Chapter Sixteen: Manifest Destiny

Editor’s Note: please allow me a little re-imagining fun. After all, I am a citizen of Vine, and we’re given to telling some tall tales. Dolores’s Vision is taught in Sunday School, to remind children that Vine is a land of miracles. In Seminary, though, you learn more fun details, such as Dolores’s husband being named “Pog.” Now, Jonah and I thought that was about the funniest fucking thing we’d ever heard, and got kicked out of Bible Study one night when we learned about Pog. See, in Vine—maybe they have it in other parts of Tennessee, I think I’ve heard—people get nicknames that have nothing to do with their first name. Truth be told, Jonah and I have not verified Pog’s real name. We don’t want to. Jonah gets all animated telling this story, and he makes up a new real name and origin town every time. The rest of everything here is verifiable truth, though. At least if you trust the lessons Jonah and I learned at Seminary. 

He had finished his work in the hot summer fields and was splashing his face from a bucket of water on the back porch. Night had not yet smothered blazing sun but would be soon. Sweat glued his clothes to chafed skin. He gazed out towards the horizon, the place the sun would eventually rest its head. 

Inside, his wife was frying greens in suet. A skillet of cornbread sat cooling on the stove. She scooped a serving of white beans onto a plate, piled on greens, then sliced into the cornbread. The windows were open, yet the kitchen was still hotter than outside. 

“Well, Dolores,” he said at the table. “I believe it’s time for us to be getting on.”

“Whatever do you mean, Pog?” she asked. 

He had been christened Henry Daniel Jacobson, born in Charleston before his mother migrated to Vine. He had never known his father, and no one, not even his mother, had ever called him anything other than ‘Pog.’

“I believe this is a big country,” he said. “I believe we ought to see what we can make of our lives further out West. See what more of this land God has unfurled for the white man to domesticate out of savagery.”

“Well now,” Dolores considered. “Suppose what Preacher will think? The Elders?”

“There come certain times when a man has to make choices. Certain turning points in every man’s life. Do you know what I mean, turning points? Certain—boy, it’s hot today. Supposing we go West. Say, Cincinnati. Get a nice farm there. Won’t be so damn hot. Or supposing we see what’s West of Cincinnati. I’m not saying find gold in California, well. Hell. I’m not certain I’m not saying it. I am saying maybe it’s time to be moving on from Vine.”

The sun was gone now, and Dolores wasn’t sure she’d noticed it setting. The cornbread, cold. 

“Preacher says Vine is consecrated land, Pog. Ought’n we to stay? Live humbly and serve God?”

That ‘Pog’ again. Ain’t she know he hated it? Ain’t any of them know he hated it? He had a name, a Christian name, one that Saint Peter would read out at the Resurrection when he received his reward in eternity. Henry Daniel Jacobson, that was his name, and now the cicada song out his window drifted in on cold air that made him shiver. 

“Oh Preacher says, Preacher says,” he said. 

“Well!” Dolores said. “There’s no call for blasphemy! Now I’m staying in Vine, and you ought to plant your roots here as a proper man of God would. You have a duty to your wife and a duty to your God.”

“Aw, hell!” he said and slammed the screen door. He hadn’t packed a bag. He hadn’t hitched a horse. Not even a mule. The night was exceptionally dark and the previously hot sky had become heavy with clouds. He hadn’t meant to, but he’d started walking. He was going away from the mountains. He was going away from Gentleman Jim’s, too. No, a whiskey weren’t the solution tonight. Westward. Well, there it was. He was heading westward. 

Dorlores sat at her kitchen table, alone, she supposed. Not the first woman to marry someone who she thought was a man of God. She sat there, alone in that quiet house, knowing her husband would be true to his word and go out west, wondering what would happen next. Well.

A great fire appeared in the skillet on the stove. High flames shot out of cast iron, but no burner had been lit. Dolores trembled with fear, but it was a passive fire, and the kitchen remained undisturbed. 

From the fire a voice spoke: “Do not be afraid, Dolores of Vine! For you are holy and righteous, and you shall have eternal life! The Lord has spoken: all who speak against The Lord shall be cast from Vine, and they shall wander the land in search and in want. They shall be made low—as animals—and high—as princes—but they shall never know the peace and comfort of the Lord. Only those worthy shall enter Vine, and those unworthy cast out.”

Thus Dolores of Vine was not afraid, and the Angel of the Lord spoke to her. The Angel of the Lord was reassuring to Dolores, and she ascertained the passive fire to be an angel and not a demon, and the Angel of the Lord offered clarity on a great many things. And lo, she spoke these things to Preacher, and it was confirmed Vine was a sacred and consecrated place, and Dolores of Vine became blessed amongst the Lord’s servants in Vine, having seen the face of the Holy. 

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. 

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