Family Found

Discussions with Dannell
by René Dulaney

Sunday had started out commonly enough - I'd been racing time, trying to get my Holiday pages uploaded before the Hubbit came to claim the puter. Thanksgiving was on it's way, and so far, I'd gotten up a fair few pages. Things were going well...

Until the phone rang. Impatiently, I snatched up the handset to look at the caller ID thingie. Dang it! It's Momma... what in the world does she want this time of day?!? Hope it's not Daddy..., I thought to myself as I answered the phone with a brusque "'Lo!"

"Hey, SleepyHead! We got us a Family Mystery!" came my mother's too, too cheerful voice.

"A what?" I was in no mood for games - I was fighting Father Time both by the clock and the calendar, and Momma sounded like she was all set for a mighty lengthy conversation. Little did I know just how badly she was gonna disrupt my work...

"Yep, a real-live family mystery. Apparently, we have, or had I should say, a cousin who wrote published stories."

"Oh, yeah?" I said skeptically. "Who?"

"Ever hear of Dannell Lites?"

"Who're you talking about - Danny or his daughter, Danielle? Danny couldn't write out a grocery list without help, and Danielle's just too young," I scoffed.

"I said Dannell. D-A-N-N-E-L-L. I just got a phone call from someone calling herself 'Rivka' (I think that's her real name, too), telling me about this Dannell Lites, who supposedly died up in Missouri without family or anything."

"So, who is she?"

"Who, Dannell or Rivka?"

"This Dannell... who's she supposed to be? What did she write? Spell that name again?" I had abandoned my pages for the nonce, doing a quick Yahoo! search for Danelle Lites which yielded nothing.

"Look, listen up, I'm in a hurry. I'm headed to the library... Apparently, she wrote fiction stories, mostly online, and this Rivka is or was a friend of hers online. Anyway, she found out that Dannell had died, and has been looking for family all of this time. She felt like her family needed to at least be aware that Dannell had died. So, she called me, and she's emailing me some stuff."

"Momma, this doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Why would she call you? How would she know to call you? You haven't been a Lites in almost 40 years?!?"

"She was calling all the Liteses she could find in the phone book, and found your grandpa. He told her that I was the one who did the genealogy thing, she should really talk to me. And he gave her my number. You do the internet thing, and I'm going to the library. Her daddy's name was Harvey Lites, and I've got him married twice in the charts, but I spoke to his daughter last year sometime, and she told me then (if I'm remembering correctly) that she was his only daughter. But this Dannell's mother's name was Etta, and that's the name I have for Harvey's second wife - too much of a coincidence, if you ask me. So, I'm off to the library to see what I can find out there." I took all of this in subliminally, as it were... I was well into a search page with literally dozens of links after putting in Dannell's name.

"Okay, no prob. Listen, forward me your Ged-Com files (if you can - at least try to cut'n'paste) on this Harvey guy, and whatever this Rinka-Riata-whatever-her-name-is sent you... I think I found Dannell online..."

"Already? But Rivka says you may not want to read her stuff - something about Dannell not being too conservative."

"Nooo! Really?!?" I'd discovered that pretty quickly after tagging a few of her stories through the links.

"Gotta go before the library closes. See what you can find out." And Momma was gone that quickly, leaving me with an earful of dead air.

Jeez-Louise, Danielle, Dannell, whatever, boy you sure wrote a lot of stuff! I thought to myself as I began, for no good reason that I can recall, saving copies of her stories to disk. Stumbling across a Yahoo! Groups link, I found the written communiqués between Dannell and her online friends. Startled, I discovered that Rivka was a member of this group. Knowing Momma would probably close down the library (like me, once she starts researching, she's kinda lost for days...), I decided to send out a quickie intro email to this Rivka and to another name I found whose posts indicated he might have more than a minor clue as to Dannell's personality. DarkMark emailed me back rather quickly - "Join her egroup mailing list, and you can read what everyone's saying about her there."

So, I did just that, and not without some reservations, either. These folks were all fan-fic writers who may not wish to have their peace disturbed by some pushy broad claiming kinship with their idol, especially one who could barely tell the difference between Superman and Batman. Not a very chatty group, I thought to myself when no replies were forthcoming. Spoiled to the age of whiz-bang internet speed, I went back to reading some of Dannell's own posts.

What I found there was astonishing. Except for the exaggerated (and badly misrepresented) Southern drawl she used literally all of the time, her posts yielded a warm-hearted, yet reserved woman who wanted to share, but wanted to share only a smidgeon. Her naïveté in using her real name to post things online had lead me to expect a fluffy headed DingDong, but Dannell was far from fluffy headed. She sought, and got, approval for her efforts, but she apologized not one whit for what she had written. She took care to forewarn readers of possible "ickiness" and other sticky things with a "WARNING: Here be SLASH! If'n y'all don't like it, skedaddle!" Here and there I would find other little tidbits that dragged a laugh out of me - "Ah don't owns them, DC Comics does, so don't sue moi." She made up words with abandon, and used them in such a way that you could almost tell immediately what they were intended to convey. All in all, she was turning out to be the kind of person I could have been friends with - not friendly, necessarily, after all I'm not really the "friendly" type, but friends all the same. I didn't care much for her topics, or the characters - not my style, really. But little hints here and there lead me to a woman almost as widely read as I consider myself to be, and eminently literate as well, her poor spelling notwithstanding.

Catching some link or the other to one of several sites where her stories (ficcies, she called them) were hosted, I set off on a hunt for more clues to this cousin I was regretting I'd never known. Egads, Dannell! You've got stuff literally everywhere! Why on earth didn't you make yourself a website, and post all of this in one place?

Ah tried to, I seemed to hear in my thoughts.

Exhausting the one source I'd been copying, I went back to the group page to see if Dannell herself had happened to mention where I might find different stories. I found a slew of sites she'd put up herself, but they were mostly the same site, each in different stages of completion, and each showing the same coding errors. To my surprise, I discovered that I wasn't the first to have the idea of archiving Dani's (as I was beginning to call her) stories - someone calling herself 'rith had already begun to do so. Taking a quick look, I found a professional-looking site, and with high hopes, I started clicking away, only to discover that there were the same gaps I'd already found on Dani's pages. In fact, 'rith had reproduced Dani's pages faithfully, although at least she'd cleared up the "black" stories. My fingers itched to do some editing on Dani's stories - and since 'rith had already archived them in an "as is" state, I decided to do just that. Archive her stories myself, but with editing license. After all, some of the family may want to read these, and we have quite a few spelling critics floating around.

"Looks like you couldn't keep up with your passwords any better than I can, LOL!" I started vocalizing my thoughts. "Damn, Dannell, look at this mess! How in the hell am I supposed to read this crap?!? You may have been a writer, but a webmaster you most definitely were not!" as I [view][source]'d a page that was totally blackened out.

So?? You gotta problem with that, lil cousin-wanna-be? I still thought I was thinking this stuff up, so I didn't bother answering that small question that popped up in my head, except with a "Cousin-wanna-be? I don't think so... Momma's stuff is pretty slim, but you write like I do, think like I do, read the same stuff I do - except for this comic book craze - no way you ain't my cousin. And," with a rueful glance down at my 200+ flab hanging off the edges of the chair, "I ain't 'lil' by any stretch of the imagination."

So, fix it, then, came back another thought. "I think I will... this stuff needs organizing, and recoding so folks can read it properly. What a gaudy mess!" as I found yet another blackened page purporting to be a story by Dannell.

Later that night, I gave Momma a buzz to see what she'd been able to find out. She'd gotten some email back from Rivka, and chuckling, said, "Rivka wants to know if you are the same daughter that just signed up with the mailing list?"

"Tell her yes... Never mind, I'll do it myself. Send me what you got."

Waiting on replies to come in, I left the research part of this Family Mystery in Momma's hands, and started working on a new background set to house my edited versions of Dani's stories on. I hadn't had any luck finding a pic of her, or anything she preferred as a logo except for the tiny Southern Belle on her groups page, so I lifted it and tried to do something with it. I'd found her misrepresentation of the Southern drawl tiresome, but she referred to herself over and over again as a Southern Belle, so I knew I'd have to start there. Finally finding what seemed to be the right graphic, I went to work making a splash page.

But Ah like mah lil Belle! "So?? I can't do anything with that overused *.gif file - it's too small, and it would take a better program than PSP7 to restore it to anything near professional-looking." And who says you're a professional? "Of course I'm not a professional - but I've had a damn sight more practice than anything you've got testifies to!" I snorted, proceeding to work away. But the graphic I was working on gradually left me cold - it just wasn't working. Back to the search pages I went. After a couple of hours of d/l several "could-be"s, one finally slapped me upside the head. I seemed to hear an echo as I voiced aloud, "There she is!" and d/l the last Southern Belle in my new collection. Working rapidly, I made a *.psp file out of her, and went to work on a graphic for the new groups page I'd set up (Dani's would disappear as soon as Yahoo! discovered she'd died and left no moderators behind) for her friends to use, as well as one for the splash graphic for the new site.

As soon as I'd done a little setup on the new website, though, the emails started coming in. I was dismayed to find that Dannell had exiled herself from her family, and I started crying when I realized that apparently no family member was going to get her stuff out of storage. I'd already found myself quite attached to this gone-forever cousin, and tears which would have been out of place for others were my only refuge. Forging ahead, with no legal proof whatsoever, I managed to run up a hefty phone bill and log in quite a few hours online trying to find out how I could go about relieving her landlord of the leftover bits and pieces of her physical world.

Slam! Slam! Door after door shut in my face as I got absolutely nowhere with my inquiries. The landlord was a nice-enough seeming fellow, and he assured me that I needn't go the expense of paying for a storage unit for Dani's things - they would remain where they were for the meantime. The coroner's office was rather less than helpful: "So what do you want us to do?" was about as far as I'd gotten with that ice-blooded chick. "So, give me the number to the PD, okay? Maybe they can help me."

"Look, they won't be able to tell you anything. She took herself to the hospital, and died there. The police weren't involved in any way," came the disinterested voice.

"Yeah, but they might know some resources I can tap, government-wise," I replied, holding my snap-temper in check. Finally, she deigned to give me the number to the PD of the area Dani'd lived in, and that was the sum total of the assistance she had been able to provide me with. Muttering imprecations under my breath, I dialled the PD. They were loads more friendly there, but not much help. As the "lady" at the coroner's office had said, they hadn't responded to any calls at Dani's last address, and didn't know the landlord's name. They were able, however, to give me the url to do some searching myself - the url, in fact, to the government facilities of Kansas City.

More emails sent - the same old replies came back. Doing a manual search of their documentation requirements for claiming the property of someone who'd died intestate yielded a headache I couldn't fight with a whole damned bottle of Ibuprofen. I couldn't get a copy of her death certificate without proof that I was related (or had a good legal stance to do so, such as being her creditor!!), I hadn't a clue which county might be the place to start looking for her birth certificate - in fact, other than a gut-feeling and some strong coincidentals in the info I'd been able to correlate between her father Harvey and my cousin Harvey, I hadn't a leg to stand on, legally speaking. I could put her Harvey and my Harvey in the same small towns at the same time, but I couldn't prove (legally) that they were one-and-the-same Harvey Lites. I didn't need any more proof, myself - but I couldn't see taking ill-advised time off from work to spend what would probably turn out to be days waiting on a probate judge to decide whether or not I was, in fact, a relative of Dannell's, and therefore able to take charge of her effects. Even more dismaying was the literally dozens of documents I'd have to have filled out and signed by each and every cousin between me and Dannell, each acknowledging their awareness of the situation, and more docs giving their consent for me to act in that capacity and on their behalf.

In disgust, I stopped. Cold. I was giving myself a huge case of indigestion, my friends were getting tired of hearing my complaints, and I still had my Thanksgiving pages to finish for my own personal site. Deciding that even free pages weren't going to disappear in the next few weeks, I went back to work on my own stuff, and managed to tune out that exaggerated Southern drawl that kept whispering in my head - Are y'all just gonna leave mah stuff to mould in some crumby storehouse? C'mon, Cuz, do something - anything!

"Dani-girl, if you want something done about your stuff, then you're gonna have to help here, okay? I'm batting a zero, and I've got things to do, places to go, and folks to see. In short, nothing I do is gonna help you at all, anyway, and I'm neglecting both my flesh-and-blood family and my online family on what is turning out to be a wild-goose chase. Now, go away, and leave me be!" I closed the folder, and went about picking up the strands of both my real-world life and my internet life.

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This site is dedicated to the memory of Dannell Lites, who died unceremoniously on 16 September, 2002, in Kansas City, MO. This tale is my own story of the past several weeks. No disrespect is intended to the living or the dead. Background set ©2002 by SleepyHead. Please do not use without her permission. Site url=