"Hollow, where ya been, ya old coot? We were fixin' to draw straws on who has to tell poor Lurlene her old man's done gone and lost h'self for good," Thurm shouted as Hollow rounded the corner of the garage.
"Well, don't let me distract you gentleman from doing your duty to God and man! Go on now and do what you have to do," Hollow replied with his usual savoire faire.
The men all burst out laughing, and Yellow Todd got up to give Hollow the good seat, a broken-down kitchen chair in the shade. As the chief weaver in the craft of tale spinning, Hollow was always given his due respect.
"Come on, Hollow, you promised to tell us about that cow tippin' in the prayer meetin'!" shouted Wilford.
"Now, give 'im a chance to get settled!" Thurm scolded. "Here's something cold for ya, Hollow. Water yer throat before ya dry it out keepin' us fellas entertained!"
The men cracked jokes while Hollow just smiled quietly. Waiting his turn to speak, he delicately removed the top to his home-grown wine with only his thumb and forefinger, then spun it out into the grass. Holding his drink high with his signature blessing, "Lord, I thank Thee for all Thy bounty," Hollow took a long, slow drink. The group recognized their cue and settled down expectantly.
"There are moments in the pulpit when Time seems to hold its breath and it's as if you feel the pulse of God in your head, pressing on your brain...forcing your thoughts into order. The clergy call it the Annointing. For me, it was awakening. As if the door of Heaven had creaked open a sliver and my eye alone beheld the glory of God.
"The awakening never came often enough or stayed long enough for my liking. Marching out of cadence with the Spirit seemed to be my specialty. It's not that the annointing didn't fall. No, it was there all right, like ants at a picnic or mosquitoes in the summer time. I just couldn't seem to get my fill of it. When the annointing would depart, I'd ignore the hint and carry on, grasping for another glimpse of perfection. And that's when things usually took a slide.
"On the particular evening in question, the annointing had fallen like dew from Heaven, covering the just and the unjust alike with its crystallized intensity. I don't think I'd ever experienced such a presence...so thick. As if I could reach out, envelope it, draw it close. God was there.
"And when He departed it was as if my soul had been ripped out of me, leaving a barrenness so profound as to drive every thought from my head. It was the contrast, you see. I couldn't bear it. I went into a sort of frenzy. Started screaming, 'Get in line! Get in line! The Lord is gonna heal you tonight!'
"Truth is, I didn't have an inkling of what to do next. I'd never healed anyone. I guess I was hoping that what with the flurry and rush of expectation, the annointing'd have to come back.
"Meanwhile....the people! Like lambs to the slaughter they pressed forward in the overwhelming anticipation that absolutely sparkled along the ends of our nerves. Like water flowing down a drain, the people flowed from their seats into the center aisle of the meeting tent. The line began to form so thick and long, about four people wide and stretching way out the door. God bless 'em, they didn't have any more sense of the spiritual than a tomato worm. Arms held high, eyes squirting, they couldn't even see what was coming.
"I stepped up to the crush of bodies at the head of the line and layed my hands upon two foreheads. I began to pray with all the eloquence of King Lear himself, invoking the God from on high to send a mighty wind of the Spirit to blow through our tent and tear down the strongholds of the flesh.
"In all my gusto, I must have accidentally lost my balance and leaned into those foreheads. Suddenly, those two began to sway. They grabbed for the poor dupes next to them to steady themselves. Unfortunately, having their eyes closed and all, it took 'em by surprise, upset their balance and their arms flew up. It was like poetry in motion: a thick, tight column of human dominoes began to go down in front of my unbelieving eyes.
"And do you know, they thought it was a miracle?! They thought it was that great wind from Heaven flowing from my mouth that blew them over! They congratulated me and began praising God for my gift! No one questioned it.
"That's the funny thing about spirituality. Most everyone in that line was taken by surprise and knocked over. There wasn't a soul there that didn't wonder whether it was God or man pushed 'em over. But no one questioned it out loud. Didn't want to look like a Pharisee. Doesn't take much for one Believer to turn to another and say, 'Get thee behind me, Satan!'
"As I stood struck dumb in amazement, they started praising. Why didn't anyone ask? I was waitin' to tell 'em. That day I became a fraud. I did it because I wanted to believe it was God who touched me with a gift that had blown out over the people. But it wasn't. It sure wasn't.
"All this and yet...I know that deep down they were jus' wantin' a little of what I'd experienced. They just wanted God to love on 'em a little bit."