The Hanging Tree

Yesterday, my family traipsed all over Alabama. I had memories of my childhood, where my parents’ special talent seemed to be turning a four hour trip into an eight hour trip. We drove to Moundville, AL and on the way home we came through Selma, AL. In case you didn’t know, the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Movement is this year. Today, the walkers who recreated the 1965 walk from Selma to Montgomery are arriving in Montgomery. We have come so far, but there is still a lot of hate in our world. There are still a lot of people who are denied rights. There is still a lot of racism. Teach your children well, to love all men, and there will be a lot less hate and racism. Hate begets hate. Love begets love.

I took this, not so wonderful cell-phone picture, of the Edmund Pettus bridge from the backseat of a mini-van. Sorry for the glare, but it shows you where my inspiration for this week’s Mid-week Blues Buster came from. 

EdmundPettus Bridge

The Hanging Tree
635 words
@laurenegreene

The last few times they’d visited the tree a rope had been hanging from one of the branches, a perfect circle, a hangman’s rope, Pamela knew. They’d put it there as a warning, the men with the tall white hats who ran around haunting the town.

Pamela and Nathan had ridden their bikes down to the five and dime to get a peppermint stick that day. They liked to sit under the shade of the old oak tree on the edge of town and talk.

Danny Risen nodded at them as they left the store, the jingle of the bell following them as they secured their feet on the pedals of their bikes and rode through the town of Selma. Old plantation houses loomed. A town, rich on textiles, and the center of what Pamela’s mother said was the Voting Rights movement. Just a few days before, the march had taken place. Pamela’s mother and father said it was about time. But Pamela knew they were in the minority.  The kids at school had nothing good to say about it.

They pedaled, the wind rippling through their hair, out to the edge of town and turned the corner on the dirt road toward the tree.

“Danny Risen is one of them.”

“How do you know?” Pamela asked.

The Ku Klux Klan members in Selma kept their identity a secret, but Nathan always claimed to know who was who.

“They set fire to a cross in front of one of their black preacher’s houses the other day. I heard Bucky talking about it at school. Said his Pa did it. Seemed right proud too.”

They pedaled down the dirt road, but even from this distance Pamela could see the shadow of the man hanging. Her heart sped up as her feet moved faster on the pedals.. She thought maybe if she could get there she could save him. Nathan always chastised her for wanting to save the world. “It’s too big of a task for a girl to take on,” he said.

Nathan had fallen behind, even as Pamela pedaled faster.  When they reached the tree, they saw the limp legs, hanging. The shoes untied and the feet at an awkward angle. Pamela slowly moved her eyes up his body, taking in every detail, until she saw his face. Ghostly white and young, his eyes were open, staring into the unknown face of death. There were scratches on his face and neck, where he’d tried to get the rope off his neck as he slowly suffocated to death.  Pamela had overheard her father say that when men were hung they danced a jig, their body jerking strangely, as they were slowly deprived of oxygen.

“I thought they put bags on their heads,” Nathan said.

Pamela shook her head, looking down at his feet again, his shoes seemed polish to a tee. This was a proud man, and he’d been pulled from Lord knows where and murdered for no reason. Pamela’s tears fell into the dirt, and Nathan placed a hand on her shoulder.

“There ain’t nothing we can do for him now, Pam. Come on. Let’s go home and tell someone. The least we can do is that, and maybe he can get a proper burial.”

Pamela shook Nathan’s hand off her shoulder.

“We need to get him down.”

“He’s deader than a doornail. A big ‘ole man like that. How do you think we can do that?”

She didn’t answer, and they turned to leave. From then on, her memories of the oak tree weren’t of spring and summer days with Nathan, unwinding and laughing in the shade.  Whenever she thought of the oak tree, she’d see the man’s face, bloated with eyes wide open and lips slightly parted as if he was questioning, “Why me?”

Cinders

Today I wrote a flash fiction piece for Finish That Thought. Obviously, Cinderella was still on my mind from yesterday. My Mom and I took five kids and one teenager to see it yesterday. It was too old for the little girls, but Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed it!   I’m trying to get a little bit of writing in this week and a lot of editing, but it’s Spring Break, and I have all three kids at home with me. We’re trekking across Alabama this week to keep them busy on some day trips. So far, I haven’t been all that productive, but I’ve been having great fun with them!

Here’s my story for today:

Cinders
468 words
@laurenegreene

They never asked me why I set the tree on fire. They simply dragged me away, my face covered in soot from the cinders. The tree, they said, was a national landmark. Dry enough to burn down the whole forest if they hadn’t caught me.

The policeman drug me to the office, sat me down in a chair, and bellowed at me as the EMTs checked me out. I fingered the plastic dragon in my pocket, Henry, I’d named him, and he was there to keep me safe.

“Right—so where are your folks?” the policeman asked.

I shook my head.

The policeman paced in front of me as the park ranger came up and tapped him on the shoulder. The park ranger whispered something into the policeman’s ear, and nodded my way, then they both walked off.

One of the EMTs had smiling eyes and pigtails. She took my hands in hers.

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Mikey.”

“This looks like a fine karate uniform you have on, Mikey,” she said.

“I’m a ninja! From Japan. And my dragon,” I said, pulling it from my pocket. “It helped me beat the wolf.”

“What wolf? There aren’t wolves in these woods,” the nice lady said.

“Are too. That’s why I burnt down the tree.”

“Where are your parents Mikey?” she asked.

I didn’t answer. Grainy memories of my parents played in my head. I hadn’t seen them in years, and that said a lot seeing as I was only six. I couldn’t stand the foster home I lived in. The older boy picked on me, something dreadful, and I had decided I was going to run away and join a circus. Be a clown, or better yet, a lion tamer. With the dragon, I knew I was capable of anything.

“It must be awful special to you,” the nice lady said, squeezing my hand. “You’ve rubbed off his eyes. Where did you get him?”

“Mom. She gave him to me, when I was little. She and Dad took a drive somewhere. I can’t remember. It’s fuzzy—like a peach. He made me safe for three days, until they came and took me away. They told me they’d find me a home. But I haven’t had a home since.”

The policeman and the park ranger came back and hovered over me.  The nice lady EMT wiped the soot off my face and my arms with a wet rag. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around her neck, squeezing her tight. She patted my back and squeezed me back.  Her hair smelled like green apples, sunshine, and happiness.

“I reckon he’s too young for juvie,” the policeman said.

“He just needs a mother to love him,” the nice lady EMT said.

“Will you be my mommy?” I asked.

Bullseye

First off, I want to apologize for being missing in action this week. This is the first Flash Fiction challenge I’ve participated in this week, because on Monday I had somewhat of a medical emergency.Today is the first day I feel more like a human again, instead of just a crumpled ball of pain. I looked at a computer screen to watch television all week, because reading and writing simply weren’t possible. I missed the actual art of writing. I missed participating in the flash contestst, but I knew on the pain medication whatever I wrote wouldn’t be comprehendable. And plus, most of the week the pain medication didn’t actually help with the pain. But now I’m on the mend and actually going to function and go about my normal day today, and as such, I’m participating in Flash!Friday.

The setting: parking lot. The picture: Night archer. Once again, trying not to go dark, I end up going with love. So check out my Flash!Friday piece for today. And go easy on me, it’s the first thing I’ve written in 5 days!

Bullseye
@laurenegreene
202 words
We left work every night at the same time and would stand next to each other in the parking lot, under the flickering streetlights, talking about anything but our feelings.

That night, Mitchell had called in sick. When I asked our boss, he just shook his head and said he didn’t know why. Fumbling with my keys, I dropped them on the white line of the parking space, and when I looked up a vague image was sitting in the distance.

“Who’s there?” I called out into the darkness of the night. The lights were more off than on that night.

No answer. I tiptoed across the parking lot, and on his knees with his hands up sat Mitchell. Arrows were sticking out of a sheath attached to his back. He wore all black, blending in completely with his surroundings. My heart beat loud enough for him to hear, as I drew closer to him, facing my trepidation.

“Relax,” he said, as he turned his eyes to me. “I had an archery competition today. No time to change. But I had to come straight away, because when I looked at the bullseye, Madison, I saw your face. How about dinner tomorrow night?”