They killed a girl today.
No, that ain’t right.
We killed a girl today.
Susanna Shepherd. She was in my Sunday School class. I didn’t know her that well, on account of boys and girls not being allowed to play together. My brother Martin talked to her though. I think he had a crush on her and was hoping to have pa talk to her dad and arrange a marriage, but Lloyd’s dad beat ‘em to it.
We killed her on the doorstep of her parents’ house, just like Pastor Jim told us the Good Book said. He said she had ‘played the harlot’ and ‘brought wickedness to the congregation.’ She swore she was innocent. She begged us to spare her life. She said that she had never known a man until her wedding night, but Lloyd appeared with a clean bedsheet and Pastor Jim called her a liar and said the sign of her virginity would have been the blood.
Lloyd threw the first rock. I will always remember the sound of it hitting her head. I made me feel like I was going to be sick. Then Pastor Jim and then the other men joined in. Susanna cried and kept swearing she hadn’t done anything. Then a rock hit her in the side of the head and she fainted, I think. She didn’t say anything else after that.
After a while, pa handed me a stone too. I didn’t want to throw it. Pa told me it was the Lord’s will. We had to please the Lord to make sure the crops grew this year.
I threw the damn thing. It landed on her back with a thud.
I prayed to Jesus hoping she was already dead.
Pastor Jim said the Lord was pleased with us for performing his law and removing wickedness from our midst, but I can’t stop thinking about her. Maybe she was innocent. Maybe we just murdered her like Cain murdered Able. The bloody dress. Her face crushed and broken. The limp body they hung from the tree in the middle of town. The smell… the crows picking at her.
It don’t seem like a thing God would be happy over.
Don’t seem like a thing that ought to be done.
I hope I don’t see her eyes tonight
– Excerpt from The Diary of Jim Harlan, New Zion Settlement, New Canaan Confederacy