This story is told by an elderly woman named Ora Lee Beckworth. The story began with Ora confessing to the reader about events that had occurred in 1976, twenty-five years prior.
Her husband Walter had recently passed and left her well-off financially.
The Beckworths employed a Black maid, Blanche, who was a widow raising 5 children on her own.
The neighborhood where Ora lived was relatively well-to-do and all white.
A toothless, elderly Black man, whom every one called the Pecan Man, lived in the woods nearby. He rode an old bike, often dragging an old lawn mower behind it.
Ora eventually asked him if he would consider mowing her lawn. He asked her to call him Eddie and agreed to do the lawn.
People in the neighborhood were afraid of the Pecan Man by reputation, but as he was seen working for Ora, their fear relaxed.
On September 24, 1976, Ora had taken a taxi to go grocery shopping at the new Winn Dixie.
When she arrived home, she found Blanche sitting in a recliner cuddling her youngest daughter Grace. Ora soon discovered that the very young Grace had been raped.
Ora urged Blanche to go to the police, but Blanche felt that that would be a mistake for several reasons: it would put the child Grace in the spotlight for an ugly situation, the police in Mayville didn’t treat issues involving Black people the same as they did whites, and the perpetrator was the white police chief’s teenage son.
Ora and Blanche decided to say nothing to anyone about this, and to pretend to Grace that it was all a bad dream.
When Blanche’s oldest child Marcus came home from the army for Thanksgiving, he got an idea that something bad had happened to his little sister; he pursued the notion and found out the truth.
We next see Marcus appearing at Ora’s back door Thanksgiving night. It was obvious that he had been in a fight: he soon confessed to Ora that he had killed Skipper Kornegay, the teen who had assaulted his sister.
The next day, Ora gave Marcus her husband’s Ford LTD to go back to base and establish an alibi, but Marcus was killed in a traffic accident on the way.
Blanche and Ora remained quiet about what they knew, but the police chief could not let the matter of his son’s death go unsolved. Eventually, the Pecan Man was arrested.
Ora knew that he was not guilty and engaged the assistance of a childhood friend of hers to assist her in getting the Pecan Man defended appropriately. However, the Pecan Man eventually decided to plead guilty.
The reasons for this, as revealed at the end, will astound you-and you will spend time asking yourself which reason(s) might have motivated him the most.
Meanwhile, the 25 intervening years show wonderful changes in the lives of Ora and Blanche.
Enjoy this touching story.
Sherwood, of Charleston, is a retired reading teacher.