“Looks can be deceiving. You think it is a beautiful tree Poppet, but that tree has a horrifying history fertilized in hatred, bigotry, and blood. As much as I try to forget, my heart forces me to remember for my dear brother Jeb.”
Startled, my curiosity was instantly piqued. Grandma almost never mentioned the mysterious Jeb! He was a subject that was usually brushed aside and taboo. From that moment on, I was all ears. Of course I already knew that this old house had been in the family for generations. Her gaze followed mine as she scrutinized the tree which stood majestically in the clearing to the west. Its intricate branches clawed at the orange afternoon sky. A mixture of emotions crossed her features. With a sigh her eyes clouded over. She sank into her rocking chair and with resolve began to tell her story.
“Back in the ‘60’s when I was a young girl; the civil rights movement was at its height. Here in the south, most people didn’t take kindly to colored folk. They were the help and beneath us. It was thought white folk were superior in all things, and colored folk were expected to keep their place. They were to use their own restrooms, stay on their own side of town, and weren’t expected to mingle…period. My brother Jeb had different ideas. Against better judgment, he became good friends with several colored families on the other side of town. Honestly Jeb had such a kind heart. He was such a gentle soul. Although most loved him, most of our neighbors didn’t take kindly to his leanings. He was warned to stop, but he didn’t. Next thing we all knew, he had fallen in love with one of them. Her name was Amanda. She was a beautiful girl. Still, I was shocked when I found out that he intended to run away with her. He was determined to have her. They were in love he said.
One night, he snuck out to see her. The only problem was the local clan got wind of it. They followed poor Jeb and caught him and Amanda together before they could get away. While we all slept, they tied Jeb and Amanda to that there tree and whipped them within the inch of their lives. When dawn broke, the town awoke to discover them hung to death from the lowest branch, their blood tainting the bark a crimson red. Every time I look at that tree, I can still see their bodies and blood splashed across its bark. I remember vividly waking up that morning to blood curdling screams outside my window. I was horrified by the sight. After that, there wasn’t anyone black or white who wasn’t afraid. Afraid because we all knew what the clan was capable of and even more afraid of it happening again. The police came and cut down my dear brother and his lover and their remains were claimed by their respective families to bury privately. I bet you wonder if the Klan paid for what they did. To my knowledge they didn’t. The whole thing was covered up. It wasn’t spoken of, and wasn’t even in the news. If you ask me, someone should have chopped down that devil tree and burned it instead of letting it remain and flourish after such evil had been carried out on its branches.” She gripped the window sill as she finished her story, before wiping her eyes.
Tears clouded my vision as I watched the tree’s branches blow in the breeze, catching the afternoon sun. Looks certainly were deceiving. Upon hearing the story, the tree’s branches seemed more sinister to me, their beauty of moments before fading in the unforgiving light of the horrifying truth.
This is my response to Speakeasy’s weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 632 words) (1) using “Looks can be deceiving." as the first sentence, AND (2) make some sort of reference to the media prompt- a painting called Avond (Evening): The Red Tree by Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian.