Alright. Sister Crumie, come sing. come sing sister.
Crumie: I wanna say I’m very grateful and thankful for the bloodstained banner of Jesus Christ. I had a miracle happen to me just a few days ago and it was a Bible miracle. Sister Nora, I was in the dining roooom and I reached down to get a couple cans of Ensure out of the little box that I keep there and I seen a brown . . . look like a folded-up sack or a cloth and I wondered why that was in that box but decided I’d go ahead and reach in the box and take out that brown piece of material that I thought was paper or cloth or something and I reached down with my hand to pull it out and got a holt of it and what do you think it was?
It was a copperhead snake.
I let loose of it and it run back in the box. I picked the box uuup. Drug it out to the kitchen. When I got it out there I thought maybe that snake mighta got out there in the house so I set the box down and decided I’d go back in there and look but I didn’t discover it so I went back to the box and opened up the top and there it was layin coiled up. Well I still had some of my cans of Ensure in there bout 12 cans something like that or 14.
Nora rests her eyes. (I was lookin at my shoes.)
I picks up the box and takes it outdoors and went to the dog and said, Coley, there’s a snake in the box. He reached to grab it and it reached to grab him.
So I just raised up a corner of the box and pulled those cans of Ensure out of there and God protected me through the whole thing. Then I dumped the box. And when I did, the copperhead run toward my dog and the dog grabbed him the snake grabbed him the dog grabbed the dog grabbed the snake and killed him. The pup. The snake.
And I thank God for the hedge he builds about his children.
Riley Biter got his teeth filed and they took Ma Drumright’s leg off today. Nora called and told me.
Remember Sister Van Dusen? Dead.
Is everything OK?
No, nothing’s OK. George has half an artery to his heart and your uncle is bleeding out of his rear. I’ll have him up at the veteran’s hospital at eight in the morning. They found a new cracklin in his heart.
The Van Dusen bunch needs $4,100.00 to bury the old lady. Dead lady. They won’t even wash her face at the funeral home ’til they see some cash.
We chat lengthily about septic tanks and barrel racing. Montgomery Ward called. Credit problems.
Says she keeps getting the brown envelope tormenting prescriptions for magazines. Finished several paintings, some not even on the wall, under the divan. Neva Dimmick is under life supports, heart trouble (attack). Wallace Burgess died Thurs. 82. I don’t know what killed him. Saw it in the paper. Went to Cookie’s ate a pork chop. Blood sugar was 86.
A Little boy 13 crawled under a fence to get to a pumping oil well, climbing on the arm that pumps, he slipped into the wheels and was ground up. Little is his last name.
Do little children come up and scream in your face?
I said yes. I didn’t want her to feel different.