The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

In Mysterious Ways

By Wm. Axley Allen © 1985

Issue: March, 1985

Mammie was into her 60's and religion with the same amount of irreversible dedication. Each day she would follow a path into the woods behind her home and there she would pray with a display of vocal magnitude that those more irreverent souls in the community said was a sure sign that Mammie thought God was nearly deaf. Her 5 foot, 200 pound frame could belt out a sound that would have been the envy of a lighthouse foghorn, but to those who knew her, her faith and devotion were never questioned.

Her husband Jess was a good man, but I always suspicioned his faith was a little bit shy of the acoustical strength of Mammie's. Deep down I wondered if Jess didn't insist on Mammie hitting the woods to pray since it threatened to weaken the structural strength of their small frame house in the way certain high pitched sounds shatter champagne glasses. If so, it surely only added to her determination to get a little louder so's Jess wouldn't miss out on any important parts back at the house.

Mammie was always on the lookout for a sign that her prayers were getting through and the time she prayed for Jess's ingrown toenails seemed, to her at least, to bring a direct response from above.

Poor old Jess was suffering from an ingrown toenail in a way that only ingrown toenail sufferers can appreciate. His agony was bordering on unbearable as he sat barefoot in their small living room nursing his left big toe. When Mammie decided to pray for his relief, his suffering had reached a point where he could withstand the threat of his home being blasted apart by her thunderous vocal cords; anything for relief!

Surprisingly, Mammie started out real calm, but in a matter of minutes, she was revving up to her usual pitch and all poor old Jess could do was sit back, suffer and hope she'd get a connection soon.

One thing I failed to mention was that in addition to loud, Mammie was athletic as well and soon she was lifting off the floor in her fever to bring divine attention to Jess's plight. Now, what with the yelling and thunderous crashes that followed each of Mammie's leaps, Jess knew the house was gone for sure this time.

In his concern for the structural safety of their home and the nerve rendering sound of Mammie's voice, old Jess sat on the edge of his favorite chair with both hands over his ears and both eyes tightly shut. (He didn't stand a chance.)

Mammie was really getting caught up in the fervor of her message and each incantation took her a little higher in the air and a little closer to Jess. Now if Jess would have had his eyes open, it never would've happened, or if he'd a opened them just a little sooner, it might have been avoided. But as Dad used to say, "If a hoppy toad had wings he wouldn't bump so much, but he don't, so he does."

Mammie made a leap that carried her head to the ceiling and in that split second that she was coming down, poor old Jess opened his eyes in horror. There plunging straight toward his throbbing big toe was Mammie, completely lost in her heavenly conversation There wasn't time to move his toe but there was plenty to anticipate her landing. The horror stories of Edgar Allen Poe or Steven King never described anything as horrifying as old Jess felt while he silently watched Mammie plummet to her landing on his ingrown toenail.

Well, Jess didn't have to worry anymore about Mammie's voice bringing the house down, cause if his scream didn't, sound couldn't. It made her loudest seem like a whisper. It was a sound of agony the likes of which has not been heard since the inquisition or perhaps a really bad IRS audit.

When the commotion had died down and Jess got the bleeding stopped, his toenail was completely gone, stomped off by Mammie's heavy leather shoe sole. Mammie was convinced it was the work of the Lord. "The Lord works in mysterious ways," she reminded him, to which he could only reply with a less than reverent stare of disbelief. Afterwards, they didn't talk about the "miracle of Jess' toenail." It was a topic Mammie reserved for the times when Jess wasn't around. Two things were certain though, Jess was just as sure he didn't want Mammie praying for his ingrown toenails again (if it ever grew back), as Mammie was in "the miracle."