It is late Saturday morning when Sally Walker arrives at the boarded-up house in which her father was born and raised. She approaches a man sitting on the front porch steps, introduces herself as Cliff’s daughter. This flusters the man who stutters as he introduces himself as Cliff’s brother Frank. He informs Sally that Captain Jack’s house has been sold to a combine planning to build a hotel on the site. What had been farm land across the street is now a shopping mall. Sally learns from Frank that the sale of the property had made Cliff’s family rich. Captain Jack having died in 1954, proceeds from the sale were shared equally by the sons, though Cliff had refused his share. Grudgingly the brothers decided that Cliff’s share should go to his daughter.
When Sally explains this to Cliff during her visit to Cincinnati, he suggests that half the proceeds go to his wife Jane.
"I guess she earned it," says Cliff, recalling the nightmares they shared during the bad years.
"Mom will be surprised. She may even take back some of the things she said about your father."
"What do you think of Frank?"
"He's ok. Kinda distant though. He runs a large farm market, and owns a nice home on the back river road. He did invite me to dinner, where I met his wife Louise. They have two sons who work in the market."
"That would make my father happy."
"I learned that your oldest brother Arthur owns a restaurant at the beach. He calls it Blue Crab."
"Ahh," says Cliff. "I love those blue crabs."
Sally laughs. "That's what Uncle Arthur says. He says that you and your mom would sit and crack steamed crabs by the hours."
"Yes, my father, who hated seafood of any kind, would bring home a mess of crabs for Mother who always invited me to join her." Cliff chuckled at the memory. "I always told Mother that I'd eat all she could crack."
"Uncle Arthur and his wife Alice have four sons who share the ownership of a dairy farm."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?"
"Your brother Matthew is co-owner of a lumber mill. His wife's name is Janice. They have a son my age who sells real estate. His name is Jack."
"You've been busy," says Cliff.
"Your brother Steve--"
"I know about Steve," says Cliff. "He died in a boating accident."
"And there's your younger brother Lewis, who calls himself Lew. He said he was just home on a short visit. I really like him. With that red hair, he doesn't look much like you or the other brothers.
"He's better looking."
"I don't know, Dad. I like your Alan Alda look--with just enough of that Virginia accent to be sexy."
"Lew looks like my mother. He's the Showbiz member of the family. Lives in New York."
"He thinks a lot of you."
"When we were growing up, he was the one I was close to. If my father gave me hell for spending more time reading than farming, it was always young Lewis who came to my defense. The poor kid got knocked around as much as I did."
"He's no longer a kid. He says he's a young 40...and he's the only brother not married."
"I know," says Cliff.
"He told me about Jolly."
"Yeah, Jolly was a young black man who helped my father peddle his farm products around the county. My father treated him like dirt."
"You mean like a slave."
"Yes, my father called him Boy. Hey Boy, do this or do that. Jolly never complained, but Lew did."
"How'd he get the name Jolly?"
"He never had anything to laugh about."
"That's sad. Lewis said that you and he thought of Jolly as a friend. He said you three hung out together."
"My father put an end to that. He told Jolly to stay in his place."
"Did people really talk like that?"
"They did down south."
"Somehow," says Sally, "I never thought of you living down south."
“Well, I did in those days. Racial discrimination was as bad in Virginia as Mississippi. That’s what broke up the friendship.”
“It was a long time ago. You really want to hear about it?”
“Please, Dad. I‘m trying to learn as much about you as I can.”
“It was in the late thirties. Things are a lot different now, in the late seventies, I hope.”
Cliff describes the time that he and Lewis and Jolly were in town, about lunch time. “Lew suggested we stop at the Town Café for a burger and Coke, though Jolly knew it was a bad idea. Blacks and whites were not allowed to associate in a public place. It was against the law.”
“That’s terrible,” says Sally.
“Yes, it was,” says Cliff. “And it was stupid of us to take Jolly into that redneck café. Even before we sat at the counter, the manager told Jolly to leave.
‘We don’t serve no coloreds in here,’ he said.
"Well, little Lew sat down anyway and told Jolly to take the seat next to him. And I sat next to Jolly.”
“What happened then?” says Sally.
“The manager motioned to two of his buddies and said, ‘Let’s throw these bas--these guys out of here.’ That’s when fists started flying. And we were just kids! Lew was only nine, and some idiot hit him with a chair. When another guy pulled a knife on Jolly, I kicked him in the ass. We damn near wrecked the place. With all the yelling, the cops arrived and hauled the three of us off to the town jail. Lew was bloody, Jolly was scared to death, and I was mad as hell.”
“I’m proud of you, Dad.”
“Well, my father wasn’t. He paid the fine, which he couldn’t afford, then he slapped Lew and me a few times, and pushed us into his truck. He told Jolly to stick with his own people and to stay out of the white part of town. When Lew tried to intercede for Jolly, the old man hit him in the head and would have hit me too if Lew hadn’t pushed me aside. Jolly started to say something, but thought better of it and ran away.”
“What happened to him?”
“I never saw him again. But during the early Sixties, when I was trying to jump-start a business in Cincinnati, Lew and Jolly were active in the Civil Rights Movement. They even marched in the demonstrations in Alabama. One night they were attacked by a bunch of thugs in hoods. Jolly was shot and hauled away in a pickup truck.”
“My God!” says Sally. “What happened to Lewis?”
“A few friendly folks bandaged his wounds and helped him get out town. When he arrived home the brothers snubbed him for awhile, claiming his antics were bad for business. They told him to go back to New York with his Yankee friends.”
“Bad for business? That‘s sick.”
“They finally came around, so don’t say anything about it. They’ve already felt my wrath.”
“So the family finally accepted Lewis?”
“Not entirely--but that’s another story.”
“Tell me about it, Dad.”
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough family for now?”
“Ok, Dad, but I want to hear all about Lewis later.’
“Yes, you deserve to know everything.”
“Thanks, let’s go for a walk by the river.”