Music Literature Film Index About

Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor

Harcourt Brace & Company, May 15, 1952

Thoughts of accumulating treasures did not dominate Sookie Walker’s mind tonight, although she was enjoying another night in her home theater that boasted a glorious 150-inch Plasma television that showed life in greater detail than what she saw of the world through the thick lenses that adorned her otherwise fashionable designer eyeglasses. Prada.

She finished watching Escape from Jonestown on CNN. The documentary focused on a handful of the few lucky survivors who managed to avoid the fate that befell over 900 Peoples Temple worshipers (prisoners). It was the thirty-year anniversary of the true life horror story of the mass suicide led by the false prophet, the Reverend Jim Jones. Sookie felt as much hate for the man now as she did when the story broke so many lifetimes ago. She avoided organized religion of any kind and could never understand how any poor soul could give in so easily to its lure. She flashed on an image of Sister Josephine and her “pointing stick.” Sookie was forced to stand in front of the first grade class for the unforgivable sin of wetting her pants, unable to “hold it” as Sister Josephine had demanded. Although her stockings would be later washed at home by her forgiving mother, the humiliation left a more permanent stain.

Sookie turned her back on organized religion for good around the time she was diagnosed with lupus. She abruptly stopped attending Sunday mass and took to teaching her children that the only truth in the world was that there was no absolute truth. Her husband did not agree with the change in philosophy, but he was not around nearly enough to properly weigh in on such matters due to the heavy toll the responsibilities of his offshore oil job took, not to mention the responsibilities he had to his many mistresses. Sookie knew of the other women in her husband’s life, but she didn’t pay them much mind. They only helped justify her own excursions into infidelity, allowing her to keep any hint of guilt tucked neatly at bay. Besides, she felt that it was a blessing that other women were now on the hook, responsible for curbing her husband’s sexual appetite. Although she never said so, Sookie herself could no longer get past the baseball-sized goiter jetting out of from around his neck.

The grotesque, macabre images of a sprawling landscape of Jonestown death—decaying, bloated bodies strewn across the grounds of the Temple compound—made her squirm in her cocoa-colored Italian leather sofa imported from Sicily. Looking back, she remembered the momentary anguish she suffered in deciding whether to purchase the furniture. Such was an oft-repeated routine that accompanied so many of her spending sprees but, as it turned out, the sofa proved to be another affirmation that she possessed one of the finest—if not the finest—homes in the swanky suburb of Metairie.

The next day, Sookie got into her amber red metallic Mercedes-Benz SLR and backed out of the four car garage. She was paying far more attention to the random thoughts racing round her head than to her surroundings. That is, until the horrific squeal of the cat startled her back to reality. Immediately, she knew what had happened. She had run over that damned neighbor’s cat that was always roaming around unwanted, whining incessantly for food. When she got out of her car, Sookie knew at once that the cat wouldn’t be bothering her again. But just to be sure, Sookie got back in her Mercedes, inched forward, stopped, and then put the car in reverse and ran over the maimed cat a second time. Then, she rushed inside the garage to get a garbage bag and some gloves whereupon she scraped the sickening crushed remains off her driveway and tossed the bloody sack in her garbage bin. She then turned on the water hose and sprayed the blood and cat guts off her driveway before rushing back into the car to resume her daily errands. She had no way of knowing that the strange incident with the cat would not be the last involving her car today.

When she came to, she was upside down to the world. Stuck. Couldn’t move. There were shards of glass all over her bloodied face and arms. The Mercedes had flipped, that much she knew, but she was lodged too well inside a heap of twisted metal to be able to move her neck to try and see just where she was or why. She waited in shocked silence for what seemed like a lifetime, wondering why nobody was coming for her and tried to piece together what had happened. It was then that Sookie Walker closed her eyes and prayed. She prayed to a God she spent her life rejecting. She thought of her children. Her husband. She prayed that she would one day see them again. She prayed that she would be okay. Suspecting that this would not end well, Sookie prayed for her family. She cried and she prayed.

An overhead view of the accident revealed more than Sookie could have known—her proximity to a nearby swamp and an inquisitive crocodile that was creeping slowly toward the mangled car, perhaps tipped off by the fresh scent of blood. As a police siren sounded off in the distance, it remained to be seen whether the croc would be successful in pulling its lunch from the wreckage.