I don’t get where we’re going. We’re going to Wheeless to see John Hood. You said that. I just don’t get it. What don’t you get? We got twelve dollars between the four of us and a Buick that might or might not make it another hundred miles. But instead of going west like everyone else we’re going north to Wheeless to see some crazy preacher. Seems like you get it just fine. Damn it, Dustin, when you’re down to your last dime you spend it on food. You don’t throw it away hoping for a miracle. You’re wrong. When you’re down to your last dime, hoping for a miracle’s the best you got. They said that in Amarillo John Hood had cured a girl of polio, so she bounced out of her wheelchair and danced. They said in Clayton he’d cast the Devil out of a carnie geek who ate live chickens and rolled in shit, and after the man had been baptized he’d said the Lord’s Prayer as the congregation wept. But the miracle that really got their attention was the miracle of the loaves and fishes, though being America it wasn’t fish but honest to God bacon, and they said eight hundred worshipers ate that day in Boise City. People were hungry, and if you could get physical sustenance along with the spiritual, then praise the Lord. This really is a circus, Andrew said when they finally stopped in a field alongside hundreds of other jalopies and loaded trucks. Several huge tents had been erected alongside an old barn and shed and they could hear singing. Think they got elephants in there? I hope so. Never ate an elephant steak but I imagine they’re big as plates. Nancy, you and Gillian mind waiting with the car while we check things out? I guess so. But do me a favor and find out where the outhouses are first. With this many people I think you mean a latrine, but I’ll find out. Hood was tall, white-haired as though struck by lightning or the vision of the Almighty, hollow-cheeked with eyes of blazing blue. He wore a loose black suit and though he did not stride or strut — someone mentioned he had lost a leg in the war and so one was wooden — he often stretched and waved his arms at full extension as though doing a breaststroke or hanging upon the Cross. That Cross stood behind him, tall and irregular. Slowly it dawned on Andrew that it was covered in feathers, black and white. Look at the Cross, he whispered, nudging his brother where they stood near the back of the tent. You ever see anything like that? But Hood was preaching and soon enough he shut up to listen. The Good Book says, blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Hunger and you shall be filled! But don’t think it’s like little children lining up at the banquet table for cake and pudding, when they’re already full of cheesy potatoes and chicken. You have got to be hungry first. You have got to experience the fullness of hunger, you have to be completely empty before you receive the food of the Spirit. Our Lord is the Lord of fullness, of satiation, but He is also the Lord of hunger, the Lord of emptiness, the Lord of the void, and because of this His power knows no limit or boundary. If you would know Him, hunger unto Him! Hunger unto Him, the congregation repeated. You have got to embrace your hunger. You have to want the Lord’s presence, you have to be desperate to be filled. You have to be willing to do anything, you understand? That’s the real power of the Spirit, when you see that the thing you thought was impossible, the thing that you never thought you could do, is right there in your reach. Most people think religion is all about prohibitions, just a long list of don’ts, but I’m here to talk about freedom in the Lord’s grace. You know who’s willing to do anything? Someone who’s starving, that’s who! The famished, the ravenous, the one whose belly’s flat and pockets empty. That’s a free man! That’s a soul with no limitation! Hunger unto Him! Hunger unto Him, the congregation said. How long we got to roast in here before they feed us? Andrew muttered. Sundown, I reckon, Dustin said. Hot as blazes. Don’t know how much more I can take. Stick it out. What about Nancy and Gillian? Think they’ll feed them if they’re outside? Expect not. We should probably get em in here before then. The congregation broke out in song: Time to reap the harvest Time to shuck the corn Time to skin the bodies Time to whet the horn Where you headed, brother? Just outside for a minute. The worship’s inside. Ain’t you hungry for the Lord? Sure I am. But my wife and my brother’s wife are waiting by the car. We want to tell em to come inside. All right. But get em in soon, you hear? In about an hour we’re gonna close the tent. You leave after that, you can’t come back. You’re either saved or you’re damned. Don’t worry, we’re as hungry as the next. When Andrew stepped outside he squinted with some surprise at the birds flocking around the revival grounds. Mostly crows but some vultures too, circling high up. He realized he’d been hearing their raucous cries below the murmurs and hallelujahs of the congregation in the worship tent. He thought of the feathered Cross and frowned. There was already a red rim forming on the horizon, like the lid of an irritated eye, evidence of the dust that hung ever present these latter days, the visible reminder of their sins. He supposed they should be grateful for the lack of wind — out here you wouldn’t want to get caught in a storm — but that left the sun to bake them like potatoes. One of the tents near the barn was clearly part of the camp kitchen, but you couldn’t see inside, and some large brothers stood stationed around it. To prevent any sinners from stealing, he guessed. You wanted to eat, you had to pay the price. Nancy and Gillian were sitting in the lee of the car fanning themselves. Come on, he said. You got to be on the inside to eat. Is it hot in there? Hot as hell, yeah. But we only got a while til sundown and it’ll cool off. Bring what water we got. 9

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