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Although his zip code places him in a Bronx tenement, Tony Johnson’s sights are set far beyond the trappings of a humble upbringing. He is deemed guilty of the sins of ambition, loving color blindly, and refusing to bend to his father’s will. When Lionel Johnson’s job and role as primary breadwinner are lost, his authority erodes and bitterness takes root. Tony asserts independence rather than allowing his fate to be similarly set by chance and circumstance. But over time he learns that the world is not as black and white as he and his father’s opposing mindsets would suggest.
And now, from Patches of Grey:
When Charlie’s attention drifted again, Tony followed his path of vision. He expected to find another girl at the end of it. Instead he saw several members of the varsity football team coming down the hallway. Among them was Tim Braddock, with a finger pointed in their direction. At center of the group was Roger Lane, Lincoln High School’s starting quarterback and Janet’s ex-boyfriend. His eyes met with Tony’s like a car wreck.
“You guys want something?” asked Charlie in a tone suggesting he hoped that they did.
“Not from you.”
“Well that’s too bad, cause I’m who you got.”
Roger smiled and perhaps was about to follow up with a less congenial act when a teacher walked past and stopped within viewing range. Getting suspended was not in anybody’s interest, so physical aggression was put off for the time being.
“This ain’t over with. We’ll settle it some other time.” His threat delivered with no wiggle room left for misinterpretation, Roger departed with his sidekicks.
Tony did not debate the statement, but avoided eye contact when Charlie turned towards him. The stare-down had made him uncomfortable. It needlessly exacerbated the situation, and worse, flaunted what Tony wished to go unnoticed. When Charlie and Roger glared at each other, posed mano e mano, to onlookers it was no doubt seen as more than just two students trying to settle a disagreement by determining which one was tougher. The respective skin colors of the near combatants could not be ignored. The fact that one of them was black and the other white could not be removed from the equation, rendering the specifics of the altercation inconsequential. To anyone who happened to bear witness, it was nothing less than a mini race riot. If Charlie and Roger could not stand before each other without race taking center stage, Tony wondered if he and Janet would be able to love one another without the same thing happening?
Since the night at Cosmos he had been unable to resist searching the faces that took him and Janet in for displays of disapproval, and keeping his ears cocked for whatever disparaging word might be said. He hated thinking like this, wanted nothing more than to relax and enjoy his good fortune. Why seek what would probably not be found? What he did not want to find. But still he searched just to make certain.
Seeing that his effort on Tony’s behalf was not supported or appreciated, Charlie shook his head in agitation and walked away. Tony thought to call out after him, but then remembered that he was supposed to meet Janet. Not wanting to keep her waiting, he chose to let Charlie cool off and headed to the other end of the building
“How was your day?” asked Janet upon his arrival.
“A little crazy.”
“Well, I’m a little crazy about you.”
Tony gratefully accepted his girlfriend’s kiss. By the time their lips parted, the incident with Roger was gone from his mind.