The Marshallville Chronicles…(Vingette from “119,“ by John Thomas McElheny and Cynthia Farr Kinkel, told in remembrance of Marian Y. Clay McElheny of Marshallville, GA.)
* * * Tom’s mother Marian walked into his room in the wee hours one Sunday morning, woke him and told him that fellow church member Graham Bell was dead.
Tom sat up in bed. “When did that happened?”
“At five o’clock this morning,” his mother replied.
Tom blinked his eyes and stared at the clock. “Mama, it’s only three-thirty.”
But Marian was convinced, so he humored her. “Why don’t you call him, and tell him whatever he’s planning to do at five am, not to do it.”
Marian shook her head. “Whatever was going to happen can’t be prevented.
“Well, how do you know?” Tom protested.
Her tone was resigned. “I saw it on my wall.”
She requested that Tom get up and learn the Douglas Sunday School lesson for the men’s class that Graham Bell was supposed to teach. She instructed him to walk into the Sunday school room and say, “I’m your substitute teacher today.”
Tom was to teach the lesson, then go down to the choir room, put on Graham Bell’s robe, rehearse the anthem, process with the choir and sit in his spot, so that Graham wouldn’t be missed. He was to tell Pastor Emitt Davis after the service that Graham had died, and to also insist that Pastor Emitt go over to the house to verify the event.
A goodly representation of First Methodist folks were sent directly to the Bell’s house. They found Graham in the bathroom. He’d had a massive heart attack and had fallen into the tub, hitting his wrist watch on the side, stopping it at exactly 5 am.
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Helen Johnson was one of Marian’s best friends. She had returned to Marshallville, to the Johnson house across the street, after the death of her sister Irene, to become guardian of Irene’s three children, Clara, Ricky and Albert. Eventually Helen also cared for her parents, Miss Ethyl and Mr. A.N. in their declining years.
One afternoon, Helen checked into the hospital to have some medical tests done. She was accompanied by her sister, Lucy Clair.
That night, Marian came into Tom’s room and roused him. “Wake up,” she whispered. “Come look at this.”
Tom followed to her bedroom, where his father was still sleeping, his hearing aid lay on the bedside table.
Tom had no idea what she meant.
“Look at that beautiful field of flowers!” she sighed, and she began pointing to them as if there were many.
Tom was perplexed. “All I see is what I know in the dark to be a celery green paint job.”
But Marian insisted. “Helen Johnson! Don’t you see her,… there? She’s picking flowers.”
“Well, that’s nice, Mama,” Tom laughed softly. He didn’t see.
Marian shook her head. “No, it’s not nice.” Her smile faded. “She’s dead! Helen’s dead.”
The next morning, Lucy Clair came to the house in tears, and rang the doorbell.
“She’s gone, Marian,” she sobbed. She held out her hand.“She wanted you to have these.”
There was nothing there, but Marian replied, “Thank you, I’ll put them in water,” and she invited Lucy Clair into the kitchen for coffee.
The woman proceeded to tell Marian that during the night Helen had just sat up in bed in the hospital room and started crawling around. She was pointing and reaching out into thin air, her face aglow with a radiant smile.
“Aren’t these beautiful?” she kept asking.
Lucy Clair said that when she inquired about what was beautiful, Helen replied, “These lovely flowers. See?– I’m picking them for Marian. She will love them.”
Lucy Clair said that moments after Helen handed her the invisible bouquet, she lay down on the bed, and died.
* * *
Dolly Rock was a native of Marshallville, She resided in the first house on the road heading toward Tom Town directly in back of Miss Ethyl’s. She’d once worked for Tom’s grandmother, Inez, and for neighbor, Omie Crowe, and Marian knew her well.
It was Christmas break one year when Dolly’s grandchildren had come home for a visit that Marian awoke one night to see an inverted orange ‘half-moon’ on her wall glowing brightly above a ‘horizon line.’ When the vision returned the second night, Marian roused “Mac,” Sr. The commotion woke Tom who was asleep in the next room. Marian also said she heard children screaming.
“Come see this, Buck! Look! Here’s her half-moon!” He pointed to the wall, then out the window towards what appeared to be a raging fire a few streets over. Marian was sleeping soundly.
“We better look out for the children,” Tom gasped. “Mama said she heard them.”
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Mac opened the front door to frightened screams. “Dolly’s house is on fire! Her house is on fire!” The noise woke Marian, and the other family members, as well as the rest of the neighborhood. The fire, which an investigation later proved was electrical, burned the house to the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
When Dolly’s grandchildren reported that “Miss Marian’s” household had anticipated their arrival, rumors spread quickly that Marian had foreseen the tragedy. Numerous versions of the story circulated around Marshallville that winter. Some marveled at how such things were possible, while others scoffed, but one thing was certain. The fiery glow on his mother’s wall was burned into Tom’s psyche forever.
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Copyright 2013, Real Spooks – Cynthia Farr Kinkel
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