The Tree of Peace

I recently collaborated on a memoir centered around stories of conquering fears and overcoming obstacles. I needed to spruce up my short bio and one of my aunts popped into my head as if to remind me that even in death, she remained ever-present.

As a young woman, I enjoyed my aunts’ stories about their misadventures with the men they loved to hate. Their exploits sat precariously on the edge of insanity, but boy oh boy were they inspiring to hear. One aunt tells of a time when her partner manhandled her. She had for a long time suffered through bouts of verbal insults and intimidation. Years in, aggressions escalated to physical abuse. To know her is to take a page from her playbook because it happened only one time.

“Come on baby,” she said sweetly, licking his neck. “Let’s go have some fun.”

In the still of the night, they drove in his pickup truck to a deserted park on the outskirts of town. She kissed her partner passionately then got out the truck, calmly lowered the tailgate, and pulled from the cargo bed a loaded shotgun which she had wrapped in felt padding earlier in the day.

She pointed the gun at his head through the open passenger side window and said, “Get out.”

He complied.

“Get on your knees.”

Again, he complied, this time trembling with fear.

At the top of a hill, a group of conifers towered one hundred feet into the starlit sky. Funny she should bring him here; this sacred place from where the Iroquois once dwelled and believed the Great Spirit guided and sustained their lives. The tribesmen were people of goodwill and light. They named the Eastern white pine the “tree of peace.”

Auntie pressed the gun’s muzzle against her abuser’s skull and ordered him up the hill. Large pinecones pierced his knees as he crawled to his demise. When they reached the top of the grassy knoll, sweat poured from his head and the seat of his pants was wet. She cocked the hammer, pulled the trigger, and fired one shot into the sky, breaking the hush of darkness.

Turning to her crouching tormenter, she placed the gun against his head one last time and said, “You worthless piece of shit; if you ever lay another hand on me, I promise you I will blow off your big head and bury your black ass with the gun under these trees.”

She left him cowering beneath the white pine to make peace with himself, drove his truck home, and slumbered like a fetus within her mother’s womb. She had been reborn.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, help is available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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