Indiana Daily Student

Chapter 6: It's Bessie

Three days into the trip, Dave wanted to know how these chapters were coming.\nI told him well but that he wasn't really in them.\n"Come on, I do interesting things," Dave said while we stood on a bus shuttling us back downtown from Sun Studios -- a recording house used by all the greats including Elvis himself. We were on a roundabout way back to our hotel.\n"OK," he said, buying time while gesturing with his hand. He likes to point while he talks. "Just earlier Luke and I ran into this weird lady on Beale. It was interesting."\nI bit and took out my notebook.\n"She just kept grabbing her cheek and pinching it saying, 'Born in flesh,'" Dave started.\nSitting on the street corner along Memphis's famous Beale Street, waiting for the others to finish shopping, Luke and Dave met someone who's been to hell and back.\nBessie smoked and drank all day, riddling her body with sin. The sin caught up with her, she told the boys, when she nearly died. In her glimpse of death, she met God. He showed her hell.\n"On my left side was a lake of fire; a lake that burned with fire and brimstone," she wrote in the accompanying pamphlet. "It was a big one."\nAnd apparently, it looked a lot like Lake Michigan.\n"You'd hear these awful screams," she said.\nShe had a good audience for this specific fire-and-brimstone sermon -- David and Luke were both raised with religion, as their names might indicate. She believed churches were failing because they had abandoned the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric long ago. You should be scared into submission, she would say, I suppose.\nOnce they realized they weren't getting rid of Bessie on the corner of Beale, they decided to ask some questions. She has been to hell. That's got to count for something.\nThe two asked her what version of the Bible she prefers -- the King James -- as well as other queries about her time spent in the underworld. \n"She kept yelling that she was reborn in spirit," Dave said. "She asked us: You boys do know you'll die?"\n"I acted dumb," Luke said to me.\nBessie, a 50-year-old black woman put together in a dress and suit jacket, finally left after 10 minutes when her friends were ready to go.\n"It was interesting," Dave said as were getting off the bus, an attempt to convince me.\nI suppose. At least it kept me from thinking I had SARS for a while.\nRead Chapter 7: Pills and Pus, Friday

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