Dig for Justice
Category: Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: Beyond the Series – May 24 – June 23, 2010
Written: January 2,10,12-16,19-21, 2021
Summary: J-O Enterprises accepts an unusual job, one that prompts Jack and Daniel to include their children at the dig site and which ultimately brings historic reality to the forefront of their lives.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
Dig for Justice
Preston Abbot entered the office building of J-O Enterprises and looked around at the employees going about their business. He approached Kelly, the current receptionist, and gave her a big smile.
“Morning, Ma’am. You sure are a pretty sight for this weary traveler,” Preston spoke with a noticeable drawl.
“Um, thank you,” Kelly responded, smiling brightly at the charming man’s words. “How may I assist you?”
“I’d like to see Daniel Jackson-O’Neill. I’m told he’s the owner of this establishment.”
“One of them, yes,” Kelly confirmed. “Do you have an appointment?”
“No, Ma’am, but I’d like the courtesy of a few minutes of his time,” Preston stated. “My card.”
Kelly took the card, smiled at the visitor, and phoned Megan Williams, the Director of Operations, to explain the gentleman’s request.
“Ask him to wait,” Megan advised. She went to Daniel’s office and tapped on the door, entering when he called out. “Daniel, there’s a man downstairs who’s asking for you. No appointment.”
“When’s the meeting with the Arkansas team?”
“In an hour.”
“Okay, well, he’s here, so send him up.”
Megan went downstairs, met Preston, and led him to her boss’s office.
“Daniel, this is Mister Abbot,” Megan introduced while handing Daniel the man’s business card that he’d given to the receptionist. “Mister Abbot, this is Doctor Daniel Jackson-O’Neill.” She looked over at the archaeologist and advised, “I’ll be in my office if you need anything.”
“Thank you, Megan,” Daniel acknowledged. “Mister Abbot, please sit down.”
“Thank you, Sir. I do believe I will,” the man replied as he sat in one of the comfortable chairs intended for clients.
As Daniel sat at his desk, he couldn’t help but notice his guest’s appearance and obvious Southern heritage. The drawl was distinct, but the attire was a clear giveaway as well. Preston wore a white suit with white shirt and a brown bow tie. His shoes were brown slip-ons. They appeared to be double monk strap shoes.
“How can I help you?”
“Discretion is crucial, Doctor Jack…”
“Please, it’s Daniel.”
Preston nodded and continued, “Daniel, I’m from South Carolina, the deep south as they call it, outside of Charleston. My MariBelle and I own a working plantation. It’s a very old plantation, Sir, that goes back hundreds of years.”
“Were you aware we have an office in Virginia? I mean, it’s closer to your home.”
“I am, but I wanted to speak with you personally. What I need is confidential and sensitive. You came highly recommended.”
“That’s good to know. Can you tell me who it was who gave you the recommendation?”
“I’d rather not, Sir. As I said, it’s about discretion. This person informed me that you were a man of discretion and compassion.”
“Uh, thank you. I'm glad others think that way of me,” Daniel replied. “What do you need from my company?”
“Daniel, the plantation began in MariBelle’s family, the Waldens. Its name, Belle of the South, was given because of her …” Preston paused and then suggested, “Let’s just say it goes back to the very first MariBelle. The Belle of the South began with seven-hundred acres in the 1600’s, but for an unknown reason, the Waldens sold half of it the 1760’s. It’s a family mystery as to why those acres were sold, but that’s not why I’m here.”
Trying to be patient and aware there would be more to the story, Daniel gently responded, “It’s still a large plantation.”
“Suitable,” Preston agreed. “However, there was a family shift that began early in the 1800’s.” He sighed. “Sir, you are aware of what was once the main source of our southern economy?”
“Correct. The Waldens owned many slaves. They were property, but one of the Walden women began to think differently. Her thoughts were dismissed, but she was very outspoken for her time. She was one of the MariBelles.”
“Miss MariBelle kept after her husband until he began to drift from southern custom. He passed on this revised thinking to his son, whose daughter, the next MariBelle, believed the south was unjust in its treatment of slaves. Over a period of sixty years, the Waldens gave away one acre to slaves they freed. These Freedmans, as they were called, were owned by the family for as much as fifty years. It was a very slow time on the plantation; finances were difficult, and they feared releasing too many slaves at one time. They didn’t know how to keep the plantation going without the slaves, but they did their best to free the ones they did. This reduced the acreage to three-hundred-thirty acres.”
“Still substantial,” Daniel commented.
“Yes,” the potential client agreed. “The Civil War tore our precious south apart. When it was over, the Waldens were luckier than some. The house was still there and they had money for the taxes, but they didn’t have enough cash to pay for white workers. They couldn’t afford to pay freed slaves a full white people’s pay, either. Twenty-five more acres were given to their remaining slaves, or I should say, the African-Americans who hadn’t fled the plantation and continued to help the family. Today, the plantation survives at three-hundred and five acres.”
“Preston, family heritage is always fascinating, but …”
“But why am I here?”
“I don’t mean to rush you, but I do have a meeting at the top of the hour,” Daniel informed politely. “We could meet later, if you like.”
“This won’t take much longer,” Preston insisted.
“Fine,” Daniel replied. “Please continue.”
“During those troubled days of slavery, the Waldens owned an average of forty slaves at any time. The lifespan of a slave is debated among historians, but those of us with records, and many old southern families still have these records, show our slaves rarely lived beyond their late thirties or early forties. Many died as children, in their teens, and even during the twenties.”
“I’m aware,” Daniel interjected, feeling very curious as to why the man was contacting an archaeological firm.
“Daniel, we are not proud of the past, but it was the times, a way of life, of maintaining our economy.”
“Preston, why are you here?”
“Our family has a lovely cemetery on the plantation where our respected ancestors rest. The view is beautiful, peaceful, with flowers, trees, and greenery all around.” Preston let out a harsh sigh. “Far away from that sacred ground was a place where slaves where buried, most without any markers. Sometimes, when several were taken by disease at one time, they were place in mass burial sites.”
“Only those blacks who my family called the ‘Beloved Slaves’ were given markers, but they were wooden ones that have decayed are have been washed away in hurricanes and storms or devoured by fire.” Preston paused again, wishing he wasn’t having to speak about the travesties of the past. “Daniel, over the years, descendants of the slaves have come to our plantation. They have heard family stories about their people having been owned by the Waldens or they’ve otherwise traced their relatives to the Belle of the South.”
“Really? They’ve approached you?”
“For information; for closure,” Preston put forth. “They want to know where they came from, and, Daniel, all have that right.”
“The family kept good records of their slaves: when bought, sold, births, weddings, deaths, though not necessarily when they occurred, except for the bought and sold data which was … business.”
“Preston, what can J-O Enterprises do for you?” Daniel inquired. He didn't mean to be abrupt. In actuality, he was totally engaged in the conversation, not to mention curious. ~I wish he'd made an appointment so we had more time.~
“Sir, I want to provide those families with closure. I want your company to locate the burial sites for the mass burials and as many of the individual graves as possible. My family has decided to build a memorial, something to comfort the descendants. We want to mark the place where their people are, make sure it’s a nice place, with benches and a little monument that addresses that the ground is hallowed for the sacrifices made by their people.”
“Preston, please allow me to bring in one of our best employees,” Daniel stated. He picked up the phone and dialed. “Bibi, would you come into my office, please? I have a client I’d like you to meet.”
Bibreanay Appleton, the firm’s expert in skeletal excavation also known as their bone expert, met Preston and was advised of the situation. She felt compelled to speak with her boss alone.
“Mister Abbot, would you mind if I spoke with Daniel alone for a moment?”
“Not at all, Ma’am. I’ll wait outside.”
After Preston shut the door behind him, Bibi excitedly addressed her boss, saying, “Daniel, this is a huge opportunity to do something I don’t believe has been done before, not on this level.”
“What do you mean, Bibi?”
“Forty slaves? All the time? Daniel, there must be hundreds of African-Americans buried on that plantation. We have a chance to try to identify some of them.”
“All Mister Abbot wants to know is where the bodies are buried, not who they are,” Daniel reminded.
“We haven’t asked him that, have we?”
“What are you thinking, Bibi?”
“DNA. Daniel, we can find out who some of these slaves are.”
“The descendants,” Bibi answered. “If the Abbots have kept contact information on the people who visited them, maybe we can get DNA samples from them.”
“Bibi, do you know what the cost would be to process that many … bones, assuming we find them.”
“Oh, we’ll find them,” Bibi insisted.
“Okay, ask Mister Abbot to come back in and we’ll see what he says,” Daniel requested.
Daniel and Bibi put the possibilities before their new client. Preston advised that owning land doesn’t mean having money to burn, but he agreed to discuss it with his MariBelle and the rest of the family. He also confirmed that they do have contact information for most of the families who have visited the plantation.
“Thank you, Sir, for your time,” Preston told Daniel as he began to leave. He walked towards the door, but then stopped and turned back to look at the archaeologist. He smiled as he spoke, “It is my understanding, you have a family.”
“I do: eight children.”
“Eight: impressive,” Preston remarked. “I’ve been told you bring them to job sites on occasion.”
“We do,” Daniel replied, thinking the man was about to tell him not to bring the children to the family plantation.
“That would be permissible, if you wanted to bring them. They would enjoy the best of our southern hospitality."
“I’ll speak with my husband about it.”
Preston nodded and left the office.
Bibi was about to exit as well, when she heard her boss call her name.
“Bibi, if the Abbots are willing to invest towards DNA, we’ll match whatever they put in,” Daniel announced. “I wish we could do more, but the cost would be enormous and without more contacts …”
“I understand, Daniel, and I think it’s great that J-O will contribute,” Bibi responded. “You know, it’s the right thing to do.”
“It is,” Daniel agreed. “It’s not much, but it’s some amount of … justice.”
With Bibi gone, the archaeologist leaned back in his office chair. Preston Abbot’s story was resonating within him. It felt personal, even though he had no known ties to the south or to slavery. He did feel a responsibility to assist with the closure that was mentioned. He’d accepted the man as a client, but it would be the first time J-O’s primary function was to seek out the buried so a memorial could be placed on a site. It made the job unique and seem reverent.
“Daniel, it’s time,” Megan called out as she tapped on the door.
“We’re going to dig up bones, intentionally, and go away?” Jack asked that evening when advised of the new client.
“And we’re going to get paid, but we’re also going to pay thousands of dollars for the DNA ourselves?”
“And you think this is a good gig?”
“Okay,” Jack responded. “Where is it on the schedule?”
“Babe, you know our trip to the cabin for Memorial Day?”
“We can still remember the day, but we’ll be there, not here,” the archaeologist put forth.
“What about the kids?”
“They come with us,” Daniel suggested. “They’ll love it, and Preston already agreed they could come.”
Jack sighed, not really liking the idea of missing the planned days at the Minnesota cabin, but he saw that he’d already lost any argument he could possibly make. Besides, something inside him was stirring, too. This wasn’t the typical job.
“We take the girls, too,” Jack said about the beagles.
“Of course, but I’ll have to call him and make sure that’s okay, too. We will be on private property, after all.”
For the duration of this project, Bibi was the designated principal investigator. As the leading bone expert, she was uniquely qualified to be in charge. Because of the size of the project, three teams were assigned, two from the main office and one from the Cheasapeake office.
Prior to leaving Colorado Springs, topographic and soil maps were acquired to help with the identification of where bones might be present. Bibi studied these intently knowing that the quicker the bodies could be found, the greater the likelihood that J-O Enterprises would be able to test the bones and discover truth about them. She also acquired aerial photographs of the plantation. After her research was complete, she let Ty Harper, who was in charge of the company’s Texas warehouse, know what equipment would be needed for this job. Along with the usual trowels, dust pans, shovels, and other items, she requested the ground-penetrating radar unit. In fact, she requested three of those, though she wasn’t exactly sure how many the firm owned.
“Jack, it’s Ty,” the equipment manager spoke over the phone to his employer.
“What’s up, Ty?”
“Bibi put in her equipment order for the South Carolina dig.”
“One problem, Jack. She requested three GPR units. We only have two.”
“I thought we had three.”
“We did, but one stopped working. We’ve been haggling about it with the manufacturer for months. Progress has been made, but we won’t have a replacement in time for this project.”
“Let Bibi know,” Jack instructed.
“Jack, we could order a new one. I actually have a lead on a second-hand unit, one of the better models, that we could pick up for thirty-thou.”
Jack whistled at the price.
“Jack, the good units are upwards of eighty- or ninety-thousand dollars. Our units have served us well because we don’t specialize in these forensic digs,” Ty advised.
“What you’re saying is we’re paying a miniature fortune for the B-stuff, but you think we should get a better model.”
“For this job.” Ty sighed, “Jack, I’m only pushing this because both Daniel and Bibi seem to be highly invested in finding these bodies.”
“You get what you pay for?” Jack surmised.
“Okay, you’re the guy in charge of the equipment. If there’s money in the budget, use your best judgment.”
As part of her project leader duties, Bibi also had to choose the teams that would go to South Carolina. She only had one employee she was questioning. She picked up her phone and called one of her bosses.
"What do you need?" Daniel asked over the phone.
"Daniel, I've selected the teams and I'm pretty happy with them."
"But I'm not sure about one," Bibi advised.
"Who do you have doubts about?"
"It's not doubts, Daniel, it's lack of experience dealing with bones or forensics," the woman clarified.
"Jerome?" the archaeologist guessed.
Jerome Kenyon first worked with J-O Enterprises in 2009. He was a senior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs at the time and allowed to gain expertise by serving as an intern for J-O. He even participated in last year's Mexico dig that the brood went on as well. Having graduated, he accepted a job offer to work for J-O and was currently on first year probation with them.
"Bibi, when you first started, did you know about bones?"
"I knew a femur from a skull, but that's about it," Bibi laughed as she recall her first years as an archaeologist before specializing in handling human remains.
"I hope that answers your question."
"It does," Bibi sighed with contentment. "Thank you, Daniel."
The call ended. The teams were officially complete. Now the real work could begin.
Some staff arrived at the plantation within a few days, setting up tents and preliminarily deciding where to initially search for bodies. The Prestons only knew the location of the Beloved Slaves where a handful of markers still existed and had a general idea of where others might be buried. Even so, it would be a guessing game at first.
Bibi was thrilled to see the three radar units, especially the new one that she was aware would make the likelihood of discovering the presence of bones more of a reality.
Karissa Lewis focused on making sure the tents were placed appropriately and each one designated in a logical manner, such as the food tent, the supply tent, the artifact tent, three standard tents for the teams to stay in, and the J-O family tents, of which there were two large ones. She, in fact, would be staying in the second of the family tents as she would be helping to care for the children throughout the dig. She didn't mind taking time away from her archaeological duties as she was exceptionally fond of the kids.
Prior to using the GPRs, Bibi divided the huge area where the remains of slaves were most likely located into four quads. She based her decision on the topographical data and the aerial photographs. The quads could be revised if the GPRs suggested burial sites were prevalent in other non-quad areas. Quad B was the closest to the firm's tents with Quad A parallel to it, roughly a quarter of a mile to its right. The other two quads were deeper into the large meadow where many bodies were presumably buried.
Jack and Daniel arrived with their brood and the beagles on Friday afternoon. The brood consisted of Jennifer, who turned eighteen earlier in the month, David, age nine, four-and-one-half-year old Chenoa, the triplets, also known as the Munchkins, who were only three, and the two-year-old twins. Both the Munchkins and the twins would be celebrating their next birthdays in four months.
Though the Abbots offered the family rooms in their large mansion, the Jackson-O’Neills declined the offer, wanting to stay close to the site where their teams would be working. They did agree to enjoying a traditional southern meal with their hosts on Saturday so the children and beagles could become familiar with the house and grounds, as well as with the clients.
During the day on Saturday, the radar units were put into operation and the appropriate grids were laid out. At night, the family enjoyed the meal with the Abbots and learned more about the plantation, including that the house was partially destroyed and rebuilt twice. The Belle of the South was a survivor, thanks to renovation.
Sunday, the radar units were back in action. It was a slow, meticulous project. The units reminded the kids of lawnmowers since the user stood behind the unit and pushed it slowly over the ground to collect the data that was fed directly into a mounted computer. It was complicated for the younger children to understand, but they knew that electromagnetic waves, whatever those were, went into the ground and bounced back to provide information on any objects below, including how far down the object was.
The next day was Memorial Day and everyone had the day off to do as they wished. Jack and Daniel even paid for their staff to go into Charleston, if they wanted to do so.
The lovers, though, stayed in their tents, where they did discuss Memorial Day and what it means to Americans. It was a relaxing day, during which Jack took time to be alone and remember his older brother, Billy, who died during the Vietnam War.
On Tuesday, everyone was hard at work. Jack and Jonny were working on a new grid. One of the GPRs indicated their location could have multiple bones below the surface. Father and son were using pegs and string to surround the rectangular area. Jack measured carefully and then put two pegs into the ground on the far end of the grid-in-the-making. He wrapped string around the peg on his right, moved to the left side, and pulled the string taut. He tied the string around the second peg. He stood and, carrying the spool of string with him, went to the front of the space.
Wanting to include his son, Jack handed the boy the string and said, “Pull it tight, Jonny, but don’t let it go.”
The Munchkin did as instructed only he pulled so hard that he fell on his rear as he fell down to the grass.
“Still have string,” Jonny laughed.
“There you go,” Jack chuckled. He rechecked the measurement on the length of the grid and put in two more pegs, each one horizontal to the first pegs that were on the other side. “Don’t let go,” Jack reminded the triplet, who was now sitting on the grass.
“No move,” Jonny promised.
Jack approached his son and reiterated, “Hold on tight and do not move.”
“No move,” Jonny responded with a frustrated tone of voice that caused his father to chuckle a tad.
Jack decided to allow Jonny to do even more. If he had to do it over, that was okay. He wanted Jonny to learn archaeology every bit as much as he wanted him to be a good general one day.
“Put the string around the peg like I did.” Jack watched the boy and was impressed. He wasn’t even sure Jonny had been watching him earlier. “Nice job.” He took the string to the final peg and wrapped it around the object.
“See, now we have a nice rectangle,” Jack told his namesake.
“And I helped.”
“Yes, you did,” Jack responded proudly.
For a couple of minutes, father and son chatted about the plantation. During this time, Jack was reviewing the map to see where other potential bones were discovered. Many more grids would be laid out before any excavating would begin.
As Jack looked over the map, he was stunned to hear a comment from his son. It seemed to come out of nowhere.
“We need a Mammy. Everyone should have a Mammy.”
“In movie, Mammy was lots fun. She cooked and cleaned and took care of Scarlet. She always happy, ‘cept when war came. Mammys always there. They good.”
Jack was taken aback. He knew the words were innocent, but there they were, seeking out the bodies of dead slaves in the heart of the south. How could he let this go? Should he? He was so shocked that he couldn’t think straight.
“Mammys like ta help. They fun. We get a Mammy?”
That did it for Jack. There was no way he could simply dismiss the boy’s comments. Jonny had no clue what he was talking about and why should he at his age, except he had to learn.
“Jonny, are you talking about Mammy from the movie we watched last month?”
“Good movie with Miss Scarlet ‘n’ Mister Rhett ‘n’ Mammy,” Jonny answered with a happy look.
The father sighed internally. The family did watch “Gone with the Wind” recently. Their youngest children might have been too young, but Jack loved the classics. What he and his lover often did was plan interruptions at points where the visuals might be too intense for the younger brood. One of them might suggest it was time for popcorn or ice cream or say something about their animals. It always worked, so they had no issues with watching some of these vintage movies with the kids. This, though, was stunning, in a negative way. It was an unanticipated response from the triplet.
“Son, Mammy was a slave.”
Already regretting bringing it up, but knowing he couldn’t let the subject go, Jack answered, “It’s a person who is owned by another person and forced to do as the owner wishes.”
“Huh?” Jonny spoke quizzically. “People are people; people no own people.”
“They did once upon a time.”
“Like in a story,” Jonny asked as he took in his dad’s story-like comment.
“Son, in the movie, Mammy is a character who is a slave. She wasn't free like a white person was."
Jack sighed, "Because she was a slave, Mammy couldn’t sleep in just because she felt like it. She couldn’t sit in the living room and read a book. She couldn’t take a nap in the afternoon because she was tired. She couldn’t go into town by herself. She probably didn't even know when her birthday was. She couldn’t go visit her family for a day. You know why? Because her family probably wasn’t there.”
~I wish I didn’t.~ Jack sighed, “Jonny, Mammy was bought by the O’Hara family. Scarlet’s father bought her. He told her what she could do and when to do it, and if she didn’t comply, he probably would have sold her.”
“No sell people, Dad.”
“Not anymore, we don't, but going back just a hundred-fifty years or so, slavery was an accepted situation. Son, white man ships, cargo ones, went to places like Africa. They used weapons, chains, nets: whatever worked, to invade those lands and capture Africans. They tied them up, dragged them to the ships, and stacked them in the cargo holds as if they were a cord of wood. They had very little air to breathe. They couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom. They went where they lie. Maybe once a week, the crew would bring them topside for some sun, and when they reached American ports, like Charleston, they were sold at auction to the highest bidder.” He sighed, “The harsh truth is that it took months to reach their destination port and by then twenty percent of their ‘cargo’ were lost, as in dead, no longer living, gone.”
“No make sense, Dad,” the boy insisted as he started to become emotional. He wiped his wet cheeks with his sleeve and sniffled. “People not sold.”
“They were because back then, they weren’t considered people. They were property.” Jack reached over with his hand and touched the item on his son’s head. “Slave owners viewed slaves like they did this hat, or your jacket, or your backpack over there, or your baseball. Black people weren’t people to them. They were bought and sold as property, just like we buy groceries and clothes.”
“Why?” the boy cried.
Jack really hated being a parent right now. He also hoped his husband would still speak to him at day’s end.
“I can’t give you a good answer to that. It’s how it was for a few hundred years and even when slavery ended, prejudice did not.”
“What you mean?”
“Okay,” Jack spoke, processing his thoughts first before speaking. “In the movie, Mammy was a character. She was played by a talented actress named Hattie McDaniel.”
“Hattie? Funny name.”
“Some might think so. I don’t know its origin, but that was her name. She did such a fantastic job that she won the Best Actress Award at the Oscars that year.”
“What are Oscars?”
“Every year, all the actors, actresses, directors, well, let’s say all the people who make movies get together and hand out their biggest honor, the Oscar, to the very best performers that year. “Gone with the Wind” was a great movie, and Hattie was great in it. For the very first time, an African-American won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and that was Hattie.”
“Every movie has a leading lady. In “Gone with the Wind,” that was Vivian Leigh. She was the actress who played Scarlet. Most times, there’s another actress who has a smaller part. That actress may only be in part of the movie. Mammy was the backup to Scarlet.”
“But, Hattie, when she won her award, wasn’t sitting with Vivian Leigh and the other stars of the movie. She was in the back, against a wall, sitting with other African-Americans.”
“Because she wasn’t white.” Jack continued, “In fact, people of color weren't even allowed in the place where the ceremony was held. It was only because a big whig involved with the movie requested they allow Hattie to attend as a personal favor to him that she was able to attend."
"Not fair, Dad."
"No, it wasn't." Jack continued, "If Hattie rode the bus, she sat in the back. She didn’t stay at the fancy hotel that Vivian did. Nope, she was on the other side of town, the black side, where hotels were nowhere near as nice as the ones Vivian and others stayed at. If Hattie needed to go the bathroom, she had to hold it, unless there was a black bathroom for her to use.”
“A bathroom painted black?”
“No,” Jack sighed. “Bathrooms used to be for either white people only or black people only. You couldn’t use the other one, no matter what.”
Jonny’s head cocked to side. He couldn’t make sense of his dad’s words.
“People are people. Why Hattie hafta use special bathroom?” Jonny stared and then looked at his hands. He took his right hand and placed it over his left. “Because she have black skin?”
“That’s why, yes.”
“No make sense.”
“Ah, let’s talk about Sammy Davis, Jr.”
“The candy man,” Jonny responded brightly.
“Sammy was one of the most successful entertainers ever. He could sing like no one else. He was a good actor, too. You know what else? He was a fast draw.”
“Yep. He loved his guns,” Jack reported. “Now, Hattie’s career went up to, geez, right about the time I was born.”
“Long, long time ‘go.”
“Right,” Jack groaned. ~Didn’t see that one coming.~ He explained, “And Sammy’s career began as a kid and really took off about the time when Daddy born.” He waited and was chagrined when the boy failed to make a crack about Daniel being old. ~Not my day.~ He continued, “Sammy was so popular that he brought in thousands and thousands of fans to nightclubs and casinos all around the world, especially in Las Vegas. Remember ‘Ol Blue Eyes?”
“No, Frank Sinatra.”
“No ‘member him.”
“That’s okay, but Sammy was close to Frank who was one of the other best singers of his time. Frank was someone everyone tried to please. The thing is, Jonny, that like Hattie, Sammy had to sit in special areas of restaurants, use the black restrooms, and stay in fleabag hotels on the other side of town. Sometimes, Frank and his gang forced hotels where he, Sammy, and their friends performed at to let Sammy stay there. He didn’t always do that, though. Imagine, Jonny, you are on stage, making thousands of people happy, but if you need to go the bathroom, you’d better hope that there was a black one nearby.”
“No like slavery,” the vulnerable youth declared.
“Remember, Hattie and Sammy weren’t slaves. They, and the rest of their race, were the victims of prejudice, and too much of that prejudice still exists.”
Jonny swallowed hard. He knew what prejudice meant and he didn’t like it, not one bit.
“You know, when Hattie won that Oscar, some hoped that was the beginning of change, but the next African-American to win that same Best Supporting Actress was Whoopi Goldberg and she won it something like fifty years later. It wasn’t until 2001, the year David was born, that Halle Berry, an African-American performer won the Best Actress Oscar. Prejudice, Son, is all around us.”
“No.” Jack decided to put one more fact to his namesake. “Son, do you remember who Thomas Jefferson is?”
“He wrote Decl’ation of In’pendence and was President.”
“He was a slave owner, too,” Jack advised. “So was George Washington.”
“First Prez owned people? Why?”
“That’s what they did. Thomas Jefferson did fight to free the slaves, but while he owned six-hundred slaves over the course of his lifetime, he only freed a handful.”
“Economics. Slaves were property and that meant money.”
“No like ec’no...whatever.”
“I understand. Times were different in those days. I wish prejudice was far removed from our life, but it still exists, and there are those who still believe anyone with black skin is inferior, not as good as those with white skin.”
“What do you mean, Son?” Jack asked.
“When born, no choice if black or white. People are people,” Jonny sniffled as he looked down and plucked the grass.
Jack had nothing else to say at the moment. He felt tired, old, and guilty, though he knew he had no reason to feel that way. He stared at the Munchkin and swore he could see the breaking heart. He couldn’t stand it for another second.
“Jonny, would you like to go see Daddy?” When the boy nodded without raising his head, Jack permitted, “It’s okay. Go on.”
Jonny sprang up and ran with all his speed to find his other father. Jack, of course, stood and followed the youth to ensure he didn’t get lost.
“Daaaaaadddy,” Jonny cried when Daniel came into view.
Surprised at the sound, Daniel turned around quickly and picked up his son.
“What’s wrong, Jonny?”
“People are people,” the boy answered.
Daniel was confused, but focused on comforting his child. He saw Jack approaching and knew something bad happened.
**We had a little chat about slavery. It didn’t go well.**
**Slavery? How did that happen?**
**Danny, take care of Jonny. I need to take a walk. We’ll talk about it tonight.**
Jack walked away, leaving Daniel more unpleasantly surprised than he’d been in a long time. He couldn’t imagine how a discussion about slavery would occur right now with them in the middle of South Carolina.
“It’s okay, Jonny. Shhh, it’s okay.”
Jack passed by the communications’ tent and saw Jennifer at the computer inside. Purposefully, he entered.
“Jen, bring up Amazon.”
Stopping her data inputting, Jennifer brought up the popular retail site and its login screen.
Jack leaned over and inputted his password.
Once recognized, Jennifer asked, “What am I looking for?”
“Gone with the Wind on DVD.”
“We have it, at home.”
“Order it. Now, Jennifer.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jennifer responded. “In the cart.”
“Look for 'Roots'. It’s a mini-series; starred LeVar Burton and John Amos. ‘76 or thereabouts,” Jack informed in his brief use of the English language.
“No DVD, Dad. It’s only on VHS.”
“If that’s what they have, that’s what we get. Order it,” the silver-haired man directed.
“In the cart.”
“Look up the DVD for ‘Holiday Inn’.”
“Bing? Where he sings ‘White Christmas’?”
“That’s the one.”
Shaking her head, the daughter advised, “I don’t see it. Oh, wait. They have one that has it with ‘Going My Way’.” She looked up at her dad and waited. Shyly, she clicked the appropriate buttons and announced, “In the cart.”
Jack thought for a moment and uttered, “‘Glory’ with that Broderick guy.”
Jennifer found the DVD and mentioned, “Dad, it’s rated R.”
“Crap.” Jack shook his head as he fought an internal battle. “Get it.”
Taking a big breath, Jennifer added the movie to the cart and asked, “Anything else?”
“Yeah: ‘Lilies of the Field’,” Jack directed.
“Dad, they don’t have it, but they have a high-priced collection of Sidney Poitier’s movies that includes ‘Lilies’.”
“In the cart, Jennifer.”
“We need a TV,” Jack advised.
“A TV. Find one. Make it nineteen inches or maybe twenty-one.”
“There are a few to choose from. There’s …”
As fast as she could, Jennifer reviewed the choices for the television and finally said, “Done.”
“We need a portable DVD player and a VHS player. Don’t talk to me about price or options. Just pick one of each and make sure they’re in stock.”
Jack waited impatiently for about five minutes. There were so many choices and Jennifer simply couldn’t get herself to simply choose one without knowing what customers thought about them. Finally, the word was given, the two items were added to the cart.
Next, the general ordered, “Look for ready-made popcorn, gummy bears: whatever your brothers and sisters like for comfort food.”
“Dad, the prices …” Jennifer saw the glare. ~Wish I knew what was going on because something is going on, that’s for sure.~
“I want distraction, comfort food. We’re going to need it, enough for two weeks; no, make it three, in case we go over, and no shortcuts.” The father paused and thought. “Better get more dog treats. That’ll help, too.”
Jennifer let out a whiff of air and began her search. She didn’t worry about cost. She looked at volume and she ordered plenty.
“Can we get all of this tomorrow?”
“Um, some of it probably. I don’t know about it all.”
“Go to checkout and let’s find out.” Jack reached into his wallet and pulled out a credit card. “Use this; expedited shipping for everything.”
The teenager nodded and did as told, returning the card to her father when she was done.
“Do you want to change your password now? A lot of the team are using this computer.”
Jack groaned, but replied, “I’ll do it on my phone. Thanks for the reminder.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Yeah, be patient, be loving, and be prepared to participate in a lot of movie watching and discussion.”
“Can I guess?”
“No, not right now, Princess.”
For the third time, Jack turned and was about to exit through the open area where the flap was raised.
“I love you.”
Jack sighed and slowly, a soft smile emerged. He nodded with his head lowered slightly.
“That’s the most wonderful thing I’ve heard all day. Thank you, Jen, and I love you, too.”
Curious and worried, Jennifer returned to her inputting, wanting to have her task completed within the next hour.
Late that night, Jack and Daniel walked far away from their tents. They wanted distance for the presumed argument that was on the horizon. Jonny was distraught all day, crying often, and his tears prompted tears from Little Danny and Aislinn, who didn’t understand why they were crying, but cried because their big brother was upset. Jennifer and David, both of whom were now fully informed about the situation with Jonny, were staying with the Munchkins while their parents were outside, with Karissa watching over Chenoa and the twins in the other tent.
“Daniel, what was I supposed to do? Jonny said it out of nowhere. We all should have a Mammy. We needed one. Everyone needed one. Mammy was a wonderful woman and so happy.”
“Don’t get snarky with me, Jack. Did you see how upset he was? Jack, he cried all day.”
“It’s our fault.”
“Ours? We’re not prejudiced.”
“No, but we’ve ignorant.”
“More words, Jack, and fast,” Daniel demanded.
“Danny, those kids are good kids. They’re innocents in the world. They look at people and see people. We’ve proven that. We know it for a fact.”
Jack was referring to a prior incident back in Colorado Springs when a prejudiced general had an argument with General Hammond about assignments, specifically those for races that weren’t Caucasian. Hammond’s fury was huge and Jack accidentally entered into it, along with the triplets. The takeaway from what played out was that all three of the Munchkins described three airman (an African-American, a Native American, and an Asian) without mentioning their race or color. They noted the height and weight of the men, talked about the color of their hair and eyes, and even noticed a tattoo on one man and a scar on another. However, not one of the kids described the men by the color of their skin.
“Daniel, if we shield these kids until they’re grown, they’ll be laughed at for not knowing the very basics of how this country began. I don’t like it, but I don’t want our son walking around telling the MariBelles of the world that we should all have Mammys. Do you disagree?”
“No, I don’t, but you should have waited, Jack.”
“I tried. I couldn’t. He needed to learn right then when he could clearly recall what he’d said.”
“He’s three years old,” Daniel reminded forcefully.
“And he’s a friggin’ genius, just like Little Danny, and don’t you lie to me that you don’t know it. Daniel, we can pretend and cover the brainiac parts of our kids for at least a decade, but we have to utilize those brain cells at times like these. It’s for their own good, no matter how much facing our country’s past hurts us personally.”
“I know you’re right, Jack. I just don’t like seeing our children upset like this.”
“They don’t understand it yet, but we’re going to explain it to them, slowly and calmly. We’re going to discuss situations as gently as we can and encourage them to ask questions so they really comprehend the subject matter, but they’re going to learn about this nation’s history with slavery before they, not of their own making, say or do something to get themselves into trouble.”
“Okay. What do you have mind?”
Jack told Daniel about the movies and mini-series ordered earlier that day, after which the lovers came up with a plan. They wished they could wait until they were back home, but one thing the archaeologist fully realized was that they needed to respect the Abbot family. It would be inappropriate if one of the children unintentionally made a comment about slavery to their hosts.
“Jack, we should tell Preston and MariBelle what we’re doing, maybe even invite them to join us one night, if they want.”
“Their view of slavery and how it was with the Waldens could be valuable to the brood.”
“I won’t push them,” Daniel clarified, “but I will ask them.”
“What about our crew?” Jack wondered.
“I think we should let them join us, too. We may need to do this in the mess tent, if any of them decide to sit in.”
“Make sure they know they aren’t going to the movies. These films are going to paused for discussion frequently. It might take a few nights to get through ‘Gone with the Wind.”
“Let’s make the announcement at breakfast.”
As it happened, Preston and MariBelle were out for a morning stroll and entered the mess tent to say hello to the workers. As they came inside, they heard Daniel’s announcement and the reason for it.
MariBelle was extremely touched by Jonny’s humanity and she wanted to help him understand the ways of the old south, misguided as they were. She and Preston ended up asking if they could be a part of the plans before Daniel could ask them to attend.
Thus, while everyone put in full work days, at night, slavery education began. It did take three nights to get through “Gone with the Wind” and by the end Jonny no longer wanted a Mammy. He understood she wasn’t free to play catch, visit a friend, or take a sick day. She had to do as her owner demanded or there could be dire consequences. He still loved the movie. He just didn’t like the reality of it.
The mini-series “Roots” was the next scheduled watch event. Since it covered roughly twelve hours, Jack thought it best to watch the program as it aired originally. Half of the episodes were two hours long, and the other four were only one hour.
Before the first episode was shown, though, J-O Enterprises was again hard at work.
“Hi, Bibi,” Little Danny greeted as he walked up to the woman to see what she was doing.
“Hi, Little Danny,” Bibi returned, though she continued to study the item in her hands.
“What you doing?”
“This is a bone Karissa found in one of the grids,” Bibi began. “I’m studying it to determine if it’s an animal bone or a human one.”
“Oh,” Little Danny acknowledge. “How you do that?”
Bibi looked at the inquiring boy and decided she had some time to educate him on the subject. She looked around and found an empty crate. Turning it over, she told the Munchkin to stand on the box. That way, he could get a closeup view of the bones and what she was looking at.
The bones expert saw the excitement in Little Danny’s eyes. It was always there, anytime he had a chance to learn about archaeology. It made her want to teach and encourage him to follow in his fathers’ paths.
“Look at this bone closely, Little Danny,” Bibi instructed. “Now let’s measure it.” Bibi carefully took the reading. “I think it’s a pig leg.”
“We’re going to check the density of the bone to verify, though, before we make the final conclusion.” Bibi continued to study the bone. “I definitely think this is a pig.” She looked at the confused boy. “Little Danny, have you heard of the cortical bone?”
“The cortical bone is the outside layer of a bone. Human bones don’t have as much of this as animals do, so the thicker the layer, the more likely it’s an animal.”
“Can I touch it?”
“Dora,” Bibi called out. “Will you get a pair of gloves for Little Danny; perhaps the smaller ones.”
"Jack ordered kid-size gloves for the children, just in case," Dora informed Bibi, who was unaware of the side purchase.
~That figures,~ Bibi mused silently.
Dora King was actually a dancer, hired by Jack and Daniel after they met her working in a clothing store at a mall. She worked as a gopher for the company while also doing limited research. So far, she was impressing her employers very much.
Heeding Bibi's request, Dora went to the supplies tent and quickly returned with the gloves. She helped Little Danny put on a pair and made sure they fit properly.
“Thank you, Dora.” Bibi smiled as she handed the bone to the boy. “Pay close attention to how that feels. If you want to know bones well, you have to learn how they feel. We make a lot of decisions based on touch.”
“Wow,” Little Danny expressed as he took in the feel of the bone.
Bibi walked away and returned with another bone. She took the first bone from the child and placed it back in her workspace. Then, she handed him the other bone.
“What do you think?”
“That’s right,” Bibi praised. “This is a human bone.”
“One of the slaves?”
“You get sad holding people’s bones, Bibi?”
“Well, sometimes, but when you’re a bones expert, you can’t afford to think about it too much. That’s for later, when your work is done.”
“Is that a skull?”
The little genius’s face was in awe. He’d never seen a skull in person before, though he’d seen pictures of skulls.
“Yes. Do you want to hold it?”
Bibi retrieved the skull and handed it to Little Danny, who she noticed was being very respectful. He didn’t cry, but she sensed strong emotion in him as he held what was once part of a body.
“Notice the chin,” Bibi pointed out. “A lot of animals don’t have chins.”
“No know that before,” Little Danny admitted.
“You also want to examine the eyes. We, humans, have eye sockets above the nose, but animals tend to have their eyes more to the side and behind the nose.”
“Little Danny!” Daniel called out. “Come here, please.”
The boy carefully handed the skull to his teacher and said, “Thank you, Bibi. You teach more later?”
“I’d love to.”
“See you later, Little Danny.”
The middle Munchkin hurried to his father and walked away with him.
That night, “Roots” was the focus for the Jackson-O’Neill family, along with several of their employees, as well as the Abbots. Just as with “Gone with the Wind,” the first episode elicited plenty of discussion with the Abbots adding their own point of views. In fact, MariBelle pulled out journals written by some of her ancestors and read passages from them that gave a distinctive flavor to the conversation.
The next Tuesday, the Munchkins were spending the afternoon with the Abbots. MariBelle made the invitation to have the triplets join them for lunch. She also invited the beagles, which pleased the trio tremendously, especially when upon arrival, Bijou and Katie were treated to brand new bones that were doused with meat sauce and juices.
The kids were well behaved and enjoyed their southern-style meal which consisted of fried chicken, grits, and homemade macaroni and cheese with peach cobbler for dessert. They were full afterwards and almost fell asleep.
“MariBelle,” Jonny called out with a yawn as he stretched out on the sofa in the parlor. “You have a Mammy?”
“No, I never had one,” MariBelle answered. “You have to go back several generations to find a Mammy in this house.”
“But there was one?”
“There were many, Jonny.”
“I feel bad for Mammys.”
“So do I.”
Jonny gave out a big yawn and simply couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer.
MariBelle smiled. She was well aware of Jonny’s accidental comment made to his father while setting up a grid. The Abbots and Jackson-O’Neills were gaining trust with one another, so when the epic Clark Gable movie was aired, the Munchkin’s comment came to light.
“We can’t change the past, Jonny, but we can make peace with it,” MariBelle spoke softly as she took a throw from the back of the sofa and placed it over him snugly.
The woman smiled as Bijou looked at her with a question.
"You may," MariBelle permitted, patting the spot at Jonny's feet.
Bijou jumped up on the sofa and settled down on the spot specified so she could keep an eye on the oldest triplet.
In the old mansion's library, Preston was letting Little Danny look at the many tomes on the shelves. He couldn't help but grin at the wide-eyed boy's joy from seeing so many books in one place that wasn't a public library. Even so, there were involuntary yawns.
"This book on et'quette," Little Danny noticed. "What et'quette?"
"The word, Little Danny, is etiquette. It means to do things in a certain, accepted way in society. That volume is on how a man should behave."
"They have rules 'bout that?"
"Many," Preston affirmed.
Preston let out a smile as he considered his response. He actually took the book from the child and opened it to a specific page.
"My father made me read this every night," Preston informed the curious youngster. "Good manners, manners of a southern gentlemen, are very important, *very* important."
"I know what manners are," Little Danny replied. "No put elbows on table. Cover mouth when coughing. Let girls go first."
"Very good, Little Danny, but there's so much when you're raised in the south," Preston put forward. "See here," he said, reviewing the list on the page. "We must always have reverence for God and for women. Integrity is highly valued, as is chivalry. The woman is special. She is due the utmost respect and courtesy." With Little Danny listening to every word, the man continued, "Men must be a good provider and protect his woman and his family. He must value tradition and heritage. Do you understand that?"
Little Danny nodded and replied, "Respect your elders."
"Close enough," Preston mused. "A southern gentlemen behaves ethically and responsibly. What does that mean?"
"No tell lies." The boy thought for a few seconds and added, "Do right thing."
After a nod, Preston spoke, "He must be warm, show kindness at all times, and be charming. Let me say, young sir, that you are a most adorable little boy."
The middle Munchkin smiled and then he understood. He laughed.
"You charming me, Preston."
Preston laughed as he admitted, "You're right. You are a very smart little boy." He looked at Little Danny and with some fondness concluded, "Most of all, a southern gentlemen has a servant's heart. I believe you and your family would make good southerners."
Little Danny was happy to learn about how men should behave, at least in the south, but he couldn't stop the yawns from coming.
Preston picked him up and carried him out of the library. By the time he reached the parlor, the boy was asleep.
"Put him here, on the other side of his brother," MariBelle suggested. "Cover him with your jacket. I'll get another blanket."
Preston eagerly removed his jacket, happy to let it give the child warmth. After all, he had a servant's heart.
MariBelle handed her husband a blanket for Little Danny and then headed to the kitchen where Aislinn was helping one of the maids with the dishes. The little girl absolutely insisted on helping with the cleanup after having such a wonderful lunch. Katie accompanied her since she didn't know the maids at all. She did have a sense that the Abbots were good people, so her instincts told her to stick with Aislinn while the other two Munchkins were with Preston and his wife.
Out of mere curiosity, Aislinn inquired, "MariBelle, what did slaves get to eat?"
The woman sat down on a chair in the kitchen and answered, "I'm afraid it wasn't our delicious fried chicken." She elaborated, "According to the journals left by my ancestors, they were given food rations once a week for things like corn meal and molasses."
"What about meat?"
"Sometimes, for special occasions, but not very often," MariBelle lamented. "Pork was given to them most often as my family have never enjoyed the pork taste much." She paused as she reflected on the words in the many journals she had from those who came before her. "Sometimes, slaves were allowed to grow a garden where they could plant their own greens and potatoes." She sighed. "There were times when the family gave them produce. They also made sure they had flour."
"That's not a lot, is it?"
"No, but it was the acceptable thing at the time." MariBelle recalled more and shared with the little girl. "Sometimes, the slaves were allowed to hunt, but only small critters: squirrels and opossums. I recall one more thing."
"There were harsh times on the plantation some years. One of the MariBelles wrote that they had little to give the slaves one season. All they had was the feed for the pigs."
"The slaves ate pig food?"
"That was the case, Aislinn. We should be thankful we haven't had to endure such indignity and we must find peace with the actions of our ancestors as we cannot go back and we cannot alter the truth of yesterday."
"That's what Dad and Daddy say, too."
MariBelle witnessed a stifled yawn and could see the weariness in the girl's eyes.
"Come, Ash. It is time for a nap." MariBelle looked back. "Katie."
Obediently, Katie rose and followed the humans out of the kitchen.
A few days later, Daniel approached Bibi as she cataloged some of the bones discovered earlier in the morning.
"What's our status, Bibi?"
"Sporadic," the woman answered without hesitation. "Daniel, there's something odd here, but I can't put my finger on it."
"What bothers you?"
"It's not bothering me exactly; it's just curious." Bibi explained, "In Quads A, C, and D, the GPR has given us readings that make sense, but there's no logic or pattern to it that I can detect in Quad B. We get human bones from one grid, animals in the next one. It doesn't appear to be a mass grave, but the precise location of where we're finding bones is not normal. I just don't understand."
Daniel nodded, but didn't have a response to the issue, though he had wondered about that himself.
"How many grids are left?"
"Too many," Bibi answered. "Daniel, there are hundreds of slaves buried on these grounds."
"The Abbots have given us all the samples sent to them by descendants and we're processing those with the bones, but as you know, it takes a while to get DNA analysis even on an urgent basis."
"Well, you're doing a great job. Your hard work is appreciated." Daniel turned to leave, but he stopped and looked back. "Uh, by the way, Jack and I appreciate the time you're giving to Little Danny. He's fascinated by bones now. You've taught him a lot."
"It's fun, Daniel. I wish I could give him even more time."
"There'll be more digs," the archaeologist put forth before leaving the area.
The viewing of "Roots" concluded on the twelfth of June, which was also a Saturday. Since the date was special to the Jackson-O’Neills, they again gave their staff the day off while they celebrated Bijou’s ninth birthday. Interestingly, though offered the chance to stay in Charleston overnight, most of the employees returned, eager to see the conclusion of the mini-series. For many, it was their first time to view the critically acclaimed drama. Indeed, most of them weren’t even born when “Roots” originally aired.
Sunday was also a non-work day. Jack and Daniel figured everyone needed a day to relax and process. They chose not to watch any of the DVDs on this day.
The next DVD, “Holiday Inn” was a lighthearted venture shown on Monday night. The musical was pleasant and fun for those who watched. There was only one scene that was paused for discussion and that scene had Bing Crosby and his co-star perform a number in black face, meaning they covered their faces and hands in black. In today’s world, the scene was so controversial that many networks removed the scene when airing the movie. The issue was debated for several minutes before the ‘play’ button was hit again.
Next up was “Glory.” This was a tough choice, and Daniel wasn’t eager for their six youngest children to see it. The message was important. It was a true story, and the action was close to the reality of what really happened. However, the subject matter was more appropriate for adults.
“Danny, it’s a story they can’t get anywhere else except in words. These guys were fighting for the Union during the Civil War and they couldn’t get shoes, for crying out loud. They were taunted and spit on, while wearing military uniforms. The kids need to see this.”
“I don’t disagree, but does it have to be now?”
“No, we could put it off for the next seven or ten years, but then they won’t fully learn the lesson. If you want, we’ll pass on it and go straight to Sidney, but, for what it’s worth, Love, I think it’s a mistake.”
Daniel relented and decided to let the movie be played. There was a lot to be learned from it and it was one of the most respectful films he’d seen.
The action was paused several times during the two-hour film that told the story of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first all-black Union regiments to fight during the Civil War. Their leader was a white man, Robert Gould Shaw, who ultimately died along with many of his men while trying to overtake Fort Wagner from the Confederates. While it was a sad ending, it brought forth to the brood the dedication and strength of the African-American soldiers and while most of those characters in the film were fictional, they provided some needed perspective.
Tuesday was the final film night when “Lilies of the Field” was shown. Jack’s purpose here was simply to show how people are people, a point he made a few times. The story revolved around a drifter, an African-American, portrayed by esteemed actor, Sidney Poitier. Mother Marla and four other nuns hired the man to build a chapel, something he initially rebelled against. The strong-willed leader was from Germany and as the story proceeded, she butted heads with the drifter, but then they formed a bond that was endearing. The German sisters were simply people in need of a person and that person was Poitier's character. The color of their skin was not a part of the movie. All were who they were and their conflicts had nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Jonny was happy.
“People are people,” the Munchkin declared firmly when the film watching ended. "They help each other, sing t'gether, sometimes fight, too, but they friends."
"Amen," Jack responded softly.
Jack and Daniel took another walk, going away from the tent area. This time, though, they weren’t planning on a fight. They just wanted to take a walk.
“It worked, Jack. I think they do understand,” Daniel opined. “But I’m not sure they know how to keep yesterday in the past.”
“We’ll work on it.”
“They seem sad to me.”
“They are, but they’ll be happy again,” Jack claimed. “They’re still processing what they’ve learned. Regrets?”
“No, not really,” Daniel sighed, pleased when his soulmate put his arm around him.
The next day, Wednesday, was normal with the archaeologists doing their best to excavate as many bones as they could so an attempt could be made at identifying them. Every bone was meticulously labeled with the grid number from which it was unearthed. To speed up the process in order to get to as many grids as possible, sometimes only a single bone was removed from a specific grave.
In the afternoon, Daniel and Preston were talking near the supply tent.
"We can leave one team for another two weeks," Daniel advised, "but we have prior commitments."
Preston nodded in understanding at the news that J-O Enterprises would be stopping the excavations soon.
"We can come back later," Daniel offered. "I have to verify the calendar, but in late August or early September, I'm sure we can have at least two teams return."
"You and your family?"
"Probably not," Daniel admitted. "We do have family commitments and plans."
"Of course, but you are always welcome," the southern gentlemen responded.
Over in the bone tent, as it was now called from the abundance of bones now present, Bibi was letting Little Danny observe her examinations. She didn't have time to teach him much on this day as the backlog had increased over the past few days, but as long as he stayed out of her way, she was happy to let him view her actions.
Dora King entered the work area and announced, "Bibi, here's the latest batch of DNA results."
"Thanks, Dora," Bibi spoke before speaking up another bone. She let out a huge sigh and looked over at the package. "I really should let it sit. We are so behind now."
Little Danny simply smiled, not wanting to distract the bones expert.
"I can't wait," Bibi conceded, putting down the bone she'd just picked up and walking over to where the package was located. She unsealed it and pulled out a clump of papers. She skimmed each report. "Nothing. Nothing. Nope. Nothing. Noth... oh my gosh. We have a match!" she exclaimed. "Dora!"
Little Danny gasped and ran out of the tent. He ran as fast as his little feet would allow, his eyes searching for his parents. Then he saw Daniel.
"Daddy! Daddy!" the Munchkin shouted urgently.
The child literally leaped into his father's arms.
"Hey, what's so exciting?"
"We found him! We found him, Daddy!"
"I don't know, but we found him."
Suddenly, Daniel understood. With one brief look at Preston, he began a sprint to the bones tent, careful to keep his son secure as he ran.
"Bibi?" the archaeologist called out.
Excitedly, Bibi said, "Daniel, our first match. Look."
The woman handed her boss the analysis that clearly showed a match to one of the descendants.
"Did you use a skull?" the archaeologist inquired.
"No, in this case, it was a femur bone that was excavated," Bibi reported. She turned to the two other workers who were inside the tent. "Dora, Jerome, we need to see if the pelvis and skull are in tact. Find Karissa and ask her to start right away."
"She's in our tent," Daniel noted. "Dora, would you mind staying with the twins while Karissa works on this?"
"Not at all," the dance hopeful replied, happy to assist wherever and however she was needed.
Daniel was almost too nervous to read the report and had a need to hear some of the information from the project leader.
"Africa," Bibi answered, following it up with a nod and a smile. "This isn't an animal, and it's definitely not a member of the family. We know that. Daniel, this is a slave."
"Name," Daniel requested while still reviewing the positive report and also balancing his curious namesake with his left arm.
Bibi pulled out her records and leaned over Daniel's shoulder to get the anonymous ID number that was assigned to the DNA submission. She then looked up the ID.
"Galinda ..." oh, kinda weird," Bibi opined. "Graves. The match was to Galinda Graves."
"I remember her," Preston interjected, having followed Daniel and Little Danny to the work area. "She was so eager to know if her ancestors were buried here for sure. She spoke with great passion about needing to know her heritage."
"We'll need to contact her right away," Daniel told his host.
"I will do so," Preston agreed.
"In the meantime, Bibi, I'd like you to work with Karissa on lifting the pelvis and the skull, if they're present in the grave."
"I'll get on it right away."
"Daddy, can I go tell Dad?"
"Sure," Daniel agreed, finally putting his son down and watching him run out of the tent in search of his dad. "This is, uh, incredible. I only wish we knew who he was."
"May I see the grave?" Preston asked. "I may be able to find the answer for us."
Preston looked around the large meadow, observing the many gravesites marked as grids by the archaeologists working on the job. He sighed in contemplation of the lives lost through the harshness of slavery.
"I walked passed what you call Quad D this morning. There were some very small graves there."
"Children, Preston," Bibi stated.
"Too many of them," the plantation owner spoke softly.
"Do you have any way of identifying this man?" Daniel inquired, not wanting to get distracted from the reason for having come to Quad B.
"No marker." Preston shook his head. "The record books have many symbols we don't understand," he confided. "When slavery ended, the need to explain the records to offspring ended. There were some stories told, but nothing that I know that would help tell us who he is."
"Bibi, how old is the bone we tested?" Daniel asked as an idea occurred to him.
"The age of the bone?" Preston echoed as all of a sudden he cocked his head, comprehending the possibilities if the answer to the query proved helpful. "Yes, how old?"
"Very," Bibi responded. "I'd estimate it to be roughly two- to three-hundred years old, give or take another seventy years." She sighed, "It's only an estimate and unless we examine the skull and other bones more closely, that's the best I can determine right now."
"He was one of the first then," Preston surmised. "Maybe I can find something."
David, who simply decided to follow his daddy upon observing some excitement near the bones tent, was hanging back, listening and learning, but he felt something needed to be said.
"Excuse me," the boy spoke quietly.
"What is it, David?" Daniel asked.
"Everyone is calling the person buried here 'him'. Do we know it's a him? Could it be a her?"
Daniel and Bibi exchanged a look that said they both knew better. They'd just been caught slipping into an inappropriate and easy conclusion.
"Son, you're right. We don't know and we shouldn't be using the 'him' pronoun until we know for sure."
"Thank you for that reminder, David," Bibi added.
Preston returned to the mansion, not only to review the record books and tell his wife about the good news of a match, but to contact Galinda Graves. He recalled the woman, who resided in Texas, arrived at the Belle of the South twenty years earlier in search of her ancestors. He remembered her as being well dressed, polite, and saddened that the Abbots were unable to provide any details about her family. The southern gentleman hoped he could find something in the record books that would actually identify the slave and thus provide Galinda with some detail about this man from the past.
"Karissa," Bibi called out as she approached. "How does it look?"
"I found the pelvis and it's in tact," the archaeologist reported.
"What can you observe?"
"Well, the pelvic inlet looks small and it's not as round as a female's tends to be."
"What about the sacrum? Is it there?"
"Yes," Karissa replied with a nod. "I haven't examined it yet. Give me a minute."
Bibi kneeled, ultimately sitting on her knees so she could watch her co-worker's movements.
"That's definitely interior," Bibi opined.
"I agree." Karissa continued her careful review of the pelvis. "Ischial spines are ... yes, they're medial. Sub-pubic angle is ... narrow. It's definitely narrow."
"Looks like this is a man after all."
"Should I continue?"
"No, let's talk to Jack and Daniel first; bring them up to date. We can be confident this is a man. We'll try to excavate the skull later to confirm," Bibi advised.
Sometime after 3 p.m., Jack, Daniel, Bibi, a few other employees, David, and the Munchkins were at the front of the meadow where the first gravesites were located. They were discussing the unusual positions of the graves discovered thus far.
"Daniel, Quad C is exactly what we expected to find," the project leader stated. "It's a fairly small section, but there are ten rows of graves, eight sites in each row."
"Eighty," Jack lamented.
"Yes," Bibi affirmed. "A graveyard, like we'd expect to see."
"But Quad B is the exact opposite," Daniel sighed. "A grave here, one over there, and another down there. It's nonsensical."
"Daddy, shouldn't there be a pattern for where the slaves were buried?" David inquired.
"That's what we're saying, Son. We can't make sense of the locations where we've verified human remains," Daniel replied. He looked at the ten-year-old and added, "But you're right. There has to be a pattern. We just aren't seeing it."
As others continued to discuss the situation, Daniel simply stared out into the distance, his mind trying to make sense of the reality he knew.
At that point, Preston and MariBelle joined their guests. In Preston's hands was a book of records.
"Jack, Daniel, Bibi," the man began. "If the bone is as old as you said, the slave must be one of those here, in this book."
"How is that going to help us?"
"I'm sorry," Preston responded, his enthusiasm suddenly drained from his body.
"It's something," Daniel interjected while still looking over the green meadow that was now full of unearthed dirt from the grids being excavated.
"We're so close," MariBelle sighed, mostly in support of her disappointed husband.
"We can get there," Daniel insisted, turning to face the woman and smiling.
Daniel's mouth opened a bit and he blinked several times. Seeing this, Jack walked forward three steps to stare at his Love.
"Daniel? What are you thinking?"
"It can't be. It wouldn't make sense," the archaeologist mumbled to himself.
"Care to share?" a curious Jack prodded.
Daniel walked away, moving to the center of the meadow being inspected. His eyes followed the known graves. He looked over to his left where a quarter mile away was one of the mass gravesites where multiple slaves were buried together after dying from an unknown disease.
"Daniel?" Jack called out again.
The younger man turned around and walked over to MariBelle. He stared intently at the object around her neck.
"Daniel, what is it?" MariBelle queried.
"That's a lovely amulet."
MariBelle instinctively raised her hand to touch the jewelry and responded, "Thank you. It's been in the family for generations." She paused for only a second before confiding, "I normally don't wear it unless there's a special occasion, but I was showing it to Jennifer and Chenoa earlier when they joined us for brunch."
"So, it's a family heirloom," Daniel spoke.
The item was pure silver and in the shape of the cross.
"Do you know how old it is?"
"It came with the Waldens from the old world," MariBelle reported. "The very first MariBelle was given it by her father to protect her from danger and disease."
"And evil," Daniel whispered. "So, your family was religious."
"Very, according to the journals. I don't believe the wearing of the cross was all that popular here back then, but Father Walden, the original, was very religious and when they came here, he vowed to do everything in his power to keep evil from harming his family. He acquired the amulet and insisted she wear it."
"May I?" Daniel asked, reaching out to take a closer look at the item.
"Surely," MariBelle permitted, removing her hand and allowing the archaeologist to examine the front and back of the necklace.
"This is, uh, St. Benedict's, isn't it?"
"Danny, where is this going?" Jack asked as his frustration grew. "This is all interesting, but why do we care about a necklace?"
"An amulet," the scientist corrected, continuing, "and one that has St. Benedict's blessing on it. That, uh, supposedly protected the wearer from things like, uh, poisoning, demons, and witchcraft while assuring them they'd have healthy children."
"It's amazing what you know," Preston interjected.
"Try living with his brain for fifteen years," the silver-haired man quipped.
"Fourteen, if you just mean from when we met," Daniel corrected.
"Technicalities," Jack whined.
"MariBelle, did the journals talk at all about the religion of the slaves, or, uh, were they allowed to practice their beliefs on the plantation?"
"There is mention of it in a few of the journals," the woman confirmed. "The slaves were not permitted to maintain their African symbols, like, oh, they loved to drum, I remember reading. That frightened many slave owners."
"Afraid of drums?" Jonny questioned. "Drums good."
"He's a drummer," Jack informed the plantation owners, who both smiled in acknowledgment.
"They sang, in their own language," MariBelle continued. "That, too, made whites scared. They didn't understand it and overseers believed the slaves were communicating in order to escape."
"Like in 'Roots'," Aislinn recalled.
"Exactly," Daniel agreed. "Kunta Kinte was listening for the drums to tell him when he should flee."
"But he stayed for his wife and daughter," Little Danny reminded.
"I imagine that happened in real life, too," Daniel replied. "Africans had their own beliefs. We know they believed in a higher power, a god, who created this existence, but then left them to their own devices. They prayed, as it were, to an intermediary, or something."
"Remember when Kunta held up Kizzy?" David asked.
"He said, 'Behold the only thing greater than yourself," Little Danny replied, his youthful speech replaced by his photographic memory which perfectly recalled the poignant moment in the mini-series.
"Omoro said it, too, when Kunta was born," Aislinn put forth.
"He did," Jack confirmed. "It was part of their naming ritual."
"So, they had religion and when they came here, they weren't allowed to practice it. What about Christianity?" Daniel asked, more to himself than any of the others. "They, uh ... I read something about this once, but it was a long, long time ago."
"Daniel, Jasmine, one the non-MariBelle wives, wrote that she was deathly afraid that the slaves would somehow grow stronger if they could meet in a church," Mrs. Abbot informed.
"Yes," Daniel agreed. "Any part of their traditions, any chance of them being able to gain unity, to maybe even plan an extensive escape, would frighten white people." He paused. "Preston, were any of the slaves from Ethiopia?"
"I do not believe so."
"Ethiopians practiced Christianity." He looked at the cross again and then he paced the expanse of meadow, walking back and forth a few times. "I wonder."
"Wonder what?" Jack groused, knowing his lover had something powerful going on in his mind and feeling totally upset at not having a clue of what that something was.
"MariBelle, one more question," Daniel said. "Were there any writings in the journals about slaves and Christianity and how your family felt about it?"
"One or two," the woman answered. "They were, as you said, frightened of the slaves for many reasons. One of the women mentioned a slave who saw the amulet, this very one." MariBelle clutched the religious item in her hand for a moment. "She said one of the house slaves asked her about it. They dared to reach out and touch it."
"I'm guessing that didn't go over very well," Jack opined.
"It did not," MariBelle noted. "The family at that time punished all of the slaves as a lesson never to touch the amulet or any part of a family member's person. Asking about religion was also forbidden. The house slave was immediately beaten and sold within days."
"So, there was anger among those slaves?" Daniel put forward.
"The early ones, yes."
Daniel again stared out at the meadow and then back at the amulet.
"Daniel, for crying out loud!"
"They're crosses, Jack," Daniel finally revealed. "Just look at the graves like a picture of a cross. There's one here, the first one, and another over there."
"Why would they be buried in the shape of a cross?" an uncertain Jack asked. "Isn't it unusual to have some graves east-west and others north-south?"
"Very, especially when they are in one spot like this. Don't you see? Slaves were buried by slaves," Daniel stated, looking over at the Abbots for verification and receiving a nod from Preston in the affirmative. "Jack, they were getting back at their masters the only way they knew how; the only way they could do it and not be beaten and sold themselves."
Jack responded with some forced, "Are you saying these dead slaves are buried in a cross pattern as one great big FU to the Waldens?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Wait," Preston called out as something occurred to him. "The grave belonging to Galinda's ancestor is there, correct?"
The gentlemen walked to where he was sure the grave in question was and received confirmation from Bibi that he was correct. Everyone followed Preston, curious about his thoughts.
"Dear, what are you thinking?" the wife inquired politely.
"MariBelle, the slaves weren't always prevented from practicing our religion," Preston reminded. "The missionaries came and the family stance loosened."
"You're right, Pres, it did," MariBelle recalled.
"What are you saying?" Daniel asked eagerly.
"Daniel, if these graves are as old as Bibi believes, these are the first slaves from those early years to die. This FU as Jack called it ..."
"Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have said that," Jack admitted.
"It was what it was, Jack," Preston returned. "This first book is of those first slaves."
"But there aren't any markers," David reminded, remembering the man's words from earlier in the conversation.
"That is true, David, but there are symbols."
Preston opened the book and for the first, something stood out to him.
"Yes, definitely, yes," Preston muttered to himself.
"Do share, Dear," MariBelle requested.
"There is a box on many of the records and inside the box is a number," Preston stated.
"They numbered the graves," Little Danny suggested excitedly, sounding more like he were David's age than his own.
"A box?" Jack noted quizzically.
"Like a coffin," Daniel clarified.
"Yes, it is a rectangular box," Preston said. "Here is a box. It has 'twenty-four' written inside it."
"Twenty-four," Daniel repeated.
"How is that going to help us?" Bibi inquired.
"Wait here," Daniel instructed. He ran to the head of the meadow where the discussion first began. When he spoke, it was with a raised voice so all could hear. "Crosses. This is the first one. It sticks out in front of all the rest." He began walking down the meadow while counting at every marked grid. "One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six." He looked around. "Okay, there's a gap, so six graves on the vertical. He backtracked to reach the graves on that ran across the longer line. Their findings were making more sense to him when he realized some of the graves were in a horizontal position, literally crossing between the third and forth graves he just counted. "Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten." He paused again. "Six down, four across."
"Yeah, but where to next?" Jack called out.
"There," Daniel responded as he pointed. "This cross starts higher up than the one on the other side of it." Again, the archaeologist counted. "Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen." As he did before, he then counted the cross graves. "Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty." He licked his lips as he moved to the start of the third obvious cross and began to count. "Twenty-One. Twenty-Two."
The anticipation was palpable. Jack and the others were starting to exchange glances at what was happening. They couldn't believe it, but their excitement was growing by the count.
"Twenty-Three." Daniel looked up and bowed his head for a moment. He took a few steps forward and stood right in front of his husband. "Twenty-four."
"Wow," David expressed quietly.
"This is grave twenty-four," Daniel announced.
Preston's eyes grew wide as he gulped and informed, "This is the first one."
"The first one?" Jack asked.
"The first slave bought by the Waldens," Preston clarified. "He is the first record."
"What can you tell us about him?" Bibi asked eagerly, now knowing that Galinda's match to her ancestor went back some fourteen generations.
Preston reviewed the entry in the book, but he was a combination of excited and nervous, so he had to take some deep breaths to regain his normal southern calm and grace.
"They called him Ben," Preston stated. He shook his head from his interpretation of both what was written and the symbols used to denote actions. "It looks like he made at least two escape attempts. He was beaten multiple times."
"Maybe that's what killed him," David offered.
"Too early to tell yet," Daniel responded.
"His African name is here," Preston advised. "His name was Kunto, a male, age twenty-five when purchased."
"Kunto," Daniel said softly. “Third child,” he added.
"Huh?" Aislinn asked, not understanding what her daddy was saying.
"In African, Kunto means third child, so this man was more than likely, the third born to his parents," Daniel explained. “It’s actually Akan. He was probably born on the Ivory Coast in West Africa; possibly Ghana.”
"We have records of the ship's manifests inside the house," Preston noted. "I can see if there is more information there, possibly where Kunto was ... taken."
"Captured," Jonny interjected, having learned his lesson of reality after his Mammy remark to his father earlier in the job.
"Preston, did you have a chance to contact Galinda Graves?"
"I left a message," was the response.
With a bob of his head, Daniel shrugged and suggested, "Everyone, let's get back to work. Bibi, keep this grave secure, please."
Two days later, a woman parked her rental vehicle in front of the mansion and stepped out. Preston opened the door and, even after two decades, recognized Galinda Graves.
"Miss Graves, welcome, again," Preston greeted as he reached out and kissed her hand.
"You are a charming man, Mister Abbot," the visitor opined with a smile.
"My wife is inside. Would you like to come in and refresh yourself? We have tea and biscuits prepared."
"You're very kind, but I really want to see my many-times-over great grandfather."
"Of course," Preston replied. "It is a long walk from the house."
"I came prepared," Galinda responded, opening up a tote bag she had over her shoulder.
The woman quickly removed her high heels and replaced them with a pair of dingy flats.
"I wear these in my garden," Galinda explained.
The orange shoes stood out from the black silk shirt and black slacks she wore. Her hair was in braids, all neatly done. She also wore a long gold locket that went almost to her waist.
Galinda, Preston, various J-O Enterprise's employees, and the Munchkins were at Kunto's grave. Galinda was filled in on the known details of her ancestor and was also told that the family might have access to more records. If they learned anything new, they promised to contact her.
"On behalf of the Walden family, Miss Graves, I wish to express my deep apologies for what was inappropriately referred to as South Carolina's 'peculiar institution'." Preston paused, his regret obvious to all. "We take responsibility for the shame of our family."
“No need," Galinda responded. "I want to say it was different times, Mister Abbot, but that would be too easy. He was a slave to men; we’re still slaves, to the government, to the economy, to bigots.”
No one spoke for a full minute, each person reflecting on the truth of Galinda's statement. It was a sad state of affairs for America, but the adults within hearing distance knew it was accurate.
"You are sure this is him," Galinda wondered to the employees.
Bibi answered, "Yes. I ran an analysis on some of the other bones and I believe they are the remains of Kunto."
"Is this something more you need to tell me?" Galinda asked when she observed a hesitation in the project leader.
"The skull was smashed. It's a mass of bone fragments. Several teeth are missing. Today, a forensics expert would probably call it the result of forced blunt trauma to the head."
"He was beaten to death," Galinda surmised.
"I believe that is so," Preston interjected. "I found more information on Kunto in one of our books and MariBelle discovered a passage in one of the family journals that apparently referenced the demise of Kunto."
"What is it?" Little Danny asked.
"Kunto married a slave who was bought some years after his purchase. Her name was Lily."
"Consider the lilies," Jack heard himself say, though he could only shrug when the others looked at him curiously. ~It's in the Bible,~ he thought. ~And in the movie.~
Preston informed, "They had a child. Some years later, Lily and the child were sold."
"Gawd," Daniel sighed in disdain of the entire slavery concept.
"He probably tried to get to them," Galinda suggested.
"And they caught him and beat him," David elaborated.
"The last escape attempt is not dated in the records," Preston conceded. "However, the date Lily and the child were sold are." He took a breath. "Kunto's date of death is just two days later."
"It's so hard," Galinda whispered as her eyes moistened. "He was ripped away from his home, forced to come to a strange world, and yet he tried to build a new life for himself, a home with a family, and then it was ripped away all over again. Where's the justice in that?"
"There is none, Miss Graves," Preston admitted, sounding perhaps as vulnerable as he had ever been in his lifetime.
"I am grateful for your actions, Mister Abbot. I know this memorial you want to build will be of some help to others like me, but I don’t believe this is where Kunto would want to rest for eternity. For him, this was a place of darkness."
Galinda looked over at Jack and Daniel and advised, "I want to take him home with me. Can you see to that?"
"We can," Jack assured.
"We'll need a day to properly remove all of the remains," Daniel told the female.
"Would you all please give me a moment to be alone with him?"
"Certainly," Bibi answered for the group.
The group walked up to the head of the meadow near the beginning of the first cross and waited. They watched Galinda drop to her knees by the grave. She appeared to be talking, but they couldn't hear her words.
Daniel took his eyes off the visitor and focused on the job leader.
"Bibi, tomorrow, I want you and Karissa to handle the full excavation."
"I understand, but we're so behind."
"Bibi, right now, we're going to give Kunto the respect that he never received in America, but deserves to have."
"Don't speed through and make sure this process goes as easily as possible for Miss Graves."
The next day was a solemn one at the project site for those working in Quad B where the remains of Kunto were in the process of being recovered. As instructed by their boss, Bibi and Karissa were exclusively excavating the bones.
Bone by bone, and sometimes fragment by fragment, each recovered body part was sealed and labeled.
Jack approached his husband, having finished up his duties in Quad A, which was one of the two discovered mass burial sites.
"Hey," Daniel responded. "Uh, what do you think?"
"I think you're right about the mass graves," Jack answered.
"So, we leave them until we come back."
"We don't have time to do ..." Jack paused. "I was about to say we don't have time to do the dead justice, but that doesn't seem like the right word to use now."
"I know what you mean," the archaeologist returned. "I'll talk to Preston. Uh, are you in agreement about leaving one team to maybe do a little more before packing up?"
"Whatever you think, Danny."
"Okay, we'll do that."
At that moment, Jack looked around and noticed the triplets sitting on the ground near Kunto's grave. From left to right, it was Aislinn, Little Danny, and Jonny, and the three were holding hands while their heads were bowed. They weren't making a sound.
"Danny?" Jack asked, motioning with his hand towards the Munchkins.
"I guess you could say they're paying their respects," Daniel responded. "They wanted to be here and I told them they could as long as they stayed out of the way. They haven't moved an inch."
"Daniel," Bibi called out from inside the grid where she was working.
Both Jack and Daniel approached their employee.
"The skull is a massive mess, worse than our initial review indicated," Bibi advised. "What this poor man must have gone through before he died ..."
Daniel just nodded at the incomplete sentence. No one needed the woman to say another word.
"We're ready to close it up," Karissa stated. "We'll need a little help."
The statement surrounded carrying the remains to the bone tent where they could be placed in the proper transport container. Galinda was returning to her home by airplane so certain protocols had to be in place so she could take the remains of Kunto with her.
Having placed the skull fragments into a plastic bag, Bibi was about to hand the bag over to Karissa, who just stepped out of the grid, but then she noticed the blue eyes staring at her. It was Little Danny and he was asking to help. Nothing was spoken verbally, but the boy's demeanor and compassionate expression made it very clear what he was hoping for.
Softly, Bibi called out, "Daniel?"
The calling of her boss's name was a request for his permission to follow her heart.
Daniel glanced over at his namesake, studied his expression, and finally nodded his approval.
Bibi turned to more directly face the triplet as she spoke, "Little Danny."
The child stood and walked to the side of the grid. He felt his daddy standing at his side, prepared to assist and prevent an accident.
Carefully, Little Danny took possession of what remained of Kunto's skull. He was immediately joined by Jonny and Aislinn, one standing on either side of him. Together, they walked slowly and deliberately towards the bone tent. It was a silent procession with the Munchkins leading the way, their parents directly behind them, and other workers following as well. The processional was done in total silence with nary a sound until the bones tent was reached and Little Danny sought direction on where to place the skull.
At that point, the adults continued their work and the children were told to join their siblings in the family tent. Little Danny led the way out of the tent, with Jonny trailing him by a foot. Aislinn was the last of the trio to exit the tent and as she did so, she heard a noise. Actually, she heard two unique sounds. First, there was a drum and then there was speech of some sort. She didn't understand it or know what it was. She looked around, clueless about the origin of the sound.
"Jonny, you hear that?"
"Loud sound. Drum."
"No drums here, Ash," the oldest of the trio insisted as he continued walking.
Aislinn sighed, positive she'd heard something, but uncertain what it was for sure or who made it. She shrugged and ran to catch up with her brothers.
It was the summer solstice, the twenty-first day of June, and early that morning, the Jackson-O'Neills said their goodbyes to the Abbots. Daniel reiterated that one team would be staying through the thirtieth of the month, but would be leaving after that to celebrate Independence Day before starting another project that was booked a year earlier. He assured the Abbots teams would return, probably in September, to continue the excavations. The dates needed to be confirmed and, unfortunately, the likelihood of the family returning was minimal.
Jack and Daniel made one more round of the work area, talking with Dora who would staying to assist this last work group. As they did so, their children wandered off towards the cross graves, as the location was now referred to by the employees.
When the parents discovered their children were missing, they knew where to look and quickly saw all eight of their kids surrounding the grave of Kunto, last name unknown.
"Bye bye," Ricky said.
"Bye Mis'r Kunto," Jenny added.
The twins didn't really understand much of the lure of this dead man, but they knew there was a man who was buried here. As they grew older, they would learn more about the events of the last several weeks in South Carolina. For now, they did all they knew to do: say goodbye.
David said nothing except to nod towards the head of the grave. He kept his emotions inside, trying his best to reconcile history and the great wrong that was done to an earnest people.
Jennifer held Chenoa in her arms as they said goodbye at the gravesite before walking over to join their parents, who now each had a twin in their arms. This left the Munchkins alone at Kunto's grave.
"Kunto, I sorry," Jonny said quietly. "No know Mammy was slave. I know now. Sla'ery bad. I sorry you slave. I sorry I not know more."
Jonny stood and walked to his family.
Little Danny sat on his knees besides the grave and looked downward as he said, "We messed up, Kunto. We, the people. We had no right. I'm sorry, too. Goodbye, Kunto."
With both of her fellow Munchkins with the rest of the family, only Aislinn remained. She stood at the foot of the grave and looked down as her brothers had also done.
"Kunto, I'll never forget you," the little girl spoke. "That's a Munchkin promise. We love you, Kunto. We never met really, but we love you anyway."
Suddenly, the loud bang of the drum was heard again. Aislinn spun around, seeking out the noise, but as before, there was nothing and there was no response to the sound from her family. The drumming slowed and became more quiet. The girl looked down and smiled.
Aislinn vowed, "We'll always 'member you, Kunto. Daddy says he hopes you're at peace now. Be at peace, Kunto. Goodbye."
With Aislinn's visit complete, the Jackson-O'Neills headed for home.
On the plane flight to Colorado Springs, Aislinn sat next to the middle Munchkin.
"Little Danny, you know funny sound?"
"What funny sound?"
"Like singing, but not singing."
The young genius thought for a moment and then returned, "You mean chant?"
"What's a chant?"
"It's ... rhythm: a beat. People do it together, like singing, but it's not singing," Little Danny tried to explain. "It like song with one note and ev'one sing same note." He added, "Sometimes, it very loud."
Aislinn considered her brother's definition.
The youngest Munchkin sat back in her seat as she considered if that was what she heard by Kunto's grave: a chant and a drum.
Back in Colorado Springs, Jack and Daniel were dealing with some very sad and despondent children. The twins really didn't know why they were sad, but their siblings were sad, so they were, too. The sadness was deepened by a quick homeschooling assignment that the parents hoped would actually help the kids because learning more about the old south and slavery would increase their awareness. That was the goal anyway as the family gathered on this Wednesday morning.
"This isn't working out very well," Daniel opined quietly to his husband as they sat next to each other on the sofa in the recreation room.
"Ya think?" Jack snarked. "Danny, the next time I suggest that learning will create awareness, shoot me."
"I would, except for two things."
"What two things?"
"One. I don't believe in violence. Two. You're right. We just didn't anticipate the children's depressions would get worse from studying history."
Jack nodded and awaited the next oration. Silently, he wondered if he and his lover should have stopped the assignments before even reaching this point. The day before, the two had conducted a brief computer review, something they did from time to time, to make sure the kids weren't going to inappropriate websites or making contact with strangers. During the review, they realized that all of the children were using websites they hadn't been given to study. These sites were much more detailed about slavery.
"Do you think we should say something?" Jack had asked his soulmate.
"Why?" Daniel had responded. "I mean, they've already done it, Jack, and I'm not sure we should interfere with it anyway.
Ultimately, the parents chose to say nothing about the children's use of the internet. Now, though, Jack, at least, was second guessing that decision.
Jennifer had been the first of the children to talk and her short report was all about how it must have felt to have been torn away from family. She made it personal, using the experience of the Mouseketeers and how close they came to being separated before Jack and Daniel adopted them.
David had followed his birth sister, sticking to his topic of presidential responsibility and why society chooses not to think so much about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others, who owned slaves and failed to free them, even while professing that slavery was wrong.
Little Danny was up next, bringing forth new information received in email from Preston Abbot. The Munchkin got the information from his dad. In the email, Preston relayed that Kunto was not considered a “number one man” for auction because he was older. Apparently, boys between the ages of fourteen and eighteen were the most sought after. He was on the edge of that, though. Preston found a notation that indicated Kunto was of very dark skin which made many bid on him. Whites in the south believed darker skinned Africans were stronger than anyone else.
The middle Munchkin also sighed in a low voice, "The Waldens paid five-hundred-eighty dollars for Kunto in 1675. That's like fifty-three thousand dollars today and I don't even know how much that is."
Chenoa's report talked about Native Americans being the first slaves to South Carolinians.
"But they ran away a lot. See, Native American Indians knew the land 'cause this was their home before we came and stole it from them."
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, one that said things were going from bad to worse.
The little dove concluded her comments by explaining, "The Indians could run away, and white people couldn't find them because this was their land and they knew where to hide. The white people started buying Africans 'cause they were bigger and stronger and even if the black slaves ran away, the white people could find them."
Following Chenoa was Jonny, the oldest of the Munchkins and the one who set off the entire slavery in the south discussion with his inadvertent reference about everyone needing a Mammy. He surprised everyone by holding up a food item, one that was a staple in the Jackson-O'Neill household.
"This is Aunt Jemima. She looks like a Mammy, but she not. She an actress who played Aunt Jemima." Jonny pulled out a paper that was in his pocket. He unfolded it and showed a picture. "She an Aunt Jemima, too." He looked over at Jennifer, who pulled her phone out of her pocket. She turned it on and found the page she knew her little brother was after. "Thanks," Jonny spoke as he took the phone and held it up so everyone could see the image on the phone. "She first Aunt Jemima, only she not actress. She was a slave, a real slave, like Kunto."
"How'd he learn that?" Daniel asked his lover quietly.
"I may have it mentioned in a conversation during the dig."
"Her name was Nancy Green. She was born a slave. She got married and had kids, but no know what hap'ened them," Jonny eked out somewhat emotionally. "MariBelle said Nancy was prob'ly house servant. Anyway, she took job being Aunt Jemima Mammy for twenty years. I no eat pancakes or waffles anymore without remembering Mammy, the character, and Kunto, the slave."
Finally, Aislinn stood in front of her family to give her report, only she said nothing for three minutes.
"Princess?" Jack finally prompted.
"A slave's life: get up in the morning before the sun rises. Eat beans for breakfast. Start working in the field. Endure the heat of the sun and the pounding of the rain. Maybe eat pig's feed for lunch. Sweat all day. Watch the sun go down from the fields where work is still being done. Finally, go to a run-down shack for shelter. Eat pork or bread for dinner. Go to sleep and do it all over again tomorrow. Remember," she spoke in a hushed tone. "don't speak in your own language, no singing, don't play the drums." She added, "Don't think about home. Don't forget your white name. Forget about the chains that brought you here. Do as told or be beaten, sold, or killed, like Kunto."
Wiping away her tears, Aislinn walked over to a floor pillow and fell down on it. Jonny and Little Danny immediately put their arms around her, protecting her, and trying to make her feel better.
**Official disaster?** Jack questioned, this time mentally.
**Oh, well, uh ... yes,** Daniel agreed.
On this day, not even an offer of ice cream made the kids excited or elicited even the slightest smile.
The days in the Springs were getting warmer, reaching the mid-eighties on this day and forecasted to land in the nineties for at least the next couple of days. Thus, it was a good day for the children to enjoy the indoor pool. The monitors were turned on so Jack and Daniel could easily watch over their brood, but at the moment the parents were upstairs, content to leave Jennifer and David in charge of their children.
As they talked in the den, both men kept an eye on a portable monitor that showed them what was happening with the kids in the pool. Sadly, all they saw were lumps in plastic. The younger children were the stagnant lumps, their bodies secured inside plastic floaters, such as Little Danny and his green Kermit the Frog flotation device or Jenny inside her Brownie the Dinosaur floater. None of the children were moving. They were still in the water. Jennifer and David tried off and on to lure the kids into some pool play, but nothing worked.
"Suggestions?" Daniel asked from his office chair.
"You're asking me?" Jack spat as stood behind his husband.
"They haven't laughed in days," Daniel pointed out.
"Those reports were mental cruelty," Jack put forth. "Daniel, were we wrong?"
"About the reports?"
"About all of it," Jack responded in all sincerity. "Did I open up a can of worms that should have gone to the fish?"
"Maybe, but it had to happen sooner or later, Jack, and I'm sad for them right now, but they needed to learn." Daniel stood up, crossing his arms as he faced the other man. "Babe, our world is going to clash one of these days. Galinda said it. African-Americans in many ways are still slaves to our society. Have you ever thought about where we live?"
"What do you mean?"
"Jack, I love this neighborhood. You know I do, and you know how I feel about this house, especially when it was that small, cozy little country-like home."
"I know, Danny."
"The truth, my darling husband, is that this isn't exactly the most diverse neighborhood in Colorado." Daniel let out a breath and sighed as he reflected on prior years. "We've had a handful of African-American families move in, but they don't stay here long. It's not us; it's not the neighbors, not really, but it's just there's no heritage here. Who do their kids play with who understand their problems and celebrate their holidays?"
"When I bought this place, I only drove through the area once, and I wasn't paying attention to the neighbors," Jack confided. "I wanted privacy and that's what I saw here. For crying out loud, Daniel, I didn't even meet Mrs. V for weeks," he said, referring to their good neighbor, Mrs. Sophia Valissi.
"I'm not blaming you, Jack. I'm not blaming anyone. All I'm saying is that culture matters and we, meaning society, have not done a good job in our history of integrating cultures."
"You'll get no argument from me on that." Jack reviewed the monitor and growled at the sight of the water statues, which is how the brood looked to him. "What do we do, Danny? How do we solve the problem?"
"I have no idea," Daniel responded. "I do think we're lucky."
"I know we are, but which lucky are you talking about?" Jack inquired.
"Our children don't see color, Jack. You and grandpa proved that with that little stunt at the Mountain a while back."
"Are you still mad at me for that?"
"No, it wasn't your fault our children ended up in the middle of a debate they never should have been in at all." Daniel saw his lover start to respond, but he cut him off, saying, "My point is that when the children see another person, they see the person: tall, short, thin, not-so-thin, facial hair, scars, tattoos, whatever, but they don't see white, brown, black, yellow, or orange polka dots. They see people and that makes us very lucky."
"We need to keep them that way."
"I have a feeling Kunto's done it for us," Daniel suggested. "So, any ideas about them?" he asked, nodding over to the monitor that depicted the water statues in the same places where'd they begun the pool activity."
"Not a friggin' clue."
"Well, why don't we get them out of the pool and go to Plan B."
"What's Plan B?" Jack asked as he walked over to the monitor and picked it up.
"That's your department," Daniel replied with a grin as he walked out of the den.
"Some days, Danny ... some days."
The parents walked to the lower level of their home and were about to enter the pool area when they overheard the sound of Jennifer's voice. Curious, the two men backed away a couple of steps and opted to listen.
"Okay, guys, listen to me," Jennifer order. "You're all being silly."
"Not silly," Jonny negated with a frown.
"Hey, I feel as bad as you do about slavery and Kunto, but things were different hundreds of years ago. Okay, that doesn't make it right, but we can't change the past. Nothing, not one dang thing, that we do today will take away what happened to the slaves."
"So what do we do?" Aislinn sniffled.
"We make sure that how we live today honors all people regardless of their race or ethnicity. We live our lives in honor of Kunto and the thousands upon thousands like him. We do our best. We be our best and we make sure that everyone we deal with know how we feel. That doesn't mean we hit people over the head with a hammer with thoughts that slavery was a bad thing. Most people know that," Jennifer insisted. "Brood, honor Kunto, honor his people, but making sure slavery never happens again and that we are all treated the same is the solution, for us, anyway. When you grow up, pass the message on to your kids and others you come to love. That's how we get justice for Kunto, by letting those slaves be the last ones to ever be enslaved. Come on, guys. Kunto wouldn't want everyone being sourpusses because of him. He had a daughter. Do you think he'd want to see her so unhappy?"
"I wish we could find her," Little Danny whispered.
"Who knows, Little Danny, maybe someday someone will find her," Jennifer responded with a small smile.
The brood began to breathe a little lighter as they thought about Jennifer's words and how they should live their lives.
"Little Danny, what does justice mean?" Ricky asked.
Neither of the twins truly understood what was happening, but they were listening and learning.
"It mean a few things, Ricky. It mean punishing and rewarding; it mean living by the law. Mostly, it means doing what right."
"So right thing is being best selves," Aislinn expounded thoughtfully.
"And being honorable in our dealings," David noted. "We think about being honorable a lot around here because of Teal'c, but justice is doing the right and honorable thing. It's giving people, all people, what they have earned and what they deserve. It's morality."
"Kunto deserves our respect," Jennifer reiterated. "He was done a great wrong in his lifetime. We give him justice now by making sure slavery is never allowed again. We give him justice by treating all of his descendants and all of those who are a different color from us or speak a different language or who practice different religions and have unique customs equally. We are no better than anyone else on this planet. We honor Kunto by living that way."
The younger brood began to look at one another.
"People are people," Jonny declared yet again, only this time it was with a voice of strength, compassion, and awareness.
Seeing their brother smile, a weight was lifted from the shoulders of the brood. They regained their emotional freedom once Aislinn splashed Jonny and giggled. Jonny defiantly responded with a return splash. The pool fight was on and soon Jack and Daniel were relieved to see their children laughing for the first time in what seemed like an eternity.
"We make today better," Jonny vowed.
"Yeah," David agreed as he made sure Jenny was still secure in her dinosaur. "Nothing can change yesterday, but we can change today and tomorrow."
"Justice for Kunto!" Aislinn exclaimed loudly as the pool play increased in intensity.
"We'd better standby," Jack suggested.
"Agreed," Daniel replied as the two men headed for the pool to watch the fun.
The nightmare was over for the lovers. Their kids were back at play, the burden of a nasty past behind them, but not forgotten.
As time passed, more IDs of the dead buried at the Belle of the South were made and a handful of reunions occurred with modern day descendants of the slaves. Most left the dead on the plantation to receive a proper burial, but some followed Galinda's example and took their family home with them.
The Abbots made plans for the memorial to be built when the excavation was fully completed. Preston contacted a few historical societies and arranged for funding so more DNA testing could be done and some even contributed towards the memorial. The southern couple were thrilled when Jack and Daniel introduced them to Alex Dennison, who agreed to donate his time to help them plan an appropriate memorial.
As many slaves as possible were identified and given proper burials. Their African names were primary over their given slave names on the plaques placed at the head of the graves. Some plaques sadly could only identify the buried as an unknown male or female slave, but those found in Quad B, the cross graves, were all identified.
Inspired by his children, Jack now referred to the project at the Belle of the South as the Justice for Slaves operation. He used it in letters, emails, and phone calls to other archaeological firms as he slowly built a co-op of companies who agreed to work together to find as many slave graves as possible, conduct DNA testing, and provide proper graves with markers for the victims of a mass injustice.
The Abbots helped by talking with other plantation and farm owners. While many of the old southern mansions and estates no longer existed or were relegated to a much lesser size than they'd been during the slavery era, the land was owned by someone and on that land were graves.
Preston and MariBelle became advocates, convincing many in South Carolina to join Operation Justice for Slaves. Some were too embarrassed to participate and some still thought of slaves as property, their prejudice glaring and disgusting to most people, but many applauded the efforts. The Abbots were not the only plantation owners to have received visits from descendants seeking information on their enslaved ancestors, nor were they the only ones to have records of the era. Together, the group began a journey that could take decades, but it was one, as the children would avouch, of justice.
The day was at its close. After swimming, there was dinner, a more relaxed playtime, and story time when Daniel began reading a new story to the children.
It was called "Henry's Freedom Box" and it stirred the children's imaginations and prompted them to make a request.
"Dad, Daddy, can you buy us more books about the slaves?" Jonny requested.
"Please," Little Danny added.
"We can learn lots from books," Chenoa chimed with hope.
"I think we can do that," Jack responded. "What do you think, Daddy?"
"Oh, I'm sure we can find some very good books for all of you," Daniel agreed.
Not long thereafter, seven of the Jackson-O'Neill children were sound asleep, but Aislinn's eyes were still wide open. Katie was atop her chest, enjoying an ear rub as the youngest triplet thought about recent weeks. She looked over at Jenny and sighed,
~Jenny and Ricky no understand yet, but I'll teach them. I will.~
All of a sudden, Katie sat up, her ears flexed at the sound. Aislinn sat up, too, hearing the beating of the drum. There was that same strange singsong as well. She looked over at Jenny, who was motionless.
"That's Kunto, Katie. He's just saying goodnight," the Munchkin assured, pleased when Katie settled back down. Aislinn smiled. "Goodnight, Kunto."
The chant ceased and the sound of the drum ebbed as the little girl fell into a serene slumber, having learned much in the month of June, but feeling even more. She promised never to forget the African and he, apparently, wouldn't forget her, either.
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