“Don’t be true to me and I’ll be blue to you.”--Allison Raines
...11 years earlier
“Pssst. Bakman,” I whispered, motioning toward the kitchenette of my apartment.
“Yeah,” Bakman answered, too loud to be cool. Considering.
I signaled slightly with both hands for him to keep it down as I backed towards the kitchen sink with him drifting my way.
“What?” he asked irritated. His head pivoted between the discussion in the living room and me.
“Who’s the fox?” It was a question I mouthed silently. Allison was in earshot.
“Which one?” whispered Bakman, his eyes bouncing back and forth between Constance Pitts and the beauty that was piquing my interest at the moment. Bakman strained to read my lips. “I know who that one is,” I pantomimed, motioning towards Connie, who was definitely worth the hunt. She was tiny, shapely and gorgeous. She carried herself like a Nubian princess. She was our neighbor.
Allison and I lived in a modern high-rise complex called Prairie Towers. About a year before we took up residence, Connie moved into the complex seeking refuge. She was the former Chicago Chronicle-Observer reporter who broke the story about Toni Tolliver, the up-and-coming mulatto television series actress, and her secret, out-of-wedlock childbirth. Tolliver had managed to hide her pregnancy from close friends, relatives and gossip columnists. About the time she would have begun to show, she vanished from public view. Constance’s front-page story reported that Tolliver was holed up in Lake Point Tower, the new luxury high-rise building at the footprint of Navy Pier. That she had given birth to a seven-pound, six-ounce baby boy. And that the infant’s alleged father was none other than the cosmos preacher, Rev. Billy Crowe.
A fanatical bunch of the righteous reverend’s flock from Mission JAB--Justice Advocating Blacks--became indignant and vengeful. They picketed, morning, noon and night, in front of the Hyde Park two-flat where Constance lived. Both Tolliver and Crowe denied the minister was the father of the child. But Tolliver never got around to naming who was and no one stepped forward to claim the honor.
For three months, Constance suffered through the angry pickets and unrelenting charges that she was a lying, shameful sell-out. She steadfastly refused to “dignify with a response” the rumor that but for-the-grace-of-God someone could have reported a similar story about her. She dismissed as “character assassination” the gossip that she had been a secret lover to the reverend, duly noting that she and Mrs. Crowe knew each other on a social as well as professional basis. In the end, her suffering paid off. Constance was offered a reporting job by one of the local network television stations.
“Not her, Jerk-off. You and I both know who she is,” I lip spoke and motioned. “The other fox.”
“Later, Mr. Pierce,” Bakman grinned, turning back to the meeting.
That was good enough for me since I had no business allowing myself the diversion. After all, this was a meeting I had called. Well, Allison and I had called. Allison stood with her back to the view from our living room. The city skyline, glowing a deep golden orange from the sunset, served as her backdrop. “For the past few months, some of y’all have been talking about forming an organization of Black journalists. So Pierce and I figured that maybe we all should stop talking about it and do something about it,” Allison said, pausing to underscore her point.
“You know, we all have our personal ambitions. We all want to get ahead. Most of us want a cushy crib, a long ride and a fat bankroll. That’s cool,” Allison said, swatting away any flickering notions of disagreement that may have been polluting the air. “I’m not going to knock that. But, I think we need to face facts: that probably ain’t gone happen for most of us unless all of us come up with a plan for The Man. We’ve got to put pressure on these white bosses at these major media companies to hire more of us.”
The heads of the dozen journalists in the room bobbed off beat. The fox sat wide-eyed and open. She was all legs. I nudged Bakman. Gave him the old “can you imagine those babies wrapped around your waist” look. He gave me the nod. Her skin tone was a deep rich dark chocolate. That was where her blackness started and seemed to end. Her features were European. Her eyes were a curious hazel color. She wore an Afro that wasn’t; her dark auburn hair too fine to work as a ‘fro but she was styling it anyway. It was a huge delicate ball, threatening to collapse under its own weight. Overall, the fox looked like a well-built white girl dipped in creamy hot fudge.
Roy Reed Wright, a brother I’d seen around town from time to time, had his eyes on her too. He gave her a wink as he whipped out his Berkshire pipe. I watched him as his eyes shifted from Allison to the fox then back to Allison. I knew the look.
Rudolph Lomax rose to speak. “For those of you who don’t know me,” he started with disingenuous modesty. Everybody at the meeting read the Chicago Chronicle-Observer, which ran a photograph of him atop his column and watched, Back to Black, his weekly public affairs TV talk show. We knew who he was.