sixty-six              

            "NO, SUH! PLEASE, SUH! PLEASE, I BEGS YOU!"

            "Hug that tree before I blow your head off."

            Mister Tune draws a bead at an off-white temple, at a slave's beleaguered facemasked by sweat-streaked flour.

            "LAWD, DON' SHOOT!"

            Larchmont turns and frantically wraps his arms around the trunk: trembling, terrified, bark turned dark by urine that trickles toward his feet.

            "Don't move a muscle."

            Tune dismounts, grabs the rope from his saddle horn, walks to the tree, and binds Larchmont's wrists. The trunk is wide; the slave's arms stretch full-length; the skin across his broad back tautens, tenses, gleams. Tune throws the excess rope over a branch, hoists hard—his captive groansand with the last few coils secures destabilized knees.

            "Like a monkey up a palm tree, nigger; that's what you look like."

            "Please, suh. Larchmont didn' do nuthin'. Hones'. Please, suh. Mist'ess make me."

            "I knew you'd slip, if I kept a lookout; finally you did, boyslipped so bad won't no one think to blame me should you accidentally die."

            Tune grasps his whip.

            "Don' wanna die, suh. Yo' not 'pose' to, suh. Not 'pose' to do no whuppin' witout de Massah say-so."

            "Oh, he'd say so; fact, he'd thank me was he here—come home to find some filthy horny nigger toppin' his wedded wife."

            "I NEVAH! Hones', Mistah Tune, dat what you think? I swear to God, Larchmont nevah so much lay a finger on de Mist'ess. Oh, you gots believes dat, suh; I nevah!"

            Tune takes aim. The whip's tongue draggles in the mud then flicks at its target. A gory chunk of buttockwith a SNAP—is deleted from Larchmont's hide.

            "PLEASE, SUH. PLEASE! Her make me go dere. Sen' dat Prissy-gal fetch me. Say de Mist'ess need fo' somethin' like de bed o' somethin' lif'."

            Tune lays a stripe in a long, clear-cut diagonal, shoulder blade to waist—stealing the breath from Larchmont's seized-up lungs; he swallows a gasp to speak.

            "I go. I do jis' like I tol'. De Mist'ess strange-like. Gots dis mean-eye, mad-eye look."

            The lash recoils—its goal gone stiff with anticipation; SNAP—another buttock-chunk is brutally excised.

            "Keep talkin', nigger."

            Tune is deaf to all remonstrance. He has the evidence he needs. After weeks of waitingmonthsBolt's killer at last is dead to rights, the muscle-bound nigger caught in the Big House, in the Mistress's bedroom, no less, his black face floured white, his undone britches dropped.

            The whip leaps out; the slave's spine archestoes and fingers writhe like freshly severed worms.

            "Mist'ess make me, but I SWEAR, I don' do nuthin'. I jis' stan' dere whilst her powder me wit co'nflou'; don' know why; her mumblin' all de while; jis' crazy talk; make no... UMPH!

            Tune feels the familiar stir in his loins as the black back splits, blood oozing, wounds unravelling at their edgesSNAP...

            ...SNAP

            ...SNAP—mangled flesh agape.

            "Keep talkin', nigger."

            (If Larchmont talks, he must be conscious; no sense beating a cadaver)—albeit Tune intends this punishment to be fatal... which the Negro seems to sense—lips contorted, right cheek ravaged by the bark, saliva drooling, ribcage harbouring a heart so wildly fluttering death will come like the release of a panic-stricken bird.

            “I said KEEP TALKIN'!"

            Tune strikes viciously, unrestrained; Larchmont duly slumps, stops wincing, ceases to squirm, his ravaged hulk mere meat, his frenzied outcries mute, his suffering gone numb... impervious to the unremitting blows that rain with vengeful fervour:

            (a stroke for BOLT

            a stroke for Zachary's SNUBS

            a stroke for DISRESPECT

            a stroke for RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE

            a stroke for INSUBORDINATION)

Tune persists:

            (a stroke for WHITES

            a stroke for GOD

            a stroke for SOVEREIGN SOUTHERN STATES

            a stroke for BOLT

            a stroke for BOLT

            a stroke for BOLT)