"They don't know exactly what got her," the woman said. She
tore a stamp from the sheet the postman had just given her, and
she licked it and smoothed it out on her letter before handing it
over to him. "But they reckon a snake must've been hiding in
them tomato plants. By the time they found her on Wednesday
her right hand had turned black, and she had a black lump under
her eye too. It was just as round and hard as it could be," she said.
"Shiny too, like a ripe apple but for the blackness."
They buried Molly that Friday, and Chambliss preached her
After that I understood that my church wasn't no place to
worship the Lord in, and I realized I couldn't stay. I'd been a
member of that church in one way or another since I was a young
woman, but things had been took too far, and I couldn't pretend
to look past them no more. If having Molly Jameson die right in
front of that church didn't convince Carson Chambliss to stop
his carrying on, who's to say that somebody setting themselves
on fire and burning down the church would change his mind?
There wasn't no amount of strychnine that could've got him to
stop; wasn't no kind of snake that man wouldn't pick up and pass
Even though that newspaper in the windows kept folks from
seeing inside that church, I figure everybody in town knew what
was going on, and it wouldn't be long before they had the law
down there trying to break it up. I didn't like none of it one bit
at all, and I knew if it wasn't a safe place for an old woman, then
there wasn't no way it was a safe place for children, and so I
prayed on it and I prayed on it, and that's when God laid it on my
heart. Addie, he said, just as clear as day, you need to get out of that
church, but you know you can't leave them children behind. And I
knew then that I'd have to stand up to Carson Chambliss, that I'd
have to tell him that what he was doing was wrong.
I got down to the church early that next Sunday morning,
the week after Molly Jameson was killed, and I pulled up just as
Chambliss and Deacon Ponder unloaded the last of the crates out
of the back of Ponder's pickup truck. I got out of my car and stood
there watching them. Chambliss must've had some kind of premonition
about my business because when he saw me he stopped
what he was doing and looked at me, and then he handed his
crate over to Ponder.
"Would you carry this inside for me, Phil?" he asked. "I'm
going to stay out here and visit with Sister Adelaide for a bit." He
slammed the gate on the truck bed, and Ponder nodded his head
and smiled at me and walked on inside the church. Chambliss
dusted off his hands and walked over to where I was standing by
my car. "You're here awfully early," he said. His eyes narrowed
to keep out the sun, and then he lifted his good hand to shield
them from the light. His face was ruddy and weathered like most
men's faces up here who've spent too much time working in the
sun or smoking too many cigarettes, or maybe both.
"I wanted to get here early because I need to talk to you about
some things," I said.
"About what all has happened," I said. My voice was shaking,
but I tried my best to hide it because I didn't want him knowing
I was scared of crossing him. "I want to talk to you about what
happened to Molly last Sunday."
"What do you need to talk about?" he asked me. "You were
there. You saw it. She stepped out in faith, and the Lord took her
"But it ain't right," I said. "It ain't right what y'all did to her."
"What do you mean, 'It ain't right'?"
"It ain't right what you done with her after church," I said.
"Taking her home and laying her out there in the yard and just
leaving her, hoping somebody would find her before the animals
started eating at her. People got a right to know about these
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