• CHAPTER TEN: The Magnolia

    6:00 am
    ...and the work whistle blows over the ships and freight boxes. Sorted by destination, the trailers look like toy boxes neatly stacked and colored.  The sun is rising over the ships in the shallow bay and a large metal fence preventing hundreds of dock workers from getting to their respective work sites.

    Craig strolls up to the crowd, which is growing rowdy and impatient.  Craig spots his co-worker, Barry,
         "Hey man...good morning."
         "Mornin' Craig.  Man...can you believe this?"
         "I don't know. What's goin' on?"
         "Look around man...the fence is up, we've got to show our card to get in the gate now. That USA Corporation done took over the yard. Moved in all their work trailers overnight. And...ain't a Mexican in sight! Where they at, man? You know they don't miss a day of work! I ain't even see them at the Home Depot this weekend either. Any other day it's like Tijuana out this piece. Now..."
    They continue to look out and about. Craig speaks up,
         "I know. Kinda weird."
         "Word is...since your brother made that card, all the illegals are being shipped out."
         "Don't call 'em that man."
         "Oh my bad, Mr. Dracel.
         "Don't call ME that."
         "Well...whatever you wanna call 'em OR yourself, they ain't here no more and that means more work for us.  I'll gladly take the hours AND the money. All these new ships they bringin' in and buildin'...let Jose go back to Mexico."
         "Man, you ain't right. You gonna miss Jose."
         "Well...we'll see. I cut my own grass...clean my own house...and..."
         "And what? Jose ain't thinkin' 'bout your grass or your house..."

    The guys are interrupted by the request to present their Dracel cards.  A group of security guard dressed in black are standing at the fence opening.  There are 4 new card scanners at the gate's opening as well. A guard calls for the card to be held under the infrared laser scanner.  The card is given a quick scan on the front.  On a three by three inch led screen, a photo of the cardholder, along with their name and new federal identification number appears on the screen.  The screen also reveals the number of the particular dock trailer to which the worker is to report.

    Craig scans his card and his id screen discloses he has been transferred to a new trailer and job.  Barry is the first to respond,
         "Oh wow...the big brother is already pullin' strings for little brother. The Dracel name is already working its magic for you, huh?
    Craig protests,
         "Wait...WHAT?! We have a new trailer? This is some bullshit right here! I didn't ask to be transferred."
    The guard replies,
         "Sir, my order is to let you know you will be working specifically on the USA Corp headquarter ship at the far end of the dock. There is a cart that will escort to the site. You will be the new project manager on the Alpha ship of Operation Sankofa."
    Craig and Barry stand perfectly still for a moment.  No expression. No reaction. Barry speaks first,
         "AND you got a promotion."
         "And what the hell is Operation Sankofa?!"
         "Sir, I'm not at liberty to say. Your cart is there and you will be driven down to the end of the dock to the executive trailer."
    Barry looks at Craig.
         "Wow...house niggers got an executive trailer now."
    Craig looks at the golf cart waiting for him just inside the gate.
         "No...I don't want this..."

    The guys walk over to the cart. In the back seat is an iPad with a black cover.
         "Shit man! They gave you an iPad and everything! I want YOUR job!"
         "I don't even know what MY job is!"
         "I tell you what, it's a hell of a lot better than what Jose's doing now! I know that much!"
         "And yet, somehow, I get the feeling Jose is better off than me."

    Craig opens the cover. He slides the lock open on the iPad and is greeted with a video message from USA Corp. The video consists of a slideshow of images of America in her many depictions, patriotic music and a pleasant female voiceover,
         "Good morning, Craig Dracel, and welcome to the USA Corporation. We are pleased to have you join Operation Sankofa. As project manager of the "Alpha" ship, you will be overseeing the execution of our new luxury sea-liner fleet, setting sail over the Atlantic beginning in the summer of 2019. In the next year, we will be launching a new and exciting vacation package that requires the most exquisite cruise experience."

    Barry and Craig are glued to the screen of the iPad.
         "Craig...man...your brother did you a SERIOUS solid!"
    Craig doesn't respond. He continues to watch the video.
         "Mr. Dracel, when you report to work today, you will be met by a representative of the USA Corp who will serve as a liaison between you and the marine arm of the corporation. You will be working with the ship's designers and decorators in creating a fully authentic and enjoyable sea adventure experience for the African American traveller."
    Barry signifies again,
         "Shit man! The African American traveller?! On a ship?! Well, I guess there IS Tom Joyner but he's the only black dude I know that's takin' niggas out on the water..."
         "Barry man...shut up."
         "Oh ok...excuse me...look at you...took you all of 1.2 seconds to get into character..."
         "Barry.  I don't know what this is or what it's about...this ship...this job...this trip. I'm not taking it..."
         "WHAT?! Nigga, they throwin' money at you! You the head of a damn ship!"
         "Ok...that would be a CAPTAIN and I'm not a captain..."
         "The hell you ain't!! Man...Captain Kirk...Captain Crunch...whatever the fuck...man...get me on with you!"
         "What?! A minute ago, you all but called me the overseer..."
         "Yeah, but see...the one closest to the overseer never gets whipped.  Nigga...make a call!"
    Craig takes a moment, looks at Barry and then looks at the golf cart.
         "Get in."
         "Yes sir!"
    The two men hop in the cart and head down the dock towards a large, new, luxury ship. As they approach the enormous beauty, Craig asks the driver to stop the cart and slightly gasps.  Barry takes notice,
         "Right? She's huge."
    Craig still doesn't speak.
         "Craig...man...you ok?"
         "The ship...her name..."
         "What? What is it?"
         "The Magnolia. After my mother."


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