Long time coming

Reverend George Lee
Once upon a time, a girl was born. Let’s call her Mary.
Lamar Smith
Mary was born in a small house, and there was no electricity.
Emmett Louis Till
Some nights, when she was little, she and her mother blew out the candles and hid under the bed.
John Earl Reese
And some nights, her father hid with them.
Willie Edwards, Jr.
But other nights, her father sat on the porch and whispered, “I dare you, I dare you, I dare you bastards.”
Mack Charles Parker
One night, her father didn’t come back in, and the next day, Mary and her mother moved into town.
Herbert Lee
Because they dared, those bastards. Oh yes, they dared.
Corporal Roman Ducksworth, Jr.
In town, there was electricity, and the small school, and Auntie Jane.
Paul Guihard
And in town, her mother’s feet and hands swelled while she scrubbed other people’s clothing, made other people’s dinners, watched other people’s children.
William Lewis Moore
Then one day, Mary’s mother put down the wash and said, “I may have to leave you,” to her daughter.
Medgar Evers
“I don’t want to, but I know in my soul your Daddy died doing what was right, and I don’t want to have to turn my head when I meet him on the other side.”
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley
After that came nights, two, sometimes three in a row, when Mary’s mother didn’t come home.
Virgil Lamar Ware
And one night when she did come home, but she was bloody and silent.
Louis Allen
Mama and Auntie Jane went in the bathroom together for a long time that night.
Johnnie Mae Chappell
Then, Mama only went out to go to work.
Reverend Bruce Klunder
After that, Mary went out herself.
Henry Hezekiah Dee, Charles Eddie Moore
She was too young, but she went anyway, and every time she came home, Mama whispered, “Brave girl, just like your Daddy.”
James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Henry Schwerner
And Mary said, “I’m always going to be like him.”
Lieutenant Colonel Lemuel Penn
When she was old enough, Mary did not take a job doing wash, making dinner, minding children.
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Mary went to college.
Reverend James Reeb
She worked and got a two year degree.
Viola Gregg Liuzzo
She moved to a little apartment where she liked the manager.
Oneal Moore
And they got married.
Willie Brewster
But there were no babies; only work.
Jonathan Myrick Daniels
And her manager drank, and one day Mary walked home to her mama bloody and silent.
Samuel Leamon Younge, Jr.
And she told Mama, “Now, I’m just like you.”
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer
But Mama had a friend from the old days, and he helped Mary get a job.
Ben Chester White
And Mary moved to another little apartment and met another man.
Wharlest Jackson
And by the time they walked down the aisle, the first baby was already on the way.
Benjamin Brown
Then one March, when Mary’s Mama was decrepit, Mary still holding on, and that first baby was grown and going strong, the whole family went to Selma, to the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Samuel Ephesians Hammond, Jr., Delano Herman Middleton, Henry Ezekial Smith
They watched Peggy Wallace Kennedy and Attorney General Eric Himpton Holder Jr. embrace.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And it didn’t make everything all right and perfect. But it went a long way. A longer way than any of them would have dared to believe.
This one was for the Flash Fiction Month prompt requesting a story with themes of change and forgiveness. The story is fictional, but the names in red are all real people.  And George Wallace’s daughter really did embrace the nation’s first African American attorney general in 2009 in Selma in celebration.

The list of names is taken from The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Martyrs’ page.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Long time coming — 12 Comments

    • I wanted to capture the Civil Rights movement without saying it. I wanted it to kind of be an everywoman story about that era, so using the names of the martyrs, including the less well known ones, was a way to evoke the era without having to set up a bunch of stuff within the story.

    • yay! I’m glad it worked for you. After I’d written it, I kept getting tangled and I had to get Scott to come read the names as I read the story to make sure the two sounded right together.

  1. Breathtaking, Jessie. I love it when you write like this. I forget I’m reading and I just feel.

    This was awfully sad for me, but so important a story, so much truth in the fiction. They were people I could see in my mind. Thank you.

    • Hurray! Given that we ‘met’ because of a similar story, I have been eager to hear your take on this one. I’m SO glad you like it!! I wanted to capture both the violence and the hope, but not turn the story into something false.

  2. I couldn’t stop reading this. The story made me want to find out what was going to happen to Mary. I liked the theme that sometimes we are doomed/destined to repeat what we are exposed to but perhaps through the generations, it serves a different purpose.

    • Yay! My husband couldn’t figure out why the scene with her coming home bloodied to Mama. I couldn’t put words to it, but I knew it belonged. You nailed it on the head. Thank you so much! That’s exactly what it’s doing there.