Alabama Burning

Finalist in the 'Write As Rain 2014' competition

The shafts of waning sunlight lay concealed behind the sheet of clouds, depriving the sky of its normally marvellous hues and tones, and leaving the sloping hills a lustreless grey.
My old man sits in the back of the tin truck, shoulders hunched, mocking and jeering in the direction of our prey. Perilous blue eyes, meticulously combed grey hair, and lines downcast at the corners of his mouth, he roars over the groan of the engine “Morty-Cain, you should be thankin’ me you even allowed to come out boy, that I ain’t teaching you a lesson tonight! It’s gonna be a show - them blacks won’t know what hit ‘em.”
Though I was born fifteen years to the day, on May 14, 1946, we weren’t out to celebrate - the only time the old man ever did anything for me involved a belt, and “teaching me a lesson.”
Tonight, we were out to hunt.
We turn a corner, and the rest of our Klan brothers come into view, trucks forming a barricade down the road, oaken cross lit. The Greyhound we trail, filled with the Freedom Riders, grinds to a stop in front of us, slashed tyres swerving perilously.
For a moment, there is silence.
Then a solitary shot echoes from one of the trucks, and, all at once, everything goes catawampus.
Stones, dukes, and sticks fly in all manner of direction, men colliding in a wall of flesh. I stand, transfixed, frozen with fear, palms sweating in angst. My thoughts cloud, and my vision blurs at the sheer scale of the anarchy in front of me.
I look down, weak, and collapse onto the floor. I strain my neck to look up, but am horrified at what I see.
The metal buckle, booming down on my back.
The leather loops, frayed, and stained with blood from a harsh ‘lesson.’
The blank expression on Ma’s face, the tear that rolls down her cheek, as she stands; dumbfounded, powerless.
All I hear is his heinous laugh filling the room, dark, and primordial.
I awake with a start, and look up in fright - staring back at me is a pair of deep ebony eyes, that burn bright with fear. I stare back, and then, ever so briefly, the eyes flicker a perilous blue. A haunting blue. My father’s eyes. I cower in terror, limbs flailing at whatever is above me.
I look again, and the eyes are black once more - I freeze, as terrified as the man above me. I must break the old man’s hold over me. Over my actions. Over my thoughts. Over my life.
I offer my hand to the Negro, and he takes it.
The clink of the metal door awakens me from my slumber, and I rise in a drab concrete room, surrounded by Negros.
“Your first time in the slammer white boy?” grumbles a familiar man beside me.
My surroundings sink in. I have broken his control. I am not my father’s son.

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