by Nane Quartay

Way Jalon stood looking out the window of his office at the sun shine down with favor on his property, the entire city of Albany, New York. He had a drink in his hand, a victory splash in the morning to celebrate the winning of the day. In a few moments, Mr. Tokus Stone would come walking into his office and become the biggest pawn that Way had ever played in his economic game of rape and plunder.

Tokus Stone of Stoneway, Incorporated.

That had a melodic ring to it and Way was sure that Tokus would hear the musical notes in the title. Blacks are creative that way. Stoneway, Incorporated would be a commercial hub, moving product from here to there with Tokus Stone at the helm. All types of product, from Hi-Tech components to potato chips, would move with a Tokus Stone thought.

But the Feenin belonged to Way, the synthetic substance was the wave of the future and he owned the entire beach, from sea to shining sea. Nothing illegal about it yet! Therein lay the reason for the need of a Tokus Stone, a nigger, a jigaboo with high falutin' ideas. Basic in his existence and necessary only by some big mistake.

Feenin was an unknown quantity that would soon be renowned for its smell, taste, feel and name. When it became a physical entity - a bad habit with a name - someone would have to take the fall for the phenomenon that would sweep the streets of the nation. It would be Tokus Stone of Stoneway, Incorporated. Has a nice ring to it actually.

The phone on his desk beeped. His secretary's voice came through the box. "Mr. Jalon your nine o'clock is here." Way pressed the button. "Give me a moment."

He strode over and put his drink on the wet bar, gave his city one last look over, went back to the desk and pressed the button.

"Okay Connie," Way Jalon said. "Caveat Emptor."

The secretary turned to Tokus Stone, who was looking around the room. "Mr. Jalon will see you now."

"Thanks," Tokus said and pushed through the office door.

Way Jalon watched the young man as he approached, noting a determined stride and the set of the bright eye that had been turned on, machinelike. The eye that saw and heard everything. Way was sure he had made the correct choice in Tokus Stone. They shook hands and exchanged amenities before getting down to business.

"Do you remember our first meeting, Mr. Stone?"

"Explicitly," Tokus replied.

"And you can see the advantages of joining our corporation as an executive of Stoneway? This would be your baby, from birth to infinity, with all the controls in place."

"Sounds like a perfect setup," Tokus said. "As long as it's not a setup to fail."

"Mr. Stone. Tokus. I don't, I repeat, do not want you to fail. Success is imperative. I'm not in the business of losing money. When I spoke to you of our needs for a Black man for this position, I did not mean to imply that a Black man would just 'have' this position. Tokenism is, after all, just a word. Not a faith. Not a belief. Not some anonymous creed to live by. It's just a word. Business comes in one hue, one color. Not black, not white. Just good old fashioned green. Green moveses and constructs mountains out of molehills; thousands of them. The question is, can you build a mountain of your own?"

"I've been climbing them all my life," Tokus answered coldly. "The biggest obstacle I've ever encountered have been the sub-humans." Way arched an eyebrow in question.

Tokus continued. "Ahh I see you aren't familiar with that particular race of people. Let me enlighten you. The sub-humans are a race of people with concept problems. Their vision is skewered. They can't see. When they look at a man, any man that is different from them, they see something evil something inferior. They see something other than what is so painfully obvious. They don't see a man. They see the skin he's in."

Tokus leaned forward and looked Way Jalon in the eye. "I need to meet every key man that you have on staff. If you've hired any sub-humans, I want to shake them loose. Is that acceptable to you?"

Way paused only for a fraction of a second before answering. "It's your show, Tokus. Whatever you want. Whatever you feel is necessary." Now Way leaned forward behind his huge desk and gave Tokus the hard eye. "Just don't waste my money." They had reached and agreement.

Way went on to give Tokus the lay of the land, bare bones information about structure and personnel, procedure and company policies, projections and profits. Way was grudgingly impressed with Tokus' intellect, he had and astutely curious mind that soaked in knowledge and logically placed it into its proper context. Tokus had a competent hand. Way determined to see if he could shake it. They had been talking for hours and lunch was fast approaching. Way leaned back in his chair with his fingers steepled under his chin.

"Tell me something, Tokus," he began. "When I find something fascinating, I have to ask questions and this is something only you can answer. Enlighten me. Exactly how does it feel to be a Black man in America?" Tokus waited. Way raised a hand in supplication. "Don't misinterpret my question. I ask it with honest curiosity and no evil intentions I'm not being deceptive. But African-Americans are really in the most unique position of any race in this country." Tokus waited quietly.

Way continued. "I must admit though, you are the first Black man I've ever spoken more than two words with. I see them on the news and they don't look hospitable, sometimes they even have cuffs on negative images abound! But I'm a logical man and I know this can't be factual, so I wonder. Again, enlighten me."

A moment passed between the two men before Tokus spoke.

"Mr. Jalon," Tokus replied. "I'd best describe being a Black man in America as being an apple hanging on a tree. It's a big orchard, so basically it's just a matter of hanging out with all the other apples waiting for the man to come and pluck you. When that doesn't happen, if that doesn't happen, you just hold on, hanging there until you rot off. If you drop you're apple cider. The tragedy occurs to you right before the inevitable 'splat'. It comes in a flash. This had to happen."

"Well that's a pretty dire existence," Way responded.

Tokus chuckled. "No, Mr. Jalon. What's dire is the idea that someone could explain their existence in a few sentences. Explain their life and ideals and their sense of right and wrong in five minutes or less. Me? I'm strictly new generation, Mr. Jalon. Bred on mind power and strength of heart - I don't just hold on. And tragedy! Tragedy is a story told by the victorious." Tokus paused to fix Way Jalon in his stare.

"I'm sure you could tell your share of tragedies, Mr. Jalon. And I'm also sure that you have no shortage of apple cider."

Stoneway by Nane Quartay

© Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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