A racist institution hires an assassin to kill a black professor who is about to become president of a southern university. However, he has friends in various walks of life, who step forward in an attempt to protect him.
This man Jenkins was susceptible to gluttony, as his large paunch would attest, and had a pale, round face and beady eyes that were like sharp razors. He had operated the ferry for over twenty years of the fifty or so years of his life and William had been a frequent passenger for five years. Five years ago, in 1981, William had obtained his Master’s degree in English at Louisiana State University and had begun teaching in his home town of New Orleans in the bayou.
“So how ya’ all doin’?” asked Tom as William found a seat near the stern.
“Quite well,” answered the brown-complexioned professor. “And how are things with you today, Tom?” his handsome, high-cheekboned face crinkling, the long sideburns and long afro static in the wind.
“The usual. Ma wife kind a’ angry because a’ been startin’ drinkin’ down where all them fine, young Southern belles are. She says she will leave me if she ever suspects anything at all kind a’ serious. But I’ll ne’er cheat on her. She been good to me for too many years. Our twentieth weddin’ anniversary is comin’ up in three weeks.”
“Congratulations,” said William. He was single and admired such long, cherished relationships, but then, there was one woman of French extraction that he was interested in.
“Thanks, William. A’ really appreciate it. The only thing is that she been a real pest about me buyin’ her a diamond ring. She been threatenin’ me with that, too. Only... if a’ had some mo’ money.” He looked up to the sky as if to ask for the help of God. The sky turned grey. He recoiled in horror. But his fear turned to anger. “That son-of-a-bitch,” he said under his breath, as he fixed his gaze on the approaching lights of the dock.
William said “Goodbye” to Tom and got off the ferry with the others. Everyone was walking at a rapid clip, anxious to get home. The sky was now a hue of deep purple. The wind was angry, whipping at the faces of the people. Some cursed at it spitefully, as well as the overwhelming humidity in general. Only William was not bothered. He said joyously,
“Thanks for the welcome, friends.”
William turned onto Maple Avenue. The pine needles of the imported trees emitted a sweet aroma and he breathed it into his angular body with vigor. Whenever a branch was within his reach, he stroked it tenderly, saying, “Hi, brother, how are you doing?”
He continued walking on Maple until he came at Frederick Street, where he took an extreme turn to the left. The industrial signs were immediately present. The large, expansive, brick and metal buildings dominated the skyline as did the belching smokestacks. William smelled the stench pervading the industrial area and breathed as shallowly as possible. Men were still at work, hauling metal pipes into the factories, the sweat glistening on their foreheads, their muscles bulging from strain, struggling red in a sea of gray. Their exhaustion was evident.
William could relate to these men. His father had once worked under similar conditions. He had died at the age of forty-seven when William was n his third year of schooling at Vanderbilt in Tennessee. He clenched his fists as tears began to well up in him. “God rest his soul,” he said, as he turned onto Pleasanton Way.
“The trees on my street are not as beautiful as those on Maple,” he thought aloud as he neared his home, trying to rid himself of the picture of his father’s pallid face on his death bed, a victim of industrialized cancer. “Besides, the trees on Maple seem to be much more natural
than these. And these trees have a staunch aura about them while the others are so friendly and abiding; the others enjoy my friendly gestures. These trees are disdainful; they seem to enjoy pricking my fingers.”
He stared at the asphalt of his sloping driveway until a feeling of calm washed over him, dispensing with his grief over his father. He strode up the driveway towards his comfortable, unpretentious abode. The color was a soft shade of gray.
Sitting down on the cream-colored, suede couch in his living room, he immersed himself in his mail. He threw aside the electrical and gas bills, and even farther aside an envelope alleging he had won four million dollars from the Publishers Clearing House, before he came upon a letter from an old friend. obooko.