I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Chapter 6
Revered Howard Thomas is the presiding elder over several Arkansas districts, including Stamps. He checks up on their church every few months. Bailey and Marguerite hate him, because he is fat, ugly, condescending and eats the best parts of their chicken dinner every time he comes. Marguerite is afraid to even talk to him, because she does not want to mock him, but she truly hates him so she isn't sure she is capable of being nice. The two children eavesdrop on the gossipy Reverend's conversation: Marguerite speaks in two voices, pretending to have a conversation with Bailey, while Bailey listens to the gossip. They overhear stories about doing "it," which Marguerite does not really understand. In the morning, they have breakfast, which is only good when it's eaten hot. But Revered Thomas prays for so long that everything gets cold, and the children hate him for it.
Whenever Reverend Thomas is in town, he preaches. One Sunday he preaches on Deuteronomy, and though Marguerite hates him, she loves the book, because it is so straightforward and absolute. "I knew that if a person truly wanted to avoid hell and brimstone, and being roasted forever in the devil's fire, all she had to do was memorize Deuteronomy and follow its teaching, word for word." Chapter 6, pg. 38 Marguerite knows the sermon is going to be exciting, because Sister Monroe is there. She lives far away so she is not able to come to every service, but when she does come, she makes up for it by getting excited to the point of violence. Ushers stand near her, prepared to hold her still. Marguerite remembers that once, Sister Monroe ran up to their usual preacher as he was speaking, and chased him around, yelling "Preach it!" and shaking him. This caused other people to "get the spirit" as well, and soon there was chaos in the church: people were flailing around, hitting each other. The next week the preacher talked about people who pray publicly just to show off, but Marguerite doubted if anyone understood what he was getting at. This week, Marguerite hates Reverend Thomas so much that she simply wants to see what Sister Monroe will do to him. She does not listen to his sermon; she waits. Bailey nudges her and whispers, "Preach it." Momma is glaring at Sister Monroe, trying to quiet her, but her voice is already rising. Though several men try to hold her back, Sister Monroe breaks loose and runs for the Reverend. He slips down the other side of the podium. She chases after him and hits him on the back of the head, twice. His false teeth fall out. Marguerite wishes he would look sad or embarrassed, so she will feel bad and not laugh at him. But he picks up his teeth and continues speaking, through his gums. Bailey begins to laugh, and Marguerite loses all control, cracking up and falling to the floor. Their relatives are furious, and Uncle Willie beats them when they get home. For Marguerite, laughter and hysteria are similar. She feels that she has been sick from laughing.