THE PURGING OF BOBBY BEAMON – Author Russell MacClaren
Jimmy Heavey warned me: “Never, ever visit Bobby Beamon on a Sunday.” He said Fat Bobby had been known to do gross things in church—but Bobby was my good, good friend, and I refused to listen.
At the Beamon household, Mrs. Beamon said, “My husband has a bug and can’t make church today. Bobby and I plan to go for a bite before services. Would something Mexican suit you?” Then she added, “But we must hurry. It won’t be long before the thunderstorm.”
We had an early lunch at Pancho’s Buffet. I made two trips before dessert, but Bobby wolfed down five platefuls, a new record for our sixth-grade class. I promised I’d be his witness to the guys in Miss Cleven’s room.
I’m always amazed how much that boy can eat. Mom stopped inviting him for supper when she caught him scooping mayonnaise into a glass of milk. But she lets me eat at the Beamons. “They’re a fine, upstanding family,’ she says. “But don’t you dare take after Bobby’s eating habits.”
Everything went well until Mrs. Beamon tweaked our schedule. “I’m making a change in plans,” she said, “Reverend Joshua Livingston is featured at the revival in the tent ground. I want you to hear him, Danny. Nobody, I mean nobody else on earth, can sermonize with his power and spirit! The man is truly touched and truly, truly inspired. Hearing him is like hearing the Gospel from God Himself.”
Bobby nodded. “It’s cool. When he comes to town, they have tables stacked with donuts and hot chocolate for those who make altar call!”
“Sounds cool,” I said. “I’ve never been to a revival.”
As our car turned in the parking lot, Bobby rocked in his seat. Looking like an over-ripe watermelon, he grabbed his gut and belched.
Concerned about the stench, I asked: “Bobby, you okay?”
“Think I ate too much,” he muttered between clenched teeth. He didn’t get an argument from me.
“Take some chic-lets for your breath,” said Mrs. Beamon. She handed me a box of gum. “You two can share.” Bobby threw half a dozen in his mouth and seemed better for a moment. But when we got to the tent ground, he started walking funny, sorta twisting one leg around the other like something was about to bust loose.
“Why don’t you use one of the porta-potties?” I suggested.
“Not yet,” said Mrs. Beamon. “We need to visit my choir director friend, Miss Blume, before things get underway. She hasn’t seen Bobby since he started second grade. Has the best voice in town she has, teaches music up at State.”
Bobby nodded without interest but seemed willing to comply.
“He’d better go to the john right afterwards,” I insisted. My mind drifted to the school house. Even our hard-as-nails teacher, Miss Cleven, knew if Bobby asked for a bathroom pass, she’d better let him go—right then!
“That’s fine,” Mrs. Beamon said, putting a consoling arm around her son’s broad shoulders. “Let’s go find Miss Blume.”
As we walked through a partitioned section of the tent, people scurried about in robes. Mrs. Beamon led us to a podium behind the curtains.
“Over here, Stella,” came a booming cry, “I hoped you’d make it!” The voice came from a woman ten years older than Mrs. Beamon, complete with beehive hairdo, horn-rimmed glasses and shoulder pads. “Who do we have with us?” she squealed.
“The little guy is Danny Dawson,” said Mrs. Beamon. “He’s a friend of the family. She pushed Bobby toward the beaming choir director. “And this, as you know, is my Bobby.”
The woman gushed, “Look at you, Bobby. You’re almost grown! Last time I saw you, you were just a little boy. Had to reach down to pat you on the head. But your mom keeps the ladies at Circle posted on your progress.”
The woman wrapped Bobby in a hug that I could feel five feet away. Bobby groaned like he was about to explode.
“Good to meet you, Danny,” she added. “Welcome to revival.” The woman’s voice carried like a fog horn through mist. Despite her distance from me, I smelled her halitosis and had to back away.
“Miss. Blume….” I offered, nodding.
“Wonderful to see you again, Bobby! Hope you enjoy the service.”
I started to remind Mrs. Beamon that Bobby should make a stop first, but as soon as I opened my mouth, a booming clap of thunder interrupted. To anyone who didn’t know better, it might have seemed the crashing, rumbling message had come from my lips. Hail pounded the tent, threatening to break through the canvas and join us in our worship.
“Not going out in that!” Bobby exclaimed.”
I shook my head. “Are you sure?” I asked.
When we sat down, things went rough for Bobby. He wiggled on his folding chair like a man being prepped for lethal injection. I knew this wasn’t gonna be any kind of good.
Jimmy Heavy walked by with his family. His father almost joined us, but Jimmy shook his head and nodded to seats nearer the pulpit. He pushed his little sister on when she smiled at Bobby. “Let’s find Uncle Carl,” he insisted.
After all were seated, curtains opened, and music blared as a tall, dark-haired man pranced to the pulpit waving a Bible.
“Be glad in this day, Bruthas and Sistahs, for this is a day the Lawd has made. Today, many will find redemption! Praise Jeee-sus! Today, yes this very day, there will be a healing and a purging amongst our people. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”A chorus of amens followed.
When the trumpets blazed fanfare, Bobby rolled toward me, his left leg higher than his right. I scowled, but was glad he raised the leg on his other side. As trumpets cloaked the pop, nearby members of the congregation pinched their noses, looking about for the offender. Bobby glanced left, right, behind and in front, mimicking those around him. He should have starred as a mime in a silent movie comedy!
“All have sinned and fallen short,” the preacher declared. “We have devoured contaminants of this world and lived in their stench, but the Lawd forgives those who turn from the nature of the flesh and join Him. And He wants us all to join Him at His holy table.”
Bobby used the drum roll to cover his next explosion then looked around, finger and thumb squeezing his nose. Three more blasts followed, and nearby church goers began evacuating for higher ground.
Reverend Livingston continued, “Rejoice in His thunda! His indignation will roll upon the wicked. Walk the aisle to glor-eee! Join me in His salvation! Each of you needs His touch, sick and sinner, strong, weak, blighted, blessed and broken. Come down Gawd’s red carpet, and feel the healing powerrr in my anointed hands! Give yourselves completely to His gracious care!”
Bobby tightened his legs and walked towards the Reverend. Tears streaked down Mrs. Beamon’s face.
Moments later, Bobby stood toe to toe with the right Reverend Joshua Livingston who held his nose and gave Bobby a quizzical look. “I smell the stench of sin!” the reverend cried. “Turn it loose. Repent! Release it!”
He put his hand on Bobby’s forehead and abruptly shoved him to the ground. “Be healed!” he commanded.
Bobby broke wind again, but this time it wasn’t subtle. He eyed the donuts a moment, then turned and ran through a flap in the tent. I hurried behind him to make sure he was okay then held open the canvas to air out the stench he left behind.
Ice pelted Bobby’s head, arms and chest. He made it to the first potty, pulled at the locked handle, then ran to the next one and almost ripped the door off its hinges. As he slid inside, slush, rainwater and ice splashed in the rutted mud around the base.
I watched the porta-potty shake, expecting Bobby to explode through the fiberglass roof. He stayed fifteen minutes while the preacher raved, ranted and began to administer the sacrament. “Eat and drink at the table of salvation!” he implored. His body broken, His blood shed—for us! He would have us forsake all other food and ask forgiveness for our folly! He purges our sin-burdened bodies and makes them fresh as new-fallen snow!”
When Bobby returned to the altar, the Reverend looked directly at him. “Behold the cleansing of the Lawd!” he cried. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
Author Russell MacClaren is a Writer and Poet.
You can reach him at his Facebook page
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