Episode 39: Unsportsmanlike Conduct

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

BC Archives Link IV 20130607

Thirty-nine —

Julie Baby lives in the Drake Hotel at Michigan Avenue and East Lake Shore Drive. The historic Drake stands at the west end of Chicago’s most exclusive block, the centerpiece of the Gold Coast. Ann Landers lives on this block, for pity’s sakes. The block’s eight fussy old highrises face north, looking down at the skimpily-clad sun worshippers on Oak Street Beach the way a clutch of stately dowagers might look upon so many floozies and hooligans through their lorgnettes.

Of course, that’s in July when Chicago enjoys it’s all-too brief summer. It’s early October now. The street gutters are already dammed with fallen leaves. It’s jacket and heavy sweater weather. This morning, when Anthony walked out of the house, he did what most Chicagoans do; he exhaled sharply — yep, he could see his breath.

In fact, no fewer than four Natchez Avenue neighbors checked to see their breath as they left their homes this morning. They were, in addition to Anthony:

  • Lenny LaFemina, assistant corporation counsel in the city’s Law Department
  • Jerry Pergler, Northwestern University journalism student, WBBM-TV intern, and — for today at least — freelance reporter
  • Sal Sanfillipo, one of Chicago’s Finest…, er,  a police officer, let’s leave it at that.

All four will converge outside the Drake Hotel. Julie Baby’s place.

Julie Baby. That’s the name Abbie Hoffman has bestowed upon the Honorable Julius J. Hoffman, appointed judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois fifteen years earlier by President Eisenhower. The Hoffmans share a surname but Abbie and Julie Baby are not related. Boy, are they not related.

Hoffmans

Hoffmans

Julie Baby has made it undeniably clear since their trial began in his courtroom in April that he doesn’t like Abbie and the rest of the Chicago Eight. Doesn’t like, hah! Loathes, is more like it. He has already ordered Bobby Seale bound and gagged in court. (Then again, Seale did yell out that the judge is a pig, a fascist, and a racist.) Judge Hoffman has called Abbie and Jerry Rubin obscene. (But, too, they have dropped the F-word a time or twenty.) Abbie shot back that the judge was the only obscenity in the courtroom — that, and Julie Baby was a shande fur de goyim (an embarrassment before the gentiles.)

So, things aren’t exactly going swimmingly for Abbie and the boys. If the trial were a ball game, the officials might invoke the slaughter rule. The Weathermen have decided to take the game directly to the head referee, the Honorable Julius J. Hoffman, right outside his front door. Oh, are they pissed! Almost as pissed as Julie Baby is that his old pal, Da Mare, was so humiliated by them and their kind last year. Julie Baby is gonna make somebody pay. But not before the Weathermen try to make him pay as well.

Chicago's Gold Coast

East Lake Shore Drive

Somebody blew up the statue at Haymarket Square three days ago, on Sunday. The statue stood overlooking the Kennedy Expressway, depicting a turn-of-the-century cop holding his hand up, commemorating the Haymarket Massacre, another in the city’s long history of police nervous breakdowns. Now, nobody’s actually saying the Weathermen bombed the statue but…, well, y’know.

And here they are today, about 400 strong along with another 400 lefties, peaceniks, and little old ladies in tennis shoes funneling through the narrow pedestrian underpass beneath Lake Shore Drive, gathering at the Michigan Avenue intersection. Bad vibes all around, baby. The peaceniks and the little old ladies who just want this stupid war to end are tut-tutting the Weathermen not only for, as they believe, blowing up the Haymarket statue, but for wearing motorcycle and football helmets as if they’re ready for war themselves, for surreptitiously clutching stones and bricks, for the rage that burns in their eyes.

Weathermen

Weathermen

Bad vibes. The cops already have strategized what to do about all these commie bastards wearing helmets, robbing them (the cops) of the sheer joy of smashing their skulls. The word is passed — hit ‘em on the back of the neck, hit ‘em in the small of the back, in the kidneys, whack ‘em on the backs of their knees, go for their balls.

Bad vibes. The sound of broken glass. Car windows are being smashed. Store windows shattered. The Weathermen had said “The Power’s In the Street!” in the weeks before these Days of Rage. No one needed to be a Weatherman to know which way that wind was blowing.

Days of Rage

Bad vibes. Lots of teargas.

Bad vibes. Some of the cops have unholstered their service revolvers.

Bad vibes. The mass of marauding protesters has broken up into smaller groups. The cops are trying to break these up by driving squad cars directly into them. Somebody’s gonna get killed, man!

Bad vibes. Anthony is scared. This isn’t just a case of out-of-control cops swinging their nightsticks at anything that moves. This is the real thing now.

Days of Rage

Anthony thinks, Maybe I oughta get the hell outta here. His thoughts are interrupted by the deafening thud of a lead-gloved fist hitting him flush in the eyeteeth. Anthony tumbles to the pavement, lucky that whoever had cold-cocked him had hit him with the square of his knuckles, diffusing the blow a bit.

Bad vibes. Anthony struggles to his feet, blood gushing out of his nose. He hears a gunshot. Then another. And a third. This is not a game.

Bad vibes. A guy bumps into Anthony, almost knocking him again to the pavement. The guy has a grenade-sized jagged rock in his hand. To the guy’s right, about fifty feet away, a familiar figure raises his revolver and aims. Sal Sanfillipo does not want to see one more store window broken, goddamn it. To the guy’s left, also about fifty feet away, Jerry Pergler stares wide-eyed at the tableau before him. The guy looks into a triad of hollow black depths: Sal’s two blank eyes and the barrel of his gun. “Fuck you, pig,” the guy screams. “Kill me, motherfucker!” Sal thinks, Wit’ pleasure, you piece a shit.

Anthony actually pees — not too much, a tablespoonful, maybe — in his pants.

Now a human battering ram blurs into Anthony’s field of vision, driven by piston-like legs hardened by four years of Coach Ara Parseghian’s two-a-day drills. This battering ram, this missile, this A-bomb in wingtip shoes propels himself into the body of the guy in Sal’s gunsite with the force of a Volkswagen Beetle. The poor sap with the jagged rock in his hand expels simultaneous bursts of air and intestinal gas that might have made Anthony titter had he not feared the poor son of a bitch might be killed by the tackle. The guy’s Raggedy Andy body whomps into Anthony’s, nearly knocking him again to the pavement. The guy, still clutching the jagged rock, hits the sidewalk on his backside, the momentum of the blow sending his feet back over his head, the start of a triple backward somersault. Oddly, the man who has tackled him, assistant corporation counsel Lenny LaFemina, lies inert in the gutter.

Anthony and Sal rush to the guy with the jagged rock in his hand and Lenny, respectively.

“You okay, man?” Anthony asks the guy. The guy nods, woozy.

“You okay, buddy?” Sal asks Lenny, but Lenny does not respond for a piece of his fourth cervical vertebra has punctured his spinal cord. “Oh my fuckin’ God,” Sal hollers, “he’s paralyzed!” Another nearby cop hollers back, “That guy kicked him in the head!” A third hollers, “He hit ‘im wit’ sumpin’!” Yet another hollers, “It was a lead pipe!” A fifth hollers, “Naw, it was a rock, get it outta his fuckin’ hand!”

Now Anthony is shoved out of the way as the five cops cuff the guy, a process which entails the use of three nightsticks, a blackjack, a pair of brass knuckles, and Sal’s special little trick, the five-fingered ball-sack twist which causes the guy to squeal like a scared queer piglet.

By the end of the afternoon, Lenny LaFemina learns he will never walk again.

By the end of the afternoon, Anthony Pontone learns the guy with the jagged rock in his hand will be charged with attempted murder.

By the end of the afternoon, Jerry Pergler has gone to the WBBM-TV news editor and then to the city editors of Chicago’s four dailies, hoping to sell his eyewitness account of the incident. Each of the media gatekeepers dismisses Jerry with some variation of this message: “Beat it, kid. Whose fuckin’ side are you on?”

It is now dark. Anthony, riding the Lake Street el home, stares out the train window at the West Side and Garfield Park and the east end of the war-torn Austin neighborhood. Lots of empty lots, the burned-out shells of three- and four-flats having been razed months ago, the lots now owned by smart speculators like his dad, Tony the Fist Pontone, and his father-in-law, Al Dudek, and Rocco Bianco and Mickey Finnin. The Brothers put the torch to their ratholes after Martin Luther King was killed but that didn’t get them any better homes to live in. Anthony thinks back to August, 1968, when he and his cohorts made The Whole World Watch. Lotta good that did; the war’s still going on. Anthony flashes to the day’s events on East Lake Shore Drive. But Bobby Seale’s still bound and gagged.

Anthony thinks, This isn’t working, man. None of it. Anthony realizes he’s a lot more pissed off right now than he was when he decided to go to the street outside Julie Baby’s home this morning. Days of Rage, hah! This is Anthony Pontone’s Moment of Rage. He wants to pound on the windows of the el train as it pulls into the Ridgeland Avenue stop in Oak Park. Anthony is so filled with hot energy that he decides to walk home from the station. The two and a half mile walk takes him a little less than an hour. Anthony feels as though he wants to climb out of his own skin.

Bad vibes, man. Anna’s home. Sitting at the kitchen table, wearing one of her dad’s oversized old dress shirts, the top three buttons undone, her pendulous mom-breasts clearly visible, her now-thick thighs calling out to be squeezed.

Anna says, “What happened now? There’s blood on your shirt.” Anthony does not answer. Instead, he grasps Anna’s ponytail and pulls her close to him for the first time in…, months, is it? Maybe a year or more? Anthony smashes his mouth against Anna’s. She pushes him away, “C’mon now, Anthony. Whaddya doin’?” Anthony pulls Anna by the hair down to the floor and rips open her old man’s oversized shirt, three buttons clinking off the fridge. Anna says, “No!” Anthony says nothing as he unzips his blue jeans. Anna feels as though she’s going to hork. Then again, this man is her husband and doesn’t she have a duty to give herself to him? She resists the twin urges to hork and to claw his eyes out as he puts himself inside her.

To be continued

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

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