Fire Blight

A FTER DADDY DIED, MAMA JOINED UP WITH THE FAITH Evangelical Choir of the Daughters of Zion Pentecostal Church. She practiced her hymns around the house the way other ladies hummed “My Blue Heaven.” Elsie Stitt, the first soprano, worked at the Lodge, and she told Mama she could get her a job there too, but first Mama had to be trained. We still had the house, but the orchard was up for sale, and Mama needed a way to earn us money. For weeks Elsie would come home with Mama from their choir practice and give her lessons on massage. This was after I’d been put to bed, but one night I couldn’t sleep and padded into the parlor from my room upstairs. Mama was lying on the braided rug with nothing on but a towel over her privates, and Elsie was rubbing oil into Mama’s legs. I said from the doorway, “If my daddy were here, you wouldn’t do this.”