The car jerks forward and the light from the church follows it far, far in the distance…. The headlights strike the billboard. The sign is old and worn. They shove Fon from the car and push him beneath the wooden structure. The night crowds in around the sharp line of the car’s headlights. They make torches with the rags. “All right, nigger, git on your knees.” Gus wraps his bloody fist in a rag. Fon—slumped slightly, his right hand touching the ground lightly by his right knee—does not blink in the direct light of the headlights.Nor does he look in the faces of the men around him. They are lighting torches and threatening him. Only Nillmon speaks to him. Fon watches the trees and the long shadows of the beams. “Boy, what you mean, that rock come from the sky? I thought you said your brother chucked it.” “My brother shoots only arrows.” “I’m not goin to Hell,” says Fon. Ed Frickerson stuffs the dynamite in Fon’s rear pocket. Gus lights the last torch. Nillmon seems confused. He eyes Fon. This nigger still ain’t broke. “Nigger, you mighty popular, eh? You know how to pray?” “Prayer is for people who want help,” says Fon. A torch is pushed near Fon’s feet. “Where’s your goddam brother now?” Fon does not answer right away, but seems to watch the flickering of the shadows from the torches. High in the heavens now, a star comes into view from the clouds. A thin glow from a hidden moon peeps ominously from a horizon of clouds. “My brother is in the trees somewhere, now.” Gus slaps Fon. One of the lights of the car goes out. Something has broken it. A puff of blue smoke sails away from the dying light. One of the torches falls, and Nillmon, standing next to Fon, thinks he hears a man’s voice moan. “Gimme the pistol.” Nillmon turns to see Gus — the pistol falling from his hand — stumbling, clutching an arrow which has completely pierced his neck. Suddenly the other light explodes, and the only light is the darting flame from the dying torches on the ground. Nillmon leaps to where he thinks he saw the pistol fall…. But as he leaps he finds that he is falling, grabbing a sharp pain in his neck. Silence. In the distance a dog barks and Fon hears the faint sound of a cowbell. He clutches his side and walks deliberately over to each torch, stomps it out with bare feet. He thinks, That was mighty close. But it is better this way.To have looked at them would have been too much. Four centuries of black eyes burning into four weak white men…would’ve set the whole earth on fire. Not yet, he thinks, not yet….He turns toward the levee where a light in the night reaches out to him and to the great distance between him and the far blinking of the stars. The light from the church reaches out almost to him. They are expecting him back….When the tower is finished…One more black stone. He will be able to see how to walk back. A fragment of the night, kicking, kicking, at the gnawing teeth of the earth. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE “Move out!” shouts Gus. “Goddammit, you gonna let your brother go, while you go to Hell?” asks Ed Frickerson. 19 Suddenly they see Fon inside, and a cheer leaps up from them such as the white men have never heard. A sound of distance and presence, a shaking in the air which comes from that invisible song, that body of memory, ancient. A long sustained roar from the bottom of the land, rising, rising….