Gabriel was a blacksmith who read of Haitian revolt, how Toussaint Louverture defeated white Europeans and threw off the shackles and yoke On the Isle of Saint-Domingue, gone were pin and loop In his mind he must have been baffled by the words Thomas Jefferson wrote: that all men are created equal, yet he was counted but three fifths of a man In Gabriel’s vision of enlightened revolution, if someone posed an impediment to freedom, they would be put to death. Only Frenchmen and Quakers could be spared. But he never foresaw the matter of floods, betrayal, and a pardon two centuries late Betrayers told how his anvil rang like a church bell as he beat the iron with his hammer, forging pikes into spears, sickles into swords, how he wore out bullet molds He was tried by a court of five planters whose arrogant hearts filled with fear When they saw how well slaves plotted they knew they had underestimated the man Gabriel gave no names and accepted the blame but told of his careful plan: capture the armory, take hostage Monroe, to deliver from bondage his sisters and brothers and spread rebellion through the land He rode on the tumbrel alone, hands bound behind his back, a West Coast African slave steeped with the blood of Oonis and no last name of his own From the gallows in Shockoe Bottom they hung him. Quietly standing without a word, he accepted the noose, then, soul let loose, flew away on the wings of the wind. * * * * * J. Thomas Brown lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and family. His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Other published works include two historical fiction novels, a patremoir, and a short story collection.
Gabriel by J. Thomas Brown
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