ninety-two           

           Jewel's fingers claw the earth to make a hollow spot for her belly, knowing beyond a doubt she has met her fate. Tune, whip flaunted, hovers. Felicia, clutching a pistol, takes deadly aim, elbows locked, arms extended, gloating over the bared back lying  prone—Jewel half naked under the inauspicious coil of Tune's brutal scourge, length unwinding—the dirt tastes of blood—lethal loops unfurling—Jewel grits her teeth—rearing WHOOSH and practice CRACK unnerving...

            "Look how she grovels, Mister Tune, like an animal. Begin, please. I want to see her filthy carcass writhe. BEGIN!"

...its WHOOSH this time caressing almost, clinging to her flesh, until its CRACK inflicts such pain Jewel's wounded backbone arches, another WHOOSH announcing the torment will recur, a stripe of ravaged skin will CRACK endure its replica, another WHOOSH proscribing lungs from stealing a shallow breath CRACK senses teetering on the brink of agony unendurable as WHOOSH results in a POP that supersedes what Jewel anticipates with a look of mortal resignation... wariness... hopefulness... tentative relief at her punishment's interruptiongrateful for the respite, reconciled to resumption, if baffled when the whoosh/crack fails to recommence...

            Tunemid-stroke having halted, blinked, attempted to gulp his spittle, to elucidate the gap between volition and exploit-in-progressstruggles to account for his hands going numb, his spine as well, his brainstem, how his footing can be failing, torso twisting with the breeze no more resistant to its whim than a decimated scarecrow, pitching furthermore forward with no means to break his fall instead colliding with the earth in a face-first sprawl insensate, focused without perceiving his victim's timely rescue, blind, in truth, to her saviour's chivalrous embrace, deaf to her thankful sobs,  indifferent to the hubbub his gunshot perforated throat has caused among those present:

  • Jewel, alive if bleeding from a crisscross trine of cuts, slashes stung by salt in the sweat of him who cradles her

  • Zachary, on his knees, the smouldering rifle dropped, discarded once its barrel loosed the bullet lodged between Tune's vertebrae

  • Beulah, eyeballs bulging with her effort to assess the damage done, the damage imminent; further mayhem looms

  • Tessie, standing awestruck, unaccustomed to lethality wrought by White on another White, concerned lest it be criminal

  • Marisee, overwhelmed by strange stigmata bred of tragedy, evil signs from the fickle wind to the raven's fatal fall

  • Priscilla, coming late upon the scene, confused then panicked whence diverting her concern to the wife who stands enraged

  • Felicia, indecisive faced with both of her tormentors, with the woman, with the man whose unborn bastard ridicules, whose loathsome origin slanders, whose mixed-race gene-pool slurs, and whose parents' wicked congress merits grave retribution...

steals herself to exact the ultimate penalty, as Zachary stands with Jewel held in his arms, ready to deliver his pre-planned address—field hands, house slaves; everyone in attendance haplessly enthralled (except for her toward whom the Master's back is turned) waiting for a speech (that is condensed into four momentous words).

            "Jewel bears my heir."

            His proclamation ripples through the dumbstruck convocation. Chosen for its import, the phrase elicits shock; "heir" connotes legitimacy; "heir" connotes acknowledgment; "heir" connotes co-equal and therein lies its jolt—visibly affecting all who comprehend.

            A gust of wind leaps out of nowhere. A distant "CAW" is heard. The slaves in unison gasp and cautiously back away. Felicia, gun upraised, aims at her nemeses.

            "Did you really think your wife would stand by meekly while you disinherited her? Did you honestly judge her self-esteem so low, so passively inconsequential as to mortify her IN PUBLIC? Did you ever once consider how a newlywed might feel whose husband acted the adulterer from the moment vows were spokencoupling with a Negress, no less, a subhuman slave? And when your bride beseeched you, begged you to consummate our marriage, did you never suffer qualms about consorting with a whore? I never will live down the sheer humiliation. In the eyes of Man and God, you have made me shrink with shame. DON'T MOVE! ANY OF YOU!" Suspecting those in attendance of conspiring to disarm her, Felicia waves her weapon for all to see. "I'M NOT FINISHED! There is something about your Master's Massah Plan I needs must relate, something he intends to do once I'm not a factor, something he deems righteouswhich in fact is anything but." Her eyes accost those gathered with a psychopathic gleam. "FREE YOU; that's his objective! Offer each of you wages in the vain hope you will stay. Turn this grand plantation into a mishmash of sharecropping dirt farmers—and expect his next-door neighbours to pardon the affront. Ha! I say, HA! Just let him try it. Imagine what will happen when you niggers rule yourselves, the chaos and the sloth and the gross inefficiency. Imagine what will happen when blacks outnumber Whites; poverty; abject ignorance; and widespread moral turpitude. I do declare the upshot might prove worse, with rampant interbreeding dumbing down our species. I SAID DON'T MOVE!" She brandishes the pistol, its metal hammer cocked, its levelled barrel trembling, panning left to right, right to left, coming to a halt. "The truth of what I'm saying bloats my husband's bitch, heaping dissoluteness on his family's once-good name, dragging it—WITH ME—into the depths of degradation; or would, were I to share his barefaced ignominy. I SHALL NOT! I SHALL CONDUCT MYSELF WITH HONOUR AS BEFITS MY NOBLE RACE!"

            Felicia slowly bends her elbows, gun barrel tucked under chin...

            "Mistress, NO!"

...and pulls the trigger.

            Priscilla's horror-struck face is splattered with shards of skull and brain sent helter-skelter from the force of Felicia's self-destruction.