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 it happen?”
“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 o’clock, not to do it.”
Marian shook her head. “Whatever is 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. After the service, he was to tell Pastor Emitt Davis that Graham had died, and was 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 fallen into the tub, hitting his wrist watch on the side, stopping it at five a.m.
* * *
Helen Johnson was one of Marian’s best friends. She had returned to Marshallville, to her parents’ 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 her to the bedroom where his father was still sleeping. His hearing aid lay on the bedside table.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Marian quietly exclaimed.
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.”
Tom laughed softly. “Well, that’s nice, Mama.” 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 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 in the hospital room, Helen suddenly sat up in bed, started crawling around, and pointing, and reaching out into thin air.
“Aren’t these beautiful?” she kept asking.
Lucy Clair said that when she inquired about what was beautiful, Helen replied, “These flowers. See?– I’m picking them for Marian. She will love them.”
Lucy Clair added that a moment later, Helen handed her the invisible bouquet, and with a radiant smile, 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 house across the street from Marian’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 for a visit that Marian awoke one night to see an inverted orange half-moon glowing brightly above a ‘horizon line’ on her wall. When the vision returned the second night, Marian roused Mac. Their spirited conversation was enough to wake Tom from sleep in the middle bedroom. Marian also said she heard children screaming.
On the third night, Marian was sleeping soundly, when Mac was awakened to see a glowing orange reflection on the same wall, and he called out to Tom.
“Wake up, Buck! Get in here!” He pointed out the window at what appeared to be a raging fire a few streets over in the direction of Tom Town. “Look! There’s her half-moon!”
“And Mama said she heard children,” Tom gasped. “We better be on the look out for them.”
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Mac opened the front door to frightened wails. “Dolly’s house is on fire!” By now, Marian was awake, as were the other family members. So was the rest of the tiny neighborhood. Thankfully, no one was hurt. But the fire, that later proved to have been electrical, burned the wooden structure to the ground.
When Dolly’s grandchildren reported that not only had “Miss Marian’s” household anticipated their arrival, but that Marian, herself, had foreseen the tragedy, rumors spread quickly. Several versions of the story circulated around town that winter. Some folks marveled, while others scoffed, but one thing was certain. The fiery glow of the mind’s eye vision Marian had described from her bedroom wall was forever burned into Tom’s psyche, … as were all things Marian.
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Copyright 2013 – 2021, Real Spooks – Cynthia Farr Kinkel
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