Somebody was in my secret place. My place.
It was in a forest with giant oaks and
pines and a small running stream, a place I rode to almost daily on my bike. I had never seen anyone else there. But today
I heard somebody singing. I headed toward the voice. Standing there on one side of the railroad track was a dark girl picking
yellow wild lilies and singing.
“Hey, what’s your name, girl?” I called, friendly-like. “Lulu,” she
mumbled, and looked up, but didn’t meet my eye.
“Lulu? Lulu! Like that girl in the funny paper?” And I
fell out laughing. If this didn’t beat all. Lulu. Then she really did hide her eyes.
“You like your name?” I asked.
till you laughed at me.”
“I didn’t mean to laugh. Your name is just funny. Guess I’ll get used to it, though.”
to,” she said and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe her face.
“Hey, you right pretty for a dark girl,”
1 said. She had bluish gray eyes and brown hair and skin like mocha velvet, skin you wanted to touch.
sure are a tiny thing -- a good meal would kill you. I was just going to the snowball stand. Wanna come along?”
know I can’t get a snow ball from a white’s stand.”
“Everybody -- I got no nickel anyways.”
“Well, you sit here by the tracks and I’ll get us a snowball. What kind?”
know. Never had one.”
“In your whole life?”
“Never. Bu-but, I’m scared. Somebody might
see us together --“
“Look, I been hanging out in these woods a couple of years and you really the first person I
come across. I’m not scared. My name is Gwen. And I’m running for two cherry snow balls.”
a crazy white girl -- oh, I’m sorry”--
She dropped her head down like she just broke all ten of the commandments.
you know we can’t be friends.”
I just gave her my winning devil-may-care-grin and said. ~You’re right,
Lulu. I am a tad crazy, and — and we’re going to be friends, secret friends.”
And off I whizzed on my bike.
did come back,” was all she said when I returned with the snowballs.
“You come to the tracks often?”
I asked, as we sat down on the tracks.
“Ever once in a while.”
“I been coming to the woods ever
since I got my bike. Nobody knows about it ‘cept you and me. Maybe we could meet here at the tracks sometimes.”
folks tar me if they see me with a white girl. They don’t tend us being friends.”
“I don’t care what folks tend.
I’m not even scared of the K-L-A-N (I had to spell the word cause I promised Daddy and his belt I wouldn’t say
it.) They just a bunch of white trash dressed up like Halloween, wearing witch hats.”
“Well, I’m scared of them.
Lulu’s eyes nearly popped out her head. Well, everybody couldn’t be brave. Besides, how
could burning a cross hurt anyone? Except, maybe Jesus. Come to think of it, I think it’s kinda strange that the Klan
and the Nazi’s used a cross. All along I thought the cross showed God’s love. Adults are sure a puzzle.
look who’s here! This is my frog friend, Fred,” I said and picked Fred up. Lulu
smiled a funny little grin like I was an escapee of the nut house.
When I put Fred down, he scampered away.
One day Lulu was on her side of the tracks weaving
a clover chain, and I threw her some peanut butter fudge Momma had made and told her I had to go. We waved our special wave--with
both hands at the same time. That meant we would be double-best friends if the world weren’t so crazy.
It also meant
that if adults forbid our friendship, we’d have to do it anyway, just to show them. So, we did our double wave
and I went deeper into the woods to my log and my notebook.
I hadn’t written more than a few sentences when
I heard a loud scream. Then a second. I threw down my book and raced towards the railroad track. I don’t know why I
didn’t make a sound, call out to her, but what I saw stopped me dead in my tracks. Lulu was on the ground, surrounded
by four big old boys in ski masks. One had his hand on her mouth to stop her screams and two held her down, punching her and
laughing. I was petrified.
I stood frozen to the spot, sick on my stomach. I stopped up my ears and clinched my eyes shut.
“You want to live, little Missy, this never happened. And we’ll come after your sorry
family if you tell.” Then those boys let out a rebel yell.
“Pull her to our side the tracks!”
yelled another. “Then folks’d figure she deserved it for being on our side of the tracks.”
when I raced back to my hiding place.
I felt death: Death, deeper and wider than the death of just one person. I knew
that something in me had forever changed. Something in me died that sunny afternoon on the other side of the railroad tracks
where yellow lilies grew and lifted their faces to the God who created both yellow lilies and the weeds that threatened them.
I could say I feared they’d do the same to me.
And they might have. I could say Daddy would ground me and tell Mama. And she’d have a breakdown and call the preacher
and he’d call the police. I’d be in real trouble.
But I never checked on Lulu. I never tried to help
her. I never reported it. And I vowed never to go back to the railroad tracks again.
And she knew during her Horror I was just
over the tracks a way.
I was a poor excuse for a human being. And a dirty, yellow-livered coward. I moped around for days,
hating myself and everybody, but finally I went back to my secret place. I picked up all the stones I had piled on the bank
of the creek. Like a crazed fool, I threw stones at the red bird. At the squirrel. At the lizard. I was a poor shot.
But when the
frog Fred hopped on the log, in my frenzy, I threw my biggest stone. It hit him solid. I picked him up and he quivered in
And then was still. I ran for the tracks.
I couldn’t speak. All words failed me, but I held Fred the Frog
in my open hands.
Lulu didn’t say a word; she took Fred, and placed him gently on the ground. With a stick she
dug a hole in the center of the tracks and placed Fred inside.
We spoke no funeral words. I could barely see her
through my tears. And when she covered poor little dead Fred with dirt and stood speechless eye-to-eye with me, I took a tear
with my finger and touched her ugly scar on her beautiful face.
Then I raced back towards the woods, glancing once
over my shoulder. Lulu raised both her hands and waved.
By Jackie Strange