Jonathan had been preparing for this day since he was six years old and stepped through the canvas parted opening of his first Big Tent meeting in a wheat field just outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Even now, if he closed his eyes and concentrated, he could still hear the ripple of murmured voices, smell the sweet tang of ozone and rain-soaked earth, feel the crackle of anticipation in the movement of freshly iron shirts, summer dresses, and long, cool, cotton gloves.
The image he saw staring back at him from the floor length mirror he’d installed only last week in his eldest daughter’s bedroom, assured him that the suit he’d chosen was the perfect shade of blue to complement the Icelandic blue in his eyes and the carefully gelled strands of harvest gold hair slicked back from a high forehead. Clare’s suggestion that he wear the red pinstripe tie and gold clip only added to his over all demeanor. Leaning in close to the glass, he drew back his lips, checking to be sure he hadn’t missed any food or bits of snuff.
He smiled in remembrance of his daddy’s advise; “Boy, all the God-given talent in the world ain’t gonna mount to a hill of beans if your mouth looks like it’s filled with nothing but an old, broken down picket fence. Don’t make the Almighty regret His decision to touch ya’ son – do whatever it takes ta keep them there teeth lookin pretty.”
From the inner left-hand-pocket of his double-breasted jacket, Jonathan extracted a much worn sheet of paper, it’s college ruled lines showing signs of wear from the constant folding and unfolding. Stepping away from his reflection, the forty-two year old cotton farmer from Muskogee gently drew back each quadrant until the paper lay open, and the words written with red ink, on evenly spaced lines, was visible.
He’d thoroughly researched everything Mrs. Crabtree, over at the Dewey Creek library, could find on the subject, including the two videos she’d discovered squirreled away on a shelf marked, “Historical Phenomenon and Supernatural Documentation”. Jonathan had even managed to unearth a copy of “Signs, Wonders, and Miracles” his daddy had once subscribed to in the early days, before mamma had threatened to move back to the city if he didn’t stop with what she called, Holy Ghost nonsense.
Now, glancing down out of habit rather than need, Jonathan once more rehearse the oddly pronounced words, careful to use just the right amount of variation, the correct intonation and the perfect modulation. Every vowel, each consonant flawlessly articulated in such a manner as to convey to those listening that what he said was not drawn from any sense of self, or personal exaltation, but was, in every sense of the word, a divine impartation of the Almighty Himself.
Sunday had come, and it was time for Jonathan Michael Foreston to speak to the members of Muskogee’s Free Will Pentecostal-Baptist Church, in tongues and interpretations.