Eva froze solid, feeling stunned, unable to speak. Then a deep, guttural, sound came rushing up from some deep, cavernous, place inside her. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes, and she dropped to the ground writhing in pain. “My baby boy, my baby boy,” she kept repeating. The two younger children ran out of the house and stared bewildered at their mother screaming, crying, and curled up on the ground like an infant. The Sheriff and Reverend grabb ed her arms and pulled her up. “Now gal, you just calm on down, you ain’t doing yourself no good,” said Sheriff Dove. “I brought the Reverend here to give you some comfort.” Eva snatched her arms away from the two big men. “Let me go, the hell with both of you. I don’t need this Uncle Tom to read no bible to me, or some red neck sheriff giving me false comfort either. You probably had something to do with it sheriff, or you’re protecting the men who did it. You never liked my Jason.” Reverend Walker nodded his head. “Yes, sheriff.” The Reverend picked his bible up from the ground, where it had fallen when Eva pulled away. “God be with you, child,” he said and then turned and walked down the road. He never looked back at the woman and her kids in distress, clinging to each other in grief. Just before he reached his farm, he passed by a deep pond and pulled out a solid gold pocket watch with the initials “MJ” engraved on the front. The Reverend dropped it in the deep dark water. He thought back to the image of Jason hanging from the rope, gasping for air. He and the rest of the deacons didn’t want to kill him, but after meeting a few days ago, they’d decided it was their only choice. They knew sooner or later Jason would do something crazy, or stupid, to rile up the whites in the county and bring down suffering on all their heads. His foolishness could have gotten some of them killed and their property burned. They’d read about incidents across the South, where whites attacked blacks and burned their property because one black man had supposedly raped a white woman, or done some other crime. They didn’t doubt the same thing could happen in Red Oak County and knew the local Klan was mighty dangerous and unpredictable. And if riled up enough, they wouldn’t hesitate to go after every black person in sight, whether innocent, or guilty. So the deacons had voted to take a preventative measure and made a hard choice. They’d tried talking to Jason numerous times, to calm him down and get him on a good path, but had only gotten cussed out for their effort. They believed they’d worked too hard, scratching and struggling, to get whatever little they had to let an out of control teenager put at risk everything they’d fought and sacrificed for. The previous night, they’d caught Jason coming home drunk from a juke Joint. They carried him to the woods and hanged him from the branch of an old oak tree. They weren’t proud of what they’d done, but they weren’t ashamed of it either. They believed a man had to do everything possible to protect his family and his future, whether fighting the Germans overseas, or dealing with a dangerous and unpredictable boy at home. Rev. Walker turned away from the dark pond and headed home. He knew his wife and little daughters had supper waiting and that his crops needed tending to early the next morning. Images of a future with dignity, prosperity, and success flooded his mind. He knew that glorious day may be far off, but he had no doubt it would come, at least in time for his children. And he knew he wasn’t going to allow anything, or anyone, to stop its arrival. n BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE “Evening Eva,” said Sheriff Dove. “I’m afraid I got some bad news for you.” He tried to put on his most concerned look. “Your boy, Jason, was found hanged, a few hours ago, down by the old Church Road, near the county line.” A mean look crossed the sheriff’s face. “Now you just hold on here gal, death or no death, don’t you sass me none. That boy of yours was trouble from day one, and you know it.” He turned toward his car. “I’ve got supper waiting, and I’m going to it. Reverend, you okay walking back home?” 107 She’d kept to herself and had nothing to do with his kind, and she didn’t want them to have anything to do with her. She sensed their arrival didn’t signal anything good.