(This was written as an assignment for a workshop that was led by T. Thorn Coyle)
I lay awake thinking about the story I was going to write. Tossing and turning, I called the story to come to me.
Then there she was, sitting on the bed looking down at me. “I need you to tell my story, dear.” I thought, Oh shit.
I begged her, “Please don't ask me that, sister. It's just too dark for me to inflict on my classmates. I don't want to trigger anyone's traumas or anything.”
She said, “Honey, you took my name. You own it. Now face up to the responsibility you freely asked for. My story needs to be told; silence kills. I came to you because you said you're a writer.”
I held up my hands, sighing, “You know I could never say no to you, sister. You got me right there.”
She asked me, “So you think my story has contemporary relevance here and now?” I answered, “Oh yes, very contemporary and very relevant.” She said, “I'd like you to retell it in a modern setting.” I touched her hand and said, “Girlfriend, it's like you read my mind!”
I got out of bed and picked up a pen and notebook, then turned around and she was gone. I said, “OK, I'm on my own,” and opened the notebook.
So you thought you had a lousy commute to work?
That morning I was running late. My TA had blown off grading half the papers and I had to do them over breakfast. I got such a late start that I had to put on my makeup in the car–a bad habit I'd promised myself to quit–doing a bit at each red light until I got honked at.
The street that led to the campus went past where there had used to be these lovely woods with a shaded pond where I'd gone to refresh my spirit whenever work got me down. But last year they'd bulldozed it all and built one of those megachurches with its own TV show on Sundays. I sighed each time I passed it and dreamed of another grove I could go to.
We had two applicants to our open faculty position scheduled today. As the math department chair, I could not miss those. I got on my cell phone to call the assistant chair to say I would be late for the first interview.
As I pulled up to the red light next to the church, I started to dial–but before I could complete it, my car was surrounded by an angry screaming mob. I quickly hit the door lock and dialed 911 instead. The crowd was chanting something and several people were carrying signs printed with the Bible verse “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Several big beefy guys were rocking my car; others were hollering and pounding on it all over. I almost forgot to breathe, but I forced myself to breathe out and center to prevent panic.
Then they brought a big cross made of two by fours and smashed in my driver's side window. They yanked open the door and dragged me out…