Chapter Two from "Feenin"
by Nane Quartay
Tokus emerged from his 'office', a dark, dilapidated alleyway that stank of urine and spilled wine, into the still, night air on Heath Street with a wad of money hidden in his underwear, taped to his thigh. The distinct sounds and smells of the money market washed over him in waves. Traffic was heavy as customers moved from broker to broker, curious, inquisitive and careful. Now this, Tokus thought, is a sellers market.
Mentally he checked the stats of the Underground Index.
Crack-cocaine was at twenty dollars a share. A real keeper. Crack has a bright future in America. It feeds on itself.
Marijuana was strong and holding. A solid investment with good returns. This commodity suffered a minor setback when crack burst onto the scene but has since undergone a full recovery.
Alcohol was deceptively steady, an old blue blood's legacy to society. Liquor stores, which endured the ups and downs of economics, stood on both ends of the block. A few doors down from the package store was the neighborhood church. A fortress of God in a sea of iniquity.
These were the numbers, the real numbers, on the poor man's Wall Street on Addict Aisle.
Buyers lined the street, their need, popping in their veins like popcorn, was as real as water is to life. But they were cautious, scared, their future dependent upon today's decision. The buy. That's what it was all about. A bad choice would leave a buyer in no-mans land, alone and abandoned, with no help in sight. So addicts worked hard at being good, knowledgeable consumers.
Tokus spotted a couple, a man and a woman, coming down the Aisle. They looked tired. Both wore torn jeans and T-shirts run over with multicolored dirt, but their eyes were alight with anticipation. They started across the street toward Tokus. The couple stopped in the middle of the street, oblivious to the traffic and the crowds, yet purposeful. The nappy headed, dirty faced man unzipped his pants and urinated, blind to the world. It was only fair. The world was blind to him. He stood back, zipped his pants and admired his work with the woman beside him, rapt, intent, as the liquid ran along the ground. A finger trail pointed in the direction of a young hood off to Tokus' left and, armed with this inside information, the buyers went off eagerly to purchase their shares.
"It gets wild," Tokus muttered as he scanned the Aisle for his regulars. He saw Fiction lounging in the doorway of one of the old abandoned buildings across the street. Fiction was a skinny fella who wore coke bottle glasses that seemed to heavy for his face. He was called Fiction because only the truth could be stranger than he was. There was a girl with him; Tokus guessed she was sixteen, seventeen tops, who didn't care for truth or Fiction, only the nether world to which she sought entrance. Tokus imagined they were discussing stock options when they turned and disappeared inside the building. It looked like they had agreed on a merger when they appeared silhouetted in the shattered window. The girl went down on her knees, groping for Fiction's zipper. Ah, Tokus mused, insider trading. Services for shares.
A group of buyers turned the corner from Highwater Street onto the Aisle, coming to a halt on the perimeter of the frenzied activities. They stopped to observe the action while passing a joint and a forty ounce of beer amongst themselves while they plotted and schemed.
The bedlam surrounding Tokus registered as normality. Addict Aisle was a body with the heart cut out, open and bleeding with desperation. The drug industry had mad life and lived in every society, every city and had a thriving, flourishing future.
"We need two bumpies!"
Tokus started, awakened from his fruitless mental wanderings, automatically reaching into his pocket while checking out his customers. He withdrew his hand, empty, upon seeing the two children who were trying to buy crack.
"Get outta my face," Tokus dismissed them.
"Two!" the other kid demanded.
"No," Tokus answered.
"We want two bumps!" the boy shouted.
"You get shit from me," Tokus turned on them. "Now get the fuck outta my face kid!" he yelled menacingly and the two youngsters scampered down the street. Damn! Tokus shook his head ruefully. Farther down the Aisle, another dealer took the kids' money and discreetly passed them the coke.
"Damn!" Tokus exclaimed again. He looked at his watch. He usually quit at twelve on school nights but Tokus had decided to put the 'closed' sign in the window early, permanantly shutting down his business. Tonight was the first night of the rest of his life.
Usually his schedule didn't vary. It was a discipline that had gotten Tokus through high school, after his mother and stepfather had abandoned him, and served him well in college. The university had been a lot tougher on his abilities and his resolve, but in a few short weeks it was 'G' day. Graduation. The whole idea of graduating from college and moving into the legal way of life brought a smile to his face. But he needed his nights free to concentrate on studying for the final exams. He had saved enough money to sustain himself for a few weeks, so Tokus had decided to stop dealing. In a few minutes he would be free. His days of selling drugs to functioning zombies would be forever in the past. Tokus smiled inwardly. A few more and I'm outta here.
An old man pushing a shopping cart ambled over and gave his bottle and can collection money to Tokus for the phantom dream.
"Quit," Tokus said as he handed the man the rock. The bum looked at Tokus with disdain. It was his last night on the corner so Tokus was going to tell everyone to quit. The looks he received indicated how far over the crack edge the user had fallen. The old man snorted derisively and hobbled off slowly as he groped in his pocket for a pipe.
A shiny, jet black, BMW drove up to the curb with a distinguished looking gentleman behind the wheel. Tokus wondered what the story was with that guy. Obviously, the man had money, yet success didn't seem to fulfill him. As high as he had climbed, he still needed to fly.
"Quit," Tokus said.
The rock was piped and lit before the car pulled away from the sidewalk, headed back to the suburbs; the nice part of town.
A bum ambled over to him, smiling, shuffling, doing his best Chris Rock, begging for free dope. He was the worst kind of crack head; a broke one. Tokus chased him away.
A well dressed, older man with a secret came to Tokus for a vial of poison. Tokus knew his secret. She lived on Barret Street, three blocks east of the Aisle. Minutes away from the church where this guy preached. His name was Deaugood.
"Let me have one," the man said simply. Tokus eyebrows arched in a question. "How many?"
"For who?" Tokus asked.
"Myself," Deaugood said to the sidewalk. Tokus shook his head in wonder as he felt around in his pocket for a rock of crack.
"Quit," he said, placing the pebble in the preacher's hand. The preacher looked at Tokus, wide eyed, with a comment just behind his lips. Instead his teeth clenched and his look went from one of incredulity to one of intense pain. His hand clenched around the crack-cocaine in a fist that suddenly clutched at his chest. He swayed a bit, a rickety swoon that led into a stumble and he staggered into Tokus' 'office'. Tokus' brow furrowed in alarm. He panicked, Oh no, not tonight! I just wanna get outta here. The preacher was leaning against a building trying to breathe, catching air in raspy wheezes.
"What's wrong old man?" Tokus asked from the sidewalk, determined not to get any nearer.
"You better not die here preacher," Tokus whispered harshly, as he quickly glanced up and down the Aisle. No one was paying the least bit of attention.
Tokus glared back into the alley.
The preacher was still slouched against the building, his body trembled while his lungs hacked for air to feed his drumming heart. The preacher's body was spewing up pain and panic in his face, but Tokus didn't see any fear there. This convulsion and the preacher had danced before and the preacher knew the steps. Soon the coughs eased, and the preacher slowly began to gather himself.
When Tokus saw the preacher straighten up, he regarded Deaugood with a twinkle in his eye. "You know, preacher man-ah," Tokus dis his best southern, Sunday go-to-meetin' voice, "you got to hold on to God's unchangin' hand."
Tokus hopped toward the preacher on one foot with one finger raised in the air. The minister, who was now standing with his fist closed around the rock, looked on, stunned, as Tokus went on with his sermon.
"He can be your Kryptonite-ah, when the woman with the cooty-cat-ah, come roun'. I say the cooty-cat, the cooty-cat with the cape-ah, with the silver 'S' on it. Come roun'."
The two men stood face to face. Serious.
Finally Tokus said, "Quit."
The preacher walked away, head bowed. Lust chased him down the street, around the corner to the house where his mistress waited hungrily.
Tokus checked the time and decided to leave. Glancing up and down the Aisle, he silently said goodbye to what had been his life, before turning his back and walking away from it all. With a smile.
When he turned the corner from Addict Aisle onto Highwater Street, Tokus ran headfirst into hell. Dressed in black.