It was six am
Two men in dirty overalls were digging a hole. They air was cold. One man smoked a cigarette; the other sipped coffee from a paper cup. The men dug. They stopped and peered into the hole. They stopped and dug again.
It was Sunday. Children ran around the streets shouting and laughing and blowing soap bubbles. Red and yellow balloons floated in the air and kites shaped like birds. The weather was perfect, a blue sky and few clouds; the sun sparkled diamonds on the tin roofs of houses. The men who dug stood in the center of a stadium. Someone had put up flags.
When the parade began, all along the route were vendors selling popcorn and cotton candy and orange ices. A heavy iron gate with a lock led into the stadium. TV crews were busy setting up cameras and checking lights. Technicians tested loudspeakers that had to work right because the mayor intended to make an important speech.
The Mayor walked at the head of the parade followed by a wooden wagon pulled by two white horses. Whatever was in the wagon was covered by a blanket. Soldiers with guns walked next to the wagon. They waved at the women and children. Then came the treasurer, the bank manager, and the Chief of Police. They waved at the crowd too and the crowd cheered. Hundreds of families the men the women the children filed slowly behind the officials. They were walking in a dream.
When the Mayor got to the iron gate, he held the key high in the air, unlocked the gate and bowed down low with a flourish. The horses pulled the wagon through and halted in the middle of the stadium. The horses were unhitched and the families ushered in and seated. The stadium was filled to the brim.
The hole was six feet deep and three feet wide. The mayor waved his hand and the audience hushed. He said the law must be followed. Women must wear veils to cover their faces. When they walk in the streets, they must be escorted by men, preferably their husbands or brothers. He pointed to the wagon and said, “This was what happens when the law is broken.”
Four soldiers walked over the wagon and yanked off the blanket where a woman wearing nothing but a sheet lay huddled weeping. The four soldiers yanked her up to face the crowd. In the front row seated on the bench that faced the hole sat the husband and two children. The boy was five and the girl was seven.
When the woman saw them, she screamed. One soldier struck her so hard on the mouth she began to bleed. They dragged her to the hole as if she were a rag. She kept on screaming. They shoved her into the hole and pushed her down till only her head showed above the ground.
She was staring at her family when they hurled the first stone. It went into her right eye. The second stone hit her forehead and opened up a hole bigger than a fist. Still the stones were thrown and thrown and thrown.
The woman had been seen in the street with a strange man. It was rumored they plotted to flee the country.