Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 920
Hoover Shoats grossed more than fifteen dollars the first night he preached. He paid the Prophet three dollars for his services and the use of his car. The twin Prophet’s name is Solace Layfield and he has consumption; this is as much work as he wants to do to provide...
(The entire section contains 920 words.)
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Hoover Shoats grossed more than fifteen dollars the first night he preached. He paid the Prophet three dollars for his services and the use of his car. The twin Prophet’s name is Solace Layfield and he has consumption; this is as much work as he wants to do to provide for his wife and six children. When he took the job, Layfield had no idea it would be dangerous. He did not notice the high rat-colored car parked less than a block away or the white face inside, Motes, watching him with a dangerous intensity.
Motes watches for about an hour as the men work the crowds outside a theater until no one is left. He observes Shoats getting into the car and Layfield getting behind the wheel to drive him home, which is about ten blocks away. Motes follows the car as it drops off Shoats and speeds to the outskirts of town. The first car turns onto a deserted road, and Motes speedily decreases the distance between them until he rams into their rear end. Both cars stop.
Motes backs up just a bit so his headlights glare at the other Prophet. Layfield walks to Motes’ car window and asks nervously what the man wants. Motes does not answer and it is not long before Layfield notices the similarities in their clothes and maybe even their faces. He asks again what Motes wants and says he has done nothing against him. Motes surges the Essex forward and rams Layfield’s car again; it rolls into a ditch.
Layfield gets up from the ground and runs back to Motes, but this time he stays several feet from the window. Motes tells him to take the hat off and says the man is not true when he stands on the hood and says things he does not really believe. He wants to know why Layfield does these things and starts screaming at him to take off the suit Shoats bought for him. The Prophet takes off down the highway on foot and Motes follows him in his car, shouting. Piece by piece, Layfield drops his clothing. He starts grabbing for his feet as if to take off his shoes just as Motes knocks him flat and runs him over.
Motes drives about twenty feet and then backs up over Layfield’s body before getting out of his car. The man is lying in a pool of blood and only one finger is moving. Motes pokes him in the side with his toe and then tells Layfield’s crushed body that he cannot abide a man who is not true to himself and who “mocks what he is.” He assures the fallen man he deserved what he got. Layfield is trying to speak, and Motes squats down by his face to listen.
Through his wheezing, Layfield begins confessing a litany of sins. Motes is furious and tells him to stop as he leans closer to him. Layfield wheezes as he asks Jesus to forgive him; Motes slaps him hard on the back and Layfield stops breathing. Motes then examines the Essex and sees no damage except for a few spatters of blood on the bumper, which he washes off when he arrives back in town. He spends the night in his car thinking about his new life, preaching the Church Without Christ in another city. As the gas station attendant fills the tank and checks the tires and fluids, Motes rants about the blasphemy of believing in Jesus. The attendant tells him the gas tank and radiator both have multiple holes in them and he will probably not make it more than twenty miles down the road. Motes is adamant that the boy just do as he is told. Finally Motes drives away leaving a road map and tiny gas and water beads trailing behind him.
Motes drives very fast as he leaves the city and yet he feels as if he is getting nowhere, for there seems to be no city in sight. Soon he is stopped by a policeman who says he was not speeding and that it is fine that Motes has no license. Instead, he asks Motes to drive the car to the top of a nearby hill; the officer follows closely behind him. After they stop, the officer tells Motes he can get a better view if he gets out of the car, so he does. The officer immediately pushes the Essex over the edge where it lands on its top in a cow pasture. As he dusts his hands on his pants, the cop says that people with no cars have no need for licenses.
His knees buckling under him, Motes sits on the edge of the embankment. When the policeman offers to give him a ride somewhere, he has to repeat himself several times before Motes finally admits he has nowhere to go. The officer drives away. It takes Motes three hours to walk back into town where he buys a tin bucket and some lime before returning to the house where he stayed. Outside, he dumps the lime in the bucket and fills it up with water. When his landlady asks what he is planning to do with the concoction, Motes tells her he intends to blind himself.
Motes enters the building as the landlady ponders his decision; if it were her, she would kill herself rather than simply make herself blind. She wonders aloud why anyone would not do the same.