Contributor: Gary Clifton

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"George, you know them darkies ain't allowed in here." George stood on Turner's Drugstore stoop in the sweltering August sun. James and Early Dee behind, stared at their bare feet on the brick sidewalk, their faded jeans, nearly white from years of harsh washing and sun-bleaching on a hot clothesline, gapped six inches above the ankles.

"Made a nickel apiece rakin' Miz Evan's leaves. Jes' wanted to buy some candy." In 1952, a nine year old had good reason to be afraid of a big man in the Alabama Klan like Willis Turner. Turner was heavily into "The Cause" of white superiority.

"Get your white trash ass in here and buy for them."

George picked out a meager selection while James and Early Dee stood, noses pressed against the window glass. Turner took his money easily enough. "Keep runnin' with them coloreds out there," he gestured, "and your mama's shack likely gonna have a fire, George," Turner said, eyes radiating hatred. He was fiftyish, roundish, with yellow teeth and a thin comb-over. "And don't sit out there on my curb." He stepped out and kicked at Early Dee's backside, but missed.

That night, Turner's Drugstore burned smooth to the ground. The "cause" here was definitely arson by gasoline. Townspeople spread the word ol' Turner was up to insurance fraud.

Sheriff Roberts agreed, because he slapped Turner in jail. But one of the Klan was a judge and sprung him. It would have been Turner's ass, the sheriff said, if only he could find the gas can.

The insurance company wouldn't pay and Turner ended up sitting on the curb in front of a pile of burn debris - until the bank repossessed the property. Seems the banker, a vocal Klan brother, wasn't quite as imbued with the Klan "cause" as Willis Turner when dollars were the bottom line.

An old wino was said to have drunkenly slurred more than once he'd seen George, James, and Early Dee toss a gas can into a passing boxcar. He guzzled so much wine he died of cirrhosis not long after. Who'd believe three kids from skidsville had enough sense to burn down a drugstore anyway?

Nobody ever did try to set fire to George's shanty. Not enough fervent "cause" by the bigots to muster the courage to attempt the deed, you might suppose

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Gary Clifton, forty years a cop has over thirty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites. He has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.
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