By Michael G. Glab
— Twenty-eight —
Sal Sanfillipo’s kid, Ronnie, is playing pinners out in the street with some other kids from over on Nashville Avenue. He’s at bat. That is, it’s his turn to throw the pinkie against the curb, attempting to hit it precisely at the curb’s vertex, producing the perfect bounce that will send the little ball flying toward the other side of the street.
Ronnie kicks his left leg and grimaces a bit just like Sal Maglie. Sal the Barber, the master of close shaves, whom Sal the Cop has informed him was the finest pitcher of all time, what with his propensity to bust his fastball as close to a batter’s chin as is physically possible. And if it occasionally hit the batter, broke his jaw, say, well, it’s a tough world, ain’t it? Oh, Sal the Barber was as hard as nails, Sal the Cop would tell his son time and again. “Too bad you ain’t never seen ‘im,” Sal said once. “D’ose femmes that play ball now ain’t got nothin’ on old Sal the Barber. I want you to be just like Sal the Barber was — hit ’em before d’ey hit you.”
Sal the Cop also stressed the fact that Sal the Barber was a Daig. “Doan never forget your own kind,” Sal the Cop would say. “Y’gotta stick wit’ your own. Y’gotta be loyal to your own. Sal Maglie was a Daig. He’s one of us.”
“Pa,” Ronnie asked, “what’s a Daig?”
“That’s you,” Sal the Cop replied. “That’s me. That’s Sal. Our kind. Dagos.”
So with the inherent responsibility of upholding the honor and pride of the entire Italian race, Ronnie lets fly the pinkie and sure enough catches the vertex of the curb, sending the ball on a high arc, so lofty it actually clips a few leaves off the oak tree in front of the Sanfillipo house.
The two kids on the opposing team, playing the field, converge on the spot where they expect the pinkie to come down to Earth, but they are, unfortunately, among the worst fielders in all Galewood — which is why Ronnie is playing alone against them, for he knows he can beat them even if they were four. The two kids from Nashville reach high for the long fly and it comes down into their tangle of arms and hands and fingers. Naturally, the ball bounces off their fingertips and flies even farther, onto the front lawn across the street, a home run.
Ronnie leaps into the air, pumping his arms as if he’s won the championship of the whole wide world. “Hey, hey!” he yells again and again. “Hey, hey!” Just like Jack Brickhouse on the Cubs game when Santo hits another three-run blast. Man, the Dagos are the best!
At that moment, a little after nine in the morning, Anthony Pontone has just arrived home after another all night meeting with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin’s people. There’d been a contentious phone call from Dave Dellinger of the MOBE* at three in the morning. Dellinger was a scold, as usual, telling Jerry that his and Abbie’s street theater tactics weren’t going to do anybody any good, that the people coming to Chicago had a war to end, not an orgy or a rock concert to stage. And what was this about dumping LSD in the city’s water supply and public sex fests?
“What do you mean by ’sex fests’?” Jerry asked Dellinger, clearly enjoying making the older, more prudish man blush. “Do you mean ‘public fucking’?”
“You know very well what I mean,” Dellinger’d said.
“Why can’t you say the word?” Jerry said. “Go ahead. Just say it. It feels good. Fucking. See. I feel better already!”
Dellinger had to laugh in spite of himself. “I don’t need to say it,” he said, “You and Abbie say it enough for all of us.”
Abbie, Dellinger, And Jerry
But then Dellinger got serious again. All these rumors floating around, the ones that Mayor Daley and his cops believed with all their hearts no matter how ridiculous and which turned their stomachs to boot might be a lot of fun, sure. “But,” Dellinger warned, “they just might hurt us all in the long run.” He pointed out to Jerry and the crew in Chicago that Mayor Daley had promised just that afternoon that the city wouldn’t be taken over by any “hippies, Yippies*, or dippies.” That got a big laugh from the reporters taking notes but, Dellinger pointed out, Daley himself wasn’t laughing.
Already, Dellinger added, groups and individuals were begging off coming to Chicago. They were afraid of what Daley’s police might do. “There aren’t going to be any hundred thousand protesters now,” Dellinger said, sadly.
“C’mon, man, it’s all bullshit,” Jerry told Dellinger. “We’re just fuckin’ with their heads. Wait’ll you see what we have planned for Friday!”
“Perhaps,” Dellinger said, “but if you keep it up, Daley’s policemen may make things awfully unpleasant for us.”
“No way, baby,” Jerry said, laughing joylessly. “Daley’s never going to let his cops embarrass him while the whole world watches.”
“We’ll see,” Dellinger said. “What’s this about Friday?”
“You’ll see,” Jerry said.
Anthony’s has been working for more than six months now with both Abbie and Jerry from Yippie! as well as the MOBE’s point people in Chicago, Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis. By now, a week before the Convention, the Yippie! people and the MOBE people aren’t even talking with each other. The kindest thing Jerry can say about the MOBE people is that they’re “a bunch of pipe-smoking ideologues, small ‘c’ communists, coffee-house navel-gazers.” As for Abbie, whenever someone brings up the MOBE, he simply says, “Fuck them.”
Since this work began back in the winter, Anthony’s thrill about collaborating with Abbie Hoffman has petered out. Abbie Hoffman, Anthony has discovered, is a brilliant, charismatic, and energetic man. When he walks into a room, he owns it. And the chicks! Man, Abbie can have his pick of any chick. But, as far as Anthony is now concerned, Abbie isn’t really serious about a thing in this world except Abbie. Oh yeah, his heart is in the right place. He has dedicated his life to fighting the power, to righting wrongs, to the plight of the poor man and the black man. But deep down, Abbie is truly happy only when there’s a newspaper reporter with a notebook in front of him. He’s giddy when there’s a radio newsman with a microphone nearby. He’s downright delirious when a TV cameraman points his lens at him.
Anthony does his best to hide it because he has to work with all the disparate parties to pull these Convention week events together but he’s sick and tired of Abbie and Jerry. What he really wants, Anthony concludes, is to move out east and work with serious people like Dellinger and Hayden and Rennie Davis.
Anthony’s thinking about all this as he walks from the garage through the gangway next to the house, out toward the front near where the kids playing pinners in the street. Anthony played pinners when he was a kid. He wishes he could chuck it all now and just jump out there and throw the pinkie against the curb. Then he could be Ernie Banks all over again. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about trying to keep the peace between Yippie! and the MOBE. Maybe these kids’ll let him take a few turns at bat.
He emerges from the gangway and stands next to the stairs leading up to his front porch. The sun is gleaming through the oak trees. It’s going to be another hot one today but this early in the morning it’s still tolerable out. Anthony is exhausted. He thinks he’ll be able to get three or four hours of sleep and then head out to City Hall this afternoon where he and Hayden and Rennie can try again to get those permits to march. Daley’s playing this one awfully smart, stalling the permit process. Dellinger’s right — with all the confusion, the lack of permits, the tough talk and all, a lot of people who’d promised to come to Chicago are now canceling.
A hundred thousand, hah! Anthony thinks. We’ll be lucky if we can get ten thousand people now.
With all this on his mind, Anthony stares at the kid throwing the pinkie against the curb. This kid’s good. The ball hardly makes a sound as it hits the vertex of the curb, not the clunky thwop that a sloppy miss makes, but a clean doonk that signals a perfect strike. Sure enough, the ball flies across the street and the kids grab for it but it bounces off their fingers and onto to opposite lawn for a homer. And the kid who hit it, that Sanfillipo kid, the cop’s boy, he’s hollering and bouncing around like Muhammad Ali after a knock down.
“Hey, hey,” the kid hollers. He emits a long, piercing wail, like an air raid siren. He pirouettes and lands facing Anthony. Their eyes meet. Anthony thinks, He’s got his Dad’s eyes. They’re an eerie reminder of that Saturday afternoon back in April, when Anthony looked into the eyes of the eyes of the cop, Sal Sanfillipo, who was kicking the shit out of him in front of the Kroch’s & Brentano’s on Wabash.
That incident now is as much a part of the Sanfillipo’s family lore as it is of Anthony’s nightmares. Sal the Cop never wastes an opportunity to boast — very privately, of course — about how he bloodied up Tony the Fist Pontone’s hippie fag kid. As far as Ronnie is concerned, it’s only his Dad who stands between the pinkos and the perverts and the rest of us. Sometimes Ronnie wonders why his Dad didn’t just unholster his service revolver and shoot the queer and be done with it.
Basking in the glow of his triumphant home run blast, Ronnie lands, facing that hippie queer. Ronnie smirks. He begins to jump up and down again. “Grand slam!” he shouts. “Yippie! Yippie! Yippie! You guys suck!”
He directs his voice toward his opponents, the lousy pinners players from Nashville Avenue. But his message is intended for Anthony.
Anthony’s shoulders sag. Nope, he thinks, I’m not gonna be Ernie Banks today.
He slowly climbs his front stairs, inserts his key in the lock, and opens the front door. Anna’s sitting on the sofa, as always, sleeping. Her hands rest on the medicine ball that is her abdomen. Jesus Christ, Anthony thinks, she’s just a cow. He hopes he doesn’t wake her — not because he cares but because he has nothing to say to her. Unfortunately, he closes the door a bit more loudly than he’d wanted. Anna jumps in her seat. She turns to Anthony and stares at him, wide-eyed.
After a long few moments, she recognizes her husband. “Oh,” she says finally, dully. “It’s you.”
* A Helpful Glossary
- The MOBE: National Mobilization Committee to End the War, a loose, umbrella organization attempting to coordinate antiwar protests, run by a small group of pacifists and intellectuals.
- Yippie!: The Youth International Party, formed on New Year’s Eve, 1967, as the anarchist, attention-grabbing antithesis to what its founders considered to be the stodgy old lefties running the antiwar movement at the time. Really not a formal organization at all but an ongoing prank, often referring to themselves as “Groucho Marxists.”
To be continued
All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.