By Michael G. Glab
— Forty —
The construction barricades and canopies surrounding the John Hancock Center were removed months ago. It’s now the most celebrated building in Chicago and the second tallest skyscraper in the world, topped only by the Empire State Building. That’s fitting for the Second City.
Thousands of Chicagoans and visitors from around the country have been drawn to this site to crane their necks awkwardly and gawk at the behemoth. Today, December 3rd, 1969, Anna Pontone is one of them. She’s been here before, of course. She’s seen the hundred-story monument grow from a hole in the ground to a black steel and brown glass tower whose upper reaches often are shrouded in the clouds. Every time she learns she is pregnant, she walks the Magnificent Mile and ends up at 875 North Michigan Avenue.
Yeah, Anna’s pregnant again, time number three, none of which have been planned. This one is a tad less jarring than the previous two were. For one, she’s married now and so this display of fertility isn’t a mark of sluttiness or stupidity. For two, she’s essentially been alone since she and Anthony got married a year and a half ago, what with him off Making The World A Better Place. Their first child, Chet, is now tottering around their Natchez Avenue home and putting words together in little sentences. Another child just might make, with Anna and Chet, a happy little threesome, a real family.
At least that’s what Anna is fantasizing as she gazes skyward at the 1,125-foot high roof, a few high brushstroke clouds wisping above it against a deep blue sky. Anna has been able to push from her mind the knowledge that this little life growing inside her is the result of rape. The law might not say so, considering the rapist was her husband. The memory of that night on the kitchen floor in early October when Anthony dragged her to the tile floor and forcefully put himself inside her is becoming dim. It’s a hell of a lot better this way. The more Anna thought about it in the days that followed, the more she either wanted to put a knitting needle inside her womb or Anthony’s thorax, right into his no-good heart.
She thinks: This is driving me out of my mind. I don’t wanna end a life. Jesus Christ, what am I? I hate this feeling. I hate it. Knitting needles! My God! And Anthony’s my husband. I loved him! Wait a minute — what did I just say? I mean, I love him. I really do. Even though he’s such an asshole. For better or for worse right? Well, it’s for worse right now, okay? Gotta get through it. I can’t go crazy. Gotta keep my head on straight. I got a baby inside me. It’s the best thing that could have happened.
She stares upward for a moment. She thinks: I don’t want to take a life, I want to create it. I don’t want to be a killer.
Eddie Halloran feels comfortable having a bete noir in his life. Its presence makes him focus all his energy and concentration. It keeps him from thinking about the bottle of Jameson’s stashed under the seat of his Olds Toronado while he sits in his County Building office. Boy, has he found the blackest of beasts to obsess over as the year 1969 draws to a close.
Fred Hampton is a handsome, articulate, passionate orator. He can hold the attention of ghetto single moms, hard-as-nails street gang members, white lefty radicals, and even liberal North Shore financial donors to his Breakfast for Children Program. Just three years ago, he was a precocious high school senior, organizing students and speaking out against racism at Proviso East in suburban Maywood. Now, he’s on the verge of national prominence.
In a speech earlier this fall, he said this: “We’re gonna fight with socialism. We’re gonna have an international proletariat revolution.” Talk like this can scare the hell out of people. Like Cook County State’s Attorney Eddie Halloran. And FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
But then Fred Hampton turned things personal. Eddie Halloran has been telling the frightened voters of Chicagoland that he and his men are fighting on the front lines against the negro South Side street gangs like the Blackstone Rangers and the Eastside Disciples. These gangs, in fact, are morphing into something more than punks who terrorize high school freshmen for their lunch money. They’re becoming a threat to Our Holy Way of Life, thinking nationally and even globally rather than restricting themselves to the schoolyard. They’ve changed their names, even — the Rangers now fancy themselves the P Stone Nation, what the hell ever that means, probably some Mau Mau shit, and the Eastside Disciples now say they’re the Black Disciples. White Chicago wonders, What is this “black” shit? Does this have to do with that “black power” stuff? What’re these crazy shines up to?
Whatever they’re up to, Eddie Halloran assures them, we’re gonna stop them. This, he says, is a War on Gangs.
Hah, Fred Hampton has responded, that’s just a code word for War on Black Youth! Fred Hampton, now the chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party goes a step further. “Eddie Halloran,” he says, “is nothing more than a racist pig.”
When Eddie Halloran hears this his face turns crimson. Goddamn it, he thinks, I go to Catholic mass every goddamned Sunday morning. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I love my fellow man. I give alms to the poor and comfort the sick. I slogged through eight years at Notre Dame and Harvard Law, hoping to devote my life to justice, hokey as it sounds. I worked days in courtrooms and nights ringing doorbells for the Party. What do I get for it? Am I a rich man? Hell, no! Sure, I got a nice Olds but I see these Mobsters driving around the neighborhood in Caddys. I’m an honest guy, a working man, when you really think about it. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be mayor. Is that so wrong? And now this bushy-haired prick calls me a racist. I’ll be goddamned. Lord forgive me, but if I ever get my hands on that son of a bitch….
To be continued
All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.