Revive Us AgainBeaufort, NC, 1933Lily McIntyre surveyed herself in the mirror of her stepmother Nan’s dressing table. Her coppery hair was twisted into a French knot that felt as if it might fall loose any minute, despite being anchored by a thousand hairpins. She didn’t look like herself at all, but strange and grown up. Her sprigged green dress had a slender waist and slightly flared skirt, like the picture in the Sears Roebuck catalog. Nan had figured out the whole design herself, just by looking at the picture; she and Lily worked on the dress every evening after supper. Daddy stumped into the room, easing himself into the rocking chair by the bed. “You look real pretty, child. I just don’t see why you’re getting all dressed up, just to go to a tent meeting. Do you know the difference between a Baptist and an Episcopalian?” “Tom!” Nan exclaimed. “Now, hold still.” She poked another hairpin into Lily’s head. “You want to look nice tonight, don’t you?”“An Episcopalian will speak to you when he sees you in the liquor store.” Daddy laughed and slapped his good leg. Lily felt sorry for her stepmother, who was a cradle Episcopalian and played the organ at Saint Paul’s. She’d had to listen to Daddy tell that same old joke ever since they got married. He never got tired of it. “I never thought I’d see the day you’d let anyone in this house set foot in a Baptist church, Nan, let alone go to a tent meeting. All that hollering and foaming at the mouth and speaking in tongues.” “Becky says they don’t do anything like that,” Lily protested.Nan shoved her glasses back on the bridge of her nose. “Tom McIntyre, quit teasing the child. I’m glad she’s making new friends. And the Weavers are quality people.” “You mean we aren’t?” “You know what I mean,” Nan snapped. “I can hardly go anywhere in town without hearing about Red and one of his escapades. Sometimes I wish I’d kept my maiden name; then people wouldn’t know I was related to that boy.””Now, sweetheart –” Lily Hurried to change the subject. “My hair looks really nice, Nan.”Her stepmother smiled. “Not bad for an old maid schoolteacher, if I do say so myself. Go on, now, you don’t want to be late.” Grabbing his cane, Lily’s father hauled himself out of the rocking chair. “Try to have a good time, Lily. Just don’t let them convert you. I don’t want my own daughter preaching at me about the evils of liquor and dance.” He grinned at his wife. “And other things.”“Tom!” Nan blushed, but Lily could tell she was pleased.They walked downstairs with her and stood on the front porch, their arms around each other. Lily marveled anew at the difference in their heights. Nan, with her plain features and schoolmarm glasses, barely reached Daddy’s shoulder. He was well over six feet tall, broad-shouldered and blue-eyed, with red hair people said you could see from miles away. “Hey there!” Lily’s cousin Red sauntered down the sidewalk towards them. He had just turned 17, broad-shouldered and long-legged like Daddy. He wore a white shirt and a nice pair of pants, not his usual dungarees, which meant he had a date. Auburn curls framed his face, making him look like cherub on the back of a church fan, but his grin was far from angelic. Daddy waved. “Hey, stranger. Long time no see!”“Hello, Red.” The smile faded from Nan’s face. “What brings you to town this evening?” Daddy asked. “Thought you’d be back home.” ‘Home,’ was Harkers Island, a small green jewel just to the northeast, accessible only by boat. Even after two years in Beaufort, Lily still longed for the small white house she’d grown up in, the lap of waves on the shore, the setting sun’s glow on the fishing boats as they made their way home from a day at sea.“I’ve got a date,” Red explained, “but I thought I’d drop by and see how you-all were doing.” He surveyed Lily. “Look at you, all grown up and beautiful! ‘Bout time you had a beau.” “I’m going to a revival with Becky Weaver.”Red raised an eyebrow but refrained from comment. “Well, I’ll just walk into town with you, seein’ as how I’m headed in that direction. I’m taking Patsy Turner to the picture show.”“Stop back by on your way home,” Daddy urged. “Catch us up on everybody back home. How are the boys doing? And your mama?”“I’m sure Red has better things to do with his time,” Nan replied. “Enjoy your evening.” Turning on her heel, she marched into the house, slamming the door. “What’s gotten into her?” Red demanded.“Female troubles,” Daddy said. “You two go on now, and have a good time.”Kissing her father, Lily hurried down the stairs to join her cousin. The summer air was so thick and heavy it was like breathing through a wet towel. Some evenings a wind blew in from the Atlantic, over Carrot Island, which guarded the harbor’s entrance, and into town. But this evening was a “slick cam,” as they used to say back on the Island, when both the air and water were still. Anyone who had a boat was out in the harbor, hoping to catch a sea breeze.“What’s wrong with Nan?” Red asked. “She looked at me like I was something the cat dragged in.”“She heard about you fighting with Sonny Willis over at Vic’s.” Ever since Red got his own boat, he could come over to Beaufort any time he wanted. He spent a lot of time at Vic’s, a disreputable bar on the outskirts of town, playing pool and drinking beer. Lily’s brother Ketch said that some nights Red was so drunk he had to sleep over at a friend’s house. Nan would never allow Red to stay with them, although late one night Lily once saw Daddy helping him into the workshop in the backyard. When Lily went over with some strong coffee the next morning, she found a rolled up sleeping bag, but no Red. “Sonny had it comin’ – he’s a cheating S.O.B. Is there anything else Nan’s riled about?”“She would have been mad at Daddy for letting you sleep in his workshop last Saturday, but she went to bed early.”“I guess you decided not tell on me, huh?” Red gave her a quick hug. “I don’t drink that much – but I’ll bet Nan wouldn’t let me in the house even if we were in the middle of a hurricane.”“Probably not,” Lily said, miserably.Red chuckled. “So, you’re goin’ to get saved, are you?” “I promised Becky Weaver I’d go with her.”“Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes?” Red rolled his eyes. “What do you see in her anyway? Remember that time I tried to get her out in the skiff to go over to Carrot Island? She got sea-sick before we were 20 feet from shore.”“She’d just never been out on the water before.” “Course, it doesn’t hurt that her Daddy’s President of the First National Bank, does it? I’ll bet Nan loves that. She probably wants to marry you off to one of Becky’s fat brothers.” “Quit picking on Becky!” Lily stopped in the middle of the street, hands on her hips. “It’s not like back home, Red – nobody talks to me at school, and Becky’s nice to me!” “Okay, okay, I give. Truce?”He looked so contrite that Lily’s anger wilted. “Truce.”In spite of the heat, the Baptist church grounds swirled with energy and motion. It seemed as if half the town was headed for the white tent pitched on the vacant lot next to the church. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best – women in flowered dresses, many of them in hats and gloves, men in freshly pressed pants, their starched shirts wilting in the heat. Lily searched the crowd for Becky. Through the open tent flap, she glimpsed a string of light bulbs, lit up like Christmas, and more people milling about like fish in a net. Red poked Lily in the ribs. “There she is! You can see her halo all the way from here.” “Shh!” Lily hissed, as a girl hurried towards them, arriving out of breath. Becky had a pleasant, plump figure and dark brown eyes that reminded Lily of a puppy. She wore a white seersucker dress with a lace collar; it was store-bought, Lily could tell, feeling suddenly gawky in her own home-made frock. “Hello, Lily.” Becky kissed her friend and turned to Red, dimpling and blushing. “Hello, Red. Will you be joining us this evening?” Red grinned. “No ma’am. I’ve got a date with Patsy Turner.”“Oh.” Becky bit her lip. “Well, perhaps you could come tomorrow. With Lily and me, I mean. The revival will be going on all weekend.” “I’d like to, Miss Becky, but I’ve got to work. There’s a full moon tonight, and that means good fishing tomorrow.”“Fishing? On Sunday?” Becky looked as shocked as if Red had taken the Lord’s name in vain.“Some folks are fishers of men, but the Good Lord made us McIntyres to be fishers of fish.” Red winked at Becky. “Send your cook down to Bogue’s fish house on Monday, and I’ll have a nice piece of bluefish saved for you. Y’all have a good time tonight.” Giving them his best smile, Red strolled down the street, singingHalleluiah, I’m a bumHalleluiah amen!Halleluiah, give us a handoutAnd revive us again.Lily groaned inwardly, but Becky just sighed. “I wish he’d come with us. I hear Patsy Turner is fast. Can’t you talk to him, Lily?”“Of course,” Lily promised, although convincing her cousin to do anything he didn’t want to was like rowing against the incoming tide. McIntyre men were stubborn like that. Daddy was the same way; he refused to set foot inside St. Paul’s, saying Episcopalians didn’t know how to sing, and the sermons were so boring they put him to sleep. Lily secretly agreed with him, but she dutifully attended every week because Nan needed her to sing in the choir. “That poor boy needs to be saved! I hear he plays pool and drinks beer over at Vic’s. Is that really true?”Lily sighed. “It’s true.” Becky looked as if she might burst into tears, so Lily squeezed her hand. “We’ll just have to pray extra hard for him.” “We will!” Becky took her friend’s arm. “Come on, we’ll be late.”Lily sighed. The last thing she wanted to do on a Saturday evening was sit in a sweltering hot tent and listen to some boring preacher. It would be much more pleasant to lounge on the porch with Nan and Daddy, listening to the radio, or reading Jane Eyre. Lily had just gotten to the point where Mr. Rochester had been attacked by the crazy lady in the tower, and it just about killed her not to find out what happened next.But Becky had invited her, and Lily had accepted, because that’s what friends did. Becky was new to Beaufort, and Lily knew what that felt like. Even after two years, she felt like a stranger in a strange land at the high school, where some girls snickered at her behind her back, calling her “beanpole,” or “loon eater,” which was how high-and-mighty Beaufort folk referred to anyone from Harkers Island.Even though Becky’s father was the new President of the First National Bank, she didn’t give herself airs. She’d taken to Lily from the first day of school the previous fall, when they sat next to each other in English class. Lily was grateful to have someone who wanted to eat lunch with her or walk home from school, and talk about books or things that really mattered, not boys or fashion magazines.Besides, ever since Becky found out Reverend Jerimiah Collins of Smithfield was bringing the Word of God to Beaufort, she had talked of nothing else. “Oh, he is the most wonderful preacher you’ll ever hear,” she told Lily now, as starry-eyed as if Clark Gable himself were coming to town. “He’ll just fill you with the Holy Spirit.” Becky secretly yearned to be a missionary and go to China, although Lily wondered how somebody who was too scared to go out in a rowboat could manage a long ocean voyage to the Far East.They joined the stragglers hurrying across the lawn to the tent. Rows of folding metal chairs crushed the grass underfoot. A makeshift platform had been set up at the front, where Mrs. Abbott, the church organist, was playing “Rock of Ages” on a piano that needed tuning. Reverend Craven, the regular preacher, sat next to her on a metal folding chair. It was hard to hear over the buzz of excited voices. Almost all of the seats were taken, and Lily and Becky had to squeeze into the back row.“At least we’re on the aisle so we can see him.” Becky shouted over the noise. “Goodness, it’s warm, isn’t it?”The air inside the tent was thick with the smells of Lifebuoy soap, hair pomade, talcum powder and rosewater cologne. Lily shifted in the uncomfortable chair. There was a sudden stir at the front of the tent as Reverend Craven stood up.“Good evening, brothers and sisters!” He mopped his forehead with a handkerchief as the crowd quieted. “I’m happy to see such a large turnout tonight. I’d like to introduce our guest speaker. Many of you have already heard about him – ever since he began his revivals, he’s converted hundreds of people to the Christian faith. But you’re not here to listen to me, so let me just say it’s my great honor to introduce Reverend Jeremiah Smith.”A large man in a white suit strode onto the platform. He was the fattest man Lily had ever seen. His vest looked as if the buttons would pop any second; his neck and chin had merged into a roll of flesh that quivered when he walked. “Brother and sisters!” His voice was higher than Lily expected from such a big man, but he spoke with authority. “Before we hear the word of God, let us pray.” Everyone bowed their heads. Sweat trickled down the back of Lily’s neck. “We thank You for the power of Your almighty Word. We thank You for the precious blood of our Savior Jesus, spilled on the cross for our sins.” He seemed in the mood to go on praying for a while, so Lily put her elbows on her knees and rested her forehead on her hands. It was a trick Red had taught her when they were little, so you would look like you were praying even if you wanted to think about other things, or catch a little nap.Back on Harkers Island, they all went to the Methodist church, Lily’s family and Red’s family and all their kin. The preacher used to joke that half the congregation was made up of McIntyres. Lily usually managed to sit next to Red and his brother, Cole. Red was always getting them in trouble, imitating the preacher or making up lyrics to hymns; Lily and Cole would giggle so hard people turned around to glare at them.But those days were long gone. Cole had drowned in the wild waters off Cape Lookout, in the same boating accident that shattered Daddy’s right leg and put an end to his fishing days. When Nan was offered the job of Principal at the Beaufort High School, she’d convinced him to uproot the family, and helped him get a job managing Lemoine’s grocery store. If Daddy missed the Island as sorely as Lily did, he never let on; he was cheerful and helpful with his customers and listened to other folks’ fishing talk with eager interest.“Amen!” The crowd surged around her, and Lily stumbled to her feet as everyone began to sing “Amazing Grace.” Becky smiled at Lily. She took the alto line, and Lily sang along, liking the way their two voices blended. “Please take your seats,” Brother Collins intoned. “I’m glad y’all turned out tonight. It does my heart good to know that so many people in this wicked generation are hungry for the word of the Lord.”“And what is God’s word to you tonight? The wages of sin is death. That’s right, my friends. It’s a wicked and sinful world we live in, and everywhere you turn the devil has laid traps for the unwary! Radio! Moving pictures! The purveyors of filth would tell you they’re ‘innocent entertainment,’ but I call them the lure of Satan!” Brother Collins strode up and down the aisle; with every step his chins quivered with indignation. He looked like an old tom turkey with his wattle shaking. He pointed a pudgy finger at the crowd. “Once these lures get their hooks in you, they’ll drag you down to the molten fires of Hell!”People stirred uneasily. The heat inside the tent intensified, as if the preacher were sucking up all the air. Lily felt light-headed, a little nauseated. The preacher spread his arms wide as if he could embrace them all. “The Bible tells us clear enough the torments that await us there. ‘For as ye sow, so shall ye reap.’ Gluttons will starve, tempted by visions of food just out of their reach. The greedy will be weighed down by chains of burning gold. Demons will laugh and taunt you – you’ll struggle to breathe in the sulphurous air that burns your lungs with every breath.” Lily could imagine the sweating people around her were lost souls, chained together as they struggled through a dark, fiery chasm. The hairpins pricking her scalp could be the red-hot pokers of demons. Doubt assailed her. When was the last time she’d opened a Bible? She went to St. Paul’s dutifully, but her mind usually wandered during the sermon. She’d rather read the latest book from the library, or make up stories in her head, stories that usually involved a tall, handsome man like Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, a tormented, wind-swept figure with haunted eyes, whose mere touch would send her into shivers of longing.As if he could read her mind, Brother Collins pointed a finger straight at Lily. “Worst of all is the torment reserved for those who lust after the flesh! You ache, and ache, but your want shall never be filled! Hot coals will burn the vile, secret places where lust and filth abide! You long for the cool touch of God’s hand to ease your pain, but He will cast you aside, because you have turned away from His holy Word!” All around Lily, people moaned and swayed. Becky sobbed. “Save me, Jesus,” someone shouted. Lily’s stomach contracted. Tearing off his white jacket, Brother Collins continued his restless prowling. Great patches of sweat stained his shirt. His raw voice strained to be heard above the increasing cries of the crowd.“As the Bible says, ‘how is a man to keep his heart pure in this wicked and sinful generation?’ No man is safe from temptation! Women wearing short skirts, curling their hair, painting their faces. Our very own daughters dress like harlots! It’s Satan, my friends, Satan who has them in his powerful grip!”His gaze fixed on Lily. He knew every awful thing she’d ever done, every dark secret in her heart. “He’s going to lay hands on you!” Becky whispered, as the preacher bore down on them. “Don’t be afraid! He’ll cast the Devil out of your heart!”Brother Collins loomed over Lily. The reek of his aftershave made her gag. He clamped one meaty hand on her forehead, the other on the back of her neck. In spite of the heat, his hands were cold; they pressed down on her until she thought her neck would snap. A terrible wave of nausea swept over Lily. She tried to focus on the ground, on the preacher’s shoes. They were new, with pointed toes, polished to a high sheen.“Lord Jesus, heal this daughter of yours who has strayed from the Way! Cast the demons from her snow-white breast! I command You, by the power of Your own precious Blood, to heal this worthless sinner!” Lily’s stomach rebelled. Vomit splattered the preacher’s glistening shoes, the cuffs of his white trousers. Grey-green bits of collards, pale corn, and orange yams – the smell was enough to make her sick all over again.The crowd held its breath. Lily glanced up at Brother Collins. His scarlet face swelled until she could see nothing else. He looked as if he were going to smack her. Then he turned towards the crowd, raising his arms in the air.“Praise the Lord! The demons have been cast out!”“Thank you, Jesus,” Becky sobbed, throwing her arms around Lily. Pushing her friend away, Lily stumbled out of the tent. Outside, the humid air seemed fresh and clear. Without looking back she ran, faster and faster, ignoring the stares of passers-by.Finally, out of breath, she reached the public dock. By now the sun had set, but everything was still clear in the blue twilight. Across the water, only quarter of a mile or so, lay Carrot Island. If only she could get there! She’d climb over the dune and down to the ocean side, lie down in the sand and let the clean waves wash over her. “Lil? That you?” She turned to see Red hurrying down the dock towards her. “What’s the matter?” Lily collapsed on a wooden bench and burst into tears. “Oh, Lord, Red, it was awful!” She could still feel Brother Collins’ heavy, clammy hand on the back of her neck. “The preacher laid hands on me, and I threw up on his shoes.”Red laughed. “Good for you!” Lily sniffed, fishing in her pocket for a handkerchief. “Do you think I’m a bad person, Red?”“You?” He sat next to her. “Shoot, no. What gave you that idea?” “Then why did Brother Collins lay hands on me?”Red ruffled her hair, which was falling out of its elaborate knot. “It’s that hair of yours, little cuz. Pretty as a sunset, and just as bright. I’ll be he wanted to –” Red scowled. “Damn bastard. I’ll lay hands on him.”Lily blew her nose. “What are you doing here? Where’s your date?”Red shrugged. “When I got to Patsy’s house, her Daddy met me at the door and told me she was ‘indisposed.’ I was inclined to believe him, seeing as how he had a shotgun in his hands.”In spite of herself, Lily began to laugh. “Oh, Red, he did not!” “No, but he sure looked like he would use one if he had it. So I went over to Vic’s for a cold one and came down here to head back to the Island while it’s still light.” He leaned over to study her face. “You look like you’re going to be sick again. Do you want me to take you home?” “I guess. Nan will have a hissy fit when she sees me. I messed my dress, too, and she worked so hard to finish it for tonight.” Red sniffed. “You don’t smell good, that’s for certain. Come on. You need a co-cola. Mama says that’s the best thing for a sick stomach.” He seemed a little unsteady on his feet, and Lily wondered how many ‘cold ones’ he’d had at Vic’s. She took his arm and they helped each other across the dock and down the main street. The shops were dark and silent, the streets practically deserted. Lily sighed. “I guess Becky won’t want to speak to me ever again after this.”“She’ll just be mad she didn’t ‘bring you to salvation.’ She probably gets a point for every person she drags down to altar call.”“Red! That’s mean.”“Sorry, Lil, but I can’t help it. Look, if she really likes you, she’ll call tomorrow to see how you’re doing. But if she tries to drag you back to that revival, she’s no friend, to my way of thinkin’.” Just as they reached the house, the street lights flickered on, and they glimpsed Daddy and Nan on the porch. Nan ran towards them. “Lily! What’s the matter?” “I got sick in church and threw up on the preacher.” Lily burst into tears again.Nan put an arm around her shoulder. “You come inside with me. Red, thank you for bringing her home.”“My pleasure. D’you mind if I visit for a while?” “Of course not.” Nan led Lily up the steps, where Daddy struggled to his feet. “Tom, you stay here and keep Red company.” “What happened?” Daddy demanded.“I’ll tell you all about it,” Red replied, as Nan led a sobbing Lily into the house.Five minutes later, Lily had changed back into her old clothes while the green dress soaked in the tub. Propped up by pillows, she leaned back in her bed as Nan handed her a glass of cola with fresh ice. The comforting syrup fizzed in Lily’s mouth and slid cool and sweet down her throat. Nan sat on the edge of the bed, listening as Lily told her about the evening’s disastrous events.“Good Lord,” Nan exclaimed, when Lily finished. “If I’d known you were in for something like that, I never would have let you go. I’ve heard stories about those revivals, but I always thought people were exaggerating.”“You’re not mad about the dress?” “The dress? Heavens, Lily, that can be cleaned up. But your hair is a mess. Do you feel like sitting at the dressing table?”“Yes.”Soon Nan removed the hateful hairpins, brushing Lily’s hair out to its full length. The feel of the bristles against her scalp, the rhythmic stroke of the brush, lulled her.“Do we even know this ‘Brother Collins’ is a real preacher? Has he been to seminary?” Nan began to braid Lily’s hair. “I’ll have a word with Reverend Craven on Monday. What was he thinking, inviting that man to preach?”Lily suppressed a giggle. Whenever Nan ‘had a word’ with anybody, the person on the receiving end usually got the worst of it.“Why don’t we join the men on the porch? I think a little fresh air would do you some good.”Daddy sat in the swing, while Red lounged in the rocking chair. Seeing Lily, he jumped up. “Are you feeling better?”Lily nodded as he helped her into the rocker. Nan disappeared and returned with another cola for Lily. Red and Daddy already had theirs, while Nan sipped a glass of water. Red sat cross-legged on the floor next to Lily’s chair. Tree frogs and crickets sang their little songs. Voices drifted from the porches across the street — low talk, a murmur of laughter. Someone was playing a ukulele. The rich, salty smell of the ocean wafted to them on a light wind. “Tide’s coming in,” Red commented. “Maybe the wind will turn.”“Well, Lily, you still fixin’ on becoming a Baptist?” Daddy asked.“Tom!”“No sir,” Lily replied, with a catch in her throat. “I don’t know what I want to be.”“That makes two of us, then. But I reckon I’ll make it to heaven someday, the Good Lord willing. Don’t believe those old hellfire and brimstone preachers, Lily. My Daddy always used to say ‘Do the best you can, son, and leave the rest to God’.” “What do you think Heaven’s like?” She’d heard enough about Hell to last her a lifetime.Daddy laughed. “Mark Twain said, ‘Singing hymns and waving palm branches through all eternity is pretty when you hear about it in the pulpit, but it's as poor a way to put in valuable time as a body could contrive.’” He put an arm around Nan’s shoulder. “So, no offense to Father Paul, I hope Heaven ain’t like being at the ‘Pistiple church.”Red spoke up. “When I’m out in the boat, and it’s a pretty day, you know, when the sky’s real blue and there’s a good breeze? Or when you just set by the creek and listen to the wind in the grass? Cole use to say that would make a better Heaven than one where you’ve got marble halls and angels singing hymns all the time. If I do make it there, I sure hope Heaven’s like Harkers Island, and my brother’s waiting for me with a fishing rod and a cold drink.”“Amen,” Nan replied softly.“Red, your mama told me a while back that you haven’t been to church lately,” Daddy remarked, as if he were commenting on the weather. “What say you spend the night here, and then you, Lily, and me head over to the Island in the morning and go to church? I’ve had a hankering for some good old Methodist hymns and Delia’s cornbread and collards.”“Yessir.” Red sounded abashed. “I know Mama will be glad to see y’all.”Daddy cocked his head towards Nan. “If you think . . .”She smiled. “I think it’s a fine idea. “I’ll fix up the spare bedroom for you, Red. It will be nice to have you here.”A stronger breeze gusted across the porch, caressing Lily’s cheek, setting the wind chimes to joyful ringing. The tide was coming in, and the moon rose over Carrot Island like a benediction.