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A Story: Miz Maybelle and the Devil

By Nothando Zulu, Director of Black Storytellers Alliance

Miz Maybelle was in church each and every Sunday, singing and clapping, testifyin’ and moaning. But the rest of the times, Lord have mercy!

She was sitting on her front porch one Saturday morning when the devil rode up on his horse looking really sad. Miz Maybelle asked him what was wrong, and he told her that he had been trying for over 40 years to cause conflict between Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. He said no matter the obstacles, they were always in one accord. They have never gone to bed angry! The Devil said, “I think I am going to have to give up on them.”

Miz Maybelle said, “If I am able to make something happen, what will you give me?” The devil said, “What do you want?” She said, “I want a red, wide-brim hat with a very large feather—like a plume.” The devil said, “If you cause conflict between those two, I will get you that hat!"

The devil rode on off, and Miz Maybelle sat there a while longer. She started walking down the road toward the Johnsons’ house. When she got to the house, Ms. Johnson invited her in. They passed pleasantries, and Miz Maybelle asked Ms. Johnson how long she and Mr. Johnson had been married. Mrs. Johnson said, “A blissful 41 years!” Miz Maybelle said, “And in all those years, he never strayed?” Ms. Johnson said, “No! He has always been faithful and caring and loving.” “That is wonderful, Sister Johnson,” said Miz. Maybelle. “But you never can tell; so just in case, why don’t you cut some of his mustache hairs and place them in your shoe, and he will never wander for sure.” Ms. Johnson said, “No honey! We are just fine, and I am going to leave things the way they are.”

Miz Maybelle then got up and said, “I have to leave now, but you think on what I said.” Ms. Johnson just looked at her and smiled sadly. “Bye, Miz Maybelle.”

Miz Maybelle headed down the road, and she saw Mr. Johnson. She waved to him to get his attention, and he rode his tractor on over to where she was standing. When he turned off the tractor, Miz Maybelle told Mr. Johnson that the Lord had awakened her out of a deep sleep last night to tell her to warn Mr. Johnson that Mrs. Johnson was planning to kill him! Mr. Johnson just laughed at Miz Maybelle and told her she must have been suffering from indigestion because as long as they have been together, Ms. Johnson has never even said a cross word to him. “You just go on home, Miz Maybelle, and don’t worry yourself; we are just fine, the wife and I.” He chuckled a little more. Miz Maybelle said, “I was just sharing what the Lord put on my heart; it was as clear as you and me talking right now. But you do what you have to.” She took on off down the road. She had a tiny little smile dancing on her lips.

That evening, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson sat down to dinner together. He told her how work in the fields had gone, and she told him about the new quilt that she was working on. Neither one of them spoke of Miz Maybelle. They had a great dinner. Mr. Johnson ate well and when he was done, he watched the evening news and got ready for bed. Mrs. Johnson sat at the table a little longer, then got up and washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. She then went on upstairs and got ready for bed. Mr. Johnson seemed to be sleeping well, with that even breathing that one gets, when reaching the REM sleep. Mrs. Johnson was standing by the dresser and her eyes happened to fall on the barber scissors. Her thoughts went back to Miz Maybelle and her suggestion. First, she thought "NO!" Then she thought, “What could it hurt?” and she picked up the scissors and turned toward the bed and Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson was not really sleeping soundly; he was sleeping with one eye open, and when Mrs. Johnson leaned over him with those scissors, he jumped from the bed screaming that Miz Maybelle was right and what was wrong with her. Ms. Johnson tried to explain, but Mr. Johnson was not having it! For the first time in their married life, they went to bed angry, slept in different rooms, and did not speak the next morning!

The next Saturday, the devil rode by Miz Maybelle’s place. He had her hat, and he tossed it to her from his saddle. Miz Maybelle said, “Devil, why don’t you come and sit a spell with me.” To which the devil replied, “No, thank you, ‘cause anybody who can cause more confusion than I can, I got to look out for. Bye!”

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