By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton
“The Reckoning” starts in the middle of the story, goes to the beginning, and then moves to the conclusion. The actual plot is established in the middle of the story so that organization is effective.
Pete Banning is a local war hero, a prisoner of war who escaped and stayed to fight with guerrillas in Manila against the Japanese invaders. A reservist officer, he left a wife, two children, a farm, and a number of Negroes behind when he was called up for the Second World War.
After being reported missing in action and not being heard from for two years, Pete returned home gravely wounded. Though his legs continue in considerable pain, he resumes his role as a large cotton farmer and husband. The teen children note that all is not the same, however, as the parents bicker often, something that never used to happen. This culminates in their mother suddenly having a nervous breakdown and being sent to a nursing home for the mentally ill. For reasons they don’t understand, the children are not allowed to see her.
When the children, Joel and Stella, are away at college, Pete Manning decides he must take action regardless of the consequences. He knows that the consequences are more than likely death. And even if it isn’t, it will be hard for the family, not only on his children, but also on his sister, who has adjoining property, and very possibly his wife. He believes that Joel and Stella are intelligent enough to handle it and he feels the family property will see them through financially.
Pete Manning drives his pickup to town, goes in to see the Methodist minister, Dexter Bell, his minister, and without explanation, shoots him. Making no effort to hide, he calmly walks out, goes home, and waits. The sheriff comes and he is arrested. The community is dumbfounded, Pete is a leading citizen whom everyone liked and respected. Dexter Bell was a quality minister who everyone liked. Why? That question was only to grow on everyone’s mind as Pete offered no explanation, not even to his friend and defense lawyer.
With nothing to work with, the defense fought a series of delaying efforts, but to no avail. Pete’s sister, Florry, did her best to ease Pete’s incarceration while he was awaiting the end. His children, Joel and Stella, did their best to make sense of something that didn’t make sense, and they worried. The situation was made all the worse by the largely unexplained absence of their mother. And in the end, Pete was hanged.
John Wilbanks had long been the Bannon lawyer. He had tried his best to save Pete. Without any help from Pete, the effort proved futile. Now he warned Joel and Stella that they had better be prepared to be sued. There would surely be an effort to acquire the valuable Bannon land. There would be at least a wrongful death suit for sure.
“The Reckoning’ may not end the way you think it should, but maybe ….
Addendum: Barack Obama has written a memoir talking about himself and his political career through his first term as president. Titled “A Promised Land,” it details many decisions made and discusses the challenges of the presidency. It’s a good read for a political junkie.