pages Spiritfilled

by Richelle Putnam

Published in Issue No. 205 ~ June, 2014



Originally published in Flashquake, Spring 2008

After Mother’s AA meeting last Thursday night, she invited God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit home to celebrate her one month sobriety. Since then the four of them have filled up the house with enough light to rival the first day of creation. And all week, I have watched from the doorway, struggling with all her “amens” and “halleluiahs” and how she kneels, twenty-four/seven, hands extended to heaven as if God is about to handcuff her.

Now, I stand in the doorway and watch her roll like the fire of the Holy Spirit is burning the shit out of her.

“Cleansed and free,” she chants, never opening her eyes. “Free! Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.” Then she jabbers something in a foreign tongue as she rolls and rolls around in the den like a pinball, hit the couch, bounce back; hit the chair, bounce back; hit the table, bounce back, her face wet from tears, dirty from the lint and grunge of the carpet.

At this doorway, I remember all the times I watched her try to pull herself up from the floor, head wobbling on her bony shoulders, dark roots screaming through her bright red hair, eyes blackened from fatigued mascara, vodka bottle rolling around empty, hit the couch, bounce back, hit the table, bounce back, no one caring about it anymore because it had been depleted of all that mattered. I remember her begging me to help her up, her saying, “I’m sorry. I am. Really. Don’t look at me like that.” Her slurred cries were always directed at the air around her, not me, like she sensed her tormenter’s presence, her eyes wide and frantic. I never answered her, just tried to pull her off the floor, her inebriated inability fighting against me. Finally, I had to let go. I watched her fall back to the floor, watched until she went limp, stayed until her pungent snores filled the house.

And now I think about how it’s really no different, being drunk on the spirit and being drunk on the drink because all you care about is what makes you drunk and nothing else, nothing, not one fucking thing, and you cling to it, afraid that if you let go, you’ll become as empty as the things you have drained all your life.

And from this doorway I still watch.

But she never sees me.

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Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Literary Artist and Teaching Artist and a Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC) Speaker. Her work has been published in Southern Writers Magazine, Birmingham Arts Journal, A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters, A Cup of Comfort for Christmas Prayer, The Copperfield Review,and more. Her books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi: a Brief History (The History Press), Legendary Locals of Meridian, co-authored with June Davidson (Arcadia Press) and The Inspiring Life of Eudora Welty (The History Press).