John Coffey was born to Allen and Margaret Coffey, a very white preacherman and his also white wife during a time when slavery was still going strong in some states. Margaret swore to her husband that she never shared their bed with anyone other than him; of course as a man of God he trusted his wife, and above all else trusted that she was Godfearing enough not to step out on him. The people of their town weren't so trusting however. The Coffeys became the laughing stock of the town, the gullible preacher and his whore of a wife.
John wasn't a happy baby. He didn't smile but he also didn't cry more than any other child. While most babies would smile and giggle over just gazing at the face of their mother, John was unresponsive. He wasn't a happy child either, overly quiet and shy, always large for his age. Constantly on his own as other children wanted nothing to do with him merely because the color of his skin. The other kids made fun of him for his fear of the dark, locking him in dark places until his Margaret could find him. No one could get John to speak, other than his mother but even then it was scarce. Schools wouldn't allow him in so he had to be home schooled; with the limited education Magaret had it wasn't easy to teach him, but she tried her best.
The attendance at Allen's sermons dwindled until he had none. No one wanted to be preached at by some fool who couldn't pull the wool from his eyes. Allen desired nothing more than to preach, and spread the word of God to anyone who would listen but what is a shepherd without his flock? This led to a crisis of faith that had him wondering just how God could have cursed him in this way. It wasn't long until drinking became a common occurrence for Allen, and he was a mean drunk. The more time passed the less he began to believe in his wife. They had always believed in being kind to all of God's children so the Coffeys were always very welcoming to all people, even blacks. Thoughts of whether this attitude had come back to bite him had pervaded Allen's mind. This young Negro boy couldn't possibly be his son, but Allen respected the sanctity of marriage too heavily to leave Margaret. A great evil invaded his heart, the evil of racism and intolerance, he became mean and nasty the more he drank. He would argue with Margaret, claiming he wasn't John's father and calling her a whore like so many others had, until one day he finally snapped.
John was 9 years old when he saw his father hit his mother; watched as he beat her to ground,as blood stained the floor. Stood there as the preacherman walked off to get another beer; the preacher's wife sat up against the wall, her breathing shallow, no doubt housing broken ribs, nose and a bruised face. John walked over to his mother, held her hand while putting the other on her forehead.
"s'ok momma." The first words she had heard from him in a long time.
John put his mouth close to hers, the lights grew brighter than she had ever seen before; Allen watched in bewilderment as a light began to travel from Margaret's mouth to John's. Her wounds were gone, Allen's sins wiped clean from her body. John expelled from his mouth a wave of darkness and ash. Then he looked at his mother smiling for the first time in his short life. Margaret overcome with joy at seeing her smiling boy hugged him close while the sobering experience caused Allen to fall to his knees in tears of astonishment of the miracle he just witnessed.
John walked to his father.
"No Johnny, it's not ok. I got evil inside me, evil I never thought I'd have. Took me away from my lord and savior. I hurt your momma, don't even who I am anymore. The devil's got my heart."
"I's gonna take it daddy."
John put his hand of his father's face and pulled him real close. The lights grew bright again as he expunges the sickness from his father. Allen's eyes grow wide as tears roll down his face, his faith in the lord renewed.
Allen opened back up the church soon after. Once again, all he wanted was to make the words of God be heard. Things got worse before they got better; people tend to beat down those with great enthusiasm and Allen was no different at first. The church was vandalized, harsh words, "Whore", "Fool", "Blasphemer" and "N* lover", written on the outside of the church; but Allen and John just kept fixing whatever they destroyed. Allen found that John loved to work with his hands. Try as they might they couldn't destroy Allen's spirit again as he had witnessed the work of God through his boy. Eventually the hostilities died down as situations grew worse for the townsfolk they drew to the graces of God for support. Things became as they were before, Margaret and Allen more in love than ever before, Allen even refused to showcase his boy's gift desiring for him to wait until he was old enough to make the choice for himself. Still the Coffeys were terrified for their boy who was growing up black in a world that hated him. All they could do is raise him to be the best person they could and hope that was good enough to keep him safe.