Dead Man Hanging

by AqueenPassing

The nightmares were getting worse each night Shawn was awakened with a gripping fear, beads of sweat and the haunted look of death. It had been two months since that gruesome day Shawn stumbled on Marvin Green, one of his closest friends since childhood. Out of the five of them Marvin was the oldest and the craziest; he hated white people as much as they hated colored people and he did most of the things he did to annoy them.

The early fifties in the south was known for its segregation and racial abuse towards black people, and it was not uncommon for black men to be beaten, shot, or sent to prison for life, and even lynched for making passes or staring too long at a white woman. It was simply forbidden. So many times we begged Marvin to leave them white women alone, but he had a certain charm and charisma about him that seem to draw the attention of women in general, especially the white ones. It was no secret that they wanted to know what it was like to be with a black man, the curiosity would be all over their faces. Some would smile shyly or wink, some would even lick their lips when you looked their way. Yeah, it was no secret, and the white men couldn’t stand it so they would take it out on us as much and as often as possible.

It was 1951, Lake City, South Carolina. Marvin, Shawn, Gene, Kelly and Butch was always seen together. They were the Strokers, that’s what they called themselves. They sung as a group in some of the jook joints and they all had a way with the ladies. It was their big night at T-Bones. They had been trying to get a gig there for the last six months. This was big time for the boys and they wanted to look the part so they all went into town to Mr. Jenkins. He had a little clothing store off the side of the main street in town. Black people could not have a business right on the main street but could operate along the back sides of the road, and as long as they abided by the Uncle Tom rules of the white folks no one would mess with them. They were headed to the store when Ms. Ellie spotted the boys. She was trouble for sure. It’s been said she has been the cause of at least six black men dying or going to prison in the last three years. Marvin made eye contact with her; he smiled and tipped his hat. Shawn saw him and pulled him to the side. When they all warned him about Ms. Ellie all he said was “Ya’ll need to warn Ms. Ellie about me!”

We all knew how hardheaded Marvin was so we knew this was going to be trouble. When we got to the store we picked out some powder blue shirts with ruffles and matching vests. Then we stopped at Butch’s dad’s shop and got our hair conked up then faded. We all wore mops back then—it just seemed to be cool and fit our musical image. We didn’t want any trouble so we took the back roads going home. We were up the road a ways, singing and getting our harmony together for that night when we noticed the black Studebaker parked on the side of the road. When we approached the car we all knew it was Ms Ellie.

Marvin started slapping us all a high five, laughing, and walked over to the car. He leaned in and they were talking. We yelled for him to come on but he just kept talking and smiling like a chess cat that just found a fish. He was asking for trouble. We kept walking up the road. I looked back and saw Marvin leaning in giving Ms. Ellie a kiss. I shook my head. Shortly afterward Marvin caught up with us, the lipstick still on the side of his mouth. We all tried to tell him but he was so busy boasting on how he was the man.

That night at T-Bones it was magic. We were a hit on stage and everything was going good: the women were all over us and we got other invitations to play. About an hour into the partying Shawn saw Marvin leave through the side door. He went to see what was up but when he got to the door all he saw was the black Studebaker pulling off with Ms. Ellie and Marvin. That was the last time we all saw Marvin alive.

Two days passed and no word. Everyone knew that the sheriff would not help, especially since it was Ms. Ellie’s father. The fact that he saw them flirting with each other in town was obviously going to be a problem sooner or later. Shawn was taking the woodsy back road to his house on Tuesday afternoon. The woods were a place you did not want to be caught in after dark. Shawn was half way into the path when there was a foul smell. He thought it must have been a deer or some other animal someone might have shot and left there because they could not find it.

Shawn froze in his tracks, pain clutching at the pit of his stomach. He saw a body that was once full of life, that just a few days ago breathed, walked, and laughed – dead. Dead right before his eyes. Dead. No breath. No heartbeat. No sound. There was Marvin hanging from a tree, dead. Nothing but death and its ghastly silence. Marvin was dead. Shawn didn’t want it to be true, but he could not move. He tried to run but his feet were locked. Two months passed and death still woke him. Shawn still re-lives that dreadful day, the nightmare of him hanging there! All because he would not listen, hanging dead and stinking because of a white woman, dead and gone forever because he was “The Man,” and now just a dead man hanging.

Dead Man Hanging by AqueenPassing

© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

TimBookTu Logo

Return to the Table of Contents | Return to Main Page