(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Daddy Norton, a self-appointed prophet and religious fanatic, has fallen in the front hall of the house and broken his leg. Professing that he has foreseen this event in a vision, he refuses medical attention and gathers his sons Theron and Aurel and his wife to attend him. He commands his wife to read to him from the book of the Holy Word, in which he has recorded the revelations he has received from God. As the hours pass, Theron begins to get hungry and asks Mama for breakfast. Following Daddy Norton’s instructions, Mama refuses and threatens him when he tries to get past her to the kitchen. Eventually Theron gets up and brings back some bread and a bottle of whiskey for him and his brother Aurel.

Waking in the middle of the night, Aurel discovers his father attempting to saw off his leg with a butcher knife, which gets snagged in the bone and falls to the floor. When Daddy Norton asks him to retrieve the knife, Aurel hesitates and then wakes up Theron. With his eyes closed, Aurel listens while Theron repeatedly stabs their father with the butcher knife. Sometime in the night, Mama has died. Theron moves his mother’s body beside Daddy Norton, wipes her hands in the blood, and places the knife in her hands.

On the day of their parents’ funeral, the brothers remain in the house alone. Taking off the clothes given to them for the funeral by a rival preacher, the boys sit naked in the hallway of the house in which their parents died. They...

(The entire section is 535 words.)