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Tales of Fantasy, Mystery and Adventure Under the Influence of Christian Homeschooling

S. A. J. Lyttek, a multiple award-winning writer, always loved writing, but didn’t arrive at the profession in the typical manner. After college and graduate school, she plunged into government consulting. In this environment, she discovered a knack for writing tests, interviews and other measurements. That soon became the focus of her career—reigniting her love for the written word. Thus captivated, she spent evenings freelancing “fun” writing including short stories, poems, articles and cards. When her eldest was a toddler, she quit full-time work to stay home and write. Eager to spend more time with her children, homeschooling intrigued her. From preschool through high school, she homeschooled both sons while continuing to freelance. An integral part of the homeschooling community, she has developed and taught writing classes to a generation of homeschoolers. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Gary, Mrs. Lyttek loves to share her commitment to homeschoolers and her fascination with the written word.

Graves of the Glade

2/24/2021 10:22:00 AM BY Susan Lyttek

Today, I was going to do another profile, but I’m up against a book deadline. So, instead, you are getting a play which is a fictionalized account of a real news story in the 60s. It’s a shame that such things happened. Even more, that we fail to learn that we are all people, all creations of God.

The Graves of the Glade

Setting: 1/3 stage left Mississippi, 1964. A lower middle-class living room. Family photos cover the main wall and the mantle of a sealed fireplace. Worn, but nicely decorated sofa in front of fireplace facing audience. Chair for “interviewer” backs to audience.

2/3 stage right Mississippi, summer, 1863, wooded area. Also serves for summer 1964 in epilogue. Several “tree” trunks, artificial turf, various bushes and a green backdrop with a plantation in the distance convey the impression of dense foliage.

Characters: Letitia, 105-year-old black woman, Letitia, 5 or 6-year-old slave girl, Colonel Bo, 7 Union soldiers, Confederate soldier 1, Confederate soldier 2, minimum 2 more Confederate soldiers, audience is the reporter

105 Letitia: (Opening door) Come in, young man. Come in. (Looks beyond him.) Leave those filming contraptions out there, though. It’s my story that matters, not this frame that tells it. I been around too long, unnerstand? (More to herself) But the Lord won’t let me rest till others do. (Motions to chair opposite the couch that backs to the audience.) Have a seat. Have a seat. The tale takes some telling. (Sighs. She slowly sits down herself, leaning and creaking, onto the couch.) Get that pad of yours out. And a good pen.

            ‘Twer the third year of the War Between the States. A group of Union boys had left the fighting at Vicksburg and were headin’ for the Carolinas to join the mountain men. Perhaps they wanted to reclaim Charleston or some of the Union forts. I don’t rightly know. Now a bunch of them got themselves separated by trying to stick to the back woods and out of sight and got stuck here in Ole Miss. That would’ve been fine, too, but a group of Johnston’s men waiting for orders from Lee came to the Lenteaux plantation for supplies and a short rest.

            My mother was a slave on that plantation. So that meant I was hiding in the woods trying to avoid the flogging I’d been promised for losing my stomach during the chamber pot changing. (Girl Letitia shows up on 1863 part of stage. She looks furtively around for a hiding spot.) But no matter. I was there, hiding amongst them trees when those seven Northern boys stumbled in.

Union soldier 1: (Walking past old Letitia and near young Letty) Where do you imagine we are, sir?

Union Captain: (Following him into the glade) Wish I knew, Buckeye. That fog last night was a deep one. Not sure where we lost the general’s regiment. But we can’t be too far off.

Union soldier 2: Peaceful place, though. Rather makes you forget the broil of heat down here.

105 Letitia: (As she talks, the soldiers continue to bustle around the glade and say little nothings to each other.) They was so loud and unconcerned, you would think they was homeboys. But one look at those dark blue and the harsh edge to their speech told me different. I hid deeper in the brambles. (Young Letty does exactly what she said.) With luck, they’d think me a rabbit. With more luck, they wouldn’t be hungry.

            I needn’t have worried. They was too unfamiliar with my home to think anything. Plus they probably didn’t hear nothing past their own racket. But I did. (Young Letty’s eyes widen at the sound of a bugle off stage.)

            Young Master Bo and his regiment had camped at the big house last night after they escaped Vicksburg and the Union lines. They was on orders to go to the next Confederate defense… I think it ‘twas in Tennessee somewheres. Having grown up here, Bo knew the woods. (Bo and Confederate troops creep in from stage right.) Better than I did, for a fact. He spotted me without trying. He gave me a hard look and I knew better than to say boo. (Young Letty cringes when Bo looks at her.)

            With one arm raised (Bo and Confederates do exactly what older Letty says as she remembers), he led his men to enter the grove on three sides. Then he dropped his arm and the guns went off.

            (Union soldier 2 looks down at his chest surprised, touches the blood and then falls after older Letty finishes talking.) I saw the surprised look on one of ‘em. He couldn’t believe the sight of his own blood.

            (Young Letty cowers and covers her eyes, shaking.) Some things etch in yer brain, understand? That boy twer younger than you.

            (Older Letty stares into space for a bit, and then forces herself to stand. This takes a while due to her age. Motions to the chair with a downward sweep of her hand.) Keep yer seat, young man. I need to walk out the words is all. (Picks up her cane and slowly walks the length of the couch, back and forth.)

            I had never seen no human being die afore like that. Never. It caught in my throat and I began to cry. (Young Letty continues to cower while Bo and his troops check for signs of life in their enemy.) When Bo was sure all seven Union boys were dead, he grabbed me out of my thicket, (Bo does this) not caring that the brambles scratched me on the way up. I couldn’t look at him, so I looked at the scratches on my arms instead. (Young Letty keeps head down)

Bo: (gruffly) Tell no one, Letty. Promise me you will tell no one what you saw here today.

105 Letitia: I cleared up my face and choked back the tears that were left. They wouldn’t have done no good with Master Bo no-how. The war had soured the boy; turned him into a man the hard way.

Young Letty: (wiping tears off) But Master Bo, them Union boys…

Bo: (with a shrug) Were trespassing on our land.

Young Letty: (tears returning in spite of herself) But they never even fired! You killed ‘em outright like they was animals!

Bo: (grabbing Letty by the collar roughly) Don’t be such a nigger, Letitia. I did what needed doing.

Confederate soldier 1: (looking at the bodies) What do we do now, Colonel?

Confederate soldier 2: (also looks at bodies, turns green and then turns away to vomit in the bushes)

105 Letitia: (still pacing) I watched Bo mull it over.

Bo: (decisively) It wouldn’t do for anyone to find these here bodies. It would be better if no one knew the traitors had ever been here. (Releases Letty’s collar and puts a finger under her chin so she has to look up at him) Go fetch us some spades, Letty.

105 Letitia: I pushed aside the still trembling and green soldier and started in the direction of the gardener’s quarters.

Bo: (calling after Young Letty who’s exiting stage right) And Letty… Don’t tell anyone why you need them.

(Confederate troops and Bo freeze on their side until Young Letty returns)

105 Letitia: That would mean an extra whipping for me if I were caught, but I expected it. Something weren’t right in Master Bo. Something cruel had bloomed in him, but I didn’t know how or why. Not then.

            Fortunately, Moses was out in the garden doing his job. I grabbed two spades because that was all I could carry. (Young Letty reenters stage right dragging the spades which Bo grabs and hands one to Confederate soldier 1 and another to Confederate soldier 3.) As soon as I could, I was gonna leave that glade. I figured a whipping and my chores were better than seeing those dead eyes. Before I could escape, Master Bo grabbed my collar again—pulling it tight to my neck.

Bo: (grip tightening for a second) This never happened, Letty. Remember that. This never happened.

(The sound of shoveling begins as 1 and 3 make digging motions. Young Letty leaves, taking one sorrowful glance back, before running off stage. Shoveling sound and motions continue until 1863 side of the stage darkens. While Letitia talks, 1863 cast leaves stage.)

105 Letitia: (winded, sitting back down) And that’s where I left those Union boys. Until today. I’ve tried to keep it down and forgotten, but now… (Trails off) The call of Gabriel’s horn is so loud in these old ears I know I have to make things right. I can’t meet the Lord with those boys on my conscience. They need to be buried like men. Men who did their duty, but wandered onto the wrong plantation at the wrong time. See, a runner had just come to the plantation the night before with news. Bad news. Master Drew, Master Bo’s best friend and brother, had died in Pickett’s Charge up North in Gettysburg.

            (1863 side lights up as present day. Archeological team enters from stage right looking at a map and page of instructions. They begin to dig at the base of the trees. They continue until Letitia’s last words.)

            But now, you can get the right folk to dig up those boys and give ‘em a fitting prayer burial. Make sure you find all seven of ‘em, hear?

            (Gets up off the couch again and walks “reporter” to the “door”. Opens “door” to let him out.) Thanks for comin’ and listening to an old woman.

            (She returns to the couch just as one of the dig team triumphantly and reverently holds up a skull.)

            Call away, Gabriel! This ol’ slave’s ready to see ye.

(Lights out)