“The Heavenly Language”

As the car whipped over the rise, his stomach came up in his throat and he saw his father’s accusing eyes on him in the rearview mirror. He tried to sink back as far as he could into the backseat next to his Aunt Earlena, older sister and younger brother. His father said he knew Tommy was saved, but he did have the Holy Spirit? His mother put her hand on his father’s shoulder as if to tell him not to be too hard on Tommy. If he did then he should be speaking in tongues. He’d been watching him from the pulpit when others were praying or otherwise in the spirit and he just stood there looking down at the tops of his shoes. Didn’t he feel the Spirit of God? If he was filled with the Spirit, then his father wanted to hear him speak in tongues, right now, this instant.

They were on their way to Faith Chapel. He had to reach out to God in Faith. He didn’t know what to say. He wanted to speak in the heavenly language. He had grown up in church watching women and men with their hands held in the air worshipping God, singing praise songs, speaking in tongues, and sometimes they would be so overcome by the Spirit of God they would fall to the floor and a deacon would catch them as they lay with outstretched arms in what appeared to be ecstasy. How he longed to experience that kind of relationship with the Lord, but he couldn’t do it on demand. Could he? Would it be right to pretend to speak in tongues, to act like he was slain in the spirit? He wanted it so much. He wanted to feel like he belonged in the family of God, really know it deep down, and he did feel something deep inside his heart. He wasn’t sure if it was the Holy Ghost or not.

His sister elbowed him in the arm. He had been daydreaming. The car was parked in front of a red metal gate that led to a wheat field. The wheat whipped in circular patterns like a violent green sea. His father told him to get out. His mother and Aunt Earlena got out too. His father was already standing at the gate and looking out into the field like a prophet looking for signs of the future apocalypse and the Glory of God. When he turned to look at Tommy he looked deeply disappointed. He told him to remember that there was a baptism with water but there was the other kind of Baptism that John the Baptist talked about—the Baptism of Fire and of the Holy Ghost.

The adults laid hands on him and his father began to pray with his eyes shut hard. His eyes popped back open. He told Earlena to please wait in the car. She was his aunt on his mother’s side. She wavered back and forth between being a believer and running off with men to parts unknown, disappearing for months at a time. It was for this reason his father did not want her to lay hands of unbelief on Tommy. He began to pray again. He told Tommy to hold his hands in the air, to praise God, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. He asked God to give his son a double portion of the Holy Ghost with the sign of tongues as His indwelling gift. Tommy thought back to church services when the Spirit was moving. The presence of the Spirit could be felt in the people and in the old church itself filling up the tabernacle with a positive pressure like high humidity on an August night. He raised his hands higher and opened his mouth. His mother told him to let the words of faith be spoken. Just let them go. Let them go.

Daren Dean

About Daren Dean

Daren Dean’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and interviews have appeared in The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Missouri Life, The Oklahoma Review, Midwestern Gothic, Ecotone, Image, Chattahoochee Review, Fiction Southeast, Story South, Aries, and others. His story "Bring Your Sorrow Over Here" was selected as Runner-up by Judge George Singleton in Yemassee's William Richey Short Fiction contest and another story, "Affliction" was a Finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Contest for New Writers in 2012. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Dean also worked for several years at the University of Missouri Press. He is the founding editor of Cedars (Cedarsmag.com). Currently, he teaches writing and literature in the English department at Louisiana State University where he serves as the Instructor Coordinator of the Readers & Writers Reading Series. He resides in the greater Baton Rouge area with his wife and their two children.