“Mother, you need to calm down.” I chased down the stairs after her, worrying for a moment that she might break her neck, she was going so fast.
She hit the landing at the bottom and wheeled on me, fury boiling over in her eyes, her hand raised, ready to strike.
“Calm down? Calm down? How dare you!” Her hand shook with rage, vibrating in the air.
“They were hungry, starving out in the rain. What was I supposed to do? They are people, mother!”
“They are runaway slaves. They are someone’s property, for God’s sake!” She gasped.
“I don’t sem them that way. I’m not some secesh like you. I don’t believe the same things that you and father -”
For that, she cut me off with a slap. “Don’t you invoke his. Not like that. Not using some filthy hypocritical colloquialism. Not while you’re betraying everything he built for us.”
I touched my cheek where she slapped me, I could fell a welt rising where her wedding ring had struck. “War is coming, mother, and change with it. You can’t stop it.”
“Perhaps not, but I can stop this madness. Either they’re gone by morning light…or you are.”
Secesh is a word used during the Civil War for pro-Secessionists. Memphis, being captured early, was a flash point of conflict between those that had supported secession and those that hadn’t. This was not helped by the large number of freed slaves that migrated into the city for protection in the latter years of the war.