In this segment. Theo goes to the town library to research the Louisiana Purchase for a class report. He learns something about himself but more important learns a secret about the family of school bully Bobby Danforth.
Also, this is where the story takes a twist, and as it did so I realized the name is THE STORY OF DEV.
The Danforth Memorial Public Library was in Danforth Memorial Park on Danforth Boulevard.
Lotta Danforths, Theo thought. Why ain’t the town called Danforth?
Turning off the hot Washington Street sidewalk into the shade of Danforth Boulevard, Theo guessed the park was built just to feature the library, centered in a stand of trees and flowering bushes. The building was red brick like Cherry Street School, and had a towering pillared marble façade.
He hopped up the five steps to the front door and grinned.
“Into the place of my enemies,” he said. He wanted it to sound brave, but it just sounded hollow.
A sign saying “Research” reminded Theo why he was there: To research the Louisiana Purchase. Mrs. Adams didn’t even say how long the report was supposed to be. Am I supposed to read it to the class? Do I need pictures? I shoulda paid more attention.
Instead, to avoid the assignment, he walked around the library, examining the old maps and photos hung on the walls. I’ve got more than a week left, I’m good.
The heads of people reading magazines turned as a squeal of laughter burst from the children’s room. Three older kids, maybe high school students, sat at computers, leaving three others unoccupied.
On the wall next to the computer room were eight photos, all marked “Danforth.”
The photos circled a bronze dedication plaque dated April 23, 1918 that featured a profile of a bearded man with a receding hairline. All those guys had long beards, he laughed. Maybe it’s all the same guy.
This guy was Sanford Danforth, president of Danforth Co., chairman of the library association, director of this, founder of that, honorary master of something else, and so on. The description filled about three inches of the plaque.
Theo stared at the face he guessed belonged to Bobby Danforth’s great grandfather, which he thought was interesting. But what was more interesting was a line near the bottom on the description that said Sanford Danforth took over the Danforth Co. in 1899 from his father Dmitri Yazov and turned the small woolen mill into a leading manufacturer of clothing.
“Look at that,” Theo whispered. He wondered what Bobby Danforth would do if he replied to the taunt of “Thee-awful-lee” with a call of “What’s up, Yazov?”
By the time he got there, the computer room was empty.
The first items Theo searched on the computer were Dmitri Yazov and Danforth Co.
The company’s website said he had immigrated to the U.S. in 1870 and opened a hat shop in Brooklyn. The business expanded and moved out of the city in 1917, built a new factory and took a new name, Danforth Co. They made uniforms and other clothing to the U.S. military.
After World War II the company sold the manufacturing business and operated clothing stores under various names across the county, largely in shopping malls. Robert J. Danforth was named president in 2006, and sold the retail stores, taking the company private in 2010, the site said.
Whatever private means, Theo thought.
Not a bad story, a nice story, but it doesn’t explain why Bobby Danforth is such a jerk.
Theo sat a moment and compared the history of the Danforths with the history of his own family, based in his grandfather’s stories.
Some Dubois fled Canada during the French and Indian War. Theo knew that was a war that had some meaning in upstate New York. They settled in Louisiana, founding with other families a couple towns. Over time they owned stores, farmed cotton and sugar, ran fishing boats, drilled for oil and raised catfish.
“And at some point, they changed their name. Look at that. Hey, Bobby Danforth, we ain’t that much different.”
And you’re not that much different than Dev.
And we’ve all been running from something.
He puffed his cheeks with air, released it, and with a no-avoiding-it sigh searched “Louisiana Purchase.” The screen was immediately filled with links to history websites, photos of maps, Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, swamps, sidewheel steam boats, oil rigs, the Superdome, hurricane wreckage and people celebrating Mardi Gras.
Chin in his hands, Theo was mesmerized.
But that wasn’t the Louisiana his grandfather told him about. So he searched, “Cajun.”
The screen filled with scenes of bayous, crawfish, fiddles, men in straw hats playing little box accordions; links to jambalaya, Zydeco, Lafayette, Hank Williams, and a college symbol of a Ragin’ Cajun.
Theo had been there once when he was four or five. Grandpa Te’o took them all on a fishing tour of a local bayou on an aluminum flat-bottom boat, and Theo ate a bunch foreign foods and sat on a rock and tapped his foot while the family played dance music.
He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He hadn’t thought about that trip since they moved to Lakeside. He recalled how that visit — just a couple days of a cross-country run after his father got transferred by the Navy to the East Coast — filled him with a sense of family and place.
All that’s left of that place is my name, and I don’t even say it right.
He sounded out the name in is head: “Du-boi. Du-boi.”
Then out loud.
“Hi, my name is Theophile Du-boi. You can call me T.”