Yellow Mama Archives II

Anthony Lukas

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Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
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Lukas, Anthony
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Zumpe, Lee Clark

Encounter on the Lane

 

Anthony Lukas

 

 

The sheriff sat high in his saddle, a little uncomfortable in the white sheet covering his body and white hood covering his head.  It was Midwest humid, light starting to dim, but no matter, the Catlickes would be along shortly.  Their papist ceremony at their church had ended a bit ago and they would be driving down this lane to their home.

The sheriff glanced around at the half-dozen other men on their horses and in their robes, good Christen men like himself, he thought.  Dedicated men, who recognized the necessity of keeping the Catlikers in their place, to remind them who held the power in this county and would continue to hold that power.  He looked  across the corn field next to the lane where they waited and to the fields beyond that to him were the symbol of a way of life, a way of life he would protect against these people and their pope.

Down at the curve of the lane, lights flashed quickly on and off.  “They're comin',” said the sheriff, “Light em up.” Matches scratched, flared and set torches alight.

Patrick McLynn ground the gears on the old Ford as he drove up the slight rise on the lane heading home. “Got to get that adjusted,” he said.

“You sure it's the car?” Agnes smiled.

“Are you implying fault of the driver, wife?”  and glanced at his children in the back seat, “Don't you kids think your Dad is a fine driver?”

“The best!” said James, while his older sister, dressed in her white first communion dress and veil, just smiled.

It had been a fine day. Little Maureen, standing proudly with the rest of her communion class, then walking to the altar rail, kneeling to receive her first communion from Father O'Toole. And the good father was mercifully short with his sermon.  A nice dinner in Parish Hall and heading home.

We are doing well, thought Patrick. Moving from Pennsylvania to Indiana four years ago had been the right move.  His business growing every month, even having to hire another employee, adding to the four he had already. And the growing respect of the community, on the Parish Board at St. Michael's and president-elect of the county Irish Businessman's Council.  Youngest ever, he smiled.

“What are you grinning at?” asked Agnes.

“Oh, just thinking how lucky we are, how well things....” and he stopped talking and slowly brought the Ford to a stop, staring out the windshield. Agnes turned her head to look too and drew in a sharp breath.

Men on horseback had emerged from the field beside the road and were blocking the lane.  The light from the torches they held causing their white sheets and hoods to glow orange.

“Come out here McLynn,” shouted one of men. 

Patrick stared, then looked back at James and Mary who were leaning on the back of the front seat looking wide-eyed at the Klansman.  Mary clutched her white rosary beads so tightly her fingers were white.

“Come out here, McLynn,” shouted another voice, “and stand before us.”

“Are they ghosts?” whispered James.

Patrick took a deep breath. “No, James, they are not ghosts. They are just men.”  He pulled the handle on his car door and started to open it.  Agnes put her hand on his shoulder. “Patrick...”

“McLynn!” came another shout.

“It'll be all right,” he said. Then, “but slide over behind the wheel, just in case.”

He got out of the car, taking his time shutting the door behind him.  Agnes slid behind the steering wheel, her eyes both frightened and angry.

Patrick walked slowly forward to stand just beside the front of the Ford., leaning on it a bit to keep himself upright. He looked up at the men on their horses a few yards in front of him, knowing that they undoubtedly had guns under those sheets.  He took a breath and steeled himself,  “Well?” he said.

Silence. A shuffling of horses’ feet and a feeling of confusion.

Finally, “McLynn,” shouted a voice, “It has been decided ….”

“No need to shout, I can hear you just fine,” said Patrick. “As can the children,” motioning back to the Ford, thinking of Mary and her rosary beads and now feeling anger rising at these men and their silly costumes.

Silence.  Then the man in the front spoke... in a normal voice.  “McLynn,” he said, “it has been decided that ...”

“By who?” shouted Patrick. “You, Sheriff? Or was it you Mr. Mayor?”  pointing at another of the klansmen.

“I know who you are,” said Patrick, “well, most of you.  I recognized your voice Adams, and you with your fancy boots, Todd Barker.”  There was a stiffening under the sheets, a slight turning of heads to glance at the others.

“Don't know you there in the back. You want to say something to help me out?” Silence. “Well, no matter.”

“What did you think you were going to accomplish here?  Scare us out of town?” Patrick shook his head and stared at them. “Never!” he spat. “We have built our lives here and we are going nowhere.  That okay with you Adams, okay if we come to your business and spend our money?” Silence.

“I am going to get back in my old car, with my family, and we are going to drive down this lane to our home.” He paused and, looking at the figures he knew to be the sheriff and the mayor, said, “And nothing will be said about this.”

Then he turned slowly, walked to the driver’s door, pulled it open and got in. He grabbed the steering wheel hard to keep his hands from shaking.  

He breathed deeply, started the car and moved the shift lever to first, grinding the gear. “Shit,” he whispered.

The horsemen hadn't moved but then three of them pulled their horses aside, leaving the lane clear. Patrick eased the Ford past them and went on down the lane.





Anthony Lukas is a former attorney, former chocolate store owner for 20 years, and now works in a national park in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Several of his short stories have been published by Yellow Mama, OverMyDeadBody.com, Bewildering Stories, and Mysterical-E.

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