By Michael G. Glab
— Thirty-four —
Middle of the night, Tuesday/Wednesday, August 27th and 28th, 1968.
Anthony has no idea how lucky he was to be hooked up to an IV bottle in the emergency room at Passavant Hospital. Of course, he thinks he’s among the most brutalized, unfortunate human beings on this planet. Hell, Igbo children in the breakaway republic of Biafra, when not having their limbs severed or trying to snatch flying insects out of the air to fill their distended bellies, give praise to Chukwu for not visiting upon them the horrors that one Anthony Pontone must endure in Chicago.
Poor Anthony. He wanted so badly to be in Lincoln Park or Grant Park or at the International Amphitheater or running wild through the hallways of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, Changing the World, Sticking It To The Man, Smashing The State. Man, if he was able to crash in a few doors in the Hilton or fling a teargas canister back at some fat cop, it’d be one small step toward Freedom. He’d suffer ten more concussions if only they’d guarantee the dismantlement of the Police State, the Military Industrial Complex, and the Ghettoes, in that order.
Too bad he’s been stuck here nursing a bruised cerebrum, for he’s missing a lot. There were the pacifists gathering at the Amphitheater in the afternoon, ringing the place, several hundred of them, picketing. Strangely the cops allowed them to picket all day long and in fact will allow them to stay overnight near the convention hall, go figure. Anthony listens to reports on the radio at the ER nurses station that four of the seventeen newsmen beaten over the last two days by the cops have been injured so badly they’ve been hospitalized.
And it was LBJ’s birthday tonight — er, last night, now — and Yippie! threw him an Un-birthday Party at the rickety old Coliseum. A couple of thousand freaks paid their respects to the President of the United States by calling him a pig and wishing this birthday would be his last. LBJ, naturally, was unaware of this as he was busy ordering B-52s to drop thousands of bombs on straw hut villages from eight miles high over Vietnam, for that’ll halt the spread of Communism sure as praying real hard to the Almighty will prevent his cigarette-, stress-, and fat-ravaged ticker from inevitably bursting like a water balloon. Nevertheless, Abbie and Rennie and Dellinger and Ginsberg and Terry Southern and Jean Genet and William S. Burroughs and Dick Gregory, all hollered at him from the Coliseum lectern and, God in heaven, Anthony wishes he were there.
[New York Times/Burt Glinn photo]
Then, sure, no question, man, he would have dashed to Lincoln Park where Bobby Seale held court, telling the crowd gathered there that they must defend themselves By Any Means Necessary from the next onslaught by the pigs. Next thing you knew, a couple of hundred clergymen built a massive cross and planted it between the protesters and the line of cops just as the clock struck eleven, the witching hour at which time the crowd must leave the park, although the cops hope they don’t so they (the cops) can crack a few more skulls for they (the cops, again) are getting awfully good at this skull-cracking.
Professor Von Helsing would have been proud of the cross, twenty feet tall, visible from a couple of blocks away, holding off the sky-blue-helmeted line, not because they were so many vampires but good Christians all who wouldn’t dare in a million years sully Our Savior’s Holy Symbol by batting the shit out of a bunch of pinko fucks in front of it. Shows what Von Helsing would know. Sully it they did, as the Chicago Police for the third night in a row cleared Lincoln Park by their version of Any Means Necessary and by now the park walkways and the sidewalks along Clark Street are becoming as pink-hued as the protesters’ commie hearts, dyed by their scalp blood as well as the heavy flow from dozens of broken noses, split lips, and whatever other miscellaneous breaches in their skin that the city’s free-swinging cops can cause. Chief among these free swingers is the clean up hitter, number 5134 on his badge and number nil in the protesters’ hearts, Patrolman Sal Sanfillipo, who enjoys this head-cracking business so much that he must sort of crouch over as he does it, the better to hide the boner it causes.
And that’s why Anthony Pontone is one of the luckiest guys in town. Had Sal caught sight of him, the patrolman’s stickwork on his (Anthony’s) drumhead would have made Ringo Starr look like a pussy, and Sal, if pressed, would be obliged to point out he already does.
Late Wednesday morning.
Anthony has no idea how he did it, but he made his way from Passavant Hospital to The Theater on Wells Street, where he wakes up, unwillingly and with a monster headache. He’d fallen asleep on the rooftop with scads of other freaks, some of whose heads also are heavily bandaged.
Anthony shakes his head a time or two or a half dozen, trying to make the dizziness, the spaciness, the headache go away. He gently runs his fingertips over the bandaged lump where Sal Sanfillipo’s nightstick had dented his scalp. When he presses the gauze down a little too hard on several of the 23 sutures holding his scalp together, he winces, not so much from the pain — which is real — but more from fear that he’ll re-open the wound and have to go back to the emergency room and therefore might miss today’s climactic festivities.
Everybody’s got a feeling about today, that something big is going to happen in Chicago, be it at the Conrad Hilton or Lincoln Park or even, delicious dream of dreams, at the Amphitheater. That’s where the Democrats last night selected LBJ’s coat holder, Hubert Humphrey, to be their nominee for president.
May as well settle in for another four years of living room blood and guts brought to you by the good folks at the Pentagon, taped before a partially alive audience in the fetid jungles of Vietnam.
Anthony, for one, is trying his best not to be discouraged by the Dems’ decision to stay the course, for that’s what the Hump will surely do when he takes the White House in November. The Republicans are running that national joke, Tricky Dick Nixon, along with some nobody from Maryland named Spiro Agnew, against them. Hell, the Party of Death’d have to shoot itself in the foot to lose this election.
So yeah, something big is gonna happen. It might even happen at St. Anne’s Hospital.
Anna’s got that feeling again, that weird, acid-flashback kind of feeling. She’s been up since seven and has been pacing…, well, trudging, through the house in her jams and bunny slippers, hefting her abdominal mound like an enormous sack of flour. She rifles through the cabinets looking for coffee and, finding none, settles on an old Lipton’s Orange Pekoe teabag she finds smushed in a rear corner of the cupboard.
Tea. Blecch. Anna wants coffee. No, needs coffee.
At this moment in time she weighs three tons. Today’s the due date and Anna’s of two minds about whether the heir or heiress will burst into this mad world by midnight. One part of her trusts the doctor the way she used to trust the priest — what he says goes and if he says today’s the day, well then, better pack that toothbrush. The other part of her figures it’s way too much to hope that this medicine ball will drop today. Giving birth has to be a struggle, an ordeal, right? Didn’t the priests used to say part of mankind’s punishment for The Fall was the agony of childbirth, although what the hell do priests know about it anyway? Still, myths and lore persist, even quaint old biblical tales that originated twenty-five hundred years ago and were designed to help a bunch of illiterates wandering around the perimeter of the Fertile Crescent understand Where We Came From and Why We’re Here. Hah! I read Dr. Spock, Anna thinks, what do I need that bullshit for?
Still. Still, still, still…, this whole pregnancy has been an ordeal. And Anna does feel plenty guilty about smoking pot and dropping acid and having sex with her boyfriend and for embarrassing Ma and Daddy at the wedding in front of all their friends and and business partners. And — well, as long as we’re coming clean here — for taking that trip to Denver, you know, to see that doctor…. So who’s to say this ordeal of a pregnancy isn’t a just punishment? And maybe nine months to the day of an aching back and sore feet and peeing every half hour and carrying a 16,000-pound diving bell around in her abdomen and wondering if Anthony’s ever coming home and surreptitiously taking tens and twenties and loaves of Italian bread and Genoa salami from Daddy when he sneaks through the back alley to visit her just might not be enough to balance her books in the eyes of the Lord, Our God.
Hell, in that case, this baby might not come until the year 2010 when people are traveling around with jet packs and we’ve colonized the Moon. Aw, damn, it’s not gonna happen today, Anna thinks. No way, Jose. No how. Damn, damn, damn. Damn! Why’d I ever get high and do it with Anthony in the first place? Madonna, am I an idiot!
God, Jesus, I am sorry, so sorry, so heartily sorry for having an abortion. My only hope is that you’re a forgiving God. Even the priests say you’re a forgiving God. So here’s my confession — I killed that little, tiny, microscopic baby inside me.
God, if you’re really there, I promise, I swear to you in heaven, I will never do something so stupid as getting pregnant again. Honest. And I swear to you I’ll never do anything so rotten as killing the baby inside me again. That’s my pledge to you. In return, all I ask is that you let this little baby come today.
That’s not too much, is it? Really, I realize I’m being a little selfish here. I should be praying for the starving children of Africa and India. I should be praying for the war to end. I should be praying for a million things for a million people who are really, really suffering. But I’m stuck with this anvil in my uterus — oh, I’m sure it’ll be a beautiful little anvil and I’ll love it with all my heart, I swear — but, God, as I’m sure you already know because you know everything, it’s still an anvil right now. Let it come out of me, please!
The teapot whistle blows, signaling the end of Anna’s sit-down with the creator of the Universe. Anna snorts. “Yeah, sure, talking with God. I’m sick of all these one-way conversations,” she mutters. She pours herself a cup of tea and realizes there’s no milk and no sugar. Yuk. She takes a sip. It burns and tastes like cat piss. She dumps the tea into the sink, picks up the last edible thing in the house — a heel of bread — and fills her belly for the morning. She pads into the living room and puts the Hair album on the turntable. She closes her eyes and gently lets the needle down on whatever track karma brings it to. As always, though, no matter how much care she takes, no matter how gently she tries to lower the stylus, when it makes contact with the vinyl it produces a teeth-chattering, multi-tonal whoosh of a scratch. Anna says, “Oh shit!” Normally Anthony would have shouted from whatever far corner of the house he was in for her to be careful with the needle, goddamn it!
Karma has brought the needle to the track, “Going Down. ”
“Ooh,” Anna whispers, “bad karma.” She knows she should pick up the tone arm and place it on another track, but she falls into a trance listening to its lyrics:
Me and Lucifer/
Lucifer and me/
Just like the angel that fell/
Banished forever to hell/
Today have I been expelled/
From high school heaven/
Elevator goin’ down.
To be continued
All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.