Episode 20: I’ll Tell You Who Public Enemy No. 1 Is

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

Twenty

[Anna Dudek and Anthony Pontone’s wedding takes place on Saturday, April 6th, 1968. The city has just experienced two nights of rioting following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. More mayhem is yet to come. Read on.]

The reception dinner will consist of Italian wedding soup followed by spinach salad drizzled with juice from fresh lemons. The main course will be the guest’s choice of veal piccata accompanied by mostaccioli marinara and french-cut green beans or sole meunière served with honey-glazed pea pods and carrots and risotto alla Parmigiana. Dessert will be a choice of spumoni, cannoli, or tira misu, although Joey has already indicated he will take all three.

The music is winding down, signalling that guests should begin taking their seats. The band, The New Colony Six, is one of Tony the Fist Pontone’s gifts to the newlyweds, a real score, everybody agrees, considering they’d hit the local charts in 1966 with the huge smash, I Confess, and have appeared on national television dance shows in their trademark colonial costumes. Their brand new single, I Will Always Think About You, is just now beginning to rocket up the Billboard pop chart. For Tony the Fist, booking them for this wedding was nothing — a couple of phone calls and boom.

After all, they have him to thank for getting their 45s on juke boxes throughout the Midwest.

New Colony Six

The New Colony Six

The maître d’ gives the signal for the waitresses to begin rolling in their carts. The band descends the stage and will eat in the kitchen. Already several guests begin clinking their water glasses with their butter knives, importuning Anna and Anthony to kiss. The only two empty seats are Joey’s — he’s already horking in the men’s room — and Eddie Halloran’s.

Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Halloran wants to order his fourth highball of the young afternoon as the band leaves the stage but the bartender has stopped serving drinks. Eddie is incensed. He stomps out of the hall muttering the word fuck in all its permutations. He walks — or, more accurately, stumbles — around the corner to the parking lot where after a seemingly endless search he finds his Oldsmobile Toronado, which he was standing next to when he stepped onto the lot in the first place. He opens the passenger side door and fishes under the seat until he locates his emergency fifth of Jameson’s.

Eddie Halloran fills his hip flask from the Jameson’s bottle. The flask is empty because he’d drained every last drop from it during the wedding mass at St. Giles. No one had seen him do it, of course, because he’d ducked into a confessional to slake his thirst in sanctified privacy. He had not sought the good Lord’s forgiveness for his intemperance while he was in the confessional because, he reasoned, one needs a strong bracer to make it through another of Fr. Jerome’s interminable sermons. Our Father in Heaven, Eddie Halloran thought as the Irish whiskey stung his throat, is not an unreasonable man.

Jameson's

In Case Of Emergency

Eddie shoves the filled flask into his right rear trousers pocket where it makes a conspicuous bulge under the vent of his Marshall Field’s suit jacket. He walks — er, stumbles — into the alley behind Nuovo Mondo. He’ll need plenty of distilled strength to get through this goddamned dago dinner. These greaseballs cook everything in the goddamned world with garlic, for chrissakes. Christ in heaven, I’ll bet they put garlic in their Malt-O-Meal!

Eddie places his hand gingerly against the brick rear wall of the banquet hall, steadying himself for the short walk to the service entrance of the place, set in from the alley, giving him a little privacy. Poor Eddie. He steps into a pile of dogshit just as he reaches the recessed entrance. “Goddamn fuckin’ prick shit,” he says. He looks around for something to wipe the shit off his oxblood wingtips. He eyes a poster stapled to the utility pole. It reads, “Rats. Public Enemy Number 1! Danger: Poison. This alley has been treated by the Department of Streets and Sanitation, Richard J. Daley, Mayor.”

Eddie rips down the poster and mutters, “Fuck you, Dick. I’m the fuckin’ State’s Attorney. I’ll tell you who the fuck public enemy number one is.”

He does as well as he can with the stiff cardboard. Still, there’s shit bits in the awl-punched holes of his wingtip. Eddie shakes his head and makes a decision. He carefully removes the shoe and tosses it into a garbage can. Satisfied, he unscrews the cap of his flask and takes a long, well-earned gulp.

At this moment, another similarly braced soul stumbles into the alley. For Eddie Halloran, the alley is a temporary watering hole. For this newcomer, it is home, a place he has pride in. He’s not terribly pleased with the presence of a man missing a shoe sneaking booze in his alley. Why, it’s undignified.

Chicago Alley

The Alley Behind Mondo Nuovo

“Where the fuck is your shoe?” the man asks Eddie Halloran.

“What the fuck is it to you?”

“Tough guy, huh?”

“Kiss my balls.”

The man stares at Eddie for a moment. “Hey,” he says at last. “I know you. You’re that guy from the papers.”

“That’s right,” Eddie Halloran says. “I’m Martin Luther Fuckin’ Coon.”

“No you ain’t. You’re that Halloran. It’s a pleasure to meetcha.” The man extends his hand toward Eddie. The two shake. The man pulls Eddie uncomfortably close to him.

“I’m Billy O’Connor. Former middleweight champ of the world. I beat Tony Zale in Soldier Field.”

Eddie Halloran isn’t the biggest fight fan in the world but he knows enough to know nobody named Billy O’Connor ever fought Tony Zale in Soldier Field for the championship of the world.

Cerdan vs. Zale

Tony “The Man Of Steel” Zale (r)

“Okay, champ,” Eddie says, pushing the man away. “That’s enough now.”

The man is highly insulted. He balls his fists. “That’s the play, huh, tough guy? Tell you what — whyncha do somethin’ about all them niggers? Or they too tough for you?”

Eddie Halloran can take all the insults you can throw at him but one. Never — ever — imply there’s a tougher man than he is. Eddie Halloran has fought a thousand fights over just such a canard — and lost every single one. He winds up and smashes his tin flask against the forehead of the man who claims he was once the middleweight champion of the world. He wasn’t, of course, but matched up against Eddie Halloran he may as well have been. The man, in whose bloodstream is more alcohol than in Eddie Halloran’s and two other men’s, sets upon the State’s Attorney in a fury. His rapid-fire right hand pistons blows against Eddie’s face, drawing blood from his lip, his nose, and above both eyes. Eddie flails about harmlessly with both arms. He feels nothing, thanks to the anesthetic qualities of strong Irish whiskey but he will surely know he’s been in a fight when he sobers up. Well, not exactly a fight.

After what seems many long minutes, the man’s jackhammer right arm becomes tired. Eddie Halloran sinks to the concrete, dangerously near the dogshit he’d stepped in moments before. Somehow, Eddie’s white boutonniere has wedged itself between the fingers of the man’s fist. He pulls the rosebud out and flings it disdainfully at the collapsed public official. “Here’s your flower, ya queer,” he says. “And get yourself a shoe.” He begins to walk away then remembers to add a pièce de résistance: “And do somethin’ about them niggers!”

Oxblood Wingtips

Eddie Halloran’s Wingtips

Some fifteen minutes later, Eddie Halloran feels recuperated enough from his beating to reenter the banquet hall. Al Dudek, Mickey Finnin, Rocco Bianco, and Tony the Fist Pontone all see his battered face and immediately understand that Eddie simply has just done what Eddie always does. Eddie’s wife, though, slaps her hands against both her cheeks and shrieks. It’s as though she’s never seen him wearing his hamburger face when, in truth, she’s seen it dozens of times.

“Eddie,” she hollers, “what happened?”

“I fell,” he says.

With that, Eddie Halloran bestows upon his long suffering wife a look which implies, Not another word. He calmly takes his seat next to her at table number three.

It is now time for the toasts.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

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