We’re a small town. A very close community. There’re 3,570 people in town and about that many within five miles of town. We’re not bigoted. We are champions of diversity. We have an Arab, Muslim family, several black families, two Asian families, and three mixed race/ethnicity couples. We have gay couples and a score of gay individuals.
I’m Jewish, married to a Catholic. We own the Country Store.
We’re forward-looking and forward-thinking.
In the last election, we voted fifty-eight percent Democratic.
You need this background to understand. I hope you do understand.
I was behind the counter serving Bob and Wayne Chastain. Their son, Darrel, he’s thirteen, and wheelchair-bound, was leafing through graphic novels when Darrel yelled, almost screamed, “Get away!” three times, rapidly.
He was shouting at a tall, skinny, very black man in a ragged Carhartt jacket, threadbare, soiled pants and no shirt or shoes. We, all three of us were too shocked to move. None of us had seen the black man enter the store. We have a buzzer on the door that sounds loudly when the door is opened. None of us heard it. But there he was stretching his hands out to poor, frightened Darrel.
Bob leaped across the floor between the stranger and his son. Wayne was right behind him. I was too stunned to move.
Bob was telling the skinny man to back up. The skinny guy was ignoring them, and somehow in some manner, the stranger stepped around Bob and Wayne and was again offering Darrel his hand.
I recovered. I called the Sheriff’s substation two blocks from my store.
And things got confusing. Darrel was now trying to reach out to the stranger as Wayne was pulling his chair away from the confrontation and Bob was still trying to block the skinny interloper.
Darrel was yelling “Stop! Wait! Stop!” and Bob was shouting “Get back!” Wayne was trying to calm Darrel, and I was bellowing in the phone for Deputy Jackson to get his ass down to the store.
And the tall black man held up his right hand, just held it up, and there was silence. He turned and walked out the door and turned left toward the Sheriff’s substation.
Jackson rushed in the store a minute or so later. He didn’t see our mysterious visitor in his mad dash to the store. He had a difficult time understanding our story. I don’t blame him in the least.
I like this town, man. I do. People leave me alone. I like that. I sleep in a shed. Like a house, man. Nobody bothers me. I don’t have to beg.
Even the Sheriff leaves me alone.
I was in the alley between Second and Main checking out shit, you know? I find good stuff – When a shadow stepped out of the early morning shadows black, blacker than the shadows, pitch black, man, reaching, stretching his arms out to me, shows bone white teeth. Scares the shit out of me. I backed up, tripped, fell, and that nigger was over me reaching down a hand like a shovel. I scoot back, fast, roll over on my hands and knees crawling, staggering, falling out the alley onto Second Street.
I look back in the alley. I don’t see him. He ain’t there. I’m not sure he was real. Sometimes I see things that nobody else sees. I turned around, and the Nigger is, like, like two feet away reaching for me.
I ran, man. I mean with my bad knees, asthma and all I ran my ass off. I ran down Second until there wasn’t no more Second Street, no more town.
I left everything, everything, like, some good shit. The hell with it, man. I ain’t going back ever. I’m going down south away from that… That… I know, I know what it was, but I’m not going to put those words in my mouth, ever.
My nerves were shot even before I heard about Darrel, Bob, and Wayne, and what happened at the Country Store. I live on Second and Main Streets, a block from Chester and Aster Myers’ Store.
Emile, I mean Deputy Sheriff Jackson, was at my mother’s door within minutes of the terrifying confrontation at the Country Store. Emile was checking on my Mom and me and seeking witnesses to the fleeing black man.
Mom’s advanced Alzheimer’s and lung cancer are racing each other to see which one carries her away.
Sometimes, in the quiet of the evening, when I sit with Mom I think I hear her ailments whispering about which one will get me after they finish off Mom. I think they made a bet.
The morning after the Country Store event, I looked out my window and saw Benson, the homeless man, running for his life. The fear on his face knocked the breath out of me, made me look away, brought me to my knees.
I stumbled to my feet to go check on Mom. She was the same as always. I fumbled with my phone, called Emile. He was here in minutes. Emile calmed me, held me. After he left, I locked the doors and windows, pulled the shades, closed the blinds, prayed like never before.
The Myers had a shotgun each. Bo Randolph had his hunting rifle and his hounds. Emile had two deputy sheriffs and a Highway Patrol Officer at the town meeting in the high school multipurpose room.
The Highway Patrol Officer had found Benson passed out on the freeway. Benson told the Highway Patrol Officer his story. Now, we were going to rid our town of this menace.
We were going to search the town and drive out, capture or kill the madman haunting us.
I went home from the meeting and relieved Molly Clark, the high school girl who helped me look after Mom. Molly said Mom was agitated, moaning, twisting in the sheets, clawing at the air. I sat with Mom, held her hand until she calmed down some.
Emile called. He was going to search Mom’s potting shed in the back yard. I went out the back door to unlock the gate. There was nothing in the potting shed out of order.
I had just locked the gate behind Emile when I heard voices. My mother’s voice, clear and strong, full of life and delight. And a male voice deep, mellow, soothing. Mom had abandoned speech months ago. I was frozen in place trying to make sense of it all. I crept around to her bedroom window dreading each step.
He was there! In my Mom’s bedroom! Mom was on her back in bed. He was hovering over her head to head toe to toe. Only their hands were touching. She was raising her head to meet his lips.
I screamed, banged on the window, broke the window, cut my hand, cursed, cried screamed.
Emile broke open the gate. The Highway Patrol Officer, the Myers, Bob Chastain, Bo Randolph, others I don’t remember surrounded the house. He came out the back door arms and fingers spread wide, hands empty, walking slowly.
They told him to drop to his knees, put up his hands, stop walking. Stop! Stop!
He kept walking so slow, slow motion. They shot him fifty-six times. Obliterated him.
Mom roared out the house, knocked shooters aside, ran to his side, held his body in her arms, weeping, she cursed us one and all.
Mom, he gave my Mom a complete remission. I’m not the only person who believes that. She takes care of me now. Duty bound. I suffer from traumatic stress. A complete melt down. I’m getting better.
My mother hates me. Hates everyone in town except Darrel Chastain. She had a ramp built to the front door for Darrel. They talk, console each other, conspire to bring him back, give me looks of hate and pity.
There’s an inquiry, investigations into the shooting. They all find the shootings justified. His final words are recorded on a body camera.
“I heal with my touch. I relieve suffering. I accept your punishment for my impudent belief that I’m the Angel of Mercy. Make my death stone hard, bullet force, bone shattering. Impale me on your fifty-caliber cross. Let my scarlet life flow and flood. Entomb me under boulders of conviction, the rubble of justification, fearful prayers, and cowardly remorse.
When night falls. The wind rises. Secure your homes. Hide. Fear me. I shall return to you as an Angel of terror and agony.”
The night is falling. The wind is rising. I sit alone on one end of our front porch. Mom and Darrel whisper on the other end.
There’re mind shattering screams followed by two shotgun blasts coming from the Country Store. I cover my ears, weep.
Mom and Darrel hold hands and smile ever so sweetly.
Since 2014 Frederick has published over hundred-fifty stories and poems including literary, science fiction, fables, and horror genres. Frederick has published two short story collections, For the Sake of Soul, (2015) and, Crossroads Encounters, (2016).
Powerful short story – a version of a powerful tale that is both anticipated from the first few lines, yet surprising in its development. Love it! – Bobbie Spivey