At the end of the summer a retarded boy was murdered. He was about fifteen. They said he had killed a little white girl. Likely a lie, but the child was indeed dead. White men dragged the boy from his house. They took him to a field with a tree, got up a crowd. Together, acting on the impulse of one ancient brain, they commenced the thing out in the open….As if they’d been given the power to drive out demons, and he were the swine.
Every devilment you could do to a man’s body, they did to his, with women there and children watching. They watched and remembered. Even those who later forgot, they remembered, too. But here come the miracle—when people got to this part in the story, they shook their heads—a colored man elbowed his way to the front of the crowd and begged for the boy’s life. Everyone repeated it: A black man came up in front of them.
“He stood beside the boy’s body, tied by now so that it wouldn’t fall flat. The black man said: ‘For God’s sake, don’t finish this, please. Whatever you had to teach him this boy has surely learnt. And he’ll never be good for nothin now anyway. Please, for pity’s sake, just lemme take’im home.’” Where had he come from, this man who appeared like the black face of God speaking mercy? The outrageousness of it would not be suppressed. It leeched from the rocks and seeped into streams. Finally, it ran in the papers.