Flo braced herself for the bullet. Instead, a dull click sounded from the empty chamber of the revolver as May pulled the trigger three times in a rage. “Not on your life, bitch,” she screamed at Flo. “You’re not getting away that easy.”
Anger replaced fear in Flo as May started toward her. Both women prepared to face each other in the pouring rain, when a bolt of lightning ripped through the sky, striking the log between them. With a shower of sparks and blinding white light, the log split in half, sending both of them into the pool of quicksand. Gnarled oaks and twisted scrub pine reached out above them, swirling in the wind like twisted fingers closing their grasp.
Tucker, stunned at the lightning flash and weakened by the bullet in his shoulder, collapsed, surrounded by the three girls.
* * *
The Reverend Rufus Honeysuckle stretched out in the porch hammock, enjoying the sound of rain pecking on the tin roof overhead. A light-skinned black man with a perfectly trimmed pencil-bar moustache, he emanated the air of a perfectionist. His polished two-toned wing-tips summed it up perfectly.
Thoughts of fire and brimstone would surround him from the pulpit on Sunday morning at the Ebenezer First Baptist Church, in Blackwater Town. For now, more pleasant things filled his mind.
An occasional flash of lightning lit up the gray sky along with the rumble of thunder. Sometimes it occurred to Reverend Honeysuckle that it almost sounded like distant gunshots.
* * *
Flo struggled in the thick ooze, momentarily stunned, until she saw May reaching for her. When May’s hand grasped her shoulder, Flo smiled. “Now you gonna get it.”
With that, Flo hit her full force in the face with her fist. The blow stung Flo’s hand, but it sent May’s head reeling back and her wig sailing into the muck. Flo saw May’s bald head dripping wet, her blood-spattered mouth and burning eyes. She saw something else, too: an ice pick in May’s hand.
Flo moved quickly to dodge the deadly blow, forcing herself under the log. The ice pick missed Flo by inches, sinking into the tree trunk. May’s face exploded with rage. Holding on to the ice pick handle, Flo brought her legs up and kicked out with all of her strength. Her feet caught May in the stomach, forcing the breath out of her.
As May struggled for air, Flo put her hands on her shoulders and shoved her down as hard as she could, watching the gaping mouth and bald head slide under the quick sand, her hands sticking up like bird talons. “Have a nice trip, y’heah,” Flo uttered. She found May’s shoulders with her feet and pushed her further down.
Suddenly everything was quiet except for the splattering rain drops. Flo looked up to see Rosie standing on the log where lightning had struck it.
“Git on across, ’fo’ it sinks,” Flo shouted, keeping herself up by hanging on to the icepick handle.
Rosie moved quickly, navigating the distance between the split logs with one jump. It was not a moment too soon as that part of the log was immediately sucked under the quicksand with a sickening ‘whoosh’.
“Give me your hand,” Rosie gasped, kneeling down. Flo could not believe the strength of the girl as they slowly inched their way toward the bank.
Tucker, somewhat recovered, stood waiting to reach Flo with his good arm. Moments later, the three of them lay linked together exhausted in the bog grass as Buster made the rounds, licking each face.
An hour later, the rain had stopped and they had made it through the last of the swamp. The path was easy to follow under thick stands of scrub pine covering the shore line. Tucker motioned for everyone to stop.
A small fishing shack perched on a rocky outcropping in the water. A rickety pier stretched out to it and best of all, a motorboat was secured to the end of the pier.
“If’n we can make it to that boat, we has a chance,” Tucker whispered. “Y’all stay here and wait fo’ my signal.”
“All but me,” Flo spoke up, moving closer to him. “You’s weak and I ain’t leavin’ ya.”
Rosie and the three girls found cover and a good position to watch for Tucker’s signal as he and Flo crept along the path toward the fishing shack. Buster suddenly darted past them, barking loudly and charging ahead.
“Damn it,” Tucker groaned, pushing Flo down so as not to be seen. “There goes da chance o’ sneakin’ away.” They watched, hidden, as Buster ran back and forth on the porch of the fishing shack, barking loudly. Moments later the door of the shack opened and a man stepped out.
When she caught sight of him, Flo squeezed Tucker’s hand. “Oh, Lawd,” she gasped, a look of disbelief on her face.
Copyright © 2012 by Ron Van Sweringen