It all happened so fast. One moment I was sitting on my bed, admiring the sunlight dancing with the flitting wind chime outside my room, and the next Mom hauled me off my perch, dragging me while propelling Kylie in a frenzy of confusion toward Graham’s room. Gran and Papa were there too. When Rob came, it meant the situation had passed urgent. Mom didn’t pause at all. “Get under the bed,” she ordered. Kylie and I crouched down and belly-crawled, our knobby, coltish knees scratching against the carpet as we tried to maneuver around each other as well as our two siblings, Graham and Roxanne, who were already jailed beneath the single bed’s wrought iron bars.
Rob looked so scary to me, crouched by the window, one eye squinting through the scope of a rifle, a small radio hanging on his belt. The image didn’t seem to fit—Rob with his big, sleek weapon poked through my little brother’s Mickey Mouse curtains. Papa wore an expression I imagined him wearing in the bush when he had been a soldier in the war he never spoke about. All of the adults paced the room or sat wringing their hands slowly, as Gran did.
“All right. I’m heading out the back door now,” Dad said. In that instant, I knew they had come for us. Our luck had run out, just as Gran always said it would. They were coming to lock us in the house and burn us, just as they’d done to the Cochranes’ horses. I wondered if my charred corpse would look bloated and black like in the pictures I’d seen in the box hidden in Dad’s office.
Dad’s voice came over the radio. “There are only two of them that I can see.” There was a pause. “Rex Jesus and a man I don’t recognize.”
“I have a clear view of the gate,” Rob confirmed. “And I see only two. Just keep walking. You’re fine.”
“Let’s hope this goes smoothly” was the last thing I heard—before it happened. [End Page 56]
A split-second pause preceded all hell breaking loose. My little brother Graham, who had inexplicably rushed to the window, was sent sprawling to the floor as Rob’s meaty arm caught him, and Papa was shouting, “What the fuck are you doing, you little shit?”
Years afterward, Dad retold the story over a family dinner, saying, “So I’m walking this line that Rob and I had mapped out, staying parallel to the slaughterhouse, so I’d be covered by him at all times. And the whole time I’m walking I’m thinking, ‘Shit, this is it.’ Anyway, I’m preparing to tell Rex Jesus to go to hell and that I’d see him back in court before he took my land, when I hear little Graham’s voice shout out the window ‘Dad! Where did you put your guns?’ Well, of course I instantly freeze and get ready to use my pistol, but before I could even raise a hand to it, Rex Jesus and this other guy have their hands in the air!”
Dad lifted his arms up to demonstrate the shaky fear of the two men as he sat at the head of the table that night. “I was so surprised, I just stood there for a second or two! They must have taken my silence as their chance because right then Rex said, ‘Please, Boss—we don’t want trouble today! We just want to buy some chickens!’” [End Page 57]
Terrileigh Anne Shepherd is a twelfth-generation African, born in 1992. Despite the political tension that pervades her home country of Zimbabwe, her family continues to reside in the beautifully dichotomous country. She is currently studying English literature and environmental science at Whittier College.