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Richard Murray

The Tripping Tree

 Down in Fayette, Mississippi, Sucra stops her car. She is there, to let her feet relax on grass, at her aunt’s. Upon her calming destination, she see a body on the ground.
“Don’t touch him S” loudly exclaims an elder Black woman.
“What is going on Aunt Cassie?” say Sucra, as she pulls out her gun.
Sucra’s aunt is calm before the body “... he is the last then... help me take him to your car” Sucra and her aunt, grab up the man’s body, and put him in Sucra’s car. Given directions, Sucra drives silently, and looks toward the road; her aunt begins to speak, “ It all started with a very old tree...

            In the center of town is a tree, planted by the Burgh’s family elder; he had come from Haiti; after her independence, bitter and very mean. The Burgh elder swore, he would hang any nigger who stepped wrong once. And,... so it began, hanging after hanging, once the tree matured. The hunting parties, and any white, for convenience, used the old Burgh’s tree. Then, he died. But, it got worse. It was said, and I do believe, every Black, in all the states, has a blood relative, who died on that tree. Of course, the civil war came, so many died. The Blacks who knew of it, probably never spoke of it, for fear. The Whites who knew of it, probably never spoke of it, for shame. All others who knew it, were dead. That left us, here, in the middle of nowhere. During reconstruction, we cleaned the tree, spoke to it, made it’s spirit clean. But, after the deal, the KKK proclaimed what old Burgh did, and it began again; it would still be going on, if the tree hadn’t got so angry. A few months ago, Whites tried to hang, Lil Mo, an innocent orphan round here, for fun. But, the tree branch he was connected to broke; they tried again, and again, but each time the branch broke. Lil Mo got away, who knows how. But, that isn’t the best part. From Lil Mo’s escape to today, folks around town who: were known to have hanged, were not known to have hanged but did, or aided in a hanging someway, were found dead. The Whites thought it was us, until they found Mamie Goodie; that is when we all suspected, the connection. But, I needed to be sure, and asked Papa Fede to come from the woods, to talk to the tree; he said what everybody knew, the tree was angry. It had tasted happiness and became angry at how it had been used, and exacted it’s revenge. I realized the ,only, way to deal with it, was to wait it out. To that end, I figured one was left, a day ago. I asked Lil Mo to come over, to finish this. The rest you know.”

Sucra looked at her aunt and nodded for a cigarette. After her aunt’s condemnation, Sucra nodded firmer, and her aunt relented. They took Lil Mo to a shed, where they burned him inside it. And, they went to aunt Cassie’s home.

Near after midnight, Sucra with her feet bare on the grass, stood still in the breeze. She wondered was it really over, was the tree finished, and how did it kill. She felt something move around her foot. Squatting she notices it is a root, and ask “ have you found peace?” The rooting removed itself around her foot and wormed a root tail to the ground, where it sprouted a flower.