The Day Mama Watched Preacher Red Die in Waycross
Mama never did forget about what happened with that poor old preacher all those years ago, back in Cracker Georgia. She grew up on the old clapboard homestead, dug hard into red clay. There, stray dogs and chickens roamed free, and the flies practically took over in the summer, when the screenless doors and windows were left open to cool the house.
Mama saw the neighbors only on Sundays, when Waycross Baptist opened its doors for four straight hours of hardshell preaching, teaching, and fellowshipping. The little white church with the tall steeple, reaching high into the sky in a gesture of hope for finer things, was an oasis in her childhood desert of loneliness.
One day when she was seven, Mama did something that made everyone proud. The Reverend Roy “Red” Rooster had just finished the blessing for Sunday dinner on the lawn when a teary woman ran up to him, opened up her purse, pulled out a steak knife and plunged it into his heart, turning his gleaming white Sunday suit, tailor-made on a recent trip to Atlanta, to a dark pink.
As it turns out, the attacker was Preacher Red's jealous wife, Evelyn. The preacher had been messing around with a trashy young girl, Charlene, a visitor from Atlanta. She was fourteen, busty for her age, and looking for trouble, even though everybody thought she was so sweet and innocent. Evelyn figured out about the affair when she was making the bed, and found the girl’s locket under Reverend Roy’s pillow. She shrieked loud enough for people to hear the next county over.
Mama tried to save him. She really did. "I pressed hard on the bleeding place until it stopped gushing," she told us. "I almost fainted.” Preacher Red died anyway. “Good riddance,” Evelyn said, to nobody in particular. “He’ll be there directly,” she said, smirking, looking up to heaven.
The wife’s little rival, Charlene, just cried and cried and then cried some more, boohooing until her eyes were practically swollen shut and her stomach refused food. She stood behind the sanctuary, up against a tomato field, throwing up until there was nothing left to puke out of her body. The church ladies were too sad to tut-tut but too angry to help the dazed girl, so they just watched her. Three months later, Charlene wound up pregnant by her best friend’s daddy.
Evelyn came to a bad end, too, as most of Mama’s people expected; after all, Evelyn was an outsider, a college girl schooled at Ole Miss, and nobody much liked her anyway. She went to jail at the state prison in Reidsville, only to return to Waycross for her own funeral, forty years later. Her son, Billy, and a new preacher were the only people who came to pay their respects.
The old cemetery owner, once a hunting pal of Preacher Red, decided to play a trick on Evelyn's people -- her tombstone read, "Beloved Wife and Talented Knife Owner." Almost everybody laughed at that one.
Created: Jan 22, 2010Document Media