The dim light from the lone basement window filtered through the dingy, threadbare curtains. Maria, sighing, continued to sort through almost a century’s worth of her newly-deceased grandfather’s possessions. The old house holding decades of memories was sold, and she had two weeks to empty its cavernous depths. Like Alice in Wonderland’s time-conscious rabbit, she repeatedly checked the time on Old Faithful, a rusty relic propped against one wall, it’s electric plug taped in so many places it resembled a crawling striped garter snake.
“I refuse to leave behind such clutter when I leave this earth,” Maria vowed for the umpteenth time.
The throw-away pile had grown from a small mound to a heaping mass. Maria gingerly opened a lone paper sack wedged between two loose bricks that she almost missed, its brittle flaps blending into the surrounding area like a chameleon’s skin.
“What in the world?” followed by a loud gasp, “Oh, no, how could he?!”
Maria wished she had not discovered the sack; for inside, wadded into disheveled folds, was a long white wrinkled basted-together sheet that she initially thought was a Halloween ghost costume. Beneath that, a corded rope, and finally, a tell-tale white pointed scorched hood with cut-out eye holes . . .
“We’re all in agreement, then?” Grand Wizard Clements counting the upraised hands.
Fifteen white-garbed masked men stood in a circle surrounding one equally white-costumed figure, his head bowed as his hood was torn off and thrown against a rough-hewn wooden cross.
“You have betrayed your brothers in a treasonous act of non-compliance to our God-ordained laws! You are henceforth banned forever from our ranks,” ripping the red emblem off the uniform, “You are bound to secrecy for your entire life of all activities and actions of our clan, or the lives of those you hold dear will be in grave jeopardy.”
Sweating profusely, the bare-headed man stumbled across the rough ground to walk through a newly-formed double row of his previous friends, who each switched him across the face with thorny branches as he passed through their ranks as they shouted “Nigga-lover!” to his retreating back. The cross, doused with gasoline, was lit from the bottom, and the wounded man was forced to retrieve the hood at its foot.
“Delbert S. Martin, you are hereby ex-communicated from the Klan, and banished from any future contact with us!” Grand Wizard pronounced.
The stooped, scarred-for-life man crept away, thankful his life had been spared, a solitary figure white against the black backdrop of the trampled meadow’s midnight horizon.
Delbert bore the shame of his involvement with the Klan the rest of his earthly life, haunted by nightmares of burning crosses, chanting Klansmen, and struggling black bodies swaying from tree nooses. His family would never know he had been a member of this white supremacy hate group, the clandestine rallies and marches and parades masked as business meetings. He had been a terribly confused teenager when he joined, craving kinship and a cause. The distorted ideology of a pure race had appealed to him then, and slowly, he had become indoctrinated with the Klan’s twisted logic, attending their feverous ranting-ridden secret conventions until he was considered worthy to go to an actual cross-burning, followed by a hanging. Years later, Delbert could still smell the victim’s fear as he watched the oxygen-starved rolling eyes and gasps for breath, the writhing beaten black body a stark blemish against the God-created sky. He had embarrassed himself that first time, retching onto the parched ground under the tree. He began doubting the philosophies he had previously touted after that, and his attendance dwindled to almost nothing. The violence and hatred against the blacks, especially, but also gravitating against Catholics, Jews, and immigrants, troubled him. It all came to a climax when an entire family, including young children, was harassed and driven out from their burning home, the males all swinging from tree branches in front of the remaining female survivors. Delbert had secretly (he thought) rescued them, establishing them in a safe place away from the hierarchy of Grand Dragons and Titans that presided over the entire town.
Through the witness of this same family, a tortured Delbert became a follower of Jesus Christ, Who forgave him and cleansed him from his past. He could never quite forgive himself, though. He saved the white costume as a reminder of the awful existence of the Ku Klux Klan’s existence to any who came after him.
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