Day 881: 5 Minute Freewrite CONTINUATION: Thursday - Prompt: split

in Freewriters4 years ago

The Great Ridgeline Memorial was essentially over, late Friday afternoon.

The last 2,404 names had been read, the songs and eulogies and burial rites across two cultures in two languages had been done.

All that was held as sacred to the Black and Latino communities of Lofton County had been done long before Mayor D.L. Garner Jr. of Big Loft, VA and Mrs. Selene Slocum-Lofton had been scheduled to appear.

Mrs. Slocum-Lofton had allowed the memorial to take place on the cul-de-sac she owned – “one person, holding a whole loop of a street called Cedar Court!” – many people had said about it. She was invited because the communities wanted to publicly thank and acknowledge her generosity.

Mayor Garner had been summoned, really, to initially acknowledge what had been done officially.

Neither of them were allowed early enough for anyone to get the impression that their blessing and permission were necessary … the point was being made to Lofton County's bigwigs that they were allowed as a courtesy to the events of the truly important people.

Mayor Garner was actually told: “You have five minutes, sir.”

Members of the FBI and Big Loft's police department had been witness to all of this amazing week, and no one had seen more that Captain H.F. Lee, interim divisional commander of the Blue Ridge precinct.

He with the FBI had coordinated the counter-terrorism effort necessary for the the Great Ridgeline Memorial to take place in piece.

He stood watching over the affair every day as team leader, standing at attention nine hours a day without even taking a break as the ceremony went on.

By Friday, day 5, Captain Lee felt four things.

He felt deeply honored that he, out of the same family branch – a nephew – of the Lee that had fought the hardest against freedom, was even allowed to witness such an event and was called upon and trusted to safeguard it in concert with FBI and the armed members of both communities who were present.

He felt a sense of catharsis, of release, knowing that once, upon that same Cedar Court, his maternal grandmother, that same Selene Slocum-Lofton, had once held a great party for family and neighbors on the occasion of the death of his Black wife and son – Vanessa Morton Lee, and her son Henry Victor. Yet now, the right thing, the full dignity applied to the beloved dead had been done upon this ground already purged by the Ridgeline Fire of the defilement the dwellers of Cedar Court had done. The fact that the same Mrs. Slocum-Lofton had allowed it on her land meant, simply, that she was not the same person. Captain Lee felt that his prayers for her salvation in Christ were being answered, for by no other means could she be transformed.

He also felt really tired. Could he carry on another five days if necessary, standing nine hours a day? Of course – standing at parade rest balanced the body well. Yet he was glad he didn't have to. All was nearly at an end … and he felt that all the redemptive purposes were not done.

Mayor D.L. Garner Jr. was a chastened and restored person … Captain Lee had shared an apartment with his first cousin (the L. stood for Lee) during the fallout of his cousin's decision to go on and adjust the death toll to the Ridgeline Fire to reflect the 12,020 deaths of the Black and Latino servants who had perished at work in the 4,000 homes that had burned.

Mayor Garner had lost his marriage, his dignity (his wife had left a dent in his face when he told her what he was going to do), and a ton of political capital behind his decision … but he had regained his faith and his self-respect and his power. At the appropriate time, he came forward, and kept his remarks within the time allotted.

“On behalf of the city of Big Loft, I express my deepest condolences to all of your families, and deeply regret the wrong caused all of you by the delay of the count of your relatives. I am not going to make a politician's promises about the future; I ask only that you observe how Big Loft, under my leadership, intends to show respect to all its communities henceforth. If you do not see it, I know that you will bring it to my and the city's attention, and I accept the responsibility of not failing you all such that such measures will ever be necessary again. Again, on behalf of the city of Big Loft, I express my deepest condolences. Thank you.”

He stepped down. There was neither applause nor question of him; he had done what he had been called to do.

Next up was Mrs. Slocum-Lofton. Captain Lee had already noticed that she was in the company of their neighbor, Mr. John Worley. The two men knew each other well; Mr. Worley had welcomed Captain Lee to the building, and that had led to some robust Christian fellowship. Captain Lee had known that eventually, since his grandmother had quietly moved in across the hall from Mr. Worley, the two would meet. Apparently, they had hit it off very well, which was not a surprise to Captain Lee except in degree.

It was very cold, and Mr. Worley was cradling Mrs. Slocum-Lofton, shielding her against the wind. Captain Lee would have done the same thing, of course, being modeled after men of his grandfather's age. What was a surprise was that Mrs. Slocum-Lofton, whose bitterness over the loss of her husband had caused her to despise all other men, was accepting Mr. Worley's care. The indomitable woman, who needed no one, was submitting to the care of a man for the second time in 47 years. Captain Lee was the first, and that had been just a few weeks earlier.

Captain Lee's heart began to pick up its pace. His grandmother had changed – and she was in the arms of a serious Christian man. If she was comfortable there, and he was comfortable having her there – .

“Mrs. Selene Slocum-Lofton,” said the deep voice of Rev. Obsidian Stone, chief organizer of the Great Ridgeline Memorial, “please step forward.”

Captain Lee read Mr. Worley's lips: “You've got this, Selene, and I've got you, and God's got us. You can do this. Just do it.”

In his head, Captain Lee started singing the “Hallelujah” Chorus, and sung on as his grandmother, clothed in the beauty of humility, went forward.

“On behalf of the Black and Latino communities of Lofton County, I wish to thank you for lending Cedar Court to the use of our memorial, Mrs. Slocum-Lofton. What you have done made it much easier for us to begin our healing, and for the city to truly heal as well. Thank you.”

“Thank you, Rev. Stone, for being willing to approach me,” she said. “May I have five minutes?”

“Yes, ma'am, of course.”

Rev. Stone adjusted the mic, and Selene Slocum-Lofton took a deep breath. Her eyes searched the police officers until they rested for a moment on her grandson, and then she took another deep breath.

“I take the thanks of your two communities as a sign of the grace and mercy of God in Christ toward a woman who did not deserve such. On this site, 27 years ago, I celebrated the death of a Black wife and child because I resented the decision of my grandson to show love and give the full rights of humanity to a beautiful, brilliant member of your community, and to bear a legitimate child who would be heir to a trust fund left for my grandson in due time. I was as hateful a person as any of the people who wanted to come and do terrorist acts against you. That is me, Selene Madison Slocum-Lofton, before actually coming to Christ.

“But now, my God is truly your God, the God Who saves sinners out of every tribe and nation with respect of persons … now I understand and repent and show my change of life. My family and I have disqualified ourselves to ever return here and pretend that what we did, and what you have done, never happened. Therefore I have with me a Deed of Gift for all of Cedar Court, drawn up today, for your communities. You may designate whatever person or organization you see fit, but as far as I am concerned, this place now belongs to you, to do whatever you will. Thank you.”

And she handed the deed to Rev. Stone, who nearly dropped it before coming back to the mic.

“Thank you, Mrs. Slocum-Lofton – and, welcome to the family of God, for real!”

How exactly the ownership would be transferred would be worked out the next week. The fury against Mrs. Slocum-Lofton would ignite just as soon as news got around. None of it mattered. She had done with her new Master had told her to do, and then returned to the supportive embrace of Mr. Worley.

A song, and a benediction, and it was all done. Captain Lee broke parade rest and did what he had done every other day; begin the processes of smoothly and securely get 100,000 people down the road.

Nobody could see in his face the “Hallelujah” chorus playing in his head.

But Maggie Thornton would see it, the instant she tapped the horn of the pickup truck he had loaned her after her car accident and pulled down her hood before picking him up at the precinct – always first in and last out was Captain Lee, and that meant he could start singing the “Hallelujah” Chorus before even getting in the truck.

They would head home to the Rosewood Apartments, where Cousin Margie, the entire Garner family, Mr. Worley, and Mrs. Selene Slocum-Lofton would at last get together with them and get caught up on the healing and love that had come to them and begin to enjoy being a Christian family – extended, of course, but, still, a family healing and loving together.

Elsewhere, the Stones, the Harrisons, the Varicks, and many others enjoyed the culminating Stone Repast, and at last had the closure they needed to get on to the next phase of work and life.

Even Mayor Garner realized when he saw the way the Big Loft Bulletin had covered the memorial in a decent, even kind way: the city itself and most of its citizens had gotten around the corner at last.

Big Loft had at last been given beauty for ashes. The healing, on all sides of the community, could now begin.

I pray indeed for the healing of the community, in our new start on Hive... the story here indeed is finished!

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