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5) Dan Whitestone

Walker Bugh, romance writer, and Dan Whitestone, hardware owner, were taking a break in the back room of the town library where they both worked as volunteers. "You know the story that I'm descended from a slave named Joe, don't you?" he said.

Of course Walker Bugh knew. Most of the town knew. "Your Aunt Lucy found genealogy like a new religion and stumbled across that story," Walker Bugh supplied.

"My mother didn't believe a word, but Mother and Aunt Lucy never agreed on anything."

"You were in high school and you sided with your Aunt Lucy," Walker Bugh said in an attempt to hasten his story.

"Martin Luther King marched in Selma and he caught the whole country on fire. I wanted to be there. I did my best to join the fight for Civil Rights and honor my ancestor, but at the time, Bilton, had not one single

black kid to integrate into school, not a single black adult who had been deprived of the right to vote. To add to it all, I was red-haired and freckled."

"A fault of the gene pool that deleted any hint of your ancestral heritage," Walker Bugh remarked. Dan's story could take a long time and they had books to sort.

"Every kid in high school laughed at me, but I found my way in college. I was in Washington when Martin Luther King gave his speech." Dan shrugged. "I was in the back of the crowd and missed half of it, but it was a damned good speech, and I was proud to be a descendant of an ancestor that might have even known King's ancestors."

"You have a right to be," Walker Bugh said and handed him a book of Langston Hughes's poetry that had a double and would otherwise get thrown into the used book sale bin.

"I've lived all these years with my great-great-grandfather Joe," he said.

"You have," Walker Bugh agreed. People were sometimes intrigued and sometimes bored with Dan's stories but, as time went on, they really didn't care who Dan's ancestor was. They just wanted a good wrench when they went to the hardware and other than his pride for having a black ancestor, Dan delivered the goods.

"The library is full of those romance books you like to write," Dan went on and bit into a cookie the Friends of the Library provided for volunteers, one of the perks of the tedious job of shelving books and sorting out obsolete volumes.

Walker Bugh nodded and steeled herself for another lecture on real stories about people like his ancestor Joe.

"My grandson gave me a Christmas present-a DNA test to find out where Joe might have come from."

"What a thoughtful gift," Walker Bugh mumbled through a mouthful of chocolate chips.

"I got the results back the other day," he confessed.

After a long pause of silence, Walker Bugh said, "And?"

Dan shook his head. "I'm half Scottish, forty percent English and ten percent Russian." He reached for the black, dog-eared paperback titled "Don't Be Deceived" and tossed it in the wastebasket.

He stared at Walker. "I've been living a lie."

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Nancy Renko
Nancy Renko
Aug 25, 2022

Looks like Dan lived up to his name at least. Love the ironic humor in this piece, keep ‘‘em coming

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