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The Whistle Stop Bible

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It was one of those Alabama nights when your body tingles all over with the heat. Idgie and Ruth lay in bed together, Ruth in a long thin nightgown which she'd rolled up above her knees, and Idgie in a sleeveless shirt and men's underpants. Idgie lay there with her hands behind her head and stared up at the ceiling. Ruth had her eyes closed, but she was wide awake. Cicadas chirped and the air blazed and everything melted in slow resignation, until finally, Idgie stirred.

"Ruth," she whispered, "is what we're doing a sin?"

Ruth was silent for a moment that seemed like an eternity. "No," she said at last. "I don't believe it is."

"What about the Bible, Ruth? What does it say in the Bible?"

Another pause. Idgie could hardly breathe through the wait.

"The Bible says a man shouldn't lie with another man the way he lies with a woman, but it don't say a word about a woman lying with a woman."

Idgie laughed. "Ruth Jamison," she jeered, "You trying to cheat scripture?" Ruth gently slapped her on the arm, but she was too solemn to protest any further. Idgie's tone was serious when she spoke again. "It don't need to say it straight up. If a man can't lie with a man, I suppose a woman can't lie with a woman neither."

"Way I see it," said Ruth, "God's bigger than that." She took a deep, shuddering breath and rolled onto her side so that she faced Idgie. The moonlight illuminated her deep brown eyes, so that Idgie could stare right back at them. She took Ruth's hand in both of her own.

"Now look here, Idgie, I'm about to tell you something I've never told a living soul, and I expect you never to repeat it."

"Never, I swear."

"It ain't bad, I don't think, I just don't reckon people will understand. You hear?"

"I hear. Go on."

"Now, when the Bible says that a man oughtn't to lie with another man, I don't believe it. You know that I believe in the Lord, Idgie, I truly do. But I don't believe some of what the Bible says. Not anymore."

"What do you mean?"

Ruth sighed. "You know, I've read the King James Bible a million times. I know it inside out. And when I got married to Frank, and the two years after, I read it every day. I was looking for an answer too, and I'd cry myself to sleep most nights praying the Lord would forgive me for loving you so much, and when Frank beat me I figured I deserved it. I figured I was a sinner and I deserved it.

"But eventually, Idgie, I realised something. You know, the King James Bible is only one translation of it. Who knows how many times the Scripture has been translated, and in how many tongues? And in the first place, wasn't the Bible written by men and not the Lord? How can He convey His word in languages that humans made?"

Suddenly, Idgie felt Ruth begin to move. She was getting out of bed, and she tugged at Idgie's hand and said "C'mon," so Idgie followed. She led her to the window, which she opened, and she stood behind Idgie with her hands on her shoulders. Idgie shivered.

"Look," said Ruth.

"Look at what?"

"Just look," she insisted, "At everything."

So Idgie looked. She looked at the clear, dark sky, littered with millions of bright, dying stars. She looked at the moon's scarred face, and she looked at the fireflies that hung in the air and throbbed with light.

"That's God's word," whispered Ruth, her lips brushing warm and wet against Idgie's ear. "And this..." she said, kissing the back of her neck, "This is too."

Idgie laughed. Then she turned to face Ruth. She saw the moon shine in her eyes and the stars glisten in her freckles, and she felt her skin throb against her own like fireflies in the light. Ruth smiled, and Idgie saw God.

"What's the matter, Idgie Threadgoode? Cat got your tongue?"

"Not yet," said Idgie. She put her lips against Ruth's, kissing her softly, and then her tongue was got.

"I love you," she said, after a few minutes. "I wanna marry you."

Ruth blinked. "Idgie, honey, I'd love to marry you too. But we can't."

"Sure we can," said Idgie. She marched over to the dresser and noisily rummaged through its drawers, eventually returning to Ruth with a pair of plain silver rings.

"Momma gave me a bunch of this stuff over the years hoping I'd be a lady someday," Idgie said, smirking. "Take off yours."

Ruth glanced at the golden ring she had been wearing for the last two years and ripped it off with barely a second's thought.

Then, clearing her throat, Idgie said, "Ruth Jamison, do you take me, Idgie Threadgoode, to be your not-at-all-lawfully wedded wife? As God is your witness, do you promise to love me like I was lawfully wedded to you, and to fulfil all those vows I don't remember?"

Through her laughter, Ruth said, "Yes, I do. And do you, Idgie Threadgoode, take me to be your wife, and all the rest of it?"

"Well, yeah."

"Then I now pronounce us wife and wife."

Still giggling, the brides exchanged rings, fumbling in the dark, and they kissed hotly, their hearts racing around each other. Neither ever removed their wedding ring (except briefly the next day, to carve the other's name inside), and neither entertained the thought that their love was a sin ever again. They knew that it was a miracle, now, and they never let themselves forget.