hellish horror pounds
staccato ultimatum
shattered caramel


Hate, terrorizing the vulnerable, and one element exerting power over another seem to dominate news cycles and stories. The very nature of those occurrences targets and victimizes the innocent
I wrote the following story months ago, yet it takes on new meaning in light of recurring incidents of racial violence in the US, as well as terror in many parts of the world.
Please take a moment to hold the innocents in your heart.


     It was an uncomfortable day in early June—the second day of summer vacation after Kenya’s first year of middle school. Whatever that was. She lay sprawled on the living room floor, in direct line of a weak fan, vacantly paging through a book she’d been encouraged to read. She loved to read. That wasn’t the problem. But she would have loved to decide what she would read during her free time.

     The sharp pounding on the front door, mere inches from where she lay, jerked her body to attention. Terror instantly invaded her dark eyes. The last time this had happened in their economically depressed neighborhood, their house had been targeted by a loud, demanding group of hooded men. Who were they? What did they want? Why were they dressed like that? Her mother had been vague and had tried to brush it off, but her blue eyes had revealed her own panic.

     Her heart pounded as her stepfather strode to the door. “Kenya, get outta here. Now!” he barked as he passed. Quick as a hummingbird, she flitted under the table in the adjacent room.

     Her stepfather was a minister in a small rural church made up exclusively of white folk. Except for her, of course. She was “black”. At least that’s what he had told her years ago. She never referred to her stepfather by his given name and she refused to call him Dad. Her real dad was a pharmacist in the city. She saw him on holidays.

     She could hear his voice, low and tersely appeasing. “No, brothers,” he spat out, “I am with you. I am one of you! Don’t forget that!”

     Kenya slowly peered around the corner, then pulled a breath in sharply. Hoods! She disappeared and slunk to the far end under the table. More loud, almost indistinguishable sounds from under formidable hoods. She could only make out a few words. “… she has to go …” and “… she’s not one of us …” was all she could hear.

     Instinctively she knew whom they were talking about. A cold shiver ran down her sweaty back. Horror gripped her. She had once wanted to check out a book from the library that had a picture of people dressed in white hoods on the jacket, but her mother had quickly snatched if from her, stating it was “unsuitable.” And because she didn’t go to school, she had never had the opportunity to ask anyone about it.

     The voices hissed and droned, rose and fell. They were not giving in and neither was her stepfather. She could tell by his voice that he was getting angry.

     But why? Why her? “Not one of us”? Why not? Her family lived here; they went to church here; she went to the store with her mother and four half-brothers and sisters here.

     “You’re black. You’re black. You’re black.” The words she’d heard from him years ago reverberated through her brain.

Continued in Behind Each Face*

*Because this story appears in the recently published book, it is subject to restrictions as to where it can be posted in its entirety.


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