Inspired by the Henry Fonda film, The Ox-Bow Incident I post this again.
And now, let’s slip into the Time Portal…………
Time: Early September, 1892.
Emma, her nerves taut from the events of the past month, drifts in and out of a fitful sleep – dreams playing upon her mind with images of nurturing Lizzie. The Civil War years, a flash of the Negros hidden and moved along Fall River’s underground railroad, overhearing conversations of lynchings in the South, flash image of her hands over Lizzie’s ears, protecting so she can not hear. Now Lizzie age three, on her lap. She holds a picture of their mother, Sarah. “This is our real mother, Lizzie. She loved you very much. Not like Mrs. Borden. She can never love us like our own dear mother.” “Should I have said that?” she hears herself ask. Tossing again, low moaning, drifting, the images won’t stop.
Flash image: the Taunton jail. Dark night. A crowd of the hostile and vicious has gathered. Men with sticks, smelling of sweat and…what? Women with cheap skirts and tattered shawls, hats askew and contorted faces. “Get her!” “The fiend!” “Burn the Devil’s Mistress!” “Give ‘er what she gave them!” “Tie her up to a tree and lob the Ladie’s head off! That’ll teach her!” “Monster!” “Ungrateful rich fiend!” “We don’t need the likes of her here!”
The roar of the crowd drowns out the cries for help from jail matron Mrs. Reagan. Lizzie, struggling, keeps one arm circled tightly around her iron bed post. Women pull at her waist, her hair, her legs. Suddenly a man clubs her on the head, causing her to release her vise-like grip on the iron bed post. “Emma!” “Emma!” she cries out. They wrench her free and drag her out of the small cell, down the hall, out the door and to a nearby tree on the expansive lawn.
The summer night’s air is warm and smells of mimosa and rotting pears. The moon is full and shines brightly upon the thick branches of the tree. The screams of the crowd get even louder now. “We’ll teach her!” “We don’t want that kind here!” “Scandalize our town, will ya?!” “We’ll show you what we do to people like you!” “You don’t deserve to live amongst DECENT folks!” “You’ll get no trial. We KNOW your kind!” “String her up!!”
Outside the jail, guards try to break through the crowd, but are beaten back. A rope is thrown over a branch and a hangman’s noose dangles from one end. A boy about 12, up in the tree, wraps the other end and ties a tight knot. “Atta boy!””Good boy!” The crowd continues to yell and scream, hoisting torches, fists in the air. Emma hears herself moan.
Four men grab hold of Lizzie’s waist and hoist her up on a wooden box. She searches the crowd’s periphery for Emma. “I’m here”, Emma hears herself say. At the same time a woman begins to tie Lizzie’s hands with pieces of her torn petticoat. “Devil’s Daughter!” “You’ll learn a lesson this night, Lizzie Borden!”
Over the roar of the crowd a thumpity clomp, thumpity clomp of racing horses’ hoofs can be heard. Over the glow of the torch lights a faint silhouette of a carriage can be seen coming up fast on the road. The Marshall! “Hurry!” “They’ve come for her!” The silhouette grows larger, the sound louder as the roaring carriage comes nearer.
The noose is put over Lizzie’s head and tightened on her neck. Tears are flowing down her face. Her pale, translucent grey eyes look upward, her lips tremble. She looks as if she’ll faint. “Emma! Emma! Where are you?” she cries out. “I’m here, Lizzie. I’ll always be here,” Emma says aloud remembering a promise and flashes back.
“Hurry!” “Yes, Hurry! Not much time!” “They’re coming!” “Do it! Do it to the murdering daughter! !””Hang her!” “Get her now!!”
The mob crushes forward, the torches illuminating her form on the box. The noose tight around her neck, her head seeking the heavens. Suddenly, a woman rushes her 10 year old son to the front and yells “Kick the box, Johnny! Kick the box.” Little Johnny gives a violent kick and the box tumbles away as he slips and falls to the ground. The dangling feet graze against Johnny’s forehead, swaying back, swaying front, swaying back, swaying front. Johnny gets up and moves away looking upward to the woman’s face.
The galloping horses converge upon the scene. The reins of the horses pulled back with such force causing dirt to spray out in all directions. The whinny and panting of the horses is now all that can be heard as the crowd has quieted. The carriage doors open quickly. Marshall Hilliard steps out. And Detective Seaver. And Mayor Coughlin. And Andrew Jennings. And Reverend Buck. And Emma. Silence now. No roar of the crowd. Only a rhythmic creaking of the tree branch. Emma feels a fresh breeze that is only the cool dampness of her face against her pillow and she turns and tosses fitfully again.
Emma walks slowly towards the tree – eyes transfixed. She looks upon the form of her sister, who’s head is bent down in death, her wrists tied in front of her, her feet making tiny little sways front and back, and back and front, propelled now only by the ominous breeze that stirs the air.
Emma turns and looks upon the crowd. They recognize her. She is ashen. Her painful expression falls upon them. She surveys them one at a time. There is no motion. It is as if Time first stands still then transcends. Suddenly, Emma steps forward, her back to the crowd. In a voice quiet and pleading beyond its pain she begins to speak:
“Have you no mercy? Have you no compassion? Have you no sense of Justice?” Can you not leave her alone? Then, turning directly to the camera’s eye of the computer screen, Emma looks dead at us. Sadly, softly she says: “I’m speaking to you.”
– The End