The Fourth of July

Michael Pasley


We ride out from the shadow of the barn where they’ve kept me chained all day. The pastor has across the bow of his saddle a bound copy of the King James Bible his wife had given to him for special occasions. Thick ropes bind my wrists. They chafe and burn. I try to plead my case. Cold eyes silence me.

                The yard empties of horsemen. Barking dogs scatter to avoid thumping hooves. We ride past smiling, waving children and grim-faced wives through the gate and out across the field toward the woods. As evening falls to the west over the town, rockets leave a trail of long white streaks across a lavender sky, splitting the hazy twilight to burst into a thousand bright points.

                The four horseman pause at the edge of the woods to watch the Independence Day celebration. When they see me looking they pull a burlap sack over my head. The pyrotechnics are not for me. After the booms, crackles, and pops end, the pastor removes the bag. Torchlight reveals his eyes burning bright with righteous fury under his conical hood. He tells me to pray. I do not. He tells me to confess. I do not.

                We ride on into the dead bones of old trees, into the paralyzed night where there is no sound save the warm breeze in the trees. The moon is a curved white fingernail above us, judging like the glowing eye of Anubis. My heart flutters anxiously, but feather light. We continue into a clearing with one lonely tree within it.

                The pastor dismounts, his pristine white robes flowing around him. He takes my bridle reins from another horseman and leads my ghost-colored horse to the tree. Without a word as if by some preordained signal, they drag me from my horse. Hard boots and fists crack my bones. They push my bloodied body back onto the mount, loop a thick hemp rope around my neck, and toss it up and over the tree’s boughs. Hooded phantoms holding flickering torches float before my blurry vision. The Klansmen pause here to pray and thank God for His boundless mercy.

                “Any last words,” asks the pastor, holding his Bible aloft.

                I say nothing. I will no longer plead. I calm.

                “God curse your negro soul,” spits the pastor.

                He smacks my horse’s rear; it bucks forward.



Michael Pasley grew up in Southern Indiana and briefly attended Indiana University in Bloomington. His publications include “Vanishing” in the Virginia Normal, “You Just Don’t Get It” which was published in Germ Magazine and Dirty Girlz Magazine, and “Double Zeros” in The Avalon Literary Review. He also the winner of Causeway Lit’s 2019 summer fiction contest with his story “A Projects Tale.” As a young African American growing up in poverty, Michael often felt alone in his love of poetry, Sci-Fi, and fantasy. He began at the age of eleven to write poems and short stories. Michael now lives in Jeffersonville, Indiana where he spends most of his free time attending book club meetings, hiking, playing with his kids, and working on his upcoming Novella.